Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Culture: Gee, Andy Rooney Sounds Like Me

TORONTO, ONTARIO - For some reason, Andy Rooney's commentary this week on 60 Minutes seems to be getting a lot of attention. Rooney, who has made a career out of curmudgeonly commentary on the legendary newsmagazine program, has appeared at the end of the show since 1978. Considering the long list of everyday annoyances that Rooney has taken on over the years, it wouldn't seem that a commentary on modern popular music would draw much attention.

Yet, the video has apparently gone viral. I don't why the Millennial generation finds it amusing that Rooney pronounces Lady Gaga as "Gah-guh" instead of "Gah-gah"; most 91 year-olds, no matter how cool, don't pronounce all modern things accurately. My now-deceased grandfather of the same generation insisted on contracting cellular phones as "cella" phones instead of "cell" phones. Everyone knew what he meant, and everyone knew Rooney was talking about the performer born as Stefani Germanotta.

Most ironic to me, his commentary read almost like the very first commentary I ever did. Clearly, the topic is low-hanging fruit; I wrote mine at age 13, not 91. Rather than claiming that I was the typical American kid--I always knew better than that--I instead made the case that my increasing lack of familiarity with popular music meant that I was "gradually becoming out of style." However, this still puts me in the realm of Rooney--did I really think I was ever in style, and did he ever really think he was an average guy? We both went on to express utter estrangement with the most popular music artists of the day.

So what does this all mean? Did it take Andy Rooney 91 years to reach the same degree of cultural alienation that took me only 13? Did he have so much more good material in his head that it took him 78 years before he was down to the topics that I had to start with? Is life really all a matter of symmetry, and my (or anyone else's) earlier writings would be expected to mirror Rooney's (or anyone that lives that long's) later writings? Or am I just jealous that Rooney's commentary went viral and my similar commentary never saw the light of air?

One thing is for certain. When I wrote by hand my expression of disaffection with popular music and recorded it on an analog cassette tape on a snowy New Year's Day as a teenager, the last thing I ever imagined is that someday I would be typing out on a globally-accessible forum how a major television personality had expressed the same sentiment I had that morning. I can only imagine how different Rooney's first writings may have been!

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