The Spectacle Blog

Jolt Culture

By on 8.18.06 | 9:59AM

...is the name given by J. Peder Zane writing in the News & Observer to our fetish for pointless information in heaping servings. Trivial Pursuit was once the game of middle-class snobs, seemingly invented for intellectuals stuck in yuppie careers to impress at dinner parties. It's still a good game -- so long as you avoid, at all costs, the "90's Edition," which is an updated abomination on par with a blonde James Bond. All of the questions, you suspect after fifteen minutes or so, require the player to draw from an encyclopedic "knowledge" of popular detritus, a memory bank bracketed by Pop Up Video and I Love The 80s.

A culture is always in danger of going overboard. Philip Rieff -- whose signature book ISI will rerelease this fall (mark your calendars) -- remarked somewhere that the French Encyclopedists showed this tendency even in a refined culture when their passion for accumulating knowledge inspired finally a cult of ornamentalism. We have that today as well, only without the gilt edges. Now all that glitters is gold, and nothing glitters like, well, pop trivia. This is defined such that trivia, served in pop style, becomes pop, and this is the subject of Zane's piece. The link, with commentary via Postmodern Conservative, is here.

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