World of Warcraft With a Side of Butter

Those of you who know me, in real life and/or through this blog, know that I’m a complete fossil not the most current in areas of popular culture. So you might be surprised to learn that I now know all there is to knowa tonquite a bit…something about World of Warcraft.

"Yup, Gretchen's in my Guild. Why's that so hard to believe?" (orig. image courtesy

“Yup, Gretchen’s in my Guild. Why’s that so hard to believe?” (orig. image courtesy

Why this sudden interest in something I’ve previously only made fun of, in a baffled, old-fogey way? It’s all because of my sleep schedule.

Tuesday night I stayed up till midnight, first playing in a community concert on another island, then riding the late ferry home. Wednesday morning I got up at 4 a.m. to bake.

So: 4 hours’ sleep. At my age, not too many brain cells are ready for minimal function with that kind of rest, let alone following recipes. I had to do SOMETHING to keep myself alert.

So I asked my colleague Ty to explain World of Warcraft to me.

Now you might think this would cause either a) a spontaneous nap, since I couldn’t relate to anything he was telling me, or b) disastrous distraction from my baking, resulting in salty brioches or eggless muffins. But, to my amazement, and probably to Ty’s, a third result occurred: focused fascination.

Every time Ty would answer one of my questions, two new ones would pop up, Sorcerer’s-Apprentice-broom style. Example #1:

ME: So…When you join a Guild, you sort of protect each other?
TY: Yeah, there’s usually someone whose job it is to take the Damage, and someone else to Heal, while…blah blah blah (you don’t think I actually remember this stuff, do you??)

ME: Do you have to agree on those roles in advance? And what if someone says they’re on your team but it’s really just a trap so they can attack you?

Example #2:

ME: So you can choose to be, like, a good guy or a member of the Horde?

TY: Yeah. Kinda depends on how aggressive you like to be…

ME: But even if you’re a troll or an orc or something, you can still be a hero, right? You still have a back story and a conflict and a quest to fulfill just like any other character, right? Wow, this sure turns the fictional model of monolithic antagonist on its head! (yeah, you’re right, I didn’t really say it like that. But that’s what I was thinking, or at least what I started thinking about later once my entire brain got out of bed.)

My point is, it was INTERESTING. The morning flew by. My brioches and muffins came out fine. And my brain has been darting around these questions ever since–questions like:

  • how much internal conflict is necessary to create a well-rounded character? Can your WOW avatar just act and react without you needing to know why s/he acts that way?
  • what does your choice of avatar say about your hopes & dreams & general psychological makeup, including your willingness to put that out there for others to wonder about?
  • if antagonists are the heroes of their own stories, does that fundamentally change the nature of an antagonist?
"I'm SO conflicted!" (orig. image courtesy

“I’m SO conflicted!” (orig. image courtesy

So, lesson learned: asking about popular culture can be at least as fun as plain old getting involved in it. Try being a cultural anthropologist sometime in something you’re a complete moron about–True Blood? manga? dim sum?–and see how much fun you have.

In fact, why don’t you tell me: if there was one bit of pop culture you could get someone to explain to you, what would it be? What–or whom–would you ask?

At Least We All Speak Yoda…

The comedian George Carlin, bless his soul, used to have a wonderful spiel about freeway drivers.

Paraphrasing: “Anyone who goes faster than me–what a maniac! Anyway who goes slower–what a moron.”

I’m totally stealing that for today’s discussion about cultural literacy.

I live on an island, ok? So I am not only isolated from popular culture, I am LITERALLY INSULATED. (Insula = island in Latin. Yup.) Here on my little isle, we call trips to the mainland “going to America.” I’ve already found myself resisting such trips.

Helen and Gretchen 2012

And I’ve only lived here full-time for three years!

Along with my new home, I have a new job that has almost nothing to do with teenagers–unlike the last 20 years of teaching, where I was marinated in surrounded by them. So you can see how I’ve begun to lose just a teensy bit of my once-awesome cultural literacy.

Recently my blog guru teacher, Kristen Lamb, posted this wonderful bit on her blog:

It’s a great post, as you now know since you read it. But when I did, the whole time I was thinking, “Sharknado??? Oh man, where have I been?”

And here I thought I was all hip because I kinda/sorta know who the Kardashians are.

Anyone else out there feel like the world of what-you-have-to-know-about-to-avoid- being-a-fossil is expanding at light speed?

Then a local (meaning island) friend of mine (who’s not all that much older) rescued me from my self-pity pit. Responding to an email I’d sent, he asked, “Yeah, what does [colon + parenthesis] mean, anyway? My niece writes that all the time.”

🙂 🙂 :)!!!! Hurray–someone less literate than I am! I got to teach him all about emoticons. And no, I did not call him a moron–any more than I’d call Kristen Lamb a maniac. 🙂

I told my friend I’d try not to sound too smug when telling this story. Then I quoted Yoda’s dictum: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Then I asked him if he knew who Yoda was.

He did. Definitely not a moron! But probably still wondering, as I am, how insulated fossils like us are possibly going to keep up. Maybe I’ll assign myself an hour of YouTube a day.

So how about y’all? What examples have you run into of folks who are hopelessly moronic less hip than you are? Or your own lack of hipness? Or are you the maniac on the highway of cultural literacy? Let us hear!

(Original photo courtesy Hexmar, WANA Creative Commons)

(Original photo courtesy Hexmar, WANA Creative Commons)