NEWS

Pop Culture: Ask not what your columnist can do for you

Dennis Volkert

To mark the 10th anniversary of this column, I wanted to begin on a sincere note.

I didn't intend to make it a formal occasion. It's because every attempt I made this week to write anything funny became a cul-de-sac of dead ends.

In truth, the column officially turned 10 years old last week, but I didn't want to ruin the moment with a weak offering. So I waited one week for a weak one. "Tardy" and "ineffective" are not mutually exclusive.

The struggle started with a Wii bit. You know, the usual stuff: now that we have Wii Fit, what comes next? Wii Lazy, Wii Know (an interactive encyclopedia), Wii Gehts (learn German while you virtual bowl), and so on.

That boldly went nowhere. The next brainstorm was to adapt Pop Culture to the TV show "How it's Made," in which I could give readers a step-by-step insight into how the column is written. You know, the usual stuff. Monday: begin procrastination; Tuesday: type 200 words, then press Delete ... this idea very quickly became a self-fulfilling prophecy, like a snake biting its own teeth.

That idea spun off to a related topic: keep several drafts of the column-in-progress, post them on our Web site, and readers could follow along as the column progressed from nothing-notes to pristine product, before their very eyes. When I realized there would be no "final version," it was like Venus de Milo running around with no arms.

All week long, inspiration exploded and fizzled. An attempt to compare 1998 with 2008; how the Spice Girls should've marked their reunion tour by becoming the Spice Women, or at the very least, Girlz 2 Men; a compilation of funny lines from a decade of columns (estimated count: zero).

Each attempt hit a wall, or was interrupted by calls from my editor, checking to see when the column would be finished. This proved doubly distressing, since the editor is me, and I had to take time to place the calls and answer them.

I also considered beginning Decade II by changing the name of the column itself. I had found "Pop Culture" was both too broad and too limiting, like shoving a Hummer inside a Mini Cooper. Even that concept died, because the list of alternative names didn't cut it. You know, the usual stuff: Word to the Wisecrack; Nothing to See Here; Scattershot Glass; Tales From the Head; The Something Collage; and Joke-a-Lope.

After 500 columns, finding something clever ought to be a snap, especially if you're trying to celebrate "One Decade in Print." Give something a little time, and it will show no improvement whatsoever.

So as I blow out the candles on the column cake, I'll make a wish. I wish peace and happiness for all 18 of my loyal readers; for a swift end to the presidential race; prosperity for all with malice toward none. And I have a wish that, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.

Actually, that's four wishes. You know, the usual stuff.

Dennis Volkert is features editor at the Journal. E-mail him at volkert@sturgisjournal.com.