PETTY QUESTIONS: Creeping doubt

By Owen Bates on November 20, 2010

Hi! Welcome to Petty Questions - a new advice column about trivial things. Let's get started.


Volcanoes are always trying to jack my swag. How can I protect my swag, without sacrificing that which makes me love volcanoes? 
-Bemused In Bellingham

BIB, you're playing me for a fool. If I wanted someone to sell me snake oil I'd go back in time with machines. Let's cut the carp fish.

There are no volcanoes trying to jack your swag. I say that with almost a lot of certainty.

It's completely physically unlikely, one. And two, even if there were any volcanoes actively trying to steal from you, why not put on an extra deadbolt and store your diamonds in a safety deposit box? They call it that because it's secure from everything.

You could've come up with that. You probably did already. Do I look like an idiot for answering your question now? Sure. Does making me look like an idiot make you look like a double idiot? I really hope so in all honesty, BIB, prankster.

Please take this seriously. I look so stupid now. If you're not going to be responsible and mature and nice, well then-go forget yourself. And I mean that.


My ignorance concerning popular culture is absurd, be it of music, movies, or even television. How might I acclimate myself to the world of pop culture and acquire the necessary trivia to impress my friends at parties?
-Still Watches Seinfeld

Here's all you need to know about stuff.

Television: "Seinfeld," good. "Monty Python," good. British TV in general, worse than you would think. "Curb Your Enthusiasm," good. British TV comedy writer Armando Iannucci, underrated in the US. "I'm Alan Partridge" starring Steve Coogan and produced by Armando Iannucci, take my word that it's completely worth it. "Two and a Half Men," cannot compare with anything written by Armando Iannucci (b. November 28, 1963).

Music: Rolling Stones, They Might Be Giants, LCD Soundsystem, Joy Division, New Order, ELO, The Kinks, Leonard Cohen, Lily Allen, The Magnetic Fields, The Wainwrights/McGarrigles, The National, Neil Young, Of Montreal, Randy Newman, Regina Spektor, Radiohead, Spoon, Steely Dan-awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome. But have you ever heard of The Beatles? They did a Led cover once.

(Did you know? Armando Iannucci is actually Scottish.)

Movies: Here's what it comes down to. Are you a Truffaut freak or a Brooks brother? Wes Andersonian or Michael Bay-esque? Because it's alright to like different kinds of movies. It's our tastes and personalities that make us unique.

(Who wrote the critically-acclaimed hit comedy about political (dys)functionaries, "In the Loop?" Armando Iannucci wrote and directed this movie.)

But how do you use all this data-infotainment? Watch:

You: Hi, lady. (wink)

Lady: Hello, cool guy.

You: Quick question. Do you happen to enjoy the finer things in life, including but not limited to deluxe love? (wink)

Lady: (wink)

This way you don't ever even need to bring up all the pop culture you don't understand. Before I forget, Twitter is pretty big because it does all sorts of convenient tasks I think.

Say though that you are forced at gunpoint to talk about all this popul. cult. That's how parties go every now and then. Well, do I have a suggestion for you!

Somebody somewhere wrote a book about how to talk about books you've never read, mostly in case you run into a party by accident. That somebody is Pierre Bayard and the book is "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read" (Bloomsbury; $14.96

Personally, I'd suggest reading that book instead of reading this lousy column. Bayard is so smart they allowed him to write a book. I only have enough wits to write for the best alternative weekly in the whole South Sound, the number one competitor with The Stranger in lobbies all across this dirt-in-your-eyes, can-do, takin'-names, DIY town we call The Grits-Tacoma. My rag sheet is the Weekly Volcano, and it's enough for me. So play it safe, listen to a sophisticated Seattilite on this one. I'm sure his education will pay off more than my meager two cents.

If you'll excuse me, I have to go work with my hands, for pay.

(To be clear legally: Pierre Bayard is not from Seattle, or Washington. He is from France. Owen Bates was born in Seattle and likes to take day-trips there. He is afraid of touching things with his hands, even safe normal things.)

Coming up next week in Act II: roommates. You can't live with them, at least in certain cities. Well, that's pretty much the whole preview.

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