(D)evolution

Chuck Klosterman Columbus Museum

I can’t tell you exactly what turned Chuck Klosterman into one of my heroes. Was it the article he wrote about taking the rock cruise with Styx, Journey and REO Speedwagon? Was it his exploration of Hispanic males’ curious passion over Morrissey? It wasn’t, as some might guess, his book “Fargo Rock City,” because I haven’t read it.

In any case, his perspective, his wit and the terseness of his humor made me even try to imitate him once, back when I had a pop culture column in the local paper. This column, by the way, did engender my favorite voicemail ever from a fan. Voicemail to a journalist was a proto comments section.

Chuck Klosterman Columbus Museum

Klosterman spoke in Columbus last Thursday to an embarrassing half-full theater. (The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries and MidTown Inc. booked him as part of the Building Common Ground lectures, and the Columbus Museum hosted him in the Patrick Theater, because the library feared its auditorium wouldn’t be big enough. Sigh.) About half of his discussion was an “ask me anything” Q-and-A, where “anything” appeared to only exclude further discussion of U2’s “Rattle and Hum,” which he’d already lambasted during the proper lecture. The question that seemed to chew most of his brain’s cycles was about technology.

Are we better off than our parents, for all of our technical acumen? Are our children better off than we are?

Klosterman’s roughly my age, which makes him a child of the early ’70s. His sister is 18 years older, and she thinks that because of the changing times in that gap, pop culture is 10 times more important to people like Chuck and me than it is for her. And Chuck feels that the importance of said pop culture is even greater now.

“I think the difference is 100 times now,” he said. And he said it with near panic. Like, how do you keep up with it, when you hit the age where your mind and body start struggling to keep up with anything?

The discussion hit home for Jenn and me, as we strive to live more simply in an increasingly complex and tech-savvy world. I don’t think it’s some myopic fantasy we’re after or we wouldn’t be blogging, on a computer, on the Internets, about what we’re doing.

But will we be better off?

And how do you define “better”?

We’ll certainly be saner, but we’ll probably be less in touch with what’s happening in the world around us — even if the younger people, the more tapped-in ones, around us are only experiencing what’s happening in the world virtually. We’ll be embarrassed having to Google “what is twerking” to know what the hell Miley Cyrus did exactly. But not until we Google “Miley Cyrus” to figure out who the hell that is.

Klosterman feels the next generations will be more physically isolated from their peers, but their virtual networks will be larger.

But it comes back, again, to the question of whether they’ll be better off.

For someone whose livelihood is based on critique, he was surprisingly non-judgmental.

“Well, it’ll be different,” he said. “I think it will take years to find out.”

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