Alternative Wisdom: Sifting Through The Waste of Pop Culture

When I'm not listening to around-the-clock political news radio, I'm a sucker for classic alternative rock bands. The Cars, Nirvana, R.E.M. and The Beastie Boys. This is the stuff I loved as a kid that I still go back to as an adult. When I'm feeling angsty and insubordinate, I turn up the The Clash and drive out to the countryside. The Ramones, The Knack, The Replacements and dozens of other bands that call themselves "The" followed by a common noun. Alternative rock might seem like disposable media to some of you, but there was a time in my life when it was the only thing that spoke to me.

They Might Be Giants have a song called Older with lyrics that go, "You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older. And now you're older still." The words to the song repeat themselves over and over. It's so catchy that its almost maddening and it might seem elementary but those lyrics are brilliant. While they appear to say very little, they actually say a lot. After all, we never really stop growing up. No matter how old I get I constantly feel like I've just reached a point in my life when all the confusing advice people gave me as a kid finally starts to make sense. Do you know that feeling? The advice I resented people for giving me as an adolescent became my most valuable possession when I got older. In my thirty some odd years on this planet I've been lucky enough to learn things (both solicited and unsolicited) from some pretty brilliant people. Most of it I listened to, some of it I ignored (or tried to ignore but ended up listening to anyway).

Like many of you I had some really stubborn moments in my adolescents. I try to think about that when I watch the Parkland teens and college aged feminists babbling on CNN about changing the Constitution. They might sound ignorant (and they are) but they're just kids. They don't know what they're talking about because young people are highly emotional and easily influenced (sometimes on a dangerous level). There might be wiser people surrounding these confused vessels, trying to explain common sense to a nonsensical generation, but chances are the millennial activists you see screaming into a microphone on CNN at an Antifa rally are developing the bulk of their perspective from Hollywood and their misguided peers. I was like that once too (I just wasn't a Leftist). When I was their age I didn't always listen to the advice I got from my elders (which is an understatement). 

During the years in my life when I was the most thick headed, stubborn and needlessly angry, I turned to music, art and pop culture for little nuggets of wisdom. Not surprisingly, a lot of it was empty, hollow garbage. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. Every generation has a trend setting icon or fad that's heavy on style and light on substance. "Just do it" and "Pump up the volume" might sound great at the moment, but those lines don't amount to much at the end of the day. There's nothing tangible for you to take away from a Britney Spears song (if you're too old for Britney, just insert Menudo or David Cassidy or whatever else into that sentence).

But once in a very rare while, buried between the trends, catch phrases and advertising gimmicks, pop culture gave me some honest to God genius wisdom. It was almost impossible to see it for what it was at the time but that world of mainstream mass produced media did occasionally toss me more than just stupid ideas. There were very few exceptions, but they existed. Much like the hidden gems in song lyrics by bands like They Might Be Giants or Talking Heads, occasionally I would find a nugget of wisdom in a movie or a TV show. Don't get me wrong, the lessons I learned from pop culture were almost entirely trash, but one very specific person spoke to me over and over again when I was a kid (and later on throughout my life). You've probably heard of him.

Ferris Bueller is famous for saying, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Of course, Ferris Bueller didn't really say that, mostly because he's not a real person. No, those were actually the words of John Hughes. The 80s most iconic film maker was chock full of genius quotes. Stuff like, "A person should not believe in an –ism; He should believe in himself" or "Spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress people."

Hughes was a master of explaining love and romance too. "That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call them something else." That line from Sixteen Candles is absolutely impossible to contest.

For those of you who read this far into the post, if you're wondering if I have a point with all of this, I won't keep you hanging on any longer. I'm actually going somewhere with this long rant. I sincerely wanted to ask all of you what rare moments of great advice were given to you from the soul crushing world of pop culture. Isn't that an odd question to ask? And couldn't I have just cut to the chase and asked the question? Ok, that's fair, but I'd love to know - Did you have a favorite musician, comedian or author who once shared a message with you as a kid that you still hold on to today? What was it and who said it? Go ahead - don't be shy. I'm gonna leave this post up over the weekend and read the answers on Monday night during my radio show. Well? What are you waiting for? Go ahead.


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The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

Ken Webster Jr is a talk radio personality and producer from Houston, TX. He started his career in Chicago on the Mancow show and has since worked at dozens of radio stations all over the country. He’s currently the host of Pursuit of Happiness... Read more


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