Talk about what you don’t do

This is a very contextual one, and should be handled carefully. You probably know what I’m talking about though right? It's that friend who's always confused when you call someone “such a Rachel” and respond, “Oh, sorry, I don’t watch F●R●I●E●N●D●S; I don’t really watch TV.” I realize that’s a dated reference and I don’t care. Secondly, I don’t even know what “such a Rachel” would mean because I didn’t watch F●R●I●E●N●D●S. Thirdly, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say, “Oh, I don’t watch Netflix or any streaming video,” so I can’t make the same reference for House of Cards.

The beauty of the internet is I knew someone would make a Friends/House of Cards mashup, and I was right.

Anyway, here are a non-exhaustive list of things you can not do and casually mention that you don’t do: watch TV, watch movies, watch non-foreign movies, watch movies that aren’t “films”, read fiction, read nonfiction, read?, listen to mainstream music, listen to the radio, listen to non-NPR radio, listen to non-classical radio, play ball sports, use an alarm clock, eat out, eat meat, eat fish, use Facebook, use Twitter, use Pinterest, use GChat, use AOL?, have a car, have a bike, have an iPhone, have a smartphone, have a phone, play video games, read blogs, buy clothes, buy cheaply made clothes, buy jewelry, buy stuff, work. You might be surprised this isn’t a bulleted list. That’s right, we change it up sometimes. Actually, I just couldn't figure out columns in this stupid blog editor.

To continue my thought, here’s the thing though - you can’t just go around spouting off about how you don’t read. People are just going to think you are illiterate. You can generalize that over the rest of the list. No, there are two rules to talking about what you don’t do. First, you have to do it in context. If someone is talking about the latest Fifty Shades of Grey book (also, with that many books in the series, wouldn’t you just sum up the shades, so it’s fifty in the first one, one hundred in the second, and so on? Also, how many actual shades of grey are there? Like, actual colors?) then you can mention you don’t read. Second, you have to give a reason, which usually involves you having being on some philosophical high ground. “You know, I don’t actually read. I think reading is a poor substitute for experiencing the world more viscerally, especially when it comes to Fifty Shades of Grey.” Actually, that’s a dumb sentence, but you can figure it out.

I really went down a rabbit hole talking about 50 Shades of Grey... ( img src )

I really went down a rabbit hole talking about 50 Shades of Grey... (img src)

In conclusion: don’t do stuff, then talk about how you don’t do it, and people will be impressed by you. Or silently judge you, but you know, that’s the risk you run with humanity.



So at some point, we are going to write more about reading. Yeah, reading is still a thing even though Netflix exists. I mean, you are reading this blog. Anyway, there’s a ton of stuff to read, saying you read periodicals makes you sound super impressive, or maybe like you live in a library. Either way, good.

What’s a periodical, you might ask? It’s anything published on a regular basis with new content - newspapers, magazines, academic and literary journals, you know, that stuff. No one is impressed when you say you read XXL, probably because they think you are talking about your shirt or Slurpee size and they don't even know it's a magazine. Instead, reference it as a hip-hop music and culture periodical. That’ll really bring the house down or whatever happens when people are impressed.

Okay, recommendations:

Any print newspaper

Bonus points for pink pages ( img src )

Bonus points for pink pages (img src)

I mean, I know that most people, and pretty much everyone reading this blog, actually get their news from a combination of the Daily Show and Facebook. Obviously, the newspaper isn’t actually for getting news. No, it’s for carrying on the outside of your bag so when people see you at the coffee shop or during your morning commute, they think you are learned and informed. Any newspaper will do - the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, your local print newspaper if it still exists, your kid’s high school paper, whatever.

The New Yorker or equivalent

The subject of this cover has nothing to do with this blog ( img src )

The subject of this cover has nothing to do with this blog (img src)

I actually have no idea where to buy the New Yorker. What’s a bookstore? Anyway, others in this category: The Economist, and probably a ton of other super sophisticated periodicals (see? Better than “magazines”) that I don’t know about.

Hipster/art magazines

It's like the paper version of a hipster Instagram feed ( img src )

It's like the paper version of a hipster Instagram feed (img src)

These are the periodicals that you find in a store where when you walk out, you think to yourself, “What do they even sell? How is that store still open? Is it a drug front?” The periodicals probably have names you've never heard of and that have nothing to do with their subject matter, like The Green Soccer Journal or The New Order

Highlights for Children

It's not just for when you wait at the dentist's office ( img src )

It's not just for when you wait at the dentist's office (img src)

It’s the best magazine ever for finding pictures of things inside of another picture of things. Plus, and I didn’t know this as a child, they have short stories. Any periodical with short stories is impressive, probably.

I just realized I didn’t explain what you are supposed to do with these periodicals. Here are suggestions in increasing order of importance:

3. Read them, then reference you reading them in conversation.

2. Take pictures of you pretending to read them and put them on social media. Make sure the cover is visible.

1. Leave them on your coffee table/dining nook/desk/anywhere people can see them.

Watching Good TV

Honesty moment: People judge people on their taste in media. Reading impressive books, watching the latest movies (or films, if you are into that sort of thing), listening to the latest album leaks, whatever. I feel like lately, though, watching the right TV is having its fifteen minutes of fame, so I’m going to tell you what television programming I think is impressive. I’m also going to tell you about all the terrible TV I actually watch.

Do watch: The thing everyone watches. Everyone loves a shared experience. The Olympics, Friends, the Oscars. It’s great conversation fodder.

I watch(ed): Boy Meets World. I think that falls in this category. I suck at TV.

Do watch: AMC, HBO, Netflix dramas. It’s a brave new world of visual storytelling. My overpriced liberal arts college had an entire class on The Wire. Watching these shows (Breaking Bad, House of Cards, et al.) gives you carte blanche on talking about TV like an insufferable intellectual.

I watch: Mediocre procedural crime dramas, like NUMB3RS. I do watch House of Cards, though.

Do watch: Quality Comedies. Historically, a lot of these have been on NBC Thursdays. The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Brooklyn 99.  Nothing on CBS. Categorically, I think of these shows as “not the lowest common denominator.”

I watch: These! Sometimes I follow my own advice.

Do watch: BBC shows, probably. Sherlock is much better than its CBS counterpart. Top Gear is cool. Doctor Who is great for nerds and stuff. Also, it'll help you practice your British accent.

I watch: American TV, like a patriot. And Sherlock. It’s really good.

Don’t watch: Anything on the CW. Anything involving swapping wives or hunting for things, usually on the Discovery, History, Travel channels.

I watch: Two CW shows. I won’t say which.

At the end of the day, though, it’s important to remember two things. 1. You only need to be able to talk impressively about TV. You can circumvent a lot of screen-staring time by reading spoilers and intellectual commentary, if that’s your thing. 2. TV is still supposed to be fun. So, basically, like all our other advice, just fake it.

Chris basically only watches singing shows. He is the worst of us.

Knowing a little about music

In my opinion, seeming cultured is a shortcut to seeming impressive, and music might be the most accessible form of culture. But, unless you are the guy who somehow knows all the lyrics to Dark Horse or religiously follows every Justin Vernon project, it can be tough.

Not the dark horse I was talking about

Not the dark horse I was talking about

There is another way. Somewhere between reading Pitchfork (hopefully you don’t know what that is) and playing a pitchfork (is that a thing?).

Here are a couple different strategies to sound like you know about music:

  • Actually be pretty into music. I am not this at all. I have a life goal of never going to Coachella. If you are already really into music, great job. Don’t be annoying about it.
My problem with Coachella is too many tank tops

My problem with Coachella is too many tank tops

  • Find a friend who actually knows a lot about music who isn’t annoying about it and ask them for recommendations. If you are trying to spot them in a crowd, they might look like they’d go to Coachella. I ask mine for a recommendation maybe once every week or two and try to remember some of the band names. This way, you might not need to actually listen to music. That’s how I found out about How To Dress Well. Side note, I thought they named their band after me.
  • For those of you who aren’t (really) into (non-Top 40) music, and don’t have a friend to steal music power from, I think your last option is to actually listen to some music. Don’t lose hope! It isn’t that bad.
    1. Pick a genre that isn’t Top 40. Bonus points if it’s played on public radio of some kind. Here are some suggestions: gospel, modern folk, k-pop, funk. I went with classical because my mom made me take piano lessons as a kid and I felt like this was stretching those dollars.

    2. Wikipedia it.

    3. Next, pick a subset of it. Get nice and specific. Impressionism sounded fancy, so I went with that.

    4. Wikipedia it.

    5. Pick an artist listed on the wikipedia page. Find him, her, or them on Spotify. Aim to listen to one album a week. Try to enjoy it, I guess.

    6. Now, when a conversation drifts gently towards music, you can sit there quietly looking knowledgeable until you have that perfect opportunity to talk about how Ravel’s Jeux d’eau so perfectly captures the idea of water fountains (or, whatever weird reference you can remember).

Doesn't this picture scream impressive?

Doesn't this picture scream impressive?

Just like that, you know a little about music. Hopefully, just enough to seem impressive, and not too much that you are super annoying about it.

Bonus points: At some point, reference an NPR Tiny Desk concert to sound super in the know.