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Kindergraphics

Recently, President Obama appeared on the morning talk show (at least, I think it’s on in the morning) The View, where he was playfully quizzed about his pop-culture knowledge. He did approximately as well as a sitting American president should do, in my opinion and based on a single 1:30 clip viewed on the Internet: He knew that Lindsay Lohan had been jailed, but had no idea who Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is.

My own pop-culture awareness, though apparently greater than the president’s, is, inarguably, less than it once was—and deepest in categories and on subjects that may no longer be considered, exactly, relevant.

Curious what younger generations know, I determined to survey them, comprehensively. Fortunately, I’ve got one of ‘em close at hand. (I had an excellent household response rate of 100 percent.)

Subject: 8-year-old female.

Lindsay Lohan: “She’s an actress. She’s really good, but she’s in jail.” Lady Gaga: “A singer. She freaks me out when she sings about ‘disco stick.’ I don’t think that’s a polite thing.” Snooki: “Chicken. Why ‘chicken’? I don’t know. I didn’t know what else to say.” Twilight: “That’s a book. I’ve never read it, but I think it’ll be good when I’m old enough. It’s a movie, too.” Vampire: “Twilight. One of the actors in Twilight is a vampire and wears a lot of make up.” Housewife: “Cleaning. My mom calls herself a housewife, and that’s what she does.” Desperate: “Does that mean ‘worried?’ Or it means you want something you don’t have.”

Jonas: “Brothers!” American Idol: “Soup can. I don’t know what ‘idol’ means, but I like soup cans because if you cut off the bottoms and tops you can put them on your arms and pretend they’re lasers.” Pixies: “Pixies are related to fairies in Neverland.” Guided By Voices: “I don’t know. Is your heart guided by voices?” Album: “The Jonas Brothers have a new album that has more than one song, it has 15!” Gothic: “I don’t know.” Goth: “That sounds like Gohf. G-O-H-F, which is black with spiky things.” Punk: “It’s ‘mean.’ Like, “Don’t be a punk.’ ” Rimbaud: “Like a bow? I like bows in my hair.”

Download: “That’s printing. You can print Hannah Montana wallpaper!”

Jon Stewart: “That reminds me of Robbie Ray Stewart. Are they related?” Rush Limbaugh: “Sounds like a dragon.” Glenn Beck: “Is that a girl? I don’t know.” Kim Kardashian: “That’s an animal in a movie. A Kardashian is an animal with two wings and one foot and a big, large tail. It was a fairy-tale movie.” Insane Clown Posse: “That must be the circus.”

Meme: “ That reminds me of ‘meow.’ So, kitties.” Keyboard cats: “Like in The Aristocats. All the baby cats step on the piano and make music.” Goatse: “Bathtub. If I had a goat, I’d name her “Goatsy.” If she smelled, I’d put her in the bathtub. If it was a boy, I’d name him ‘Cowboy.’ ”

Facebook: “Contact. On Facebook, you can contact people and make friends.” Tumblr: “That’s clumsy people.”

Arcade Fire: “Aaaaah! The games are on fire!” Big Bang Theory: “A clock. In Italy there’s a clock called Big Ben.” Christian Slater: “That rhymes with ‘skater.’ It’s about skateboards.” The Replacements: “It’s a TV show about a girl and a boy, who don’t like their teacher, cook or golf teacher. Whatever they do, it turns into a disaster.” Salvation Army: “That’s war. The 1982 war. I think there was a war in the nineteens.”

Vinyl: “That sounds a lot like ‘violence.’ ” Vegetarian: “That’s no meat. I don’t like being a vegetarian. I like chicken, or steak.” Rap: “At the salad bar, my mom can get a cheese wrap.” Rap music: “Some people, when they rap , wear cool stuff like gold and heavy necklaces. One guy had a double ring that said, ‘Bling.’ ” Bling: “In Big Time Rush, Wayne Wayne wears a lot of bling. His real name is Wally.” Justin Beiber: “He’s a really good singer. My favorite song is “I Thought You Could Always Be Mine.” He’s cute. He has really cute bangs.” Mad Men: “That’s just angry guys.” Inception: “I have no idea what that means.”Leonardo DiCaprio: “He’s a painter. I think I’ve heard of him in school. I haven’t seen any of his pictures.”

Personal brand: “Private. Because ‘personal’ means ‘private.’ ” Blog: “Writing. People write things on their blogs. You write things about you, or what happens in your life, on the computer.” Graphic novel: “I don’t know what that is. A novel is a book.” Comic books: “Wonder Woman. She has bulletproof wrist things, and a rope that she ties around people and they tell every secret they ever had. Or the truth. I get those two mixed up.”

President: “The leader of America, Barack Obama. I think he smokes, but he’s trying to quit.”

—John Rodat


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