Social Networking sites have been embraced by white people since their inception. Because these sites use profile pages, white people can more efficiently judge friends and future friends on their taste in film, books, music, and inspirational quotes. Advanced level white people, fearful of being judged on their tastes from last week, will often only list one or two ironic things as their favorites. For example under music they would simply list “P.M. Dawn” or under films they would choose only Armageddon. In both cases these ironic answers serve as protective shields from the harsh gaze of other white people.
I have a Facebook page, believe it or not, but I don’t do Irony Lite, nor do I care whether other people find my tastes insufficiently cool, much less insufficiently “white” (by which Stuff White People Like, needless to say, means something very different from that which was meant when I was growing up in southeast Missouri half a lifetime ago).
As it happens, I tried to take Stuff White People Like’s Facebook test yesterday, but gave it up after running into three consecutive questions for which my answer was None of the above, which was not an option. My impression, however, was that I’m not very “white,” a fact which amuses me, albeit only mildly. Speaking as an arty Upper West Side drama critic who works for The Wall Street Journal, likes both sushi and hot dogs, is currently writing an opera, and can sit down at the piano and play Nat Cole’s “Easy Listening Blues” on request, I’m not at all sure what color I am.
In the interests of chromatic clarification, here is the personal information that appeared on my Facebook page last week:
• Activities. Reading, writing, playgoing, traveling, collecting prints, consuming art of all kinds. Recently finished writing Rhythm Man, a biography of Louis Armstrong, and the libretto for The Letter, an operatic version of the play by Somerset Maugham (music by Paul Moravec). Last piece written: Saturday’s Wall Street Journal “Sightings” column on John Philip Sousa.
• Interests. Art, art, and more art.
• Favorite music. Last CD acquired: Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, Showtime at the Spotlite: 52nd Street, New York City, June 1946. Last song played: Memphis Slim, “Mother Earth.”
• Favorite TV shows. Don’t watch any (sigh).
• Favorite movies. Ever: Rules of the Game. Most recently seen: Out of the Past. Last show seen: My Fair Lady at the Ogunquit Playhouse (with Jefferson Mays as Henry Higgins).
• Favorite book. Novel: The Great Gatsby. Biography: W. Jackson Bate, Samuel Johnson. Currently re-reading: Angus Wilson, Hemlock and After.
• Favorite quotes. “If there’s no alternative, there’s no problem” (James Burnham). “In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind” (Louis Pasteur). “I don’t think God punishes people for specific things. I think he punishes people in general, for no reason” (Christopher Durang).
What does all this make me? Gray, I guess.
By the way, I invite those of you who only just started reading this blog to compute your Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index. It is, if I do say so myself, a much more sophisticated taste-measuring instrument than the Stuff White People Like Facebook Test–and vastly more serious to boot.