The Winter of our Dissed Content

Monday, October 9, 2017

“Kale?” a European dinner guest recently asked a pal of mine. “Isn’t that something you feed pigs?”

Kale-upmanship! My friend is as bristly as kale when it comes to fad food. Kale, he’d decided, was overused in New York restaurants, and he couldn’t shut up about it. A leafy green vegetable with a millennial fan base, a National Kale Day, a Yale University look-alike T-shirt and a book called Fifty Shades of Kale. Better to humor him:

Q: What’s the difference between kale and snot? 

A: Children will eat their own snot.

The Crime of the Century

I had a suspicion that my friend was onto something big. Something even more sinister—and irritating to the digestive tract—than kale. This case of runaway popularity had conspiracy written all over it. How else could I explain that I personally bought kale and owned a top-of-the-line cold-press juicer?

This buddy of mine also disdains the trendy misuse and overuse of the words “content” and “curate.” Assaults on his tender sensibilities? Oh no. What he is talking about is the murder of his beloved language. And the perps? I had my eye on those dirty, rotten scoundrels who’d been packing fully loaded iPhones since they were ten years old. They have no recollection of alphabetizing by last name or typing late-night term papers with the help of Microsoft’s irritating animated talking paper clip (“I see you’re writing a letter, would you like some help?”).

Moby Dick was now “content” distributed with all the pomp and circumstance of a Candy Crush app. “Curation” was a selection process performed by “thought leaders” who had possibly overheard the word “curator” at a museum once, but had never met an actual writer or editor of anything but lines of code—except perhaps at TED Talks.

Some engineer was out there right this instant, bragging about having invented a new occupation while Herman Melville turned over in his Woodlawn Cemetery grave, along with Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Byron and Goethe—who all shared the same six-generation-old British publisher.

The only internet epic I’d seen lately was a  “curated” listicle of Ryan Gosling Kale memes: “Hey girl, I grew this kale for you.”

These whippersnappers could eat all the kale they wanted, but they were not getting away with crimes against literature on my watch, no sirree. I carry insurance on the “contents” of my home. But by god, I have written actual books catalogued in the Library of Congress—not the Content of Congress.

A Break in the Case

The first big break in my case came when I remembered I had an adult child of millennial age. I suspected that he now ate limited amounts of kale hidden in omelettes. He was trying to pass himself off as a Gen Xer, insisting he’d never been counted as a Millennial until two years ago. “I don’t even know how to use Snapchat!” he pleaded.

That’s when it hit me. What had happened two years ago was a Pew Research report announcing that Millennials had overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation by a 75.4 to 74.9 million margin. The Gen Xers were born in the slow birthing years of 1965–1980. Then fecundity became the harbinger of kale and “curation” and “content.” And kaboom, for the first time in history, Boomers were no longer #1. No longer winning at everything because of their sheer numbers. No wonder I thought tattoos were contagious—thousands of millennials were getting them every day.

Back to my friend (a Boomer). He had been right from the start. There is kale in every restaurant. The bad news is, if Millennials want “pig food” for dinner and nonsensical use of the words “content” and “curate,” that’s how it is going to be.

Unless, of course, Boomers perfect cloning. Peace out.



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