I’ll admit it, and I’ll do so without shame: I like pop culture.

Of course, I’m not a sheep. I don’t like everything about pop culture. For instance, I don’t like this new trend of guys wearing pink. I don’t like Grand Theft Auto. And I *really* don’t like Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.”

But, as a whole, yes I enjoy popular culture.

Being a so-called “intellectual,” I think there is an unwritten rule somewhere that you’re not allowed to enjoy such guilty pleasures. That you’re supposed to listen to obscure musicians, shop only in independent bookstores, and only buy used books that have never even caused a blip on the NY Times Book Review. You’re supposed to drink fancy caffeinated beverages, but never from Starbucks. And you’re supposed to picket when a Wal-Mart or Target wants to open in your town.

Sorry. Not this guy.

Not to say that I don’t enjoy browsing through a used bookstore, or that I wouldn’t first patronize the corner hardware store before jetting to Home Depot. Not to say I don’t like going to bars and coffeshops and listening to up-and-coming bands testing out their raw stuff on the audiences for $5 a head. But, yes, I listen to Fly 92. And, yes, I shop at Target. In fact, I’m thrilled that there is a new Target in Latham (complete with a mini-Starbucks), because it’s closer to my house than Colonie.

Corporation/Pop Culture angst – it seems to be it’s own sort of post-modernism. “Corporations Bad!” Why? Why is it bad?

“Well, it knocks out the little guy.”

The little guy can’t keep up with the Joneses, apparently. But what many people fail to realize is that some of those “bad” corporations once were the “little guy.” Starbucks started out as corner coffeeshop in Seattle. Borders got it’s start in the Midwest as a fledgling store – “Hey, why not sell books AND music, and add a cafe! Do you think people would enjoy that?” They did. So much so that Borders is one of the largest bookstore chains in the country (Barnes and Noble have them beat – Barnes and Noble also stole the cafe idea).

We should begrudge Borders and Starbucks because they succeeded? That right there, folks, is the American Dream in action.

The same goes for musicians. “That artist is too mainstream. He/she sold out.” How, exactly, did he sell out? Because people like his sound, and now he’s played on Fly 92 instead of no-name college station? I would call that being successful, not selling out.

And did he change his sound? Tweaked, I’d say. Tweaked by a recording studio, now that he has the resources to work with a good one, instead of his garage. Because musicians are businessmen in their own right, too, and a good businessman caters to his market. And, yeah, Britney, Jessica and et. al. are a little canned. But their music is fun. It’s catchy. You find yourself singing along in the car. This is not something to be ashamed of.

Popular culture is popular for a reason. It isn’t a case of “I like it because the Cool Kids like it.” It’s a case of, “I like it because I like it, and if it happens to be mainstream, well, good for them. If not, well, I still like it.” Lest of course it gets overplayed. Then I get sick of it. But that’s a whole other can of worms.

So, yes, I’m going to continue to belt out Ashlee Simpson on long car trips. I don’t really care if she is horrible live, her album is fun. As much as part of me hates to admit it, Jessica’s rendition of “These Boots are Made for Walkin'” is growing on me. If I’m on my way to the office, I’m going to stop at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks for my coffee. I don’t like the independent coffeehouse on Wolf Road, and the two indy coffeehouses I do like aren’t on my way to work.

If this demotes me from “intellectualism,” so be it. I’m not a sheep – I just happen to like the flock’s choices. I’ll let you know if this changes.

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