Name Dropping

Name Dropping is a funny thing.

I sat at a table Sunday night, and name dropped Anime series with a girl who is returning to her third year at USA in a week or two. She's part of the anime club down there, and so we got to talking about series she had and hadn't seen.

Ok, what about Trigun?
Well, only a little, I didn't like it. But I started in the middle. Have you seen EVA? Neon Genesi-
[making face] Yeah, I've seen Eva. I hated it.
Oh, why?
Have you seen the end? Lots of wasted potential.
Oh, I haven't seen the end, or the movies, yet. [shamed look] I do have most of Chobits though.
[Laughing]. Ah, well, I'll forgive you if you've seen any Kodomo no Omocha - Child's Toy.
No, I haven't heard of it. What about Grave of the Fireflies?
I've been told to see it, but I haven't yet. Cowboy Bebop?
A little on Adult Swim.
The sub is better. But. . .of course. . .
. . .Yeah. . .
[in unison] the sub is always better!

So anyway, it got me thinking about humanity, and our habit of name dropping. What is that about?

It's important to us, not just to know the right people/places/phenomena, but to make sure that other, third parties know that we know these things. For some reason, much of modern human social standing--who you look up to, who you look down on--is based on what they know, and how much of it they know. It's no longer a question or power or money, it's a question of information.

Are we finally moving into the information age? Will all the posturing in this century be based not on industrial prowess or economic success but on the simple equation of who knows the most about the topic they choose to call their own?

Across cultures in America we ridicule geeks. Anyone who expresses too much interest in a topic, is too 'into' the minute details of that topic, is considered a loser, a geek. Jaded uncaring indifference is praised, in the broad spectrums of society.

But in the niches, in the real interests, in the Anime clubs, and the Sci Fi Conventions, Programming Teams, and the Elite Indie Music Scene, the people who are respected, admired, and deffered to are those who know the most. Those who make the minute details--(how many Episodes of Ranma were there? What does the T in James T. Kirk stand for? What is the correct way to initialize a stack class? When was Radiohead formed?)--are the ones who are quietly left alone, and considered to be the 'most-true' in that subcategory.

And so American culture creates an interesting dual socialogical demand. . .know everything about the subculture you call your own, but in public, reveal none of this knowledge, instead relying on calloused indifference to glide through any social function, until you run into another of your own kind, and then unleash your knowledge in a name dropping skirmish in which one of you will quietly be determined the victor.

Think Name dropping serves a different purpose? Drop me a note, and tell me your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


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