You know what I’m realizing? I speak English, yes, but old English. For example, Friday’s “Goodnight, Irene” title possibly made sense to half of you, who know the song (the song goes: “Well, IiiiiiiiiiiiRENE, good NI-gh-igh-ight, IiiiiiiiiiiiRENE, good night. Good night, Irene, good night, Irene . . .”) — but to the rest of you it must have made no sense at all.
I tested this out. I asked a bright 25-year-old if he knew this song, and he looked at me as blankly as I looked at him when he asked me if I knew what MP3 stands for. (Musical Piracy — cubed.) Yet there are few living 50- to 100-year-olds who would not start humming, drowsily, at the menton of Irene.
So look what’s happening. We are living longer and longer, and everyone on the wired plaNet will soon be speaking English. We’re headed for a time a century or two hence when the question won’t be what language someone speaks — we’ll all speak English — but what decade do you speak?
OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was at the College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia, recently speaking to some of their terrific students and I mentioned something about someone’s having “his 15 minutes” — as in Warhol’s famous phrase — and it occurred to me that the 18-year-old I was talking to might not catch the reference. And she hadn’t! She said she had heard of Warhol — which was something — but had never heard his line about everyone, sooner or later, having 15 minutes of fame.
And then I started asking others in the group — here’s looking at you, kid — had they seen Casablanca? Nope. The Maltese Falcon? Nope. How can you appreciate the word “dingus” without having seen The Maltese Falcon?
I have met bright young people who have never seen Gone with the Wind. Kids to whom 2001 seems quaint. (Gad zooks! 2001 is 62 weeks from now!)
It was reported last week that scientists now believe brain cells may be regenerative. Previously, it was assumed the last brain cell was added the night before the SATs. This is a good thing, because I could really use some more. (“And what about these mice?” the Vice President asked a group at lunch recently, playfully — “Just how smart are these mice going to get?“)
Every day there’s a gigabyte of stuff that passes through my eyeball input device, plus a few megs that come through my aural input, and I have long since run out of brain cells to store all this stuff.
Do you ever feel that way? No? You must be 25. Rent Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Dr. Strangelove and Dr. Zhivago, Gone with the Wind and Inherit the Wind — immediately. When you’re done with those, I’ll suggest some more. (Z, The Ruling Class . . . )
But some of you, I know, are here for the money, not the movies, so tomorrow’s column is on the Casablanca of investment classics — a book, not a movie. Not one William & Mary senior in a hundred has heard of it. Yet it may be the most important investment book you’ll ever read.
(How’s that for hype? Well, it’s true! And, in any event, it’s free.)