published Thursday, April 17th, 2014

In Tune: Pop culture's crossroads buzzes with traffic

In high school, there was a time when, like many word-loving students (read: nerds), I briefly fancied myself a poet. I filled journals with rondeaux and cinquains, with haiku and sonnets. I showed them to my parents and read them, perhaps overly proudly, in my creative-writing class.

Early on, I attempted to replicate the voice and cadence of my favorite poets. In particular, there was a lonely, longing sort of beauty to Robert Frost's work that struck me. I especially loved "The Road Not Taken," a 1916 poem about a traveler's conundrum at a crossroads. Seeing two equally appealing paths, he is unsure which to choose, but once he finally makes a decision, he laments not knowing what experiences he missed on the other path.

Even if you're not especially fond of poetry, the final lines likely will sound at least somewhat familiar:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Despite being almost a century old, the poem still resonates with me.

Because I write about pop culture, I feel obliged to be up-to-date on anything that's generating buzz at the water cooler, be it a movie, a TV show, a YouTube video or a video game. Unfortunately, that task has become such a Herculean undertaking that the indecision I face every night is practically crippling.

These days, by the time I check something off my must-watch list, two more things have replaced it.

A few weeks ago, I finally finished the Netflix original political drama "House of Cards," but with Frank Underwood's final knuckle rap still echoing in my speakers, I already was trying to decide what my next show should be. I finally settled on HBO's "True Detective," but "Game of Thrones," "Orange Is the New Black," "Hell on Wheels" and a dozen others are waiting in the wings.

Some might say this is the quintessential "First World problem," and they'd be right. You could make a fairly convincing argument that the ability to binge-watch shows in one lump sum via a streaming service has led to creating some of the most compelling stories ever to grace the small screen. But what good is that content if it's doled out at such a rapid pace that you can't take the time to appreciate its quality before rushing on to the next thing?

I would love for my decisions to be as polarized as those in the poem. Two roads? Bah. Faced with hundreds of choices, Frost's traveler would probably turn around and head home.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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