Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kinda Like Liquorice.

There's a subculture for everything.

If you go to a triathlon, you'll notice that the athletes have an "insider" culture, one that you either belong to or you don't. They might ask you if you tend to take your "goo" (that is, carbohydrate goo) on mile 12 or mile 16; they might make passing references to Montaugh '98 (not the wine, but the race); they might ask to borrow some vaseline for their nipples, as if that request was entirely normal. There's a sub-culture for everything.

You could say the same about Anne Rice conventions, Civil War recreations, Notre Dame Football, the X-Games, urology conferences, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Jimmy Buffet concerts, you name it. Jerry Garcia, attempting to explain the strange evolution of "deadheads," fanatics of the band the Grateful Dead who traveled to each and every concert so as to never miss a note played, chalked up the phenomenon to the fact that, put simply, there is a sub-culture for everything. "People that like our music are just like people who like liquorice," he explained in a Rolling Stone interview. "A lot of people don't like liquorice. But the ones that do like licorice, they really like liquorice."

So it should come as no surprise that there is also a sub-culture for fly fishing-- one with its own vocabulary and its own rules.

What IS much more interesting is the way that the Internet has incredibly expanded the ability of these sub-cultures to keep tabs on one another. If that sounds like an obvious and banal observation worthy of a Tom Friedman column, witness the experience of Rob Lathan, a good friend of mine (and hilarious comedian), who recently experienced first hand the strange phenomenon of sub-cultures via the Internet.

On his website, Lathan posted a harmless and scathingly funny post about a terrible fly-fishing experience he had in Vermont. The story (which is worth reading), involved a nasty fly fishing instructor who grew increasingly irate that Lathan didn't know how to "strip the line." He posted the story on his site, and thought nothing more of it.

But that wasn't the end of it. The story was picked up by Moldy Chum, a fly fishing blog that is dedicated wholeheartedly to the sub-culture of fly fishing. Moldy Chum not only read Lathan's post and linked to it, the attention also caused a representative of the fly fishing company to contact Lathan directly and apologize to him for the conduct of the fly fishing instructor. As the representative explained, the conduct of the guide was unacceptable in the fly fishing community. In fact, he wrote, "helping people avoid this type of thing is exactly why we developed the endorsed guide program." An "endorsement," the guide explained, is a means of "assuring fly fishing expertise" on the part of an instructor.

Now, Lathan is on a real roll, wondering aloud "who else is reading this?" On his blog, he's calling out sub-cultures left and right-- fans of the girl group Atomic Kitten, spelunking blogs, and members of the CIA-- trying to see who else will pick up on his posts and call him to task (or compliment him) for them. It's a brilliant idea, and a great way of testing the world of sub-cultures on the Web.

Come to think of it, I have some harsh things to say about fans of the 1984 classic Dabney Coleman spy film"Cloak and Dagger."

And I also am sick of these fans of that t.v. show "Family Ties." We all know that the purported "marriage" between Meredith Baxter Birney and Michael Gross was a sham. C'mon. Gross had a thing for Skippy. I'm saying it.

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