At the start of a new year and a new decade, many people may feel as if they've been around long enough to learn a thing or two about life. They're a little older and a little wiser, as the saying goes. Not me, though. Whereas most people get smarter with every year that passes, I just seem to get more stupid. Instead of having a brain that aggregates knowledge over time, I seem to have a cranial capacity that peaked when I was 20 years old. Perhaps it was reading Ulysses by James Joyce that finally filled every megabyte of memory, and files started being deleted willy nilly. Or maybe it was the dissertation I wrote about... something or other that instead of giving me an intellectual workout left me with an inoperable brain hernia.
But since then, I've been a kind of intellectual Benjamin Button, slowly regressing towards the ignorance and naivety of youth, and thirsting for only the lowest of culture. If you believe the date on my birth certificate, I'm 25, but all other indicators point towards 15. A great example of my growing puerility came a few weeks ago. After getting an iPhone for Christmas, I headed to the online App Store under the pretext of searching for gizmos to make life easier and broaden my horizons. Did I download the Amazon Kindle e-reader or a handy unit converter? Nope. The first thing I went for was a lightsaber application, which makes whooshing noises when I swing the handset around. The second (and my only paid-for app to date) was Sonic the Hedgehog, the old Sega Mega Drive game. Since downloading it, I've spent almost every waking hour trying to regain my former prowess at commanding the titular blue rodent.
And I don't just roam around the digital realm like an simpleton. The bookshelf in my apartment has also begun to suffer. Although I decided to stop buying comic books around the same time I developed armpit hair, I rediscovered the form in a big way last year. And while I tell myself that comics can be both great art and literature (Art Spiegelman's Maus, for example), it doesn't excuse the fact that I also own Marvel Zombies vs the Army of Darkness.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, my choice of home viewing has also been affected by my new-found juvenilia and I've been finding it difficult to get excited about films unless they were at some point banned in Italy. But I'm also convinced that my declining standards are being fuelled, in part, by some external influence. Was it a coincidence that the first Star Trek movie in almost a decade would not only be released in 2009 but also turn out to be one of the year's finest films? How my adolescent self would have loved it. And who could have predicted that in the year my brain seems to have reverted to a 15-year-old's, Rage Against the Machine (my favourite band in my teenage years) would score a Christmas No 1 in the UK?
Whether it's coincidence or providence, the fact that someone or something seems to be encouraging my regression seems like a good enough reason not to fight it.