Seattle-area Lab readers may remember Pistil Books from Pike Street. Pistil was a used book store, by no means the best in town, but for its size, quite impressive. After I moved to Capitol Hill, I would wander down there every so often and browse the shelves. I found some great stuff, too, things I hadn't even known existed until I saw them and had to have them.

Then, last April, Pistil closed down. This was, of course, my fault. Or, more properly, the fault of people like me. Young techies and other folks with solid jobs and good money, chasing culture like flames chasing moths. Pistil never stood a chance against the gentrification. Nine-to-five bohemians need their regional-chain coffee shops and their simulacra street culture. The genuine article can't compete.

Well, it's been a while, but I thought of Pistil today. Taco Bell is running a new commercial, and while my usual state of mind during commercials is an irritated disgust, the Bell managed to rouse me into a state of active indigation.

The ad is called "Chef Wars," and it's an Iron Chef parody. I first heard of Iron Chef about two and a half years ago, which is a pretty good lead time, as such things go, but it still hurts. Iron Chef is no longer a piece of elite culture I can discuss with my culturally elite friends; now it's just a piece of context for a fast food-like-substance commercial. Somewhere in there, when I wasn't paying quite enough attention, I slid down a step on the Great Chain of Coolness.

I think of staying hip as an exercise in running up the down escalator. It doesn't really matter if you're talking about TV shows or computer hardare, literary non-fiction or Indonesian ska; the process is the same. Pay attention to what's happening, cultivate the right connections: if you do your legwork, you get a leg up on everyone else. The higher up you get, the higher you get, the more lead time you have on trends.

So I'm a few steps below the friends who told me about Iron Chef way back when; they'd seen it at off hours on the Food Network,