Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Empty Lives

Graham Parker, decades ago, ranted "don't get me to fill up your empty lives" as the star-making machinery enclosed him in a Cocoon of Cool where real life was notional and, for all intents and purposes, fictional.

Ray Davies of The Kinks wished for "(A) fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes." And, stealing another page from RD, who among us doesn't remember a Golden Child from our youth, some perfect specimen of the species, whose life was so wonderful it hurt our eyes to just look at them? And should we encounter them today and they seem to now have something other than that Happy Ending they thought was a birthright, tell me you don't smile just a little (schadenfreude ist auch ein freude).

So what should we make of the more recent examples of 'I called shotgun in Cowling's White Bronco' media feeding frenzy that is so much a part of our lives? With all this media and in such abundance, let's face it, the dumbing down, the bread and circuses, the 'Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee' aspect of our news structures, the day must be coming when reasonable human beings might well ask, WTFO? Or, perhaps more elegantly phrased, how did we end up in this hand basket, why is it so warm and where, exactly, are we going?

Not only do we rely on too many dubious sources of information and distraction, we rely on them in order to live our lives through their reports. How many more Christie Brinkley's, Alex Rodriquez's, Lara Logan's do we have to have before we can finally look away? What happened to last month's Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan or Jamie Lynn. If they're not on the cover of AADDd (Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Digest) does that mean they no longer exist?

Show of hands: do any of us shoe shop with any of the people in the above paragraph? That's what I thought. But more of us know about Lara Logan's escapades than can name the Speaker of the House of Representatives. We are more conversant with the heartbreak that is Christie's lot in life than understanding of the impact of the Prime Rate on our credit ratings (see? All this time you were blaming Countrywide for the sub-prime meltdown and it may have been Diana Bianchi) and baseball fans can now discuss whether A-Rod has more doubles with runners in scoring position than he has nooners with Madonna.

Is this stuff news? Is any of it news, and for whom? I love baseball and am a Yankees fan, and I shift uneasily as the Rodriguez family disintegrates off the field as when Roger Clemens showed up in a Spring training haircut to testify on the Hill. My need to NOT know is greater than TMZ, CNN, E!, Fox or the Daily News' need to tell me. I watched Lara Logan's reports for CBS News from Afghanistan and Iraq-I'm not sure why I'm supposed to care with whom she was knocking (combat) boots when not being shot at. As for Christie B, the Unhappy Uptown Girl, I have a hard time feeling sorry for her especially as she does such a good job of feeling sorry for herself. But, again, why is any of this leading a TV newscast or showing up on the front pages, above the fold, of daily newspapers? Joan of Arc may have drunk her bathwater; Jonas Salk could have left the toilet seat up and the Virgin Mary might have never child-proofed the stable--and none of that is any of my business.

And yet, here it comes. Who's to bless and who's to blame? We are--that's the short answer, which is good, because surveys say we don't have the span of attention required to have a discussion, much less develop a strategy, for better separating the wheat from the chaff. No wonder our world is so screwed up-look at how we gather the information to attempt to make decisions. And if you're hoping all the tumult and head noise will get better with time, let me talk to you about buying a bridge in Brooklyn.

Three question exam, but you have to get all three right. Ready? Probably not.
Who is the President of Zimbabwe?
Who originally called shotgun in AC's SUV?
Why did so many know the second one but not the first?
-bill kenny

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