Sunday, January 29, 2012

Life In The Fast Lane

Doing dishes in bathrobe, looking out window
In my spare time (when I can get away from waiting for the paparazzi, mocking up schedules for the hectic pace of public appearances that I'll need when I become rich and famous) I like to do the things that normal people do. I like to hang around the house in my bathrobe, do dishes and look out windows. For evidence, I offer this non-posed, candid pic entitled "Doing dishes in bathrobe, looking out window". When I'm not doing that sometimes I take out the garbage, write naughty limericks, make sure all the clocks in my house are set to the same time and do laundry (not at the same time, I like to pace myself). It's difficult to lead such an exciting life. Every second is a wonder.

Every second, indeed. As serene your life may seem on the surface, there's a lot going on. On average 100,000 different chemical reactions are occurring in your brain every second, and 400,000 radioactive atoms are disintegrating into other atoms in your body. In that same second your body will lose about 3 million red blood cells, and your bone marrow will produce the same number of new ones.

As you can tell, I've done some research. The interweb is a wonderful place. Taken at face value, according to various unnamed and unconfirmed sources, it's estimated that every second 750,000 gallons of water flow over Niagara Falls, 602 Lego pieces are produced, 115 cell phones are shipped for sale and lightning strikes the earth 60 times. Bet you couldn't have lived without knowing that. But wait, there's more!

The sun is flinging a million tons of matter out into space every second. Four babies are born, 200 celestial stars are born, more than 2.8 million emails, 200,000 text messages, 3,282 tweets and 7.9 new Facebook users are born, and 28,258 people are viewing pornography on the internet every second. And it's reported that David Beckam makes $1.05 while Stephen Spielberg makes $3.49. One hour of video is uploaded to YouTube every second. Every summer Americans consume 818 hot dogs and 350 slices of pizza per second. It is indeed a busy world. 

I don't know if all the above statistics are real, timely or accurate. I assume they were posted because there is a possibility of accuracy. There were more but I decided to leave out the grizzly, downer ones about world poverty, infant mortality and stats that list dietary dangers for commercial gain. Still – as much as I tried, there were some stats that I couldn't find that I would have liked to. So I decided to make up a few to fill in...

Every second:
1) 12,056 people fall in love, (with each other, as opposed to inanimate objects, movie and rock stars)
2) 321 folks recognize chocolate as a food group
3) 3.2 political leaders shake their heads and begin to serve their constituents Baskin and Robbins. As a result "brain freeze" becomes popular again
4) 6 former do-gooders get civic awards by allowing other individuals the dignity to make their own decisions about their lives. As a result the sales of those sucky thank you cards goes through the roof
5) 1.5 substance abusers switch out recreational drugs for those tiny carrots and are allowed to grow their own
6) 3.75 households realize they don't need those new, improved plastic household gadgets sold on television, resulting in .003 percent reduction of China's GNP
7) 5.6 people choose to facilitate resolutions to issues rather than exasperate them for their own gain. Self-styled gurus/consultants find their future prospects bleak
8) 7 self-centered people take the "pass it on" pledge and as a result reality television dies
9) 3 people trade real guns for the nerf variety, causing future deaths during wartime to be punctuated by cries of "Got ya!" and "Did not!" and
10) 261 people recognize Barney Rubble as the greatest actor of all time.

I know, I know. Pie in the sky. All we can do is wait and hope, (although I'm not sure how long Barney is going to put up without that lifetime Academy Award) in the meantime I'll be doing dishes in my bathrobe, looking out the window. Until the rich and famous thing kicks in, of course.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Ugly Demise of Television

Okay, now you've done it. You network executives have sunk so low in your money pinching, profit maximizing, lowest common denominator programming, bottom line wrangling and board of directors assuaging that you've wrecked the whole thing. And now, not only has over-the-air, free, quality programming gone the way of the dodo bird, television in general is headed toward extinction.

Paid programming fills valuable airtime with 1/2 hour commercials that preach the health benefits of electric blenders and takes up space that could have been used for innovation. Thanks to your profit-centered commercial motivation the general public is subjected to 1) hairy-armed, brawny men yelling at us to buy their cleaning products, 2) once overweight ladies trying to convince us that their nutritional supplements should be a part of a daily healthy lifestyle, 3) unbelievable demonstrations of little plastic cups that should be employed in place of nature's shells to hard boil eggs, 4) mean-faced, spitting owners of gold buying services shaking hundred dollar bills in our face, and 5) some guy named Vince jumping around with a clothes brush telling us to get rid of our pussy hairs (he actually uses that term, I'm not trying to be stupid). This is not advertising. These are acts of ugliness and a personification of the phrase attributed to P.T. Barnum – "there is a sucker born every minute".

You, television industry leaders, have taken what could have been a positive element in the lives of millions of viewers and done nothing but try to prove H.L. Mencken's “No one in this world, so far as I know has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people” with a preponderance of senseless reality shows, idiotic game shows where every contestant appears to have "a beautiful wife and three lovely children", mindless pseudo-celebrity-ridden talk shows and three hour so-called newscasts complete with opinionated news readers, self-professed pundits of every persuasion and weathermen who presume to tell me what I'm eating is wrong. Why? Simply because these shows cost little to produce. And the associated profits resonate with shareholders. And after all, bonuses are given for slick frugality, not quality.

Well your three hundred dollar haircuts have caught up with you – television's days are numbered. You have given new technology, with its interactive, personal experience, a reason to be.

Parents would much rather have their children using their free time playing video games or surfing the web for age-appropriate sites rather than watching an "arts" channel showing poor, disturbed people who pack their houses to the ceiling with crap or confrontations with hapless addicts in hotel rooms. Young people, instead of purchasing a cable television package and having their intelligence insulted with freaky bounty hunters, embarrassing talent shows judged by so-called stars (sipping their sponsored soft drinks), and "entertainment" programs that do nothing but follow the antics of celebrities of no particular redeeming social value, are now getting their news from the web and downloading the programming they want to see when they want to see it. Quality dramas, educational programs, sporting events, and movies. Older folks are flicking off the tube and discovering YouTube, watching a video, taking walks in nature, reading books on tablets, getting together with friends on Skype or rediscovering actual in-person visits and even playing (shudder) board games. Even 1080 HD, 3D, gazillion-inch flat screens and PBS can't save you now.

Now, people have options. And instead of spending the last 40 years building reasons why they don't need these options and need not switch to them, you have done nothing but give people every reason to do so.

As Gomer Pyle once said, "Shame, shame, shame!"