Saturday, March 28, 2009

Random Thoughts

I’m wondering whether we are heading into a different world. I guess that’s probably silly, since we are always heading into a different world from some perspective. But, for example, today we received no mail at all.  None. And that’s a first. We’ve been married 53 plus years and we have always received some mail, Monday through Saturday. The Mail Person picked up our outgoing mail, so it wasn’t the case that our delivery person was ill. Nope, she arrived right on time, but without any mail for us. It immediately set both of us to thinking, maybe we really don’t need to get mail six days a week. I mean, for the past few months, it has become the norm that our daily mail consists of commercial advertisements, which we normally discard without reading. Perhaps every other day, or maybe less, say  once a week on average, we receive a bill or two. A few times per month, we receive a magazine or two.  Once every two months, or maybe every three months, we receive a personal communication from someone. And that’s our mail. So, why would we need six day a week delivery? Perhaps twice a week delivery would be more than adequate; even once a week would be ok. 

And then there’s our incredibly shrinking newspaper, the Charlotte Observer. I keep expecting to go out one morning and find no paper, because none was produced. We note here too, that the percentage of news in the paper to news we don’t already know is shrinking. The NPR radio summaries we get on awakening generally covers half the morning newspaper. Another quarter is news we received the prior night on NPR.  There’s the obligatory story about someone blowing up something or somebody in Iraq, or Afghanistan, a counter story to our side blowing up somebody or something. Increasingly, we see stories about the inflating unemployment rate and how people formerly employed are now unemployed and can’t find a job, or are having too much fun to look for one (their bank accounts are not yet empty, I guess). And then there’s the comics, which I read daily. Totally, we might get the equivalent of 15 minutes of new news. So, maybe we don’t need a daily newspaper either (although NPR won’t give me the comics, so that’s a bummer). We now receive the Sunday New York Times, and maybe that’s enough

I’ve thought for a long time that we have waaaay too much TV/radio news programming chasing way too little news. Do we really need all those Fox-MSNBC-CNN Murdoch parrots shouting at us? We don’t of course listen to them. They’re idiots on parade, so why would we watch/listen to them?

And then there’s our “entertainment” cable TV, digital and all that, capable of receiving the several hundred channels we theoretically can receive on Time-Warner. But do we watch many of the several hundred? Well, no. We Tivo Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and Bill Moyers. So, if we are not watching a NetFlix movie, we are watching one of our Tivo programs, fast forwarding through the commercials. Then, if it’s getting late, and we’re almost ready to go nighty-night, we turn on one of the several rerun channels to watch MASH, or Seinfeld, or Home Improvement. It doesn’t matter much, because typically we are unable to watch a complete show. I say unable because a) we might just fall asleep, or, b) we are unable to watch 10-15 commercials per break. We simply can’t do it. In the old days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth along with modern man, we used to watch network TV and they would hit you with a commercial, or two each break. Now, I guess because they’ve dropped the per-minute rates to attract cheapo companies to TV, they hit you with 10-15 per break. And that’s just too many. So, in frustration, we simply turn them off.

And then there’s the Internet, where we actually get most of our news of the world and of friends and family.  Stuff we used to get through the mail or by telephone, we now get through E-Mail, blogs, Facebook, and daily infusions of news summaries and news alerts from BBC, Australian Broadcasting, Thai-India News, the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Manchester Guardian, Salon, Slate, and several “progressive” or science-based Internet outlets. Many of them also carry commercials, which we largely ignore and no longer even see. Since you can comment on the content of these media outlets, there is at least the possibility of merging your own views with those of hundreds of others into the stream of public commentary. And generally, you can see your comments along with the hundreds of others. You can even easily e-mail the White House with your views—I used to mail comments weekly to Bill Clinton when he was president. He never read them I’m sure, but I guess someone did. But now, I can just e-mail them.

So this brave new world into which I see us heading poses a lot of questions for me.

·         Are we getting all the news we need to be good citizens, and what does it mean in this weird electronic world to be a good citizen?

·         Since we know the media routinely lies to us, especially the Fox-CNN crowd, and we know with certainty that our politicians lie to us whenever it suits them (“we don’t torture”), how can we be sure that we actually know what’s going on in our neighborhood, no less the world?

·         Does it matter whether we know what’s going on in the world . . . I mean, how differently would the world operate if we didn’t know?

·         What is entertainment in this brave new world, and should we care? Are MASH reruns good enough, especially for we old folks? Do I really care who the latest Idol bimbo might be?

·         And finally, suppose the powers that be simply shut down all these news and entertainment outlets because nobody was paying attention any longer? Wouldn’t that just give me more time to read a good book, or smell the flowers? I guess it's a different take on that old 1960s theme, suppose they gave a war and nobody showed up? Yeah, just suppose.

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