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"Chronicle Groupie"
Hyperion September 6, 2001

#58 Potpourri, Volume VI

Trivia question of the day: Who do you think watches the most television, on average, per week? 2-12 year olds? 18-24? 30-35? Or 55+? The answer—by a whopping margin—is the 55+ group, with 40.2 hours per week. The next time someone old complains how lazy today’s generation is, and they survived the Great Depression and walking uphill in the snow (everywhere), you can throw that stat right back at them.

Continuing with my theme of picking on old folks, here is another way you can get revenge on those complaining geezers who call our generation consumer driven: For anyone over 45, say this: “Winston tastes good…” and watch their reaction. Without fail, they will answer you, “Like a cigarette should.” Old men who cannot remember their wives’ birthday will rattle that off their tongues. Advertising is a powerful tool, my friends, in any day or age. And remember: You Deserve a Break Today.

I used to argue with my aunt about proper English, but she convinced me of a truth about it: our language doesn’t have any immutable rules. When enough people say something, it becomes correct speech. Another thing we love to do is to give new meanings to old words. Think of cool—not cold but above neat or interesting, hot—not extra warm but beautiful or stolen, or many other meanings. We also do this to bad, fine, stud, babe, and any of a number of words. One bit of speech I have railed against in the past but am now raising the white flag on is Good/Well. Someone asks you how you are; the correct response is, “I’m doing well.” What most people say, however—from the most backwater hick to PhDs—is, “I’m doing good.” You have heard this before. I am betting you have said it as well. I suppose one could say “Good” is a generic word and “Well” describes one’s health much better, but such is America. I guess I should say, “It’s all well.”

I suppose most of you have followed with interest the recent shark attack stories. It bothers me that such relatively minor news makes all the networks and holds sway for days. I can understand a fascination—even if it’s a bit lurid—about events such as shark attacks. What I cannot abide is when the media gives the names of the victims for everyone to see and hear. Look, if a member of Congress or a movie star dies; that’s fine. They are in the public eye and of specific interest to folks. John. Q. Citizen is not. Unless they are public figures, there is no reason that we, the people, need their names. Leave the family in peace, without tearing up what is already an emotional time, by splashing a loved one’s name all over the 5 and 11 o’clock news.

And while I’m on the subject of invasive media, the local papers DO NOT need to print everyone arrested and going on trial. According to American law, these people are innocent. If a jury convicts them, go ahead and publish; that should be the least of their punishment. Not just the accused, though. If these people have not committed the crime, they are tarred and feathered just by the accusation. America, we can do better than that.

Word of the day: weltschmerz (VELT-shmairts). Besides giving us two world wars and the Volkswagen Beetle, our good friends the Germans occasionally come up with some beautiful words. Weltshmerz is looking around the world, and being sad when reality falls short of the ideal. Like seeing crime when all men should be brothers, like seeing starving orphans when all children should be well fed and loved, like seeing Britney Spears marrying some punk when she should be marrying you…well, you get the idea. We’ve all had this at times, when we get overwhelmed by the events of the world around us. I looked up the antonym, but there is none in German (what did you expect for people that listen Wagner operas and wear lederhosen all day?), but in English I think the opposite would be hope.

I was watching an old Western the other day, and was struck with what I saw. Back then, good guys always wore white hats and bad guys always wore black hats. You could turn on the TV in the middle of the movie and immediately know who was who. Now our movies have more shading to them. We have learned that it is rare for the good guy to be totally pure and even bad guys have reasons-sometimes good ones—for the things that they do. I don’t argue that the complex characters are deeper, more insightful, and more illuminating. However, there is something to be said for sitting down and watching a movie; knowing clearly who to boo and who to cheer. Then again, I could say the same about Washington.

And finally, in our “What did she say?” file, I was talking to my friend Stanley’s wife Sophia the other day when I heard perhaps the funniest thing I’ve come across this year. They have two young kids, and she was telling me about buying clothes for her children. She was trying to tell me that the clothes could be worn by either a boy or a girl, but was having trouble remembering the word. “She said, “I got them some of those bisexual clothes.” Barely containing laughter, I replied, “My friend Ginger has a birthday coming up. Where can I get her some of those clothes?” If I find out, I will let you know.

And that’s life in the Monkey Barn,

September 06, 2001


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