By Tom Hunter
Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it. – Mark Twain
We fucked up, Ralph, I can hear him saying. They invented the perfect tool for the New Dumb. (the computer). They can now flourish in a land of serious stupidity and greed. They can infest the planet with every sick asshole you can dream of and make him sound sane. Now, any cheap, lying fuck can become President of the United States and sound good. Every mindless little screwhead can pour his sickest thoughts into this new machinery, twist it a degree out of normal and send it back out as wisdom. You think we have arrived in the Land of the Living Dead. No, Ralph, we have only just begun!”
He was right of course and the more he raged against the coming of the light as he put it, reversing Dylan Thomas’s famous line, the more it made sense to me and to many who found his violent wordplay a tonic for living. – Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman
I have a kind of twisted mentality that is not yet described in the Physician’s Desk Reference. When I watch TV, as soon as a commercial comes on, I move up through the channels. This means that I see snippets of all 50 channels. Four channels of wealthy evangelists begging for more. At least four channels of fair and balanced.
Then comes the channel where the House of Representatives are working on some grammatical interpretation of some monumental definition of yellow. There are lots of videos of vidiots running after black and brown men chased by police dogs and their inevitable hand cuffing. The Screaming moron who straight faced tells you where to invest your money, even though he is generally full of shit more or less 50% of the time. When the trial of the week is on, the coverage goes from one channel to four channels and back again. Fair and balanced spends a lot of time trying to redefine history with all of the living Americans and their offspring from Bush’s hall of shame. They never seem to make the connection between fair and balanced and the Civil War.
With the election of Barack Obama, fair and balanced has spun away from what even they know to be the tracks leading to saneville. They are always citing studies and statistics that the left hand wrote and the right hand purchased. Our local fair and balanced is the Manchester Express. The UT was formerly a conservative newspaper, now all propaganda all the time. If there is a car crash, how was it caused by worry about Obama Care? What kind of conspiracy caused Bob Filner to win the election, when the UT poles had DeNeyo by ten points? Why is science so wrong, unless it leads to more profits for defense contractors? And why, oh why, can’t those homeless schmucks have nicer clothes, and better hygiene? After all, some of them would qualify for food stamps if they just had an address, but food would just make them more satisfied with their lot in life.
The news channels are slowly going extinct, because even if you are out walking at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, somehow you heard about the stories before the newsies get hold of them. And all of these channels are shouting louder and louder to get your attention.
Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. – Mark Twain
There is a ray of sunshine in my life, and that is my offspring and their offspring. Apparently Dora the Explorer is as good a companion as any. My seven year old granddaughter prefers my company to Dora only when I am throwing her screaming into a swimming pool. She has been a strict task master and is trying to bring me up in strict obedience to her will. Keeping up with her is beyond my abilities and I must sleep two hours for every hour spent bending to her authority. One of my simple joys is picking her up from school on Mondays and Wednesdays. This building from 1909, has some of the happiest folks I have ever witnessed on the planet. And one of my favorite activities is watching her teacher not bending to her will.
My other two grandchildren are 1) a genius and 2) a dancer. Their accomplishments in science and the arts leave me in wonder. And they are much more at ease with cartoons or World of Warcraft than they ever are around me. When I think back to my own grandparents, I see how strange I must be to them. I was in awe of my grandfather, but I never knew squat about him as a person. He was that long suffering geezer that would take us to Disneyland or the Imperial Valley to visit his ranches.
So television is not my life. I spend more time reading and rereading and I find television is getting so predictable that I put off turning it on until I’m too tired to think. Flipping by fair and balanced with Michele Bachman explaining once more why she is not a moron is good to get the blood flowing. The only reason for television is, of course, advertising. And the only reason the internet can exist is advertising. In fact, the only reason that America can exist in its present form is advertising. Karl Marx missed out on why we survived! Who knew?
My romance with science began long before I was accepted at Scripps Institution of Oceanography for their summer training program for high school graduates. At first I was made bond slave to an oceanographer, who wanted me to hand copy columns of numbers. I was rescued by the first computer nerd I ever met and moved on to the more creative side of things, biology, specifically fisheries biology. I was given the use of the best photography equipment, dark room, state of the art microscopes and microtomes. One of my projects for my shark expert friend was sectioning shark eyeballs. But even science is dependent on advertising. The Bureau of Commercial fisheries is tasked with watching out over the oceans and trying not to overtax the fish. But, in order to actually study something, you have to get a grant from Congress. You must also lie through your teeth to get that grant because of the long process that will grant you the money long after you have lost all interest in the project. This makes scientists somewhat paranoid and crazy. (Government scientists anyway, and they’re all government scientists unless they work for Exon or Dow and that makes them a different kind of crazy).
So advertising is the glue that holds America above the rest of the world with our nuclear weapons and our Sesame Street. Somehow we believe that advertising to be so successful that we believe that everyone else in the world wants to be us. Though perhaps science would beg to differ.