Tuesday, June 30, 2009

manufactured emotion

My generation, and the ones that follow even more so, have been numbed by media bombardment. We are constantly fed images of “happenings” around the world, and we desperately want to be part of one. The problem, though, is that half of the events we have the opportunity to participate in have been designed as events, so that someone somewhere else can see the images and wish they were there, being part of the action. The whole point of Woodstock was that it was spontaneous. Woodstock II was a manufactured simulacrum of the original, designed to sell t-shirts and CDs. None of this analysis is new, but I’ve been thinking about it in light of Michael Jackson’s death and the separation of Jon and Kate Gosselin.

The immediate reaction of so many people to MJ’s death seemed to be a sense of personal grief and loss, and I don’t get it. Yes, he was a very talented singer and dancer. And his life and death were tragic. But he was, from the age of 5, a product of our celebrity-obsessed culture. In some ways, his entire life was manufactured as a “happening”, and it seems like his death will just be one more.

Likewise, the Gosselins, who I had never heard of before their marital troubles landed their faces in the super-market aisle, have turned their entire lives into a media event. Lo and behold – raising 8 children under a constant spotlight is stressful, and they recently announced their divorce on the show. What astounded me was their position (since shut down by the network) that the show would go on – the public wants to see their children grow up, and the public must get what it wants.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that we dull our real senses when we let the media dictate what we should care about – what we should celebrate, who we should mourn. People are crying for the loss of a musician who hasn’t put out a new album in a decade or longer. Meanwhile, a couple whose celebrity has destroyed their marriage are continuing to seek the limelight – it’s like their entire lives are Woodstock II – a shiny media event staged for the fans at home. And we’re soaking it all up, while real people are unsung musical geniuses, real children are growing up, real friends are experiencing the joys and tragedies of marriages good and bad, and the backyard barbecue of the century may be just a few phone calls away. But we miss it, because it doesn’t have the shiny gloss of celebrity. But this is the stuff of life, and it’s happening right under our noses.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

where I've been

I haven’t written much in the past few months – a realization that is usually kind of depressing, since I write here to organize my thoughts, and nothing to write suggests no thoughts worth organizing. It’s true that I have been somewhat free of the pursuits that usually lead to blog posts – I have been reading only fiction, I haven’t been to church very much, and I’ve been working a lot.

I have managed to squeeze in a good amount of time with family and friends, though. And it’s been good. I’ve learned from my six-year-old nephew what happened to the dinosaurs (they all froze and their arms and legs fell off). I’ve had dinner with friends of friends and family of family when I was a visitor in their home town. I celebrated my Grandma’s 80th birthday with my whole family, and she was pleased, even though she’d never admit it. I went winery-hopping on the first real day of summer with some dear girl friends, and then headed back to the boys at the cottage to stack rocks on the beach with the baby and eat a delicious dinner.

And so I’ve been thinking about people. I’m not advocating ignorance of world events, or only caring about what happens in our own home town, but maybe sharing a glass of wine on the deck is true wisdom, because the people you share it with are really what it’s all about.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Money Talks

Back a month or 2 ago, Miss California was all over the news – she was under fire for: 1) stating (when asked by a pageant judge) that she was not supportive of gay marriage; and 2) having posed in sexy photos at some point in her past.

On the first topic – while I don’t agree with her position, she was asked a direct question and gave an honest answer. For Perez Hilton (who asked the question) to come back and call her a stupid cow is problematic on a number of levels: aside from the disingenuity of attacking her for bringing her personal politics into a beauty show when she was succinctly answering his question, I don’t think that dismissing someone with whom you disagree as a stupid cow is exactly the best way to foster constructive dialogue.

And, on the second topic: Swimsuit competition good. Underwear modelling shots bad. WTF? Enough said.

So, Donald Trump, who apparently owns the whole Ms. USA shebang was called upon to decide if Miss Cali should be dismissed for her missteps. The answer was no. However, today, that ruling from on high has been reversed. Apparently she’s been skipping out on appearances she is obliged to make under her pageant queen contract, while at the same time doing unapproved stints in her new role as the poster child for traditional marriage. So, due to breach of contract, the crown is being passed onto the runner-up. I guess that, while I will never understand the blind curves and contradictions of popular American morality, I can rest assured that there are constants – money talks, and at the end of the day, a contract is a contract.