No-Braining America

So, the last debate has come and gone. And like all things that go now, it goes fast… hurtling rapidly into to the forgotten archives of the past… That it, after its replayed a thousand times the next day until you could die of boredom watching the news… But after a day goes by, an event or a speech, no matter how shocking or momentous, is OLD…

There are 20 million blogs, fifty million instant messages–flying text and graphics appearing every second everywhere… Not to mention a thousand interviews and moving ribbons and split screens. Twenty-four/Seven news channels eat human emotion, thought and experience like a gang of starving sharks…

Breaking News!!
What happened?
Oh, did you miss it?
Yeah, what happened?
I don’t know anymore–it happened two minutes ago…
Oh..

Wait!! More Breaking News!!
What? Where? I looked away for a second.
Too bad, it?s gone now.
What’s gone?
I don’t know, but it was REALLY IMPORTANT.

This insane pace of experience and information–and the electronic reporting of it–has corrupted the very structure of discussions and the delivery of information. That’s why I regret so much the dying of newspapers… The information just sits there and you can regulate the way you take it in… You can actually lay the paper down, or pause to reflect on the meaning of something you read? Perhaps it will set off a series of feelings, thoughts and images; something original, creative and inspiring occurring in your brain…

The speed and the style of delivery has completely taken over the content of the information delivered.
News and information has to have moving pictures and be really short. Otherwise the modern brain, fragmented and hopped up on constant adrenaline couldn’t even understand it. You could get rich as a pitcher in baseball if you could figure out a way to throw fifty miles an hour… The hitters would go nuts, swing at each pitch twelve times, then either have a breakdown or fall asleep.

Every news or interview show (I guess there are a couple of exceptions and of course there are commercials that cut into the time) is chopped up into little quick bites of speech… When you listen to even intelligent, well educated and/or reflective individuals, they talk–and are required to talk by their fast-talking hosts–as if someone had pressed a fast-forward button in their brains–set their mouths to moving at twice normal speed.

And what goes along with all this crazy speed and chopped, superficial talk, is the pitch of people’s voices…
Everybody on TV YELLS! All the time, as if they were all outside on the street, trying to talk above traffic, rather than sitting in a closed studio.
I regret this too– because with fewer guests, less speed and quieter voices, you would probably hear something that you could really digest and form a group of thoughts and feelings around…
Listening to news and interview shows on TV and reading stuff on the Net (Posted 12 minutes ago!) is like being on greased slide– You feel a crazy urgency to gulp it down without even knowing half the time what you’re eating…

I know, all of this is partially because I’m just old… Things always go “too fast” if you’re old… But it?s not all that– There really is a clear speeding up of all information everywhere… and anything that is sped up sacrifices nuance, depth and width…

I remember my father coming over for one his rare visits when I was a little? I was very disturbed kid–anxious and jumpy all the time; I couldn’t concentrate on my homework.
So my mother tells my father: “He can’t do his homework right or learn things in school because he goes to fast and is too jumpy.”
My father comes upstairs to my room in the finished attic… He takes a sheet of lined paper from my school notebook, draws a small solid circle in the center of the paper and hands me the pencil…
He takes the paper and puts it up with a thumbtack on the opposite wall…
“OK,” he says, handing me the sharpened pencil, “Run across the room and stick the pencil in the circle.”
Looking at him as the total crazy stranger that he was to me, I did as he said– Jumped up, ran across the room and jabbed for the circle… Naturally I missed it by about three inches.
“OK, now,” he says, “Get up, walk slowly across the room, and stick the pencil point in the circle.” So I do?I walk slowly over to the paper and, sure enough, was able to stick the point right in the circle.
“You see,” he says, “That’s how you need to do your school-work, just slow down and you’ll get it right.”

Great advice (never-mind it was his fault and my mother’s that I was nervous wreck to begin with– that’s another story).

?But that was an old tale from an old man… You read it over one minute ago and probably forgot it already…
I remember–and this was around twenty years ago? A friend of mine on a major commercial talk station in NYC persuaded her program director to listen to a tape of one of my shows (that I did on a non-commercial station); the idea being maybe getting a show on the commercial station.
The Program director listened to it, said I was great but had two faults that disqualified me from getting the job. One was that I was too concerned with presenting a balanced view of issues and the other was that I let the callers talk too long (more than a minute per call).
I remember in one of Spalding Gray’s monologues? He didn’t get a job on a sit-com because, after doing several takes, the director said–shaking his head ruefully– “Looking through the camera, Spalding, I see a problem… You seem to have a quality of.. thinking…”

Yeah, the world, even the electronic news world, is full of brilliant people and complex and ironic thinkers– I watch Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and I admire their thoughts and opinions… I just wish everyone on TV and, often, on the radio, would just slow down and speak more softly…

This was just posted 1 minute ago…

Mike

mikefeder@nyc.rr.com

– Mike Feder (New York City – October 17, 2008)

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