Monday, June 09, 2008

All is Small in the Retrospectoscope

16 October 1994


I have never been sure what people wanted to read about when they picked up something for that activity. It would be interesting research to interview, for a little stipend, of course, people leaving a Doctor's waiting room. After all, some people spend an inordinate amount of time spinning their wheels there and, for lack of anything better to do, perusing issues of Time and the National Geographic from at least two years prior to the present date. So, what do they actually read when they do this; if they actually read at all and don't just look at the pictures. You know, I don't think that we have a clue. Of course, maybe those weekly magazines do market research and ask people what they want to hear about; I am sure that, in this dog-eat-dog economy, where selling a few extra copies might mean the difference between enough profits to buy a Lexus versus a used Geo, weekly magazines like People and Time do just that. But, if you asked me what I wanted to read about, and I thought you wanted an answer that you could tell your boss, I'd say sex and money. And, that is what we get in very large doses.

No, I mean, what do people read about when no one is looking. When they actually, consciously sit down to read something and they aren't engrossed with the seventy-first rerun of I Love Lucy. I simply don't know and it drives me crazy because, if I did know, I could be a pretty famous writer.

One thing that people don't want to know about is what is bugging you. I mean, everybody has something that bugs them. Usually it is their boss, their spouse, their neighbor, their dog, or their neighbor's dog. In other words, it is another person (or dog). Note that I used the singular, not the plural. Once you get beyond a few people, it is hard for a group to really bother you; they are just too nebulous and impersonal. I dare say that the Russians didn't bug Ronald Reagan as much as Tip O'Neill. And people can wax on for hours about this. I know, I've done it and lost more than one girl-friend. People just don't want to hear about your problems with other people; probably because they have the same problems and they haven't a clue how to solve them.

So, what do people want to read about? Not Nature, I can tell you that. If we want nature, we put on our coat and go out the door and look at Nature. This may be hard in downtown Atlanta, but most people don't live there. So, cross Nature off the list. That includes the Weather. People are saturated with information about the Weather. Pretty soon, the Weatherman will always be right. I mean, with science and mathematics moving forward like they are, some big computer will predict the Weather for a year. Then, my friends, life will really become boring. The foremost subject of banal conversation will suddenly be relegated to the trash heap. After all, you can't talk about the Weather if you know exactly what is going to happen for the next 365 days! Now, this will be a true tragedy. One could think of a guerrilla operation to sabotage these computers.

No, Nature and Weather and Dogs and Cats (and Rain) are all out of the question when one sits down to write about something that people might actually read, as opposed to look at the sexy pictures interspersed throughout the text. You might note that I have done that here. After all, how else was I to get your attention?

Well, you might say, what about History? Bumfuddle. The famous adage that those who don't read History are condemned to repeat it has never been more in force. There are those in Pentagon who haven't the slightest idea when the Crimean War took place let alone where the Crimea is (must be in Chicago; has to do with crime, doesn't it?). Yet, one look at the stupid military adventures of the last 40 years, including that all time disaster, Vietnam, shows you that man, or rather generals, never change. "Into the valley of death rode the six hundred, etc.".

I don't think History intrigues people the way it should. And future History, predicting what is going to happen, well, people just laugh. They had enough of this in the fifties and look where we are now. About 180 degrees from where we were going to be. I think that most are afraid that H.G. Wells will come out and predict that Time Travel is just around the corner, if only the Congress will support one more project to construct a machine. Of course, we were going to beat Cancer by the year 2,000. Unfortunately, Cancer and the Viet Cong took lessons from the same master and the pundits merely predict something else. I don't think that predicting the future is a good subject either. So, that leaves cooking and chocolate and children and lots of other things. But that is subject for another day.

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