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Saturday, September 11, 2004

New fears ...

While absently watching the television shows that followed Washington Week in Review last night, I was again struck by the mediocrity that has replaced so much of what once felt enlightening and worth viewing. Not only the obvious dumbing down of what we once referred to as "the arts," but these reality shows that have replaced the entire field of the performing arts is deadening. There are obviously few script writers and editors and actors now, only producers and casting agents and ad men and women -- and -- a seemingly endless stream of attractive young people willing to do almost anything before the cameras for instant fame. The degradation of young women that has been a growing phenomenon for several years now has become totally embarrassing. There has to be something between the burkha and the bikini, really! I'm so appalled by body-piercings and tattoos -- and am so sure that there will be regrets for most as the years pile on and lifestyles change.

How on earth did we come to this? Am I finally exhibiting those long-delayed symtoms of simply getting old and out of touch? Is this what I once thought of as "crochety"? Am I one of only a few who cringe with embarrassment and revulsion at the sight of Donald Trump with his cantilevered hairdo on his "You're fired!" show. And I've never actually seen it, only long enough to grab the remote and zap him into the ether. And I'd zap model Tyra Banks right along with him into celebrity oblivion!

Those screamingly rude pundits who are everywhere on the screen, on almost every channel, it seems, are equally appalling. At one time it was only Jerry Springer and Howard Whathisname that I felt such revulsion for, but now they pale by what passes as entertainment almost everywhere I look. Then there's Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (a dead-on imitation of Janet Jackson in white-face, of course, without giving credit). Are these the harbingers of lifestyle for my 6- and 8-year old granddaughters? Did my grandmother feel this way about my passions for my youth idols -- examples, Katherine Hepburn (who wore trousers, after all), ballerina Moira Shearer, and Lena Horne? (That was well before I discovered Eleanor Roosevelt and Fannylou Hamer, of course.) I don't think so. This pattern is something quite different, I believe.

Seems related to the numerous "if you don't like the face and body you were born with -- see your nearest plastic surgeon!" shows. Are you as concerned about this as I am? Have we really reached the time when -- not only do we expect to medicate ourselves into instant mood-changes, but now there's instant cosmetic surgery to change our outer shell into something more fitting -- and to whom? And we sit in our living rooms and look into the most awful surgical procedures night after night in this latest form of the living Cinderella myth; and it's considered entertainment. I'm appalled! Would I feel differently were I younger?

My late husband, Dr. William F. Soskin (formally), would be horrified to see that psychology is being practiced on television -- with the most intimate disclosures before the world by troubled parents, spouses, and children. And Dr. Phil's brash treatment protocols probably have created some answers for many over these past years, but will we ever really know at what cost? I truly don't know, but find myself picking up the remote when I find myself squirming uncomfortably during some of the more revealing sessions.

We've MacDonalized the entire urban landscape through those cookie-cutter commercial developments that now cover the earth and destroy the entire concept of individual entrepreneurship so that small family-owned shops have all but disappeared, now replaced by mega-marts that sell us our everyday needs on flatbed hand trucks! Everyday items are now packaged in such huge sizes that we're challenged for places to store the surplus, so must rent storage spaces often miles away. It's crazy! While the environmenalists encourage us to give up our cars in favor of bicycles -- the thought of bringing home that case of 24 rolls of toilet paper dictates otherwise. But it was such a good buy! At least until we add in the cost to our wallets and to the air quality when we drive to Costco to pick it up!

I'm beginning to hate franchises! The nearest small bakery shop is rarely to be found, except by driving to Berkeley. What I wouldn't give to have one close enough to pick up the aroma of hot bread through the screen door as I pass by on a cool Bay Area morning; one of life's small but nearly forgotten pleasures ... .

But now I'm off to a campaign fundraiser for an incumbent candidate I'd like to see returned to office. Maybe I can convince her to open a small bakery, or get the redevelopment agency to demand that every new housing developer add front porches to their designs, or, say "no" to WalMart's latest proposal to build a super center; or, insist that small businesses find the protections needed to co-exist with the giants -- at least until those giants pick up their flatbed hand trucks and move on to greener parking lots!

This is one of my crustier mornings... .

On second thought, given the state of the union as described above, it may not be so unthinkable -- after all -- that we'd find sitting at the helm of this grand old ship of state, a C-student anti-hero who might be far better suited to play Eddie Haskell in some new retro-styled reality show!

Maybe cream doesn't always rise to the top ... .

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