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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Tuning out
How I learned to stop loving the TV and start loving my wife

Television executives are staring into the bird cage and trying to figure out why the canary is dead. From the top to the bottom of the TV mines, execs are babbling at each other, "Did you feed the bird? Something is wrong with the bird, man. Look. For the love of Seinfeld, the bird isn't breathing, man."

Something is killing the 18-34 male demographic.

Nielsen Media Research--the company that gets paid to know these kinds of things--is reporting a steep decline in young male viewership this fall season. The ratings company is getting kicked in the teeth in what is becoming an almost laughable game of Kill the Messenger. The TV execs and advertising types are trying to find any explanation they can, from blaming the ratings company to blaming the viewers themselves.

Mr. Adgate of Horizon Media said he found some of the report's explanations satisfactory. One is the issue of the younger men who still live with or have moved back in with their parents, a group called dependent young adults.

Mr. Adgate said he also found interesting a suggestion that "some of the new technologies have hit critical mass" among younger men, drawing them to DVD's, video games and the Internet and away from TV.

"The median age for a video game player is 29," he added. "It's not an acne-faced teenager in his bedroom."

Ah. That does make sense. Young males are too unmotivated to get real jobs. They are slackers who play video games and watch porn instead of a cerebral activity like...yes, that's it...watching TV.

Try this: People in the 18-34 age group--men and women alike--don't have time to watch whatever you put on TV. Old people will watch what's on because they aren't going to get off the couch anyway. Kids will watch because they don't have jobs to do or beer to drink. Those demos are going to be fine.

So, why aren't the women leaving the TV viewership in droves: Programming. TV execs program for old people, kids, and, now, young women.

My wife, as much as she might not like to admit it, loves the shows where young people have a shot at becoming stars. Other young women, so bored with their regular lives and beer-swilling boyfriends, love living vicariously through other people who are living manufactured exotic lives on islands or locked in homes with six or seven bemuscled men.

And then there is the exploitation of homosexuality. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, etc. Women love gay men because they aren't a threat. The gay men shown on TV are flamboyant cartoons. Your average white guy can't watch the stuff. If he does, he might be gay, right? That's not the case, obviously. But find me a guy who admits he likes the show, and I'll show you a man who is secure is his sexuality. How many of those guys do you know?

So...American Idol, Queer Eye, Survivor, Big Brother, Real World, yadayadayada.

Young men don't watch the stuff and if they do, they are embarassed about it and aren't about to write it in a ratings diary.

Me...I'll admit I miss the days of Seinfeld, et al. Recently, though, I've seen a lot of good shows not make the grade in the new TV executive world. Sportsnight and Boomtown were both good shows that could appeal to all demos, including young men. Apparently there's just not enough room on the fall schedule for smart programming.

The point is this: I've cut out about 80% of my television viewing. I still watch some news shows and staples. But frankly, I have better things to do. Going to bed with the wife happens to be one of them. Even if it is 8pm.

We young men are the canary in the mine. We're the first to die off. Better find that gas leak or everyone will be gone before you know it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Theater of the absurd

Sometimes, especially recently, you have to take a page from an old book of cliches and laugh to keep from crying.

Someday maybe I'll write a book of my own and let people take pages out of that.

That potential notwithstanding, after days of absurdity, a celebrity hero from deep in my early childhood psyche popped up in the news. Glen Campbell blew a .20 into a Breathalyzer in Arizona. According to the Associated Press:

Officers say the singer kept saying, "Do you know who I am? I'm Glen Campbell" and sang his hit "Rhinestone Cowboy" while in a cell.

That's just about as absurd as it gets.

I'm now--officially--disilliusioned with everything.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Insomnia redux

I think I actually preferred the enemy I knew. At least I knew what to expect. The old insomnia let me hit the edge of sleep then nudged me into hours of wakefulness. Over the course of 30 years, I learned to deal with that. I actually got some of my better work and thinking done during those long nights.

This new insomnia is the dangerous kind. It's the kind that pushes you just to the edge of the nutso cliff then holds your head over the summit. In the cavern below you can see your complete insanity riding the whitewater of the river that carved the canyon.

In short, it'll make you pretty crazy.

Here's how it works: You get tired much earlier than you should. Like 3pm. You fight sleep as long as you can then drift off about an hour earlier than feels right. That's when the first dream starts. It's usually a doozy. Something with huge weather systems that threaten to kill you or, even better, a long run from madmen down Springfield, Missouri's Chestnut Expressway. Just as the tornado or automatic weapon is in your face you shake yourself awake. You've only been asleep for 30 minutes.

The dog wakes up with you, indicates a willingness to take the blame for your being awake and goes outside to take a pee. After that and twenty minutes of shaking the F-5's and M-16's out of your head, you drift back to asleep. How nice.

That's when you open up door number two. Now, you're still a target of those bad things, but you've found some sense of courage. That's good, because it is now your responsibility to take care of someone else. Sometimes it is a kid. Sometimes it is a family member. But more often than not, it's some dainty little granola girl who has spent her entire life acting tough and is now scared out of her mind. She holds you around your neck and buries her eyes in your shoulder. The storm or bullets fly. You get glass or shrapnel in your face and she survives without injury. She looks up to thank you for saving her life and--boom--you're staring into a dark room and wondering why you're about to sneeze hard enough to see your sinuses.

You've been asleep for one hour and two minutes and now even the dog doesn't care that you're awake.

It would be different if the dreams didn't seem so damned real and you didn't feel sort of guilty--sort of like you've cheated on your wife or something--for feeling so protective of this girl. You roll over in bed and look at your wife. You want to apologize, but she is asleep. You remain awake for another 30 minutes.

This continues off and on for the next several hours. Either a dream or the sniffles wake you up about every 45 minutes on average. You're never really asleep. Every time you drift off, you get involved in some very real dream.

By 6am, it's not even worth going back to sleep. You've been shaken awake by either a dreamt death of a family member or some hugely inappropriate but very erotic nightmare.

And so you get up and make a pot of coffee. You get online and research advertisement songs and the bands behind them. You wonder if you're going slowly insane or if your body is actually waking up from a long period of hard sleep and denial.

I'll put it this way: The only good night of sleep I've had in the last week came after several hours of drinking. There's gotta be something wrong with that.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Who is that?

As a service to my readers and web searchers everywhere who have been asking who is that band in the Mac iPod commercial...

You know the one...the one with people dancing all over the damned place to some song that sounds a little bit like "My Generation" but really isn't.

The band is Jet. It hails from Austrailia and opened for the Rolling Stones.

The song is called "Are you going to be my girl?"

When asked about the song, the band's frontman had this to say:

Nic wrote the songs thinking he was going out to dance clubs again and all the girls were just the same. He was like why don't we have this song called "Just Like Any Other Girl". F**k that man, why you have to be so negative. Lets just have a cooler name and maybe you'd have a bit more luck if it was called "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" - it's a bit more of a positive message and the ladies might actually like that.


So, there's your answer.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Terrorist Thinktank

Terrorists are a lot like corporate America. More on that in a moment, but first, an emarassing moment for America via my cell phone.

I was in a hurry, juggling coffee, a copy of Cold Mountain, an essential piece of work equipment, my car keys, and a desire to eat everything in sight. I didn't feel much like answering my cell phone. But, since emergencies among family and friends are becoming the norm, I answered the call from an area code I didn't recognize.

Turned out it was a call that had bounced off a few satellites, countless cell towers, and likely more than a few Canada geese before connecting my aunt to me--Israel to South Carolina.

She was on vacation and had been nervous about the possibility of terrorism. After some talk abot family, she asked, "Did you hear about the shooting on the Jordanian border yesterday?"

Um...my coffee was spilling on my hands and I was trying to keep it from spilling on my book. Did she say Jordanian border? Jordan? No, Aunt Tammy, it's not Michael Jordan...it's Jackson.

I didn't say that, but I struggled through my embarassment for the ignorance of America to explain that while international terror likely made the news somehwere, America's news broadcasts yesterday were dominated by a increasingly white pedophile with a thing for boys with cancer.

She talked about the shooting and said she had canceled a day trip to Jordan and owuld be back in the states soon.

A few minutes later several bombs exploded in Turkey. That killed a lot of people and injured a lot more.

I don't know what will lead the newscasts tonight, but I know what America will be watching for. They want to see Jacko surrender. If the terrorists kill or give up in between the commercials, well, that would be a good thing, too.

Here's my point: Terrorists are like corporate America. They find one thing that makes America pay attention (read: CBS's Survivior and 9/11) and then run it into the ground with poor substitutes until America no longer gives a damn.

If I hated America (which I don't--it's people just disappoint me sometimes), I'd hire myself out as an International Terrorist Consultant. I'd could walk into the little cave think tank with my Palm Pilot and Power Point presentation and show the idiots with the bombs how to make America wake up.

The presentation would be pretty easy:

If you guys give a damn about making America pay attention, stop killing people outside of the country. Joe Sixpack does not care what happens in Turkey unless it is cornbread stuffing. America care what happend in its big cities and in its heartland. Twenty miles into any particular ocean is a universe away from Texarkana.

Either that or hire Michael Jackson as the Chief Terrorist Officer (CTO) and have him carry out your suicide bombings.

That'd wake'em up.

Update: I couldn't help but look at the Associated Press at 5pm. In what order did the bastion of journalistic integrity list today's news?

AP-16th NewsMinute

Jackson detained...Spector to face murder charges...Gun lawsuit revived

(Santa Barbara, California-AP) -- Michael Jackson is in custody.
The entertainer has been detained by authorities in California,
where he's been accused of child molestation. A handcuffed Jackson
was escorted into the Santa Barbara County jail this afternoon.

(Alhambra, California-AP) -- California authorities are expected
to charge record producer Phil Spector with murder this afternoon.
Spector has been free on bail since his arrest for investigation of
murder in February. B-movie actress and model Lana Clarkson was
found shot dead in Spector's L-A mansion.

(San Francisco-AP) -- A federal appeals court in San Francisco
has reinstated the wrongful death lawsuit against the gun industry
for crimes committed with their products. Thirty-three states ban
such lawsuits, and the House has approved legislation for a
nationwide exemption for the gun industry.

(Istanbul, Turkey-AP) -- Turkish officials suspect al-Qaida is
to blame for two truck bombings in Istanbul today that killed at
least 27 people and wounded nearly 450. U-S officials say fixing
blame may be premature. President Bush says terrorists won't
succeed in intimidating free nations.

Yep. Funny how right I am sometimes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Back to the earth

This story makes me both sad and happy. Read it. It's aobut the guy on the right of this album cover.

Monday, November 17, 2003

On sleeplessness, and waking up

In the dream, my father was making more sense than he did before his brain exploded. We were sitting near a window and talking about the future. He was guiding me.

Then I woke up. I'd been asleep--hard--for about an hour. Falling back to sleep was not easy. Staying asleep, I found, was impossible.

In the dream--the one that came a few hours of tossing and turning later--my dad was walking again. In his hands he held nothing. Not a walker, not a cane, not a therapist's shoulder. He was walking through the grass in the front yard of our old house on Yulan Drive. I saw a limp, but I saw him smile. It was apparently the first time he'd walked since his head exploded. From several feet away I saw him fall over in the grass. I ran to him, apologizing for not being there to catch him when he fell. As I got closer to him, I thought he was crying. Then he rolled over in the grass. He stayed there on his back, laughing the laugh of a freed man until I woke up in a dark room. I'd been asleep for 45 minutes.

In the last dream, we were all at a familiar pizza joint. Some longhair was playing the guitar and singing songs we liked. Our group was a little large and the table was a little small. We crowded around it all the same, opting for intimacy instead of convenience. It was a celebration dinner, of sorts. We ordered, laughing, poking fun at each other. I left the table feeling warm and normal. I went to the bathroom. When I looked in the mirror, I had shaved only half my face of the beard and moustache I grew during my dad's roughest days. I was embarrassed and didn't want anyone to see. When I walked back into the dining area, I noticed my group had switched tables. I was at the end and found I wasn't hungry anymore.

So, I woke up before the alarm this morning. I couldn't stay in bed. I showered, shaved, and grabbed a cup of coffee. This will be my first day back at work since I left a month ago. I will be clean-shaven, in a suit, and faced again with responsibilities.

Maybe I had not yet admitted it to myself. Maybe a night that should've been one full of rest is forcing me to admit that I don't feel right returning to my normal life when my Dad and mom are still fighting to find normalcy. Or maybe, what I thought was a normal life just wasn't as normal as I thought.

It's a little much to confront on a cloudy, wet morning before 9am.

Nonetheless, I suppose this marks my return to Rapid Eye Reality. I hate that it's come on a down beat.

Here's an interesting thought, though: Even the casual reader here will know that I've always lamented the lack of change and progress in my life, even to the point of whining about it.

Now, my world has changed and I'm not sure how to feel about it.

I suppose even the casual reader could've expected that.

Now, though, the coffee has warmed my insides and the caffeine is making a nice substitute for the night of sleeplessness. I guess I should take that as a signal to get up, put on a tie, and become that guy I knew four weeks ago.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
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