Monday, August 16, 2010

Reality News

So, this weekend at a monster truck rally, a truck went out of control and smashed 8 people in the crowd, killing them. While I was eating breakfast, the news decided to play it for me, causing me to immediately hit the power button to switch off the grizzly scene. At what point did it become necessary and acceptable to show scenes like that on TV? And why can't I become desensitized to it?

I trace the moment I became disgusted with sensationalist news to 9/11, when CNN ran a close-up shot of people hurling their bodies out of the windows of the towers before they completely collapsed. Their free-fall to the jagged stones of concrete below is something I will never be able to erase. If I'd been warned, I would have looked away; I did not need to store that image for instant recall, nor can I see how it added to the reporting of the atrocity in any way.

The Digital Age makes video so accessible that I rarely hear anyone talking about the appropriateness of screening a shot before considering airing it. On iphones, digital cameras, flips, and laptops, cameras are ubiquitous. The 24-hour news cycle makes the eyewitness account imperative, since it ostensibly keeps viewers from switching to another channel to get a summary, rather than an up-close-and-personal view, of the story. But what's lost in the fight to be first? Sure, it's the verifiability of the story, but it's also the respect of the subjects and the subjects' families being filmed, not to mention that of the viewers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Lately, I have had some very odd dreams. Last night, I dreamed that an old friend of mine was held hostage in the attic of a suburban home and she was traded for me and my dog Sierra. The couple who kidnapped me wanted me to be their maid so that they could throw dinner parties and look richer than they really were. When the wife was out of the room, the husband would try to slash my wrists with scissors, and when she was in the room, he'd pretend I did it to myself. At the dinner party, my parents showed up and began helping me wash knives and forks, trying to figure out why I couldn't leave. I kept slipping them tiny paring knives to hide under dishtowels and trivets so that I could stab my keepers and escape after the party, but my parents kept exposing the knives, shining them, and putting them into drawers. I woke up before I could escape the house.

The night before that, I dreamed I wanted to visit a former professor and friend at my alma mater, but instead of looking for him in the Foreign Languages building, where he worked, I ended up in the English building. It had been turned into a corporate office with suits and filing cabinets and papers everywhere and not one familiar face. Someone did tell me that my friend now worked in the elongated glass Toyokyo Building (a combination of Toyota and Tokyo, though I don't know why -- this building isn't real) and that I could find him there. But when I entered Toyokyo, all I could find was an underground basketball stadium with hundreds of Japanese businessmen everywhere. Above the concession stand, Baylor had submerged about five athletes in a "water coma" so that they could recuperate. You could watch them hooked up to underwater monitors being operated on by surgeons. I never did find my friend.

At least I no longer have insomnia.