What to Think About when your Brain is on Hiatus

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Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

At least, for those of us who have learned to stop worrying and embrace chaos.

What to Think About When Your Brain is on Hiatus

If it's Tuesday, it must be Sacramento

About this time of year, friends of mine often say, 'I'm too tired to think about all this intellectual stuff right now. I want some good, mindless infotainment.' I usually murmur something in agreement. After all, right about now, the rising temperatures here in the subtropics, coupled with the fact that the educational companies pick now to work on their fall offerings (the teachers they hire are 'off' for the summer, and keen to earn a few bucks), means that I spend five days a week (if I'm lucky, otherwise it's seven) pondering imponderables and how to convey them to schoolkids, the while said schoolkids are filling their gullets with fizzy drinks at home and their minds with junk information via the web and TV. Pah. After eight hours of writing test questions, I'm ready for some mind candy.

Unfortunately, I'm a natural deconstructor. That means that 'mindless' television, film, or information of any kind, whether verbal, visual, musical, or in the form of badly-designed sitcom plots, gets filtered through my brain on the level of analysis. The dumber the plot, the more propagandistic the intent, the more pointless the...er, point of it all, the harder my poor cognitive apparatus works at trying to decipher all the faux messages. Instead of relaxing, it's on a busman's holiday, so to speak. I usually turn off all the electronics and go to the pool, or practice some meditation technique or other. (In other words, snooze...om, mane padme sleep...om...)

Some of the people I know (my relatives, mostly) are constitutionally incapable of following fiction. They prefer 'real' events, such as 'reality' shows, or 'news' items. How 'real' the latest 'news' is in this country (the US) is a question for someone with the epistemological expertise of a professor of higher logic. I will not even begin to tackle the conundrum of why we've all spent a couple of months worrying about the British Royal Family's nuptials, the size of a certain young lady's derrière, the choices for the awards of this and that, and why those two politically conservative TV hostesses are feuding (she called me a what?. I merely note that 'news', too, can be deconstructed. In passing, as it were.

Email is the bane of my existence. For complicated reasons, partly involving my Luddite refusal to install more than one browser on my desktop, I am forced to switch Yahoo email accounts up to 30 times a day. This is so that I can keep up with plaintive cries from my editors ('I know you sent me that file yesterday. And today. But I've lost it again...') and people I really want to talk to. Like Bel. Whenever I switch emails, Yahoo has a window of opportunity, which it uses to attempt to sell me things. This I can ignore.

But it also attempts, at the same time, to educate me as to what is going on in the world beyond the horizon of my computer screen. Having been accused on more than one occasion of living on another planet, I feel slightly guilty for not keeping up with the world's gossip, so I throw a bored eye over the 'news' offerings as I wait for my email to cycle through. Every few cycles, I get hooked enough to read the 'news' in question. And then I start deconstructing...

Take this last week. The news item ran something like this:

'UK tourists on an Alaska Adventure cruise were outraged when they tried to disembark in Los Angeles. The visitors, most of them elderly, were held up by passport control. They were systematically fingerprinted, retinally scanned, and interrogated, being forced to queue for up to seven hours. 60-year-old Mr X, spokesperson for the group, said, 'This is an outrage. We think it was revenge for our criticism of the excessive security in the US.'

The delay with the passports caused the cruise line to stay in Los Angeles for an extra day to allow the tourists to enjoy Rodeo Drive and Hollywood tours. Unfortunately, this meant they had to miss a later stop in Honduras.

Ya think, Mr X?

Now, the first thing my deconstructing mind notices about this squib is that the person who collected the information is under 30. Because this youngster referred to the group as 'elderly', then picked out a 60-year-old as spokesman. This outrages my sensibilities, because I am less than a year away from achieving that august milestone.

60 is not old, Tiffany Renee. 60 is mature. Like fine wine. Like vintage furniture. Like aged cheese. Ahem. Back to topic.

The next thing I notice in my involuntary deconstruction of the news is that British travellers must be a lot like the h2g2ers I know. The Germans have a word for you guys. It's vorlaut. That means you've got big mouths. I mean this in a kindly way, but still: how much sense of self-preservation does it take to know better than to make clever remarks to immigration people? Even I knew that when I visited the East Bloc back during the Cold War.

Okay, I got in trouble with that Berlin official, big-time. But it wasn't really my fault: his Soviet-style uniform so unnerved me that instead of my birthdate, I wrote down the day's date. He thought I was taking the mickey, but I was merely being cowed by impressive bureaucracy. We got it sorted out in the end. They were nice, and let me into East Berlin for the Brecht play and all. I even got to buy my mom a scarf with a picture of the Karl Marx monument on it.

The British tourists ought to stop and think: those passport people are underpaid and overworked. They are there in the heat, faced with processing hundreds of well-fed, bronzed, happy people rich enough to shell out £10,000 for boat tickets, plus extras. In the back of their minds looms the fear that they might be individually responsible for letting in a terrorist camouflaged among the jet-set. It's enough to make anybody resentful, don't you think? They were lucky to have escaped cavity searches...although age might have been a factor there. Possibly, also, the 'well-fed' bit...after all, there is a limit to what one is willing to do for God and country and 10 bucks an hour.

The only people I feel sorry for in all this are the Hondurans. Those people need that tourist money. And they got cheated.

I don't know what the moral of all this is. Perhaps: When spreading your tourist euros around, think of the little guy. Or: Don't kvetch so much, and you won't have to stand in a queue so long. Or better yet: Quit reading Yahoo News, and get back to work.

May your summer activities be pleasantly mindless. Back to Pippa...

Fact and Fiction by Dmitri Gheorgheni Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

20.06.11 Front Page

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