Culture, Religion, Capitalism--Doomed
When I went to the bar the other night for the poker tournament I showed up just as the JetBlue plane with the twisted landing gear was about to land in LA. There were about 70 people in the bar watching in hushed silence as it glided toward earth, and I found myself idly thinking, "You know, I might be about to see 100 or so people die. I'd really rather not see that." I don't know if CNN and the other news organizations considered pulling their coverage until after it was all over. I doubt it. I guess the decision to watch or not watch is better left to the individual viewer than some suit in New York. I watched.
So, incredibly, did the people on board the plane. They have DirectTV built into the seats and the people on board WERE WATCHING THEMSELVES TRYING TO LAND. How goddam postmodern is that? There's a cliche that during a near-death experience you see your life flash before your eyes. Well, how about the real-time action of your death flashing before your eyes? The extraordinary situation these people found themselves in fascinates me. With digital cameras becoming commonplace and the planet bathed in WiFi and streaming video commonplace, this is going to happen more in the future. Not necessarily "oh my God I'm about to die and it's on TV and it's true the camera adds fifteen pounds to you" situations, but if you think contrived "reality" progams like "Survivor" are as low down the entertainment ladder as we can get, I don't think so. Combine our shallow, celebrity-crazed culture with cheap high-tech gizmos and media conglomerates of all sorts desperately throwing cash at anyone with content able to lure in a few thousands eyeballs...
Boy, I just cheered myself up like the bigtime. Let's see, what else to talk about? Hurricane Rita has proven that you can't evacuate a big American city in under a week. Can't be done. Unless everyone is issued helicopters or hot-air balloons. Maybe Houston is a bad example--it's a BIG city, for one thing, and being on the coast means that you can't flee south, taking away one direction of departure. I can't imagine sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, for untold hours, gas gauge sliding to the left, hurricane looming over the horizon, with a couple of kids screaming in the back seat. If that isn't a description of Hell, it's at least an acceptable definition of Purgatory. Everyone who endures that trial without committing at least one Class-A felony should get a 10% discount in the Hereafter. One less millenium scrubbing out the Styian abyss, perhaps.
One last depressing note. After a light lunch on Tuesday I was hungry for a candy bar. OK, we have vending machines, let's make this dream come true. I won't go on a tirade about our vending machine company today (let's save that for another post) but they didn't have most of my favorites. No Big Kat (oh Christ, do I love that Big Kat bar), no Twix. They didn't even have the Nature Valley Sweet Peanut Butter Bar that I adore. I narrowed my choices down to a Snickers or a bag of Peanut M&M's. Something with peanuts.
And then something shiny caught my eye. I like shiny things. It was the silver wrapper of a Baby Ruth bar. Hmm. That's new. And...shiny. I don't much like Baby Ruth's. Never have. But the wrapper. It was new. It was shiny. The 13-watt bulb inside the machine made it glitter and gleam and it promised so much happiness and joy if I selected it. I quickly fed sixty cents through the slot and pressed E-4.
Mistake. Goddam Baby Ruth is the worst candy bar in the world. Worse than Mallo Cups. Worse than Zagnut
. First of all, the chocolate coating the whole thing fractures like shale once you take the first bite. What, they can't regulate the sand content in their recipe? Second, the peanuts appear to have been washed in some kind of alkaline solvent that leaves them about as tasty as hamster pellets. Third, there's the nougat. OK, I admit, I have a problem eating "nougat" of any sort. I could go through the rest of my life nougat-free and not miss a step. But this is an especially vile sort of nougat. It leaves this coating all over the insides of your mouth, and it's so cloyingly sweet that it actually made my teeth hurt. Combine that with the waxy chocolate and the anoynmous crunch of the peanuts and you'll understand that I didn't enjoy that candy experience as fully as I might.
How is it that Baby Ruth's have survived for so long? I did some Googling and found that they've been making these things since 1920. There's a story that it was allegedly named after Grover Cleveland's daughter, Ruth--but she died in 1904. What kind of a sick fuck would name a candy bar over a little girl who died nearly two decades earlier? I'd have the FBI crawling all over that one, sounds like something profoundly messed-up happened.
There's no reason for anyone to pick a Baby Ruth over a Snickers. The confections are similar--peanuts, chocolate, nougat, caramel. Your Snickers comes in bar-form; Baby Ruth's in the less-popular log. You can freeze a Snickers and enjoy it immensely--if you froze a Baby Ruth you'd be left with a bag full of dangerously-sharp shards. I do not understand why the market has not ruthlessly (ruthlessly, heh) consigned Baby Ruth's to the dustbin of confectionary history. Shiny wrappers or no. The only conclusion I can reach is that we're all nuts, and capitalism doesn't work.
Sorry, this this post was a bit of a buzzkill.