Tonawanda News

June 7, 2013

We take this stuff too seriously

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Among the things I half-learned recently:

The actress Amanda Bynes patronized a local trampoline park to bounce her troubles away, or maybe she didn’t. New Jersey is open for business but its governor, who has assiduously lost weight, so I hear, still looks like he hits the lasagna a little too hard.

There is an intriguing new way to contract throat cancer, or maybe there isn’t. State politicians in New York, some of them at least, are corrupt.

The Internal Revenue Service videotapes its employees’ dance parties. The Rolling Stones are back on the road, as is Paul McCartney, about to turn age 71. (After Brooklyn and Bonnaroo, he plays the new soccer stadium in Warsaw, Poland.)

It takes an Internet-enabled computer to follow all this stuff, whether I want it or not. Fortunately I have one in my pants pocket. As the alien played by John Lithgow once said on the television program “Third Rock from the Sun:” it’s none of my business, and I’m obsessed with it.

So, which came first, social media or the need for social media? The sheer mass of information available these days demonstrates the inadequacy of its delivery methods. Consider local television news, the 11 or so minutes before the sports and weather, an amalgam of damage done, videotape of stuff gone awry. Unless it’s a tearjerker of a privacy invasion, what is offered is a nightly litany of errors. Only the lack of snarky commentary differentiates it from “Tosh 2.0.”

Back in the early 1990s, I remember being in an evening graduate school class, and in walked a student with a device on his hip we used to call a pager or beeper. On this night it was for following the progress of a Sabres game (someone was relaying him updated scores), and he employed hand signals to inform me of goals scored and the like.

Later I asked him if he was a gambler, or just someone who takes these things way too seriously. The latter, he said. I’d have felt more comfortable with the other answer.

There is much to be said for keeping up, whatever our preferences or interests. Since keeping up with more-or-less everything is now within the realm of possibility, it is now apparently incumbent on me to live that way. I consider the amount of information poured on me by media — social, traditional, other — compared to what’s offered me in face-to-face encounters with living, breathing humans, and shudder to observe I interact more readily with machines. 

Of course, what the humans give me likely came from something they read, heard broadcast, tweeted or had emailed.

Speaking as a guy who revels in arcana, who regards all “trivia” as “significa” and feels anyone who does not know the history of whatever he or she appreciates (history of hockey, history of the martini, history of electric starters in automobiles) is missing out on something crucial in the quality of life: we take this stuff way too seriously.

I think of a person I’ve never met but regard as a friend, simply because I have practically overdosed on his familiarity in the past 20 or more years. He’s currently out of work and I wish him the best, but am intentionally avoiding any media reference to coach Lindy Ruff’s job prospects until he actually signs something. 

Advertising by cancer specialists regularly remind us it’s better to know. In some categories it’s better not to know. I refer to the aforementioned Ms. Bynes and her problems adjusting to show business adulthood. Paris Hilton, pick any Kardashian, Ms. Bynes; who’ll be the next in line?

Does anyone with an interest in national politics actually think the world will be a better place after Member of Congress Michele Bachmann leaves the public stage? The vacuum will be filled, I assure you.

I learned this a long time ago, when a television program featuring the Smothers Brothers, heavy with jokes and social comment, was cancelled for ... a program featuring Sonny and Cher (ask your grandparents). Yeah, the replacement was worse. Admittedly, I learned a few things from television.

The takeaway is likely something you learned a long time ago: the way you remember a few important things from high school but the rest remains a faded blur, your pick-and-choose capability needs to stay refined. Even that brain clutter of yours, the facts you know that others don’t, can be of value, but that “world at your fingertips” element of modern life wastes the only non-renewable resource we have, and that’s time. 

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.