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Nobody Remembers Anybody

Cartoon sketch of a man watching TV as people's faces emerge from the screen, chattering away. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.

Talk about the passing parade.

I mean, zipping past: no pause for a beer or a belt of something; a smile and a nod and glazed eyes, or a few memorable words.

Nope. Nada.

Whether it was ten years ago or twenty or—sad to say—maybe even a few months, our national memory is truly out the window.

Yesterday's happenings are half out the window by nightfall.

Beyond that?

Ten, twenty years?


The Titanic, Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Durante, Adlai Stevenson, The Marx Brothers, Lyndon Johnson, Fred Astaire, and maybe day after tomorrow, Fats Domino.

I can't say we're the only ones who've lost total track of who was who just the other day, but I must say every one of us is absolutely drowning in the flood of today's instant internet information. Emphasis on today.

No scale of relative importance, down the block or around the world; just open the doors and let it fly: a robbery at a local jeweler, thousands of people lost in a cyclone, messy divorce for a rapper, plane crash with no survivors, jazz musician snared in a drug raid, cholera epidemic threatening all of central Africa, window-breaking fight in a local bar.

I wouldn't be surprised if yet another technological miracle arrived tomorrow that would claim to sort through, categorize and rank the whole world's news information, from most urgent to least significant. Problem of course, would be in who's doing the ranking?

I have to acknowledge that I've been around many more years than the average bear and I surely don't remember everything I've witnessed or read about. Plus, before TV came along, what we had was radio and newspapers to do the reporting, and with limited space available, there wasn't enough room even for everything on the ticker tape, let alone phone reporting from other countries or film footage. Local news was reserved for either local radio broadcasting or a local newspaper, for very local news.

Anyway, all that aside, I'm still alarmed by the general disappearance of focus, judgment, insight, balance. What's earth-shaking and what's really not.

Commercialization plays a huge part. Dominance by heavy-hitters with apparently unlimited advertising dollars to buy space and time in every medium from national and international TV to local radio.

Decisions appear to be made by incredibly detailed research. Male or female, percentages watching their TV at each time segment of the day, the percentage of those viewers who would be potential purchasers of specific product categories, broken down into age groups, income level, or occupation. The works.

I mean, top researchers could know more about me than my friends or neighbors.

Adding to that is political targeting.

A kind of reverse positioning.

A candidate using detailed research to shape speeches, comments, interviews in a way he already knows will appeal to potential voters.

What's your position? What would you like it to be? I've always liked a candidate who believes blah blah blah. Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle! That's exactly what I believe.

Circuit overload.

Where do we go from here?

Remembering anything is a challenge.

Like where I just put my cellphone.


It's off to bed.

Sweet dreams.

Just forget the rest.

Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite.

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