Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mustn't-See TV, or
The Year of Living Dangerously

As the bombs began falling on Baghdad in March 2003, I moderated a discussion with novelist Lee Smith and columnist Hal Crowther, her husband, at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Someone in the SRO crowd asked Crowther about his writing process. He answered, "I read the morning papers, and when I get mad enough I start writing." That got a big laugh, though I thought he was rather quaint--and maybe a bit immature.

Then I read this morning's paper and completely identified with Crowther. What set me off was this headline in the "Play" section of The Denver Post:
No comfort in "Last Days"
Scientists paint seven real-life doomsday scenarios showing how humankind may perish, in a terrifying special edition of "20/20."
TV critic Joanne Ostrow gets right to the heart of the matter in her opener:

You say you're sleeping well, experiencing a sense of security, feeling confident about the future?

Elizabeth Vargas will fix that.

And a few grafs later:
"Last Days on Earth," at 8 p.m. Wednesday on KMGH-Channel 7, is calculated to scare the pants off viewers. And it's not even the November sweeps!
Wow! Just what I needed! Something else to make me feel anxious, helpless and depressed.

Exactly one year ago, we were bombarded by non-stop media reports of the devastation and misery caused by Hurricane Katrina. As I noted then, perhaps the second-worse thing to being trapped with the miserable hordes in the Super Dome was watching them on TV in the E.R. waiting room with one's mysteriously sick child. (Food allergy was the spot diagnosis, but it turned out to be a hiatal hernia.) For weeks, the horrific news from the Gulf Coast was accompanied by oppressive humidity, low air pressure that immobilized me with crushing neuralgia (I suffer from "weather head") and torrential rains. That's when I made up my mind that it was time to quit Charlottesville, VA, for high and dry Denver.

We moved to Denver in December, thanks to Darling Husband's employer, which is headquartered nearby. No hurricanes here, though I got a bit of a chill when I saw the "Tornado Shelter" signs posted by the rest rooms at Denver International Airport (which to all intents and purposes is in Kansas).

Since moving into Our Gracious Home:
  1. In mid-January, the dog had surgery to remove 2 (!) cracked and abscessed molars only 6 weeks after her old vet gave her a clean bill of health.
  2. I came down with pneumonia over Super Bowl weekend.
  3. In early March, I got a wicked case of shingles.
  4. At the same time as #3, the dog was diagnosed with kidney failure that would kill her within 2 years. (Apparently a misdiagnosis, as she is fine and frisky with no medication.)
  5. In mid-March I fell and broke my nose.
  6. In late March I got a wicked sinus infection.
  7. On April 12, I came down with food poisoning minutes before the start of our Passover seder.
  8. During all of the above, we had to replace the entire heating system, much of the plumbing and all but one of the nearly 30 windows in our charming new (ca. 1902) house--all under the close supervision of yours truly.
  9. The Boy Wonder missed 38 days of school due to allergies (which were supposed to disappear once away from moldy VA) and various illnesses.
  10. In the wee hours of May 1, my mom in Maine went into the hospital with a knee injury.
  11. That afternoon, I landed in hospital for a week with multiple trauma from what should have been a short and pokey horseback-riding lesson: concussion, bruised liver; broken right arm, ribs & facial bones; banged-up mouth.
  12. In early June, I had 3 root canals on my top front teeth, and may yet need one on the bottom.
  13. Two weeks ago today, I had a 6-inch steel plate permanently screwed to my humerus.
  14. In two days, I'm getted knocked out at the dentist to: a) determine why my front teeth still hurt like crazy; b) put permanent fillings in the root canals; c) make bite plates to put my molars back where they belong so I can chew grown-up food again.
Meanwhile, my arm has turned sunset colors and the pain wakes me at night, even with Demerol; I can barely use my once-dominant right hand and I get shooting pains in my more-or-less numb, yet hypersensitive, fingers; I get intense burning and itching on my forehead, including numb areas; my upper lip is still so sore that I can just tolerate giving Darling Husband the briefest buss directly on the mouth (whiskers are excruciating).

Now that the case against the "extremely weird John Mark Karr is toast," as Denver Post columnist Diane Carman so succinctly put it today, the media is "back to all that important stuff [it] was criticized for ignoring....War, politics, natural disasters, social issues, the economy."

Enjoy, everyone! As for me, I plan on curling up with classic novels and Netflix. I'm sure you'll understand.


M. G. Tarquini said...

Next year, pretend that this year was just some weird dream.

With special effects and sensuround.

Steorling said...

Understood, completely and from every angle. I get that same blood rush every time CNN starts vamping on the Katrina Anniversary...and did you see the plan to rerun ALL the coverage of 9/11 in one mind numbing day? I wanted to scream, and then cry. I'm so glad my worst brush with media hype happened before media converage of this tenor...It took so long to get the '85 DaVinci Airport bombing out of my head, I sure wouldn't want anyone pulling out the footage now!! Pray for the families..pray for NY and LA...pray someone at CNN grows a brain!!