July 21, 2008

Viewer discretion is advised

Why this disclaimer doesn't run prior to every newscast, atop every newspaper, as a pop-up ad before every Website hit, I don't know. Seems to me there is a lot in this world the viewer would be advised to think twice before taking it in.

Life is beyond see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, touch-no-evil, taste-no-evil, feel-no-evil: evil has, in various guises, become unavoidable. Here in Wonderland, we're into our sixth day of a so-called heat advisory. (Touch- and feel-no-evil the primary principles involved, with see-no and hear-no a close second if the TV set is nearby.)

Translation: 90+ degrees before noon, humidity to make a person wilt. Con Ed wants us to conserve energy. Forget kilowatts: the energy I'm conserving is my own. I'm following what the signs in on the lawns at Central Park suggest: passive activities encouraged.

For our continued enjoyment of the park, the sign-makers suggest we not wear it out. They are trying to keep the grass from getting flattened from too much use, an odd idea for a park, you might think. Still, it is Wonderland, and the park rules reflect our lives, the truth of living among so many people in such a densely populated area.

The private sector has pumped a ton of money into our park in the past ten years; we finally have lawns where once there was just mud; and no one wants us -- the public -- to trash the efforts of those with another kind of green.

When I set out on my menopausal marches, otherwise known as my hour-long, 3.75-mile speed walks on the bridle path around around the reservoir, I do stick to the trails. The bridle path has become a misnomer: Central Park is now bereft of horses. Dressed for walking, I wear more metal than the average equine. A friend has me wired for everything but sound.

I strap on a heart monitor, wetting the two leads before hooking them to the actual metering device; I turn on the pedometer strapped to my sneaker (running shoe, to be precise); and I press "start" on the watch that keeps track of it all: heart rate, distance, speed, time elapsed, calories burned.

The sheer computing power of the device attached to my wrist exceeds that of my Kaypro II X, the computer I owned in 1985, a "portable" machine lovingly known as Darth Vader's lunch box, all 26 pounds of it.

Funny thing is, apart from the Internet, I'm not sure I can do much more with the computer I own generations (and several operating systems) later. I did not sign up for technological advances at the speed of light, and at this point, my brain remains one formed by the last century. The computer has vast capabilities of which I remain unaware. I work on a need-to-know basis.

This century requires more viewer discretion than the last: the economy is crashing and burning, and my former industry, editing magazines and newspapers, has gone to the dogs. Copy editing is being outsourced to India. Want to buy a house, cheap?

Friends tell me paralegal tasks are performed at cut-rate prices next to the copy editing; we know any kind of computer "technical assistance" has long ago left these shores. What remains for us, as even our intellectual capital is offered offshore to the lowest bidder?

Clearly I have chosen the wrong vocations: I should have learned electrical, or plumbing, or how to run a boiler, fix the air conditioning, tile a bathroom, any form of construction -- tasks that cannot be shipped offshore, many of which are unionized.

One of these days our local news will come from China, where it is clearly cheaper to produce. The fact that none of the reporters will know uptown from downtown will no longer be relevant. More evil here I wish not to see.

Rumor (or the government) has it that we are exporting far more than we are importing, due to the weak dollar. What I want to know is, what do we have left to export? I didn't know we had any manufacturing plants remaining, especially after my tour of Lowell, MA last week.

Lowell, once the site of America's first textile mills -- many of which were water-powered, in those pre-oil-dependent days -- have long since been shuttered. Downtown is the nation's first urban national park. The area feels like an actual city, except that the streets are empty, as if someone built a city but forgot to drop in the people.

Our political landscape makes me wince: why is anyone surprised that Obama turned out to be, horror of horrors, a real politician? I'm a yellow-dog Democrat; of course he has my vote. But I don't expect him to change the world. Camelot, after all, wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

The late M. Wyrebeck wrote: "Be properly scared." I am.

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