THE HOLY BOOK OF UNIVERSAL TRUTHS,
K. U. P.
(Kimball's Unauthorized Perversion)
1. Never call me trendy. Unlike most folks, I would rather hear the latest news on an international crisis, than hear what Lindsey Lohan or the Kardashian sisters are doing. If a news story is not relevant to the narratives in my history papers, don't expect me to be very interested. For me celebrity stories are just filler material for a slow news day, especially stories involving high-profile crimes and trials in California, because they can drag on for months or more. That was the case in the 1990s with O. J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers. In 2003 Kobe Bryant was in trouble with the law, so when I heard that California was holding an election to recall its governor, my first reaction was relief that Kobe would no longer be in the headlines every day.
Along that line, we ought to remember that bias can work both ways; what the media doesn't report may be as important as what it does report. News organizations may not realize this, but they are exercising bias when they choose not to cover a story because they don't think the rest of us are interested (e.g., how often did the Darfur genocide appear on the nightly news?). That's why I no longer trust one news source to give me the complete picture; you might as well try listening to everything with only one ear.
3. The most uplifting news of 2004--literally--may be the successful test flights of Space Ship One, the first space craft built by somebody besides the government. To me, Burt Rutan and his pilots are a 21st-century version of the Wright Brothers, and they did it in one year on a $30 million budget; can anyone see NASA launching a new rocket so quickly, or so cheaply? Now that Sir Richard Branson is investing in them with his new Virgin Galactic company, they give me hope; if NASA can't get us back into space, perhaps these guys will.
4. The December 2004 tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean and killed a quarter of a million people proved two things to me. First, we don't need the United Nations to come to the rescue when a major disaster strikes. The United States, Japan, Australia, and India put together an effective rescue team right away, and sent it to the affected area, without any multinational organization directing them. When the UN finally arrived, several days later, its agents spent most of their time holding meetings in hotels about what they planned to do, and a large portion of the aid they gave was birth control devices. I'm sure that even in a country with a high birthrate like Indonesia, repopulation was far from being the foremost thing in the minds of the survivors.
Second, it showed that Western culture is superior to Islamic culture. Because Sumatra was the closest landmass to the epicenter of the tsunami-causing earthquake, two-thirds of the victims were Moslem, but the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf did not do anything to help until they were shamed into doing so by the US. And the money they finally gave toward tsunami relief was far less than what we gave; the Saudis gave more money to the families of suicide bombers in Israel. I guess that means the Saudis would rather see dead Jews than live Moslems. It would serve them right if our kindness results in some Indonesians converting to Christianity.
While my family loves to watch reality shows, I seem to have missed something. Can we really call them that, when the premise of programs like "Temptation Island," "Big Brother" and "The Bachelor" is to put people in situations they're never likely to experience in real life? And we could accuse "Survivor" of false advertising; despite the show's title, all the contestants are still alive at the end of the season. The "Extreme Makeover" series is more believable, but even there the odds are against me ever having strangers pay for my plastic surgery or a new house. Nor is the governor likely to come and inspect the finished work, as Arnold Schwarzenegger did on one episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." But I guess you can't call them "TV shows with non-professional actors."
The closest thing I've seen to a reality show in real life is the primary campaign of a presidential election, when the candidate who does the worst after each round of voting drops out of the race. If interest in politics among the voters drops, we could call the primary campaign a new reality show, "Elimi-candidate." Of course, we'll have to find a way to explain those candidates who get "voted off," but stay in the race all the way to the convention. Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich did that in 2004, because life on the campaign trail beat working for a living.
At any rate, I don't expect I'll ever audition for a reality show. In 1973 I went with my school to Washington DC, to watch President Nixon's second inauguration, and for the parade I found a real good spot--in the front row, right across the street from the presidential box. I was close enough to the VIPs that the treasury secretary, John Connally, waved at me twice. I was also in front of the TV cameras, so when I got back to the hotel and turned on the TV set to see how the parade looked from there, I saw the back of my head in the front row of the crowd, broadcast all across America! Therefore I don't need to be on TV again; I've had my fifteen minutes of fame already.
6. I also don't get it when it comes to commercials for prescription drugs. No doubt they are required by law to list all the harmful side effects that might result from taking their product. With the printed media, you can buy a full-page ad and keep the disclaimer text small, but with radio and TV commercials, the warnings take up more time than the sound bite telling you about the drug's benefits. I don't know about you, but after hearing all that, I've been scared out of wanting to try that drug, and I'm certainly not going to ask my doctor about it! Why do the makers of pharmaceuticals even bother to advertise on radio and TV?
To give an example of what I'm talking about, take this disclaimer for a drug that is supposed to help you quit smoking:
Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, panic, aggression, anger, mania, abnormal sensations, hallucinations, paranoia, or confusion thoughts or actions while using ***** to help them quit smoking. Some people had these symptoms when they began taking *****, and others developed them after several weeks of treatment or after stopping *****. If you, your family, or caregiver notice agitation, hostility, depression, or changes in behavior, thinking, or mood that are not typical for you, or you develop , stop taking ***** and call your doctor right away. Also tell your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems before taking *****, as these symptoms may worsen while taking *****.
Some people can have serious skin reactions while taking *****, some of which can become life-threatening. These can include rash, swelling, redness, and peeling of the skin. Some people can have allergic reactions to *****, some of which can be life-threatening and include: swelling of the face, mouth, and throat that can cause trouble breathing. If you have these symptoms or have a rash with peeling skin or blisters in your mouth, stop taking ***** and get medical attention right away. Do not take ***** if you have had a serious allergic or skin reaction to *****.
The most common side effects include nausea (30%), sleep problems, constipation, gas, and/or vomiting. If you have side effects that bother you or don't go away, tell your doctor.
You may have trouble sleeping, vivid, unusual, or strange dreams while taking *****. Use caution driving or operating machinery until you know how ***** may affect you.
If I was a smoker and saw all that, I'd conclude that it was safer to keep puffing. Altogether I think the only ad for a prescription drug that I ever liked was the one where Dr. Frankenstein's monster is acting like a normal guy, now that he has gotten help for his arthritis.
Along that line, it's time for true Bigfoot believers to produce some hard evidence. How about some hair samples, for a start? And why aren't there any Bigfoot bones or teeth anywhere, except maybe for the ones anthropologists labelled as coming from Gigantopithecus and Meganthropus? We've seen enough footprints and fuzzy pictures, so if you want us to continue believing, show us the body!
8. The most destructive wars in history typically last thirty to fifty years, because they consume two generations before the combatants have had enough. Examples of such conflicts include the Peloponnesian War, the First and Second Punic Wars, the Thirty Years War, the French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars, and the two World Wars. Often there is a time-out from fighting in the middle, giving the impression that this is not one big war, but two wars involving the same nations. This can happen when the first generation is decimated, and the second generation isnít old enough to continue where the first left off -- or we may be dealing with cultures that think "cease-fire" is another word for "reload!" Then when the second generation is done, peace finally comes, because one or both sides doesnít have enough grandchildren left.
9. With most elements of culture, such as art, religion, language and literature, it is possible to trace how they developed into what exists now. However, most of the story of music's development is lost to us, because we did not have a way to record it. Except for some traditional melodies and a few genres like Gregorian chants, our history of music begins in the 17th century, with longhair composers like Johann Sebastian Bach. There were a few attempts in ancient and medieval times to write down songs; the oldest example comes from the Hurrians, who inscribed a song on a clay tablet, sometime between 2000 and 1500 BC. But alas, even when we have such "sheet music," we cannot be sure we are reading it right. Consequently we donít know what tunes went with King Davidís Psalms, we donít know how Homer sang the Iliad and the Odyssey, nor do we know the national anthems of any empires before the modern era. Pope Sylvester II, the head of the Catholic Church at the turn of the millennium (999-1003), is credited with inventing the eight-note scale of Western music, and giving the notes the names of "do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do," but we don't know what scales were used previously in Dark Age Europe. Quick now, what is the greatest song of all time? Chances are it was composed hundreds of years ago, and then forgotten. Forever.
10. One of the perverse characteristics of human nature is our initial reaction when we invent something new. The first thing we want to do with a new invention is use it as a weapon, or have fun with it. Only after we are done trying that will we attempt to use an invention to improve our lives. When CDs and DVDs became available, for instance, we used them for entertainment at first, and then a few years later some folks made educational tools out of them. The latest example could be our mobile devices. A middle-class person can now own a machine that gives him access to the sum total of human knowledge, and often it is small enough to fit into his pocket. I remember when only the characters on "Star Trek" had tools like that. And how do we use it? Most of us use it to look at pictures of cats, or to argue with people we have never met in real life!
p.s., I got one of those machines as a birthday present in 2013. It is thoroughly useful wherever there's an Internet connection, but at home I mainly use it to play music and videos for my parrot!
© Copyright 2013 Charles Kimball