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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sensational

I think maybe I am a bit on the boring side. Not to say that I can't hold my own in a conversation, or often give at least as good as I get in a battle of the wits. I am moderately well-read and strive to deliver at least passable writing. But I say again: I think maybe I am a bit boring.

I can surrender to flights of fancy. I am more than willing and able, maybe even prone to, spend time dreaming of things I would love to do if I had the means or the stamina or the time. I haven't daydreamed of something fun or exciting in at least fifteen minutes because I am trying to be serious right now. 

Here's why I say I am a bit boring. I can sling verbal fertilizer with the best of them (AKA I can sling BS like a champ), and have often done so when it was required of me. I have, in my past, enraptured many a professor of literature by picking up the ball, running with it, and scoring a touchdown when they started discussing the hidden symbolic meanings in various pieces of literature. I freely admit that many times I did so while thinking that the symbolism was deep and amazing, and then silently wondering if we were silly and wrong. "Maybe a horse is just a horse. Maybe this cowboy is just dying in a desert canyon because sometimes bad stuff happens. Maybe the author wasn't trying to write about how the horse is a symbol of the cowboy's lost, and last, chance at freedom. Maybe it's just a terribly sad story about a cowboy who had an accident after he rode into a treacherous canyon trying to catch wild mustangs. Maybe this time the mustangs won. Maybe the author is laughing his head off at the deep symbolism we're inventing here." Yes, I have a fanciful, emotional, sensitive side. Suddenly, out of nowhere, sensibility rears its (ugly? practical? sensible?) head. 

When I was in a composition class in High School, my teacher advised me to take a creative writing course. Why? Not because she had some idea that I would be a fiction-writing genius. She suggested it because my writing was, and I quote, "Too concise." This was the first time I had ever heard of this being a problem. To paraphrase the marvelous actor and song-and-dance man James Cagney, I looked the other fella in the eye and told him the truth. Very practical, but apparently just telling the truth is not enough.

And yes, something I have been seeing lately is what inspired me to write all of this. Have you noticed some of the internet headlines/introductions to stories or videos lately? They all seem to follow a formula that promises something that the story can seldom deliver. I saw one in the news feed on a social media site that said, "He put a hard boiled egg in a glass. What happened thirty seconds later had me speechless." Those are not the exact words, but they certainly are the same flavor. So, the gist of the brief article and the video I did not watch? A man drops a hard boiled egg in a glass, shakes it really hard, and then the pulverized shell is rinsed off. I would have called it "A new and easy way to peel a hard boiled egg." See? Boring!

Suddenly I noticed this type of headlines for stories about everything from reading a story to schoolkids to plastic surgery disasters. "Stars who are aging terribly. Number nine will shock you!" These are often accompanied by photos that have absolutely nothing to do with the story. There might be a photo of Sally Superstar, your favorite actress, whom you find fascinating. The closest the article comes to Sally S. is that many of the people mentioned live and work in Hollywood just like Sally. Of course, the headline can't hold a candle to the ridiculous content. You exit the article in disgust when they say that Brigitte Bardot is looking really bad for her age. They neglect to mention her age, which is eighty. You grumble in disgust that you have just wasted three minutes of your life that you will never get back. You say that if you live to be eighty and look even half as lovely as Ms. Bardot, you'll be incredibly happy. (By the way, I was not shocked because I didn't hang around for number nine.)

Now it seems that I am seeing these sensationalist headlines (my Gram would call them come-ons) everywhere I turn. I long for the day when I see a headline that says, "Look at the way these students manage to capture a stray dog in desperate need of help," or "Pictures of starlets then and now." Okay, I just read those. Nobody is going to click on these stories! I'm boring! Or maybe that's just a new way to say I'm honest. Oh, and concise.