“We’re all in the same boat ready to float off the edge of the world.”
“Life is a carnival,” sang The Band, and I imagine the passengers stranded in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the cruise ship Triumph wished it weren’t so true. Or maybe truer. They couldn’t, despite the promise of the song, walk on water. Still, they were lucky. The meteor hit Siberia and not the Splendor, after all.
Chuck Shepherd began his syndicated “News of the Weird” column in 1988. I’ve always enjoyed tales like that of the bank robber who put is gun in the sack after the teller filled it with money, only to have the guard tell the hapless, suddenly disarmed criminal mastermind, “Excuse me sir, but could we please have our money back?”
Contemporary events, however, make me question the distinction between today’s news and “news of the weird.”
This was the week that Marco Rubio America added a water-bottle prop to the GOP’s Dickensian message to America: “Stay thirsty, my friends.” It was the week another GOPer, Ted “Carnival” Cruz of Texas channeled Joseph McCarthy in his innuendo-laden attacks on poor old Chuck Hagel.
I’ve run out of ways to apologize to the world for launching yet another dangerous clown upon the stage. Cruz is a dangerous man. Don’t let his wacky Agenda 21 paranoia fool you. He may really worry that the United Nations is preparing to take over America’s golf courses. There’s no Second Amendment right to bear golf clubs, but Cruz doesn’t care. So far in the Senate, his drives are hitting the greens just about every time. Weird indeed.
Cruz may be the real reason Rubio gulped. There’s not room for both Republicans in that party’s presidential parade. Cruz, in just a month, is the Tea Party’s new darling. Cruz thinks he should be president or maybe king of the world. The only thing more obvious than his moral depravity is his ambition.
Back to the news. On Valentine’s Day, Slate’s Mary Mycio published a piece on archeologists’ discovery of the world’s oldest known pornography. The frolicking folk in the rock carvings may be 3,000 years old. They were found in the westernmost region of China, but physical characteristics indicate the artists came from the West. California’s San Fernando Valley, probably.
Now, this is real news. To young-earth creationists the sexy rock carvings could have been around at the time of Noah’s Ark. Hell, it could have been one of the reasons the Ark was necessary, if you get my drift. Or, it could make history’s censors look like fools as a healthy love of sexy time seems to predate the first prig. We report. You decide.
This was also the week I got around to watching Argo. The Iran hostage crisis began in the fall of 1979, just two months after I went to work as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle. I covered a different bunch of imprisoned folk at the time – prisoners in the Texas Department of Corrections. The only television in Huntsville, Texas, came via cable. Upon moving into our new home, I hooked up the cable to see what would happen and it worked. I’m not sure I was ever billed. Those were the days.
Argo reminded me of the enormous impact the Iran hostage crisis had on the world, the nation and my life. It gets some of the credit for the defeat of Jimmy Carter and election of Ronald Reagan. And it didn’t just simply increase U.S. media awareness of the U.S. role in Mideast politics. It led to the creation of new media that has had, for better or worse, an enormous impact on how we consume the news.
Recall that ABC launched the news program, Nightline, just four days after the hostages were taken. CNN launched as the first 24-hour news program a few months later. Not long thereafter, Reagan eliminated the fairness doctrine from broadcast and right-wing radio was born.
We are, it seems, as adrift in the sea of news as the poor passengers aboard the Triumph were upon the waters of the Gulf. We can’t escape the carnival-like atmosphere of today’s news, weird or not. There is no farther shore. There is no Ark.
Life is a carnival, and I’m with The Band on this one:
“Take away, take away this house of mirrors
Give away, give away, all the souvenirs.”