In spite of my fascination with journalism, I never took a college-level course in the subject. But my interest has remained relatively high during all the intervening years. This morning, the attraction to journalism and its effects on its audience surfaced. I use the term “journalism” here to include allegedly factual non-fiction stories and news one might find in newspapers, television, radio, social media, etc., etc. Pop-up curiosity—unplanned and definitely unannounced—is not suited to thorough scientific investigation. So, this morning’s interest had to be addressed with pseudo-scientific procedures, absent agreed and widely recognized reliable study design. In other words, the exploration was undertaken on-the-fly and by-the-seat-of-my-pants. Oh…the topic of interest: the volume of news stories that do not involve politics or crime. In other words, how voluminous would our news sources be if stories involving crime or politics were purposely excluded? Even if reporting of local crime were to continue, how much non-criminal and apolitical “news” would be left over to digest? My quick and dirty assessment, whose design is admittedly unscientific and irreparably flawed, suggests only about twenty percent of the volume of “news” would remain if crime and politics were given no space in news media. Adding my personal opinion to that most-likely-biased “fact,” the world and the people in it would be more serene, more pleasant to be around, and fundamentally friendlier. They would smile more often…and mean it. Humans would be less likely to abuse animal pets and their own children. Arguments would more frequently be civil and based on rational perceptions, rather than uncivil and based on indoctrinated opinions. The sky’s cerulean blue would be gentler and even easier on the eye. Screaming children and barking dogs would be less annoying. The universe might stop expanding, explaining to anyone who would listen: “Now that crime and politics are gone from journalistic reporting, I’m satisfied with my size and scope. There’s no longer a need to expand.
Well, that little fact-based diversion went entirely off the rails. I suspect I’ll hear from the universe about this. Which leads me to this: I hear the universe virtually all the time. Sometimes, the sound of the universe is muted by my thoughts or by loud automobile mufflers, but I usually am conscious of the noise. I’ve been told it’s tinnitus. The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines tinnitus as follows:
A buzzing, ringing, or whistling sound in one or both ears occurring without an external stimulus. Its causes include ear infection or blockage, certain drugs, head injury, and neurologic disease.
I would be most grateful if the sound would stop. Its sound, to me, varies between “background crickets,” “thumping/grating,” and a combination thereof. I am not conscious of it all the time, but the moment it comes to mind, I realize the sound has been there all the time, in the background. Ach!
I have never been able to wrap my head around the idea that languages insist on translating proper names. Americans call a certain European country by the name Italy. Italians call the country Italia. Germans call it Italien. Russians call it Италия. Punjabs call it ਇਟਲੀ. Somalians call it Talyaaniga. Or, take another country, the one we call Germany. Germans call it Deutschland. Spaniards call it Alemania. Slovaks call it Nemecko. The examples are more numerous than one might imagine. Which takes me back to my confusion: doesn’t the practice of translating proper names seem extremely rude? I think I would find it offensive if a Cuban insisted on calling Arkansas by another name…say Tierraestúpida or Arkanombre or Sincalidad or Colinasbaldías. I could go on. Obviously. I have asked the question hundreds of times. Never have I received a completely satisfactory answer. Perhaps I will keep trying.
We judge one another every day. Many times a day. We judge people in the grocery store, in cars beside us on the road, walking along the roadside, seated at a nearby table in a restaurant…and on and on. We fantasize about people, even though we do not necessarily acknowledge that is what we’re doing. We manufacture stories about people—both strangers and people with whom we interact regularly—that judge them. We make assumptions about people: their education level, their income level, their social philosophies and political perspectives, you name it. We may or may not realize we are judging them; we usually protest that we are NOT fantasizing. But we are, regardless of our refusal to admit it. When we picture people in any setting, we are fantasizing about them. And we are judging them; simply by virtue of showing up in our thoughts, we are fantasizing about them and judging them. Admitting that reality could be more than a little embarrassing. “I fantasized about you last night.” “I made some extremely uncomplimentary judgements about you yesterday; and they remain firmly entrenched in my mind as I continue to fantasize about you.” Perhaps it’s better to keep it to myself, you say? You’re probably right, although I might be very interested to know of someone else’s judgments and fantasies, even if they were not as complimentary as I might hope or if they were blush-inducing fantasies that would make my pulse race.
Once again, I discovered myself sleeping in front of my computer screen. I could use some actual sleep. And so I shall relax on a couch for a brief respite from the world.