Saturday, December 18, 2004

Blinded by the Lights

What ever happened to true fame, i.e. fame that is earned by talent or societal contribution? Are there any people today who actually have earned our remembrance 50 years from now? I personally remember John Kennedy. I remember Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce and Frank Sinatra. I remember books with tales of George Patton, Rembrant, Michaelangelo. I still remember from my youth Ghandi, Jackie Robinson and Chuck Yaeger. I remember Clark Gable and Lawrence Olivier. I can see their faces and their images in my mind's eye. I know what they accomplished and how they truly changed society and the world I live in.

Today, who are in the minds of popular culture? The "next generation" of people to be remembered? William Hung? The new "Fab Five" (I still remember the "Fab Four") from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?" Jessica Simpson? Joan Rivers or her daughter? Or, God save us, Ashlee Simpson? Or, perhaps we will remember Paris Hilton for something other than her last name? Do we still remember Justin Guarino from anything other than a list of "Top 10" really bad movies? How about Kimberly Locke or The Rock? Fifty years from now, people might remember Bill Clinton but not for being a former President of the United States. Will we remember Scott Petterson when all his appeals are used up? What about Amber Frey or the "celebrity lawyer" tandem of Gloria Allred and Mark Geragos? I may be able to recall some of these names a few years from now but will my children even know what silliness got them in the news?

I wonder, sometimes, if all the stars in the heavens - metaphorically speaking - are set. And, if so, what we are left to today - the "stars" we talk about at the water coolers and watering holes - are merely bottle rockets. You remember bottle rockets, don’t you? They are the little sticks we sat in coke bottles and lit on the Fourth of July or New Year’s. They would burst out the bottle, rapidly ascending to the stars as fast as light. Only, the little rockets never made it to the stars. They burn out, disappear in the night and fall quietly and quite unceremoniously back to earth. No one ever looks for them because they are useless and their "talent" is burned out forever.

"Fame" today in our E! and TV Guide world appear to be much like the bottle rockets of our youth. Fame, in the modern sense, is a fuse lit by publicists and talking heads who generate the lift off and into the sky of our collective minds the fake star goes. They shoot towards the heavens - where the real stars live. But, soon enough, the publicists and talking heads find something or someone else to talk about. Another rocket sits in the coke bottle, just waiting for someone to light the fuse. And we, the spectators at the fame game, are quick to turn our heads to new bottle rocket as it takes off on its doomed flight into the sky. In the modern world, fame has nothing to do with talent; it has everything to do with "buzz."

By now, we should have a collective case of whiplash. Our heads are being turned faster and faster as more and more bottle rockets are fired off each day. The faster they are lit, the faster we turn our heads. Another interesting observation is that the quality of the lowly bottle rockets is, if it is even possible, declining. Today's bottle rockets don’t go as high or burn as long as they used to. They just burn really bright for a shorter and shorter time.

I wish we had room for new, permanent stars. Unfortunately, the heavens are full. Further, I submit, that as long as our eyes are fixed on the fleeting glow and the unrelenting glare of bottle rockets, we will never be able to see the real stars. In order to see the true stars, our eyes need to be accommodated to darkness. Stars are best viewed far away from the city lights and in the dark quiet of the countryside. Unfortunately, we will never have that luxury anymore. There are far two many distractions in the sky.



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