- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

‘Reality’ overload

“Network programming over the last five years has been a systematic rebuttal of T.S. Eliot’s classic dictum that ‘humankind cannot bear very much reality.’ It turns out, upon further review, that humankind can bear reality seven nights a week, on about 35 different channels. We like it in every possible flavor, from the dramatic (‘Survivor’) to the moronic (‘Joe Millionaire’) to the horribly offensive (‘The Swan’). It’s as if our entire culture has reached the halfway point in a gigantic bag of Cheetos and just collectively decided to go ahead and finish it off.

“A couple of years ago, in an act of countercultural rebellion, I renounced reality television forever. I think it was in silent protest of ‘The Anna Nicole Smith Show,’ which struck me as a tipping point: The genre had become a Gordian knot of social postures — camp, irony, sincerity, acting, self-parody, and self-promotion. I couldn’t even begin to untangle it, so I gave up, and I’ve managed to abstain from any regular viewing ever since (after, of course, having watched every single episode of ‘Anna Nicole’).”

Sam Anderson, writing on “Teenage Wasteland,” Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com

Role model

“There have been a great number of petty and unfair attacks leveled at George W. Bush in the past five years. He’s slow-witted. He surrounds himself with incompetent ‘yes men.’ He’s Hitler.

“But the pettiest and least fair to date is the charge that President Bush exercises too much. For whatever reason, liberals have developed an obsession with the president’s ‘obsession’ with physical fitness.

“Last month … Jonathan Chait, writing in the Los Angeles Times, castigated President Bush for his ‘obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy.’ …

“The Democratic National Committee similarly attacked the president for spending too much time exercising and not enough on public policy.

“On every other page of every other newspaper, meanwhile, you will read about our nation’s ‘obesity epidemic,’ followed by calls for emergency remedies ranging from class-action lawsuits against fast-food companies to crackdowns on vending machines in public schools. Some might think a physically fit president would serve as a good role model for America’s youth, especially in light of the rapid decline in the quality of our heroes from the world of professional sports.”

Patrick Hynes, writing on “Bent Out of Shape,” Friday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

Fat mystery

“West Virginia’s status as the third-fattest state … gives new meaning to the phrase ‘Mountain Mama’ in John Denver’s Blue Ridge paean ‘[Take Me Home,] Country Roads.’ For the … experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it also poses a puzzle: Why are West Virginians so fat?

“I’ll hazard a guess and say it’s because they eat too much. But the CDC is not satisfied with layman’s explanations. A few months ago, it sent a crack team of investigators to hunt down the source of West Virginia’s obesity outbreak.

“According to the New York Times, the CDC’s ‘disease detectives’ spent three weeks in Gilmer County and Clarksburg, asking the tough questions that needed to be asked. …

“This approach would make perfect sense if obesity were caused by microorganisms. But since obesity is caused by certain patterns of behavior, themselves subject to myriad influences, this is one case the disease detectives are not likely to solve.”

Jacob Sullum, writing on “Watching the Detectives,” Friday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

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