Tuesday, June 26, 2007

When Is "Real" Fake?

Reality and irony have a fascinating relationship. They don't talk much at parties, when they're both invited. They don't exchange cards at Christmas, or share cookouts in the summer. But, just when you'd think the two don't have any connection, they team up for an intriguing moment or two. The results are usually, to say the least, notable. [I don't think I need cite any examples. Anyone who pays attention to the world probably has his or her own store to draw upon.]

In recent weeks, the travelling road show known as World Wrestling Entertainment has been running a story line concerning the mysterious "death" of its owner and president, Vince McMahon, in a car explosion. I confess that I haven't spent much time lately following the adventures of the scripted grapplers, but I'd guess that, to use the old cliche, speculation was rife as to the cause of the "disaster", and whom, if anyone, might have been involved. Yeah, I know; many soap operas have had more convoluted happenings than that, without the Nation suffering undue disquiet. It's mindless entertainment for its fans.

But see the genius of Reality & Irony at work. WWE star Chris Benoit, one of the promotion's main attractions, was found dead Monday, along with his wife and young son.Investigators are still piecing the circumstances together as this is written, but it looks like Benoit killed his wife and child, then took his own life. Speculation had yet to rear its ugly head, but, unlike McMahon's skit, there was no need to put quotations around the word disaster.

Why does all this bother me? As I noted earlier, I'm not troubled by the nature of pro wrestling. It's as honorable as any other form of entertainment (I remember the answer an announcer gave years ago, when asked if the "sport" was fake. He replied, "It's as real as Macbeth". Fair enough...). The purveyors gave up arguing that matter a while back, when they added the word "entertainment" to their name. If, after all that, those past childhood choose to take it seriously, that's their business. But, and, it's an important "but", the use of steroids in professional wrestling was so commonplace a few years ago that it led to a Congressional investigation (It was even reported that McMahon used them). In recent years, the WWE has distanced itself from illegal hormones. But the buzz has become an open secret that certain performers are using steroids, either to become or remain stars. The effects of steroids on the mental processes are controversial, but have been known to include uncontrollable anger [Oh, bother. There's that ugly-headed Speculation at work]. The investigation goes on, but for the sake of McMahon (Oh, he's not dead, for God's sake! It's just a "work".), he had better hope steroids didn't play a part.

Friday, June 1, 2007

"When You Are Old..."

First, my apologies for not writing sooner. Pure and simple, there wasn't much worth writing about [Then again, some people believe that to be true about everything in this sector of Blogatopia].Still, the Muse tapped me on the shoulder [while I was in the tub. Does that happen to other bloggers as much as I suspect it does? If every home had a working bathtub, instead of those omnipresent shower units, would there be a flowering of inspired writing? And, if there was, where in the name of God would we put it all?], and, apparently, it's my turn to dance again...

One of the inevitable results of the diversity of modern life is the lack of shared experiences. You know, the kind of event that people used to plan on taking part in. In older times, communities would gather for social events, or worship, or maybe to watch a solar eclipse [or a hanging]. Only the most anti-social souls would skip the gathering, which, I suppose, is why many older people remember big events in their community's history.

Nowadays, though, we follow our own drummers, to the point that those things that may be worthwhile for everyone get drowned out by the cacophony of drumming. But we try. A lot of the shared experiences we have are manufactured events, things like sporting championships, charity concerts, and, frequently, reality TV competitions [Television, oddly enough, both brings us together and tears us apart. The multiverse of channels available to many watchers gives them more than sufficient options to avoid the potential shared moment, in favor of a Hawaii-Five-O rerun. Not that Jack Lord and Company aren't compelling, under the right circumstances...].

This all comes up because of Thursday night's broadcast of the finals of the National Spelling Bee on one of the American television networks. It got me to thinking that, while college athletes at least have the championships of their respective sports to remember, there are almost no shared moments for non-athletes, and nothing at all for High School - or younger students to look forward to [except the Spelling Bee, the kids edition of Jeopardy, or those occasional High School All-Star games that ESPN carries from time to time].

I remember my Eighth-grade trip to Washington, DC vividly, even after a distance of more than 35 years. I'm told a lot of schools still try to make the journey, although, with rising costs and security concerns, the number is probably going down. I wonder if there is some equivalent experience in other countries [International readers, please help me out on this one. That's one thing the "Comments" section is for...]?

By the way, I missed the Spelling Bee. I couldn't help it; Wo Fat was the featured villain on Hawaii Five-O.

-Mike Riley