Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the news eclipse

I don't think I'm alone in this, but I sometimes get my news by squinting at it. I tilt my head, look slightly off-center, unfocus my eyes...and gather news from the bits of glare and noise/light pollution that filters in. Headlines and Tweets rolling by and FB links and news promos and random bits of overheard conversations and news radio reaching my ears in the back of a cab... Later I'll eventually read an actual article or watch TV, and look right at the spot whence all the fuss originated. I have never had the discipline to read the paper every day, so if I choose not to look directly at a news story, it's all squint and spill-off.

There have been a few times recently, however, when I've been aware of the fact that the dynamic is (even stupider and) farther-removed from the Squint. Now there is the News Eclipse. (I can't seem to talk about this without using a shorthand neologism--please excuse). The News Eclipse is when you don't read the actual news and you don't even squint. You look right at the sun but don't see a thing.

Such as when Michael Jackson died. I was in a cab when I got a text about this news. Just as I did the cab driver confirmed it (those dudes know everything), and that was all it took: I stopped paying attention. I could feel the heat from the oncoming news blast and I started tuning out right then and there. I didn't look away, but neither did I watch CNN in shock, scan news sites, or shamefully devour TMZ online. I didn't even eventually read anything measured in a print source or newsweekly. I demonstrated no active curiosity about the event. I just let the heat from it lick at me, after spending 30 solid seconds with the news.

That frightened me, rather. It didn't surprise me that I could ultimately know a lot about a news event without actually reading/watching the news (as Robin Harris says in House Party, "Cut the television off, comes in through the damn walls"), nor are one's feelings about Michael Jackson a litmus test about your feelings about all current events. It did rather appall me, however, that I just never bothered to find out anything for myself. No article, no definitive anything. It's hard to find a definitive anything these days, but I wasn't even trying.

I had always an image of myself staring right into an eclipse, looking right at where the sun would be if my indifference or resistance weren't blocking the way. I can see the corona all around it, but I'm not even bothering to see where it's coming from; whether from self-protection or exhaustion or apathy, I just couldn't say.

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