Carol and Lydia went away last weekend, to go to Carol's brother's daughter's fifth birthday party. I stayed home, did some banking, got my bike fixed TWICE (some very small piece of metal, maybe twice the thickness of a hair and a quarter inch long, kept flattening my rear tire), I cleaned the second floor, did some laundry, took out the compost, etc., etc.
But what I did mostly was read newspapers and watch TV. And not just any TV. I watched about a week's worth of the evening news. I think I was depressed.
Of course, there's the shootings at the Amish school in Lancaster County, PA, the county adjacent to where Carol and Lydia were going, actually, so I've seen those horse and buggies coexisting on the roadway with the cars of "the English", which is what the Amish call the non-Amish. I was interested to note that the strongest reaction to this event by my wife, more than sadness, more than the initial shock, was anger. This is a woman who just doesn't get all that angry, but I would define her reaction as really ticked off. I'm sure it was the victimization of girls, and that following the victimization of girls in the Colorado school shooting. For me, the Amish shootings were such shock, I had little reaction until I saw the deputy coroner describe how her job was to count the number of bullets in each of the dead girls' bodies, at which point, I actually cried about the incident for the first time.
Then there is the war in Iraq. It's easy to get inured to the death toll of American soldiers, not to mention the Iraqi body count. One friend of mine suggested that the "mainstream media" were underplaying the American deaths; I don't think so. I think it's that TWO SOLDIERS DEAD IN A ROADSIDE BOMB happens so often that it's, I'm afraid, NOT NEWS anymore. It's only when the number of American deaths spike, as they did during the first week in October, that it becomes particularly noteworthy. (Chris Black, from across the pond, gives excerpts from a Time magazine article about the war.
Of course, there's former congressman Mark Foley, who bugged lots of people not just because of his inappropriate e-mails, but because he was such a hypocrite, pushing legislation to protect children from Internet predators. Ben Stein complained on CBS Sunday Morning that there are more important issues, such as civil war in the Congo, genocide in Darfur, and the war we're losing in Afghanistan. True, but I think policy wonk Stein is being disingenuous; the issue has largely ceased to be about Foley and children, and more about power, and who'll control Congress come January. Should Hastert resign his post? Don't think it matters terribly much; he'll be gone as Speaker by January one way or another.
And there are lots of stories people care about, such as the state of Matt Lauer's marriage, and other celebrity gossip that I don't care a whit about.
A real Page 3 story is about these unexploded explosives, about a million of them the size of soda cans, that Israel dumped on Lebanon during the 34-day war with Hezbollah. The munitions, mostly American-made, have been injuring three people per day, and killing a few, since the Lebanese have returned to the towns they had evacuated during the fighting.
Which leads me to the story I thought was most inspiring this past week. It's about a number of white South African mothers who are providing breast milk for black South African babies whose mothers have died from AIDS and are in orphanages. It was such an inspiring story that a woman in the Midwest with a 10-month old heard about it, and she and her friends are sending frozen breast milk to the orphanage, shipped for free by DHL. I'm so glad for some of these upbeat stories to leaven the melancholy that 22 minutes of the news would otherwise cause me.
BTW, I tried to find the story on the ABC News website, searching for "breast milk" and I got: "You've entered a Search search term that is likely to contain adult content." This SO cracked me up that it didn't bother me that I couldn't find the story until I Googled it. There's a link here that does link to the ABC News story.
Also, it makes me believe that rooting for sports teams, an activity some people I know think is silly (I'm still holding to the Mets over the Tigers, both of whom advanced) is, if not done excessively, a useful exercise in mindless fun. Sure, it isn't war and peace. It's (mostly) nice stories, such as a Tigers team that lost 119 games three years ago (one fewer than the infamous 1962 Mets) winning a playoff series with a pitcher, Jeremy Bonderman, who lost 19 games that year, the day after Yankee castoff Kenny (the Gambler) Rogers shut out the Bronx Bombers. It's about players such as Jose Reyes and David Wright coming up through the Mets' minor league ranks ranks, succeeding and not being jerks, at least not yet, and the satisfaction that former Dodgers such as Shawn Green and Paul LoDuca felt eating their old team. Useful mindlessness, that's what it is.
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