Just bitchin', writing

#ThomasGibson and The Insidious Art of Attraction

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Never been a fangirl.

Made it through pre-pubescence and adolescence and entered adulthood without papering my bedroom walls or my locker at school with depictions of male (or female) pulchritude. Never stood in line for hours to gather with adoring masses bent on ogling an idol on stage or screen.

Never swooned. Never sighed. Never stalked.

Felt kind of superior because of it. Wore my immunity like a smug, intellectual haz-mat suit. The rest of you can waste your time mooning after people you’ll never meet or really know. As for me? I’ll forge ahead with ‘real’ life…

But then…

Gibson.

Not a tsunami. Not a thunderclap.

Rather, an insidious invasion.

Innocent channel surfing. Hmmm…nice voice…easy on the eyes, too…this guy’s fun to watch. I put the remote down, unaware of the treacherous terrain I’ve entered. Like Little Red Riding Hood, flitting from butterfly to butterfly, I am drawn, episode by episode, along a path the destination of which I would never have chosen.

I begin to pay attention to more than physical attributes. The multifaceted character, a dark and stoic FBI agent, lures me in.

But I’m not a fangirl.

It’s just an intriguing depiction by a talented actor. It’s subtle with twists and turns that begin to fascinate. More. Want more.

So, being a writer, I frown when a television show’s plots don’t reveal enough or go far enough. In the back of my mind, as I’m otherwise engaged, idle musings begin to form. Next thing I know, I’m writing my own tales of Hotchner. I discover a place that wants them. Fanfic. With trepidation, I enter.

But I’m not a fangirl.

It’s just fun to have a place to write where editors and publishers aren’t staring down your neck, picking at every word. It’s freedom from having to compromise and capitulate. I can write my heart out without censor. And that’s where the devious, dark Hotchner makes his sly entre into my literary soul.

But I’m not a fangirl.

Fast-forward.

Three years later, this fictional character has become my guilty, secretive hobby. Someone who sits on my shoulder and whispers scenes and dialogue; who opens himself up to endless, psychological investigation. Someone with whom I now look forward to spending time.

And then, he’s gone.

With guillotine swiftness and scalpel-keen incisions, he’s gone.

I am bereft, blinking in the sudden glare of reality when I wanted to continue, feeding off of the tragic shadows that surrounded the Hotchner. The tremor that quakes through my peripheral, little world starts small, then spreads. I sit at my keyboard with nothing to say. The blood has drained from my writer’s brain. Somehow, some-when, Gibson’s portrayal snagged me and infiltrated my carefully cool psyche; his departure not only crippling my hobby, but my capacity to write at all.

I realize I’m in mourning. I realize…

Oh, crap. I’m a fangirl.

Worse…I’m a fangirl grieving for a character I didn’t know had taken control of a sub-level of my mind.

Damn you, Gibson, you magnificent bastard…how the hell did you manage that?

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Having It All

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Ever since a friend drew my attention to television commercials and their insidious effect on his efforts to maintain a healthy diet, I’ve been fascinated by them.

On the one hand, I find them shamelessly destructive to their target audiences. ‘Spend! Eat! Beg Your Doctor For Drugs!’ seem to be the primary messages. As with many scenes of destruction, I find it difficult to look away.

And therein lies their power.

What’s fascinating are the demographic profiles they paint.

If I believe the portrait of America according to the advertising industry, we are a hopelessly obese, socially challenged, disease-ridden, lonely people suffering from erectile dysfunction. We tend to smile most when dinner is served or when we find a paper towel that’s really, really absorbent.

Our bottoms are fuzzed with toilet tissue. Our eyes are dry. Our insurance companies are either run by geckos with British accents, or by agents with magical powers of teleportation. Our teeth won’t last if we eat or drink anything. Our phones are our best friends. Every medicine we take today will involve us in a lawsuit tomorrow. Our relatives will shun us if we choose the wrong air freshener. Our hair is grey and our skin is wrinkled. Prowlers and vagabonds lurk in our yards, checking to see if we have the right home security system.

But don’t despair! If we work hard and are vigilant, we can remedy all the bad things and take advantage of all the good. All we have to do is listen and do as we’re told.

The problem is, if you do listen long enough, you’ll decipher the Master Message that hangs like a fearful pall over this maze of enticements and warnings.

YOU WILL NEVER HAVE IT ALL.

You slam into the realization like a crash-dummy into a brick wall. Having been drawn to the edge of your seat, quivering with greed and need, pupils dilated and respiration rapid, you stagger back from the impact. Your survival instincts click in and you finally understand: The only way to dig yourself out from under this morass of advertising directives, is to turn them off. Or at least mute them.

Because all you really need are your family, your friends, your health, and a really, really absorbent paper towel.

The rest is just noise and smoke.

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The Bloating of America

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It’s a shameful, globally-known fact that America is increasingly obese.

Like most of us, I’m inundated with reasons and warnings spewed by the media via newscasts, public service announcements, and the odd government-sponsored commercial. The finger is pointed at all manner of modern conveniences that render tasks less physically demanding, or seduce us into hours of effortless, sluggish relaxation.

Leaf blowers, cell phones, video games, computers…all are given their share of blame.

The problem didn’t take up much of my concern until a friend told me he was trying to lose 30 pounds. The guy is over six feet tall. He carries weight well, but I applauded his goal and told him if he needed a pep talk or a walking partner or a good salad recipe, I’d be happy to help.

What did he ask for? Someone to talk to in the evenings so he wouldn’t watch TV.

I misunderstood. “You mean something to do besides sitting around? Some activity? We could go do something instead?”

“No, Cat. Someone to keep me from turning the damn thing on. It’s nothing but food all night long. All the stuff that’s death for dieters.”

I wasn’t sure I believed him.

I’m a terrible person to watch TV with. I irritate the hell out of everyone because I have a hard time staying still for a full hour. I’m up and down all the time. And I’m definitely bouncing around doing a hundred other things during commercial breaks.

So I switched it up. I let myself abandon the show and made sure I was there for the ads.

Holy cow.

My friend wasn’t kidding.

Wall to wall visual and audio enticements to eat.

And the food! The worst garbage you could stuff into yourself! I watched pizza parlors vie for who could present the most fattening, decadent, caloric version of the dish. The winner of Worst Thing You Could Eat was a deep dish, over-cheesed creation the perimeter of which was wrapped in bacon. Bacon measured in feet. And they were proud of this. It was a selling point.

Then came the burgers. Double, triple, quadruple patties of fatty meat laden with cheese and mayonnaise.

Then came the restaurant chains getting a jump on the breakfast business. Layers of waffles and pancakes mounded with butter and thick, cloying syrup. Plates piled high with eggs and towers of sausage and bacon.

Then were the buffets that set out their offerings like slop in troughs…touting ‘all you can eat’ as though the more you shovel in, the better.

And the people pictured enjoying these orgies of food are all slim, trim, toned specimens who I doubt ever set foot in the advertisers’ establishments in real life.

It went on and on.

All these images and lures shot into the viewing public’s brains where they will ferment until the compulsion to satisfy the urge placed by advertisers must be obeyed. The burger must be eaten. The pizza must be ordered.

If obesity is such a serious problem that the first lady is devoting a considerable amount of her time to fighting it, why doesn’t someone make the connection to the advertisers who seem to be in competition over who can supply the worst and the most of what your body doesn’t need?

It isn’t the inactivity of watching TV that’s the enemy. It’s the advertisers who’ve researched just when and how to hit their viewers where it’ll reap the most return.

It’s hitting below the belt. And unfortunately, for a lot of people, that belt is getting bigger and bigger and bigger…

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The Lost Reality of Etiquette

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“Reality ain’t nuthin’ but rude.”

She was large, obese, with a babe in arms and a bevy of other little ones storming her for attention. She was standing in front of one of those stores whose idea of window dressing begins and ends with rank upon rank of television monitors.

She was referring to a reality show featuring a few drunk twenty-somethings stumbling into walls, spitting curses and throwing whatever came to hand, their images multiplied a dozen times over. She turned a sad eye my way.

“Don’t matter what I say; when my kids see this kinda stuff, they figure ‘s okay to b’have like animals.”

The world of social media is geared toward acquiring followers, likes, hits, attention. And it’s far more interesting to observe the antics of misbehavior than polite manners.

This woman is raising her children at a time when rudeness is applauded, encouraged, rewarded with reality TV star status. Act out, incur conflict, and you’ve got an audience. More than that; you’ve got a following! Doesn’t matter if you’re liked. What matters is you’re seen.

The woman herding her progeny before her, and away from the spectacle of over-the-top confrontation, told me it’s a losing battle. She can exercise all the parental control available in her home, but at some point whether it’s TV or online or from playmates inundated with the same ‘reality’ message, rudeness will filter down through the cracks like ashes in Pompeii.

“Kids’ gonna be rude and won’t know how to spell, neither.”

My guess is she’s blaming the space limits imposed by Twitter and texting for that last. But I could be wrong. There might be a reality show out there about spelling bee losers that I haven’t encountered yet. I’m not worried.

I’m sure it’ll filter down and coat me with its fine ash.

‘Cause you can’t escape reality. And like the lady said, ‘Reality ain’t nuthin’ but rude.”

cattongue

 

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