Sometimes it amazes me. If you really slow down a little bit, and consider this era of information-overload, this constant assault of headlines and tidbits, gossip and chatter, it’s a wonder that our brains can even function at all. If our brain is, in essence, a machine—sorting the wheat from the chaff, choosing what to retain and what to dismiss—it’s truly amazing that it doesn’t just grind to a halt under the weight of all this useless information.
Yes, this is the “Information Age.” Compare, for a moment, the amount of daily information that we receive now with someone who lived a century or two ago, in 1912 or 1812. And I’m not talking about education; I’m talking about the noise, the clutter, the static, that benefits us in no meaningful way. It only serves to gum up the works. It sticks between the gears and breaks their teeth, burns out the motor.
It’s noise, like birds chirping and train whistles and traffic. Sometimes it’s pleasant, and other times it’s obnoxious. Often, we seek it out, as a diversion or distraction. It’s information as entertainment.
For example, Snooki is pregnant. Megan Fox might be, too. Abandoned donkeys are wandering Texas. Best Buy is closing 50 stores. The poet Adrienne Rich died last week, and so did banjo legend Earl Scruggs. William Shatner recently celebrated a birthday, and Jack Kerouac would have.
An elderly hiker in California claimed he was watching a mother bear and her cubs when he was pounced by a cougar. Luckily, the mama bear came to his rescue, and fought the cougar off. He escaped with minor injuries.
Candice Bergen confirmed she suffered a stroke six years ago, and a couple in Boulder built a 125 square-foot home. A Houston restaurant is offering a 10-course meal based on one served to Titanic passengers. It costs $12,000, and offers none of the excitement. In related news, Kate Winslet announced that hearing “My Heart Will Go On” makes her sick. Meanwhile, Rihanna and Ashton Kutcher might be an item. And a 19-year-old girl from Wales has eaten nothing but cheese pizza for eight years, as she suffers from an eating disorder that makes her afraid to try new foods.
Sales of Skittles and hoodies have spiked dramatically in the wake of the TrayvonMartin controversy, transforming them into cultural artifacts overnight. The band Jet, of “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” fame, broke up. Google unveiled the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive, and Etch-A-Sketch sales jumped 1,556% after Mitt Romney’s staffer made an ill-advised reference to the toy.
Scientists discovered that honeybees are dying because basic pesticides confuse their navigation system, and they lose their way back to the hive. Four paintings worth $1 million were recovered in Germany, 24 years after being stolen from a New York gallery. Rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis got married for the seventh time—to his cousin’s ex-wife. And toy-maker Mattel agreed to make a bald “friend of Barbie,” after a Facebook campaign urged the company to produce a hairless doll. Mattel says the company will produce a limited quantity, which will be distributed through children’s hospitals.
The past week has not been extraordinary. The noise level is always turned up to 11. As an entertainment/pop-culture columnist, I sometimes feel a little guilty of contributing to that myself. But mostly, I’m honored to share with you a few things you might find interesting.
Nevertheless, I think that we need to step into a little self-induced silence sometimes. Give your brain a rest. Turn off the electronics once in a while. Go outside, enjoy the spring weather, and lay in the grass. Try it this weekend. The world around you will wait.
Originally printed in “Pulse,” 04/05/2012.
© Damien Willis, 2012. All rights reserved.