Saturday, February 24, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The World Is Changing So Fast You Don't Know Where You Are (1978)

[NOTE: Recently, I republished a little parody I wrote
decades ago about a lobster dinner. I received many good
comments about it from subscribers. I just found a little
fantasy I wrote and published 40 years ago on a different
topic. It's also both dated and somehow relevant today ---
"reality TV? YouTube? I hope my readers are amused,]

Most persons aren’t aware of it yet, but the large television
networks are aware of it --- and they’re scrambling to adapt
to it. “It” is the new conditions that will exist after all the
legal dust has settled over access to satellite TV transmission,
and the use of cable TV. Most observers are agreed that the
dust is about to settle now, and when it does, just about any
TV broadcaster, large or small, will have the right to become,
in effect, a national TV network.

The implications of this are boggling. There you are in your
attic with a small array of inexpensive used TV broadcasting
equipment, a broadcasting license, and for a small fee, the
right to relay your TV signal to an orbiting satellite. The
satellite, in turn, transmits your attic-made program
potentially to every American household.

You adjust your tie. You take a sip of water. You look straight
into the camera being held by your wife or your child or a
friend --- and you say, :Good evening, this is Irving L. Shlunk
from our studios in Fridley, Minnesota!”

Actually, the speed of change in our time is so rapid that
almost no one is truly keeping up with it. The shah of Iran
is about to slip off his family’s Peacock Throne, and the
balance of international power altered. Vast oil resources
are revealed in previously poverty-stricken Mexico. The
turmoil in Africa.There are those who are suggesting the
polar ice pack will be melting soon.

After decades of prices in the U.S. remaining essentially the
same, prices now soar continually.  Waiters snatch menus
out of your hands, informing you that since you entered the
restaurant, a 15% increase has gone into effect!

Politicians seem the farthest behind of all. They are so busy
fixing their last mistake (which cost the taxpayers a bundle),
that they have no time to figure out how much that
everything has changed. (But elected officials have found an
inspired solution to their problems: they votes themselves a
large pay increase.)

Meanwhile, back in the attic, you are polishing up your
evening news broadcast to the nation in which you finally
set the record straight on why you didn’t take your wife to
the Rosewood Room for dinner on her birthday.

Does America care about this? Sure America cares. Only
yesterday you were watching the “My Today” show
(broadcast from Harry Nerg’s basement in Erie, PA, and
you were almost moved to tears by Harry’s appeal to all
married couples to sign a liability release form each night
before going to bed --- thus avoiding a national crisis of
conjugal relations provoked by recent court cases. “You
never know what an innocent little love nip might turn out
to be in court,” Harry had said.

“This is madness,” you told your national TV audience
that evening, and I told my wife Sylvia that this evening
just before I went on the air.” After the broadcast, your
phone kept ringing past 3 a.m with reactions from your
viewers. You even got a call from Guam.

It is now 4 a.m. You lie in bed awake. Sylvia snores softly
at your side. “The world is changing too fast,” you say to
yourself. “I don’t know where I am.” They aren’t letting
anything remain itself long enough for me to know it’s there.

Then you remember the nice call from the man in Gallup,
New Mexico. “You tell ‘em, Irving!” he heard shouted into
the phone. Suddenly, an image of the shah of Persia
flashes into your mind. “And I think I have problems,”
you think to yourself.

The phone rings.

It’s the president of NBC. It is 4:30 a.m.

“How much do you want for your attic?” he asks.

Copyright (c) 1978, 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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