Wherever we happen to live, our end-of-year diversions usually include the media interest in New Year resolutions. Instead of that, however, I would prefer to give you my New Year hopes pertaining to things I would like to see disappear in the coming year. Looking ahead then through 2013, here are some things I can do without.
One of the items on my list would be those boring ‘Year in Review’ summaries, a particular favourite of the print media, that are a feature of the year-end hullabaloo every year. These backward looks, as inevitable as hangovers following too much booze, come at us in brief examinations on television and radio, but they are particularly noticeable in the print versions where they can consume several pages, in full colour, plus photos, with lavish graphic adornments. Why are our editors going to such elaborate lengths essentially to tell us news we already know? It happened. We were there. We read about it in detail for several days. Why are they telling us again?
Are we all beset by Alzheimer’s? I could see it if the stories were 20 years old, and we may have forgotten about them, but these are recent occurrences – some as recently as two weeks prior – so what is the rush to remind me? My editor friends will tell me, “But Dave, people read these things.” Sure they do – the people featured in the stories and their friends and associates; that’s the lot. For the rest of us, they’re a waste of paper.
I would be grateful, as well, in 2013 not to have to listen to the kind of gratuitous pap that passes for political speeches in this communication age. In countries ranging from the USA, at the top of the scale, to Guyana, considerably lower down, one is regaled with the latest ‘speech from the leader’ where platitudes and shallow rhetoric prevail. I can do without that.
Indeed, as my Barbadian Market Vendor writer friend Vic Fernandes puts it, most of us recognize those utterings as mere fluff. Vic quotes the following speech by a Caribbean leader: “My people, this year will bring stark realities into focus, but we must live up to the challenges. Our people have what it takes to meet them head on.
We have the talent, we have the ideas, and we must summon the collective will to succeed.” According to Vic, the real language should have read: “My people, this year is going be a terrible time, and if you think life was hard last year, brace yourself.
I don’t want you to be burning tyres and blocking the road, but get ready to gird up your loins and meet the worries head on. I hear the people of my country have plenty talent and ideas, but I can’t find them in my government.” The solemn hot air speeches don’t add anything to anything; we could all do without them.
Virtually every day in Guyana, I hear television news items or features where someone is delivering a speech, covered by the station, where the audio reproduction of the person speaking is so bad as to be almost undecipherable. I know exactly what the problem is: instead of taking the time to run a microphone directly from the speaker’s position, the TV crews are using the microphone on the camera, or a microphone far from the podium, to record the speech; it is an amateur approach, and the results bear that out.
In such recordings, the amount of echo and bounce that comes from a person speaking on a small public address system in an enclosed space ultimately produces bad audio, and, ultimately, I turn off such broadcasts. Some of these pieces, by the way, are worthy of one’s attention, but the garbled sound that comes with many of them – all the stations are guilty – is something I can do without.
There used to be a time when your car broke down that it would usually be one of two things – you’re out of gas, or the battery died. That was it. You called a friend to come with a container of gas, or you begged another motorist for a jump start, and you were off.
All right; sometimes you would blow a gasket or split a radiator hose, and that could shut you down for days, but generally it was straightforward – gas or battery. Not again.
Nowadays when your car dies it can be one of 15 things and you have to get a mechanic – sometimes two or three – to figure which of the 15 it is.
It could be the computer (yes, cars have those now), or the ignition override, or the emission control, or, the latest thing, sensors all over the vehicle that are supposed to be there to alert you to approaching problems, but basically they shut down your engine; it won’t even turn over; you have to be towed home.
And, worse yet, reviving your dead vehicle can take days (in Guyana, even weeks) while you wait for the new sensor to come from foreign. The auto industry people will argue that the sensors are a safety feature – of course; they’re selling them at US$100 a pop.
They see it as an improvement; I see it as creating a number of different ways to shut your car down, each of which extracts considerable money from your pocket, not to mention the number of days when the car is disabled until the part arrives. I can do without that.
Most of you out there probably have a ‘do without’ list of your own. Here’s a suggestion: In early December this year, let’s gather the lists and send them to the print folks for a year-end feature called ‘Get Rid of It.’ I guarantee it will be interesting, provocative and hilarious (all editors love that) and I bet it will draw more readers than that boring ‘Year in Review’ silliness.
Besides, look at it this way: if the only consequence is less political pap, it will have been worth it.