Oct 18, 2005

Split Screens

On campus, in the bobcat den, the TV is always tuned to Fox News. I had forgotten this part about America. The anchor is a lady with a cinderblock-shaped head; eyes not on a line; with that definitive shade of blonde hair which doesn't suggest a prototype so much as a new ethnic group.

She's serious, but a little wall-eyed. I keep thinking of Y. and how his classmates would tease him. "Don't look at me," one would say. "No, he's not looking at you, he's looking at me," another would answer.

The TV screen is split. On one side, a bridge built in 1823 in Taunton, Mass is about to burst. We're watching from a helicopter. The governor is on the phone. All the people living below the dam have been evacuated. But all is not safe because there is a second dam above the first and if the second goes, the first might be undermined and then it wouldn't be 6 feet of water rolling though a small Mass town, but 10 feet and maybe with that there would be at least one person drowned. Worst case, no one is drowned.

As time passes, it's as though we're being denied this small calamity. We need the visual caffein to go on. The jarheaded woman asks the governor endless questions, over and over. But the bridge will not go down on cue. The governor has to go back to work.

On the other side of the screen a reporter in Islamabad speculates on whether Osama Bin Laden might have been killed in the recent earthquake. He might have been, we don't know, but many people were killed in an area he was known to frequent years ago. Anything is possible in the war on terror.

So we have news of Osama Bin Laden and a failing bridge. Odds are one of them will give. Then, underneath, on the ribbon, an attorney's wife murdered in California; a new storm in the Carribbean is now a hurricane;and the Plamegate scandal is reaching beyond Rove, to Cheney.

The longer you look at her the more you realize the anchor has been trained or cloned, or her face drooped to reflect the stress of ongoing calamity, and as we watch her we know the only way we'll ever see her smile is if that bridge is swept away.

I go away for a few hours and return after lunch. The bridge hasn't collapsed. But now there's footage of people dragging a large man out of a small burning car. The murder in California is still unsolved. The Baltimore tunnel was closed because of a terror threat. A Seahawk corner has a fractured skull. The death toll in Pakistan is up to 50,000 people. The anchor is skaking her head. She repeats the governor's view that he does not expect looting if the bridge goes in Taunton. We see hear his say again that the mayor of Taunton has been on top of this from the beginning. But if both dams go, it could be serious. He admits that. And there are 750 other private dam in Mass, all built in the 19th Century and any of those could go. Trucks could be overturned; backyards decimated; tree limbs cut off; parking lots obliterated; basements filled.

That's not all. An endless loop plays of NYPD men, in full military regalia, M-16s drawn, moving through New York subways. There's a new threat, which piggybacked on top of the terror threat in Baltimore. And then here's Ms. Meier and it turns out she voted to stop all abortions except if the life of the mother is endangered.

Think of that! What that could mean. The beauty of Fox news is that it does what Dave Burgin always says it should. There should be something on every page that appeals to somebody. If you don't get turned on by the thought of a bursting dam what about if Roe v Wade is overturned. How about that? Then you'd have something to wail about. You get your fear wherever you can, but you get it.

And still the dam won't burst. You want to kick that dam, you want to see something disasaterous. Just in time we see, for second time in 60 seconds the big men being pulled violently out of the small burning car.