Where was I? Oh yeah: I don’t know what happened to my attention span, but, wherever it went, I’m pretty sure it’s not the same place my vocabulary went – at least a small but alarming portion of my vocabulary, which is why I find myself reaching more and more often for the right word, which used to be close at hand most of the time but nowadays all too often has to be hunted down with a flashlight – which is so obviously a result of advanced age that not even I can deny it.
“Senior moments” is the euphemism, I believe, though “senility lite” may capture it better. But the problem with my attention span is different: I pick up the paper and see a longish article, and even though it’s clear from the headline that the topic interests me, I resist reading it because, gee, it’ll probably take 10 minutes. So maybe I just scan it instead, and maybe I don’t even start at the beginning, because I don’t want to waste any time, but then, of course, I don’t learn anything at all, so, as it turns out, I did waste time – by not simply reading the thing in the first place.
And then I thought, maybe this is a result of all the short-form new media that are tweeting and chirping and cackling around us 24 hours a day – Snickr and Blathr and SpitItOut, or whatever they’re called. But then I thought, wait, I don’t use those gizmos. I may use FaceThing, or whatever it is (OK, I may use it far too much) but at least that’s the social medium on which lots of people still write in whole sentences – paragraphs, even – which probably confirms that it’s the social medium for fogies.
Fortunately, I’ve found a scapegoat for my attention-span crisis: TV. Not TV as it can be – a new world of quality programming that opens the moment you sign up for the optional-at-extra-cost cable channels or Internet-linked services that can bring real movies into your home for $X.99 a month – no, I’m talking about regular TV, bottom-of-the-barrel TV, basic-cable TV. Or even one-step-above-basic-cable TV. Because it’s all pretty awful: “a vast wasteland,” as Newton Minnow called it, way back in 1961.
Even so, today’s TV wasteland is probably better than the wasteland of yesteryear (unless you’re comparing “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” with “The Beverly Hillbillies”) except for the commercials – and that leads us inexorably to an “Is it me, or … ?” question: Is it me, or does modern TV seem to be an endless loop of nagging, maddeningly mindless commercials, interrupted by brief snatches of program, whereas it used to be the other way round?
Among the worst of them are the now-ubiquitous ads for brand-name drugs aimed at people my age or older (just try watching the network evening news and you’ll see nothing but), including, but not exclusively, ads for Viagra or Cialis, but all of them do feature actors who look healthy and active and barely over 60 (which is how people who are well past 80 probably view themselves) walking briskly and healthfully in the dappled sunshine after having nagged their doctors to prescribe whatever the sponsoring pill or potion is, while a calm voice softly intones the legally required warnings about ghastly possible side effects such as blurred vision, loss of hearing, nausea, unexplained bleeding, sore muscles, suicidal thoughts, homicidal hallucinations, back pain, headache, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation or an erection lasting more than four hours.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.