Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Quiz Show

I present to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury yet more evidence that our nation is in decline simply because it does not read. This evidence, ironically enough, has been gathered from watching TV.

It story goes like this. Occasionally, I drag my sorry self to the health club, climb on a stationary bike, and begin a long trip to nowhere that will hopefully stave off until at least 2008 my inevitable knee implant. Since I sweat like a Boss Hogg in a steam room, it’s impossible for me to read as I spin the pedals. Small televisions are attached to the stationary bikes, and I’ll watch tube instead.

As perspiration drips off by the gallon, I often watch “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Not only does this show go far in confirming my smug sense of superiority over the American body politic, but it provides ample distraction from the pain I am enduring at the time, as well as the fact if a paramedic saw me, he’d drag me off and slap on the paddles and scream “Clear!”

Now, for anyone who has watched “Millionaire,” you will know that contestants answer multiple-choice questions that get harder as you progress. Not that I am saying I would win a million bucks, but I did observe the other day that contestants could not answer the following questions without help:

--Which of the following sections in a book is presented alphabetically? An appendix, index, table of contents, or footnotes?

--Where off Australia’s coast is the Great Barrier Reef? The NE, NW, SE, SW?

--Is Osama bin-Laudin not left-handed, 5-8, brown-eyed, or in need of a cane to walk?

(Now, I don’t know if you could answer all of these, but I’m guessing that you could answer at least one. If not, then I have seriously misjudged the readership here. Please, tell me you know the answer to the first question. Otherwise, I quit.)

It’s sexy time to read!

If you don’t know that an index appears at the back of a book, you may or not be stupid, but it definitely means you don’t read many books. Even if you’re not an insular, Ugly American, if you don’t know that the GBR is on Australia’s northeast coast, you haven’t cracked open an atlas awhile or don’t read accounts chronicling the reef’s decline.

And if one read newspapers, magazines surfed or hell, even watched the television news once in a while, one would know 6-6 Osama is tall enough to be a power forward for the Al-Queda Buttholes.

What I found a bit sad was after not knowing what an index is, the contestant knew that the TV show “Full House” was set in San Francisco, for which I conjure images of a bathhouse in the Castro. (Which probably says something about myself that I shouldn’t have said. I mean, I’ve never been to a bathhouse. Not alone, I mean.)

Perhaps I am being a Pollyanna to believe The World Would Be a Better Place If People Read Books, but I’m thinking, these people are supposed to represent our great nation, they vote, they represent the brainpower that is supposed keep our nation an economic superpower. Let’s just quit now and succumb to the inevitable Asian takeover.

Oh, sure, I’m smug. In one edition of the greatest cartoon of all time, “Life in Hell,” tells us how to be an Unrecognized Genius. I can’t fully describe Matt Groening’s brilliance here; the cartoon has one of Groenig’s iconic man-rabbits sullenly watching a game show in which the contestant can’t figure out that Fred Flinstone says “Yabba dabba do!” The artist mumbles, “Idiot. Those prizes are rightfully mine.”

Like I say, I simply don’t want to ridicule people with low IQs. But as anybody who watched five minutes of Borat will know, many of my fellow Americans are, say, somewhat ignorant. Perhaps not all or even most of us, but enough to humiliate the nation as a whole.

Such people can’t find Canada on a map, don’t know the three branches of the federal government, and have more interest in baseball than the tragedies surrounding us, at home and abroad.

Says it all

It’s too bad we elected such a person twice to the Presidency. But making fun of such people, to paraphrase what a friend once, is like making fun of retarded people (which is what Borat does).

Like our attention-deficit plagued, probably dyslexic president, Americans don’t read much. And if they did, perhaps our great nation will not have to suffer through an inevitable economic collapse, or at least not humiliate ourselves on television. After all, most of the people who don’t know the answer to “Millionaire” questions are simply ignorant of the world. If they read, they wouldn’t come off as stupid.

Well, maybe not all of them. Like the woman who thought that the giant screens at rock concerts and sports stadiums was called a “SuperTron.”

We all know it’s “ToejamTron.”