Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Checking In

I was worried. It was Saturday and I had interviewed at Nameless Clothing Superstore over a week ago. It went okay---except I discovered, in the interview, that the position they wanted me for was not the full-time sales job I applied for. They looked at my education, work history and 10 years’ of sales experience and decided I would make a great shelf-stocker. Part-time. On their overnight shift. 9pm-5am, that is.

Another “Snark Interview”? You could say that, although it wasn’t the nightmare my encounter with Tammy the Invisible Woman had been. I had interviewed with “Chip”, a 20-something assistant manager who, back in the day, we would’ve called a “preppy”. What else can you call a guy who wears a halfassed crew cut and a pink dress shirt? He was polite enough, except for his caffeine-charged way of speakinglikethis withabsolutelynobreathsbetweenwordsknowwhatImeanhuh? Honestly, I wasn’t keen on the hours, but a job’s a job. So the little prick hired me.

I mean, he almost hired me. Chip said I was “95% hired”, pending the standard drug test and background check. Results on those, he said, would take 2-3 days. So I hurried over to the clinic that same day, filled the cup and went home and waited. Two days later, I hadn’t heard from Chip, so I called him back. The switchboard operator told me Chip wasn’t available, so I left a message. Chip still hadn’t called back.

Like I said, I was worried, and for three good reasons. First and most importantly, Ye Olde Cash Reserve was running low. I didn’t want to have to start hitting up the ‘rents. I was already living with them. I didn’t want to start asking for an “allowance”, too. Second, I was tired of vacillating between intense job hunting and sitting home waiting for callbacks. I am drug-free and the owner of a clean record. Why wouldn’t Nameless Clothing Superstore want me? Third, my nerves were wearing thin. One more near-miss and I’d freak.

By late Saturday afternoon, I was too antsy to sit by the phone anymore. Desperate times require desperate measures, so I did it. I broke down and went to church.

In a previous incarnation, I was a good Catholic boy. I put in four hard years at a Catholic school (grades 5-8). Dutifully went to C.C.D. and Mass each week, I did. In my bedroom, I even pulled down a poster of my then-idol, the Fonz, and replaced it with a picture of the then-newly-appointed Pope John Paul II. Hit all the Catholic highlights, Communion, Confirmation, etc. at all the right times. Yes, I was a true believer.

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you might recall I said I hadn’t been to church in 6 years. My attendance before that had become sporadic, at best. What happened? Call it Catholic burn-out. Too much of a supposedly good thing. I never stopped being a spiritual person. I prayed regularly (still do) and read a variety of spiritual authors, including Thomas Merton and Reinhold Niebuhr (still do). But for me, things were too cut, dry and exclusive in hard-line Catholicism. Too absolute regarding many things that are and must be speculative and personal. I wanted a relationship with God on His and my terms, not theirs. Then there were those scandals everyone has read about. I don’t like being preached at, so I won’t preach at you. And no, I don’t mean to offend anyone. This was just my own experience.

I realize my turning to the Church now smacks of hypocrisy. It is hypocritical to be a seasonal Catholic, or a seasonal anything. But then again, the Church is and is for its people, even lapsed members like me. I felt a need to check in, if you know what I mean. I didn’t know what I’d find there, I had no clear expectations. I just knew I needed to go.

At 5pm, I was sitting in a balcony pew at the local parish. The church, a typical post-Vatican II spartan setting, was less than half full. There was a lot of gray hair in that group; I’d say 80% of them were 55 and over. The rest seemed to be single parents (primarily moms) who’d dragged kids there to introduce them to the faith. It was odd. The five o’ clock Saturday Masses I remembered always seemed to be packed. But who am I to judge?

The Mass was both the same and different. The prayers, songs and responses hadn’t changed. The priest, a personable guy in his late 50s or early 60s, ably assisted us through the ceremony. He flowed easily from one idea to another and tempered his talk with gentle humor to hold our attention. It was a refreshing switch from the sour-faced clergy of the old days, who’d get up there and drone on like the robot from “Lost In Space”. It was Trinity Weekend and the priest spoke of the union of three persons in God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), the Triune God, which he claimed lived within us all. To be honest, I never really grasped this concept back in C.C.D. and it remained sketchy now. But it was a nice sentiment.

One thing the priest mentioned sticks out in my mind. He urged us all to “search out ways to bring and create unity” in our homes and to “be and bring Christ” to our community. It made sense. He was saying that if we wanted to see and experience the benefits of the faith in action, we had to take action to make it so. Maybe this isn’t a new idea, but it was new to me. In the Catholicism I learned, people always seemed to be helpless pawns simply following rules, or waiting for gifts to fall from the sky. It was nice to know that we mere mortals could play a role in it, have some responsibility. I wasn’t bowled over, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Another thing that surprised me was the large part women played in this Mass. I recall priests being assisted in Mass by at least one deacon and a couple altar boys, exclusively a Y-chromosome crew. Here, the priest was assisted only by two altar girls, both around age twelve, and two women. The girls quietly and capably did their jobs. The women split their duties---one gave the readings and led the singing, and the other alternated between playing piano and organ. I always remembered the off-key caterwauling of a hapless crew of glee club rejects. These two ladies were professionals, or at least professional-level quality. They helped me understand what all those picketers outside the Vatican were yelling about. Again, maybe this isn’t so uncommon, but I’ve been off the radar for a while.

I pretty much sat back and observed. I was never a singer and I didn’t take Communion. It had been so long, it didn’t really seem right for me to do so. Toward the end of the service, I smiled in recognition when, just before passing the collection baskets, the priest mentioned “the Annual Diocesan Appeal”. Still hustling for the Cause. I dumped a dollar in the basket, mainly because I was happy they let me sit through the whole Mass. I feared they had some secret way of telling how often you attended and would bounce me out for letting my membership lapse.

Then the Mass was over. It was okay. Nothing earth-shaking. I didn’t have visions of angels and I wasn’t struck by an urge to go preach the Gospels in remote corners of the world. When I was a kid, I used to love attending Mass because---in spite of the tone-deaf choir and dull orations---I always came out of it with a certain feeling, a glowing feeling of community, security and purpose. Maybe it was something spiritual, or even divine. Maybe it was just relief in knowing I had a community, security and a purpose in a world where those qualities were often lacking. As nice as this Mass was, I didn’t get that feeling there.

Of course, that might say more about me than the Church. Perhaps I’ve become too skeptical, jaded or even lazy. After all, you only get out of it what you put into it. Still, I took that seat in the balcony for a reason. From there, I could see the whole crowd. I watched them, to see if they were getting that feeling. Most of the faces I read were blank, mindlessly mouthing the responses that had been drilled into them since kindergarten. At one point, the woman leading the singing reminded us to turn off our cell phones. Many---adults, mind you---fidgeted nervously in their seats, or whispered to companions through the service. One guy even nodded off for a few minutes. After Communion, nearly half the people left, before the Mass had formally ended. The priest’s closing blessing was drowned out by the sound of engines starting in the parking lot. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one missing that feeling.

I waited for the parking lot to clear before I left. I was glad I’d come. It had been an agreeable hour. I didn’t know if I’d be back next week, or ever. At least I had “checked in”. But that was no big deal. So had almost everyone else.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Celebrating the Cultural Event of "Star Wars". . .Not

The interview was scheduled for the following day. Sales drone for Nameless Clothing Superstore. In these situations, I tend to over-prep, spending the day before studying job search manuals, anticipating interview questions, etc.. Then the big day arrives and the stuff I pored over for hours never comes up. This time, I told myself, would be different. This time, I’d wing it and see where the winds of chance carried me.

In spite of my new attitude, however, I’m still the president of the Habitual Worriers’ Club. Endless “what if’s” play like tape loops in my head. I don’t mean to do it, it’s just the genetic cloth I’m cut from. I had to find a constructive task to occupy my mind, or I’d be a frazzled, sweaty wreck by interview time. My anxious eyes happened to fall upon a box of corn flakes sitting on the kitchen counter. The box featured a photo of robots R2-D2 and C-3PO. To the right of the photo perched the ubiquitous “Star Wars” logo and the phrase “Celebrate the Saga!” Bingo.

As of this writing, the film hasn’t been released yet. But that hardly matters. The “Star Wars” juggernaut has risen again, bulldozing across our “cultural” landscape and flattening everything in its path. Never mind that the last two movies sucked. Forget the cardboard characters, lifeless dialogue and logistical holes you could drive a Hummer through. George Lucas has given emotionally stunted dweebs across America a reason to emerge from their basements and see the sun again.

This emotionally stunted dweeb, however, headed down into his basement. Somewhere in that dark and dusty time capsule, amidst the paint cans, patio furniture, snow tires and party dresses my sister wore once in high school and never looked at again, lay a treasured artifact of my childhood: my collection of “Star Wars” action figures.

[WARM N’ FUZZY ALERT!] I am a member of the first generation of “Star Wars” fans. Back in 1977, my grandmother was searching for a way to keep hyperactive me out of trouble. So she hauled me off to a screening of “A New Hope”. Grandma thought the movie was B.S., reacting only to the cantina scene which, she claimed, resembled what Uncle Charlie saw each Friday night after his fourth Manhattan. I, however, like any 6-year old boy, was instantly hooked. I painted a couple of paper towel rolls blue and taped them onto a flashlight to make myself a “lightsaber”. A box-shaped portable heater on wheels became my “R2-D2”. I secretly fell in love with Princess Leia, my very first crush. Loved those little braids of hers, I did. For the next 6 years, I inhaled comic books and novelizations and snapped up every toy I could afford. To this day, my mother speaks in amazement: her previously unmotivated son was inspired to pull weeds and rake leaves, just to earn money to buy Greedo and Walrus Man dolls (Sorry, I mean, action figures). Yes, those were heady days, indeed.

By 1983, however, 2 things had happened. First, it got old. Yeah, “The Empire Strikes Back” was good and remains the series’ high point. But by “Return of the Jedi”, we’d been “Tron-ed”, “Battlestar Gallactica-ed” and “Black Holed” to distraction. After so many copies, even the original seemed pale by comparison. Second, I got old(er). True, the sight of my beloved Leia in a gold metallic bikini made my hormones bubble. Nevertheless, the fact that Lucas resorted to Carrie Fisher cheesecake and cutesy-Disney characters (Ewoks, anyone?) by the concluding chapter made it obvious, even to my 12-year old mind, that the series had run out of gas. Yet, it was a good ending to a series that had provided us all with a happy diversion. I went home, put my “Star Wars” toys away and commenced to dreaming of Heather Locklear, Heather Thomas, Connie Sellecca, Kate Capshaw. . .you get the picture.

So there’s the contrast between Then and Now. Then, “Star Wars” was simply a few good sci-fi movies that, if you had them on video, you’d take out and watch on a rainy Saturday for laughs every once in a while. Now. . .it’s a saga worthy of celebration. In other words, a phenomenon known as the “Manufactured Event”.

The Manufactured Event is something created by that faceless, ominous body known as Those Wanting to Make a Shitload of Cash as Quickly as Possible (TWMSCQP). Much like the Church of Posthumous Appreciation, they appear out of nowhere, seize on an occurrence previously filed under “no big deal” and proceed to inflate that occurrence into an event tantamount to the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Pope croaking, with accompanying memorabilia, on sale now at a store near you!! If TWMSCQP has its druthers, everyone in America between the ages of 5 and 45 will run out and see “Revenge of the Sith” at 12:01am on Thursday, and 100 times after that, so that they may be able to tell future generations, yet unborn, that They Were There When It Happened. If you don’t, says TWMSCQP, you’ll be missing out on History, you irresponsible citizen, you.

Yes, I was a tried and true fan of the original trilogy. But I waited until “Phantom Menace” and "Attack of the Clones" limped onto cable before I saw them and pronounced them. . .well, not crappy, but less than what I expected. You do what you want to do. Maybe someday, months from now, if I’m employed and have the cash to spare, I might buy the 6-DVD set that will be clogging shelves at Kmart by then. Perhaps I’ll sit down and watch films 1-6, in order, and pass a pleasant evening. And then I’ll stick those DVDs in a closet and forget them. Again. Until some rainy Saturday afternoon.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep hunting for those important artifacts. If I find them, I’m going to put them on eBay and sell them, for the best price, to some dweeb (I mean, collector) who’s in the market for little plastic dolls made for kids back in the 1970s and 1980s.

I wonder what Connie Sellecca’s up to these days?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Good At That

I checked my watch and cursed. 11AM. It was supposed to be a quick trip. Dash out, pick up Mom’s prescription refill and dash back home to catch any callbacks on the million resumes I’ve sent out. No problem, since Mom is, after all, letting her unemployed son live in her house. The goods were in hand by 10AM and I was headed toward the door. Then a sign caught my eye.

“CAREER OPPORTUNITIES,” the sign read. I zeroed in on it like a heat-seeking missile on a bonfire, narrowly outrunning a senior citizen. Poor Grandpa tripped on his orthopedic loafers in the home stretch. The next thing I knew, I’d wasted an hour thumb-wrestling the ornery trackball on the hiring kiosk at XYZ Department Store.

Applying for jobs has become a compulsion with me. Any time I see a “HELP WANTED” sign, I stop in and apply. I’ve applied at places I previously wouldn’t have considered for two seconds: restaurants, convenience stores and oil change stations, among others. I’m sad to say there’s a subtle form of bias among us retail grunts. Those who toil in specialty stores (Best Buy, Borders, Old Navy, etc.) tend to look down their noses at the drones in general merchandise shlockhouses (the –Marts, for example). Those in general merch pooh-pooh the needy souls working in those little bits of Hell on Earth, fast food places and gas stations. As if it takes a PhD to stock shelves at one store and not another, right? Like Anonymous Smarty Pants once said, “There’s no shame in honest work.” The one place I did pass up, however, was an adult video store advertising for a new cashier. There would be no way to gloss that over on a resume.

Okay, Take 2: with Mom’s blood pressure medicine in hand, I headed for the door. . .

“John Left! John Left!” called a female voice.

Damn, I thought, I’ve sunk to a new low. A woman actually wants to speak with me and I’m feeling inconvenienced.

I turned toward the voice and was instantly transported back 17 years. It’s a frigid Saturday in November. Halftime at a varsity football game I had absolutely no interest in. The marching band is finishing up its rendition of Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie”, but I’m too busy freezing to notice. I only perk up when the reason I’m there hits the field: the cheerleading squad. I always meant to thank the designer of those rah-rah uniforms for making my fantasies oh-so-much richer. A prime collection of teenage beauties, for sure. But the cartwheels and hand-stands of one coltish, ruddy-faced blonde cause my body temperature to spike 20 degrees, unfreezing my ass from the bleachers and popping several zits on my face. Young love. Sigh.

Segue to Monday in the cafeteria. Ruddy blonde walks past my usual table, popularly known as “The Losers’ Lounge,” at lunch.

“Hey!” I call to her, doing my best Anthony Michael Hall. “Nice cartwheels last Saturday!” Even then, I had a touch of the Poet in me.

“You were there?” ruddy blonde answers, beaming. “Wow, thanks! I was so cold, I couldn’t concentrate and screwed up our routine.” Amazingly, ruddy blonde sits down
next to me in The Losers’ Lounge and proceeds to make conversation. Like you’d do with another actual human being. And somehow, she refrains from dumping her can of Fanta Red Cream Soda over my head when I do my Max Headroom impression. I got a lot of soda pop shampoos in those days. Then, they called it dorkiness. Now, they’d feed me Ritalin.

So began. . .a pleasant friendship. As much as I wanted to be her one and only, she and I were never more than friends. But she was that rarest of birds: the pretty and popular cheerleader who made time to be nice to Quasimodo here. I never forgot it.

Back to 2005. The pretty and popular cheerleader stood before me again. “John, long time no---” said this woman, who I’ll call “Denise.” Why do people, upon meeting old acquaintances, always spout the S.O.S.? If you’re so happy to see them, why struggle for words?

“Denise!” I said, shaking her hand. “What are you doing here?” See what I mean?

Denise was still ruddy and blonde. Like most of us, she was also sporting a few wrinkles and a couple extra pounds. But she still made my body temp spike. And she was wearing a new uniform---that of an XYZ Store employee. My question caused her to look down bashfully and wring her hands.

“Working,” Denise said, “at the cosmetics counter.”

“A new career!” I said, trying to sound upbeat. “Last I heard, you were a social worker for the county.”

“Yeah, until last year. It was a great job, but my nerves finally gave out. I’m. . .in transition now. How about you?”

The Dreaded Question. My wheels started spinning.

“I’m a freelance copyeditor for Acme Publishing. I work from home. Which is why I’m here. Now. On a weekday.” I ended with a patently phony chuckle.

A gruff voice, much like the Sergeant’s on “Gomer Pyle,” boomed out of the store’s loudspeaker system. “A representative from each department must report to Customer Service to pick up your strays. A representative from each department. . .” For the laypeople: “strays” is retail-talk for stuff customers pick up and then dump in other aisles for the hell of it, or stuff customers leave at the checkout lanes when their checks bounce or their Visa, MasterCard and Amex get refused. It’s the drones’ task to go off whistling like the Seven Dwarves and reshelf the stuff. This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Denise laughed and patted me on the shoulder. “Oh, that’s me! Take care, Johnny. Good luck with the publishing. I’m glad to see you’re making it. Maybe I’ll see you at the next reunion.”

“Maybe,” I said, waving as Denise hurried off. “So long.”

I left the store, jumped into my car and pulled out of the lot. I felt unusually warm, but it was a different kind of warm than what I felt 17 years ago. Even if they do hire me, I thought, I’ll just brew up another story to cover myself. I’m getting good at that.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Our Dog has Fleas and Ticks

In the public library, they only let you work on the computer for one hour a day, so I had to move fast. My advisor at the Employment & Training Center said I should remove all the dates I listed in the “Work History” section of my resume. He said it would help me avoid “ageism”. Just yesterday, I was part of the Wave of the Future. Now, I had to resort to trickery to avoid being drowned by it. What should I do for an interview, spike my hair and wear surf shorts? Aging. Like rust, you never see it happen.

So, point, click, delete, backspace and repeat, repeat, repeat. Then save and I was done. God bless Bill Gates for making it easy for us techno-dunces. The trouble was, I still had about 45 minutes left, said the little clock in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Why let it go to waste? So I clicked on the little blue “e” for Internet Explorer.

I logged on to Google to catch up on the news. That day’s headlines focused on Georgia’s alleged “Runaway Bride”, who had resurfaced in New Mexico, safe and sound.
I won’t insult your intelligence by recapping the details, since they’ve been splashed across every screen and page between, well, Georgia and New Mexico. It is the ultimate 21st Century American scandal. Maybe. Yet again.

This situation provides a golden opportunity to take the Higher Ground, and so I will. I am not going to judge 32-year old Jennifer Wilbanks of Duluth, Georgia. That job is for her community, her family and more importantly, the law. Eventually, if it becomes clear that her disappearance was consciously planned beforehand, then Wilbanks will and should be subjected to the full extent of the law. But as of this writing, the complete story remains unknown. Further commentary at this time is, of course, speculation.

However, at times like these, the thinking person or someone like me, who’s bored and has too much spare time, steps back and asks themselves two questions. First, “Can any good come out of this mess?” Second, “What does this mean to the rest of us?” And I’m proud to say that doing so has revealed one hard truth for which I’m happy to break out my dissection tools and examine. Namely, that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Hollywood, the media and us---the American public. Yep, I tried to ignore it too, like the plaid sport jacket Dad wore to my college graduation. But after this story, nothing doing. It’s like there’s a tick, fat with blood, hooked onto the back of an even fatter flea that’s anchored to the hide of the biggest, heftiest Labrador Retriever the world has ever seen, and there ain’t a can of flea powder in sight. But one might be on the way.

It’s a premise emerging from the Wilbanks story that I must accept, if only hypothetically, because it was so widely noted by the media with typical sledgehammer subtlety. Namely, that Life imitates---oh, do I have to finish it? Unless you haven’t looked at a TV since Bush Senior was president, you probably noticed that the Wilbanks story bears the slightest resemblance to a certain Julia Roberts movie that’s in heavy rotation on HBO every other week. Okay, then, guess. If you said “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” congratulate yourself---you’ve just won this month’s "Culturally Oblivious” award.

Again, we don’t know for sure (yet) if the “Runaway Bride” film, or any film, influenced Jennifer Wilbanks’ decision to skip town. But it has been well-established that movies, imaginative products portraying fictional characters in make-believe worlds, do often influence real people in our real world. How many 40-something guys trooped off to overgrown Little League baseball camps after watching “Field of Dreams”? “Million Dollar Baby” spurred a flurry of female interest in boxing. Liquor store owners reported a nosedive in sales of merlot, after the wine was famously snubbed by Paul Giamatti in “Sideways”. And these are just recent examples. Movies are just entertainment? Not for many people, clearly.

Allow me to pick a few nits and say that this just seems. . .wrong, somehow. Adults using movies---or any entertainment---as roadmaps for real life. Need advice or guidance? Don’t consult family, friends or clergy. Forget the wealth of actual human experience available in any public library. No, turn to fantasy and expect the idealized circumstances there to transplant themselves to usually-flawed reality. (Okay, call me a hypocrite for the Andy Garcia move I pulled in “The Snark Job Interview”. Desperate circumstances often lead to desperate measures. But did it work? Exactly. So I know what I speak of.) Evidently, there are persons out there who, in times of trouble, rather than calling the authorities, will send noble Fido out for help instead. Apparently, lonely businessmen are wandering through big cities tonight, expecting to find beautiful and witty ingénues working the streets, who they hope to marry and find the happiness they long for. The line between fact and fiction isn’t blurred; it has been erased.

If there does turn out to be a connection between the Wilbanks situation and the “Runaway Bride” film, what will happen? It will effectively harpoon Hollywood’s tired claim that actors, in the characters they bring to life, aren’t role models. Perhaps then, people who seem so anxious to reap the benefits that artists enjoy will also accept the responsibilities accompanying artistic endeavors. Knowing that audiences invest entertainment with such relevancy might even result in more thoughtful, considerate and at last, superior products than what’s playing at the multiplex today. (Okay, let me dream.) And that will take care of the flea.

But what if there’s no connection between Wilbanks and a movie so lame that even Lucille Ball, had it been pitched to her in the 1950s, when lame was cool, would’ve passed on it? Then the tick’s handiwork will be revealed. You know, the tick that goes by a variety of names: CNN, Fox News, USA Today and others too numerous to list here. It was the tick who took this spark of similarity that 6 months earlier, might’ve been an overlooked blip on the Associated Press wire, and fanned it into the fire of controversy it has become. And for his own benefit, don’t you know.

Around the time Jennifer Wilbanks caught a bus to Albuquerque, the news media was suffering from an acute news drought. Oh, there was plenty of news---the war in Iraq, the lousy economy, etc. But those are so 2004, huh? No, our tick needed some N * E * W * S! Newspaper and magazine-selling news! Log-onto-our-web site-as-a-registered member-for-just-$19.95-and-get-the-latest news! Let’s-give-our-buddies-on-“Nightline” and “20/20”-something-to-chew-on-because-their-ratings-are-dropping news! Besides, how much more could they squeeze out of a weird-by-any-standards pop star who’s so washed up, a stint on “The Surreal Life” couldn’t help him? No, opportunity knocked and Wilbanks was her name.

So the media took the proverbial ball and ran with it. The “Runaway Bride” tie-in provided convenient soundbites and leads for a thousand and one newscasts and articles. Journalism majors might argue that the film reference served as a cultural shorthand of sorts, helping audiences who are swamped with information already to figure out the who's, what's and why's in a quick and easy way. These are the same Journalism majors I’ll be competing with for a job at Wal-Mart this summer. You might be ahead of me here and if you are, then hurray for you. You might’ve realized that this “shorthand” the tick provided us with is really laziness in disguise. But go a step further and see it for what it truly is: something evil.

“John,” you’re probably saying, “it’s time to go back on your meds. Surely, evil is too strong a term, especially when there’s so much afoot in our world today.” But I disagree. Instead of listening with an open mind and exercising your mind to form your own opinion, the movie reference promotes the use of an intellectual “Cliff’s Notes”. Tying a real-life misfortune to sugary Hollywood pap shoe-horns that event into a preconceived situation, with a built-in set of values and judgments. In short, it discourages the audience from thinking. The tick does your thinking for you. The agency supposedly devoted to making you an informed person makes you a misinformed person, for its own financial gain. And isn’t that evil?

Hmm. That’s for you to decide. But when the Jennifer Wilbanks story has played itself out, how will our world be different? We'll be more diligent, right, gang? Now that we’ve figured it out, the flea and the tick shall be removed, out of here, never to return! There’s the good we were looking for! From then on, we’ll live in a better world, one with substantial and responsible entertainment created by artists bent on expanding the audience’s horizons, and a news media that will present honest-to-God news objectively, with plenty of room for thinking and forming one’s own opinions. Right, friends?

Me neither. Most likely, it’ll play out this way: the Jennifer Wilbanks story---once all the particulars are known---will be made into a syrupy, overwrought TV movie. I’ll bet Shannen Doherty and Christina Applegate are already auditioning. And when it premiers, the movie will be the lead story of the evening on your local TV news. You can count on that.