Tag Archives: Truman Capote

The World Wide Living Room


All modern etiquette can be boiled down to; the world is not your living room. There is a very thin (practically invisible) membrane between our public and private lives these days. For some situations this transparency is positive. Many topics that were once off limits for discussion in polite and even impolite society are now fair game. It’s challenging to view this as anything but on the whole a good thing. People are much more aware of the symptoms and treatment options for breast, colon and ovarian cancer in no small part because of our comfort level sharing intimacies. For every pee stick photo we’re subjected to, we know that more women (and perhaps men) have a better understanding of fertility and reproduction. It’s difficult to find fault with our newfound comfort level of what was once shrouded in secrecy.

However there’s sharing and then there’s sharing. No doubt we’ve all been subjected to one-side of a phone conversation that contained the most personal and gruesome details. Never again do I wish to share a commute with a woman describing; “the itching and burning but no bumps.” Nor do I want to enjoy my salad while a baby gets his diaper changed at the next table. (And yes, it happened in close enough proximity that I know for a fact it was a boy.) I’d like to ride on public transport without the fear of someone’s frappamachocino landing in my lap. I’d really like to never again sit through any performance at which the audience is; texting, updating their status, talking, eating, drinking, playing with plastic bags, or performing personal hygiene. And while we’re on the subject; hair is not a toy. It is not to be played with in public, especially over my dinner plate.

Truman Capote told us volumes about Miss Golightly when he described her as “idly, publicly combing her hair” at a table at “21”. It was a clue because it simply wasn’t (and shouldn’t be) done. It’s unsanitary, and in a world in which people clip hand santizer to themselves, you would think that went without saying. But if the world is your living room and there no longer is such a thing as public space then why not polish one’s nails on an airplane? Why not walk down a crowded city sidewalk while typing and assume the rest of the world will clear a path? Why wouldn’t you spend an hour in a Holocaust exhibit with a wailing baby strapped to your front? How could any of these behaviors affect anyone else? After all you’re in your living room.

But see the thing about the planet is that it’s finite. We’ve known this for some time and have maneuvered our social ways to fit that schema. We’ve always had a sense of personal space and of the personal. There was a time when proper people did not dine in public. The act of eating was seen as far too intimate to be done in front of strangers. Private dining rooms and draped banquets were created to ease the discomfort. It’s quite a leap to changing a dirty diaper on a restaurant table, no? This transition did not happen in a vacuum. As we’ve become more liberated in what we share, our lives have become more regimented. Most of us follow rules and procedures our ancestors couldn’t even dream/nightmare. Where they might summon a doctor to their home when feeling ill, we must perform an acrobatic act to rival the Karamazov Brothers to navigate healthcare and insurance. We spend more time pressing “0” in a vain attempt to speak to a human; a human not reading from a script. We fill out forms, choose passwords and codes, and follow follow follow the rules. We reboot, recharge and wait for installation to watch a television that used to just plug into the wall. Is it any wonder that we simply resist any more rules and constraints?

When we’ve had enough (and that occurs almost daily) we just want to break free. However it’s possible to feel free without being hostile. And make no mistake; ignoring the existence of others is a hostile act. Acting as if other people are not entitled to the same resources is a hostile act. Invading people’s physical, auditory, olfactory or visual space is a hostile act. Learning to share is the very first lesson we are taught. Sharing means acknowledging that others exist and we don’t in fact wear an invisibility cloak. The key is to differentiate our impulses from our conscious behavior. Is it easier for us to change a dirty diaper whenever and wherever we’d like? Yes in fact it is, but do we really want to be someone who (literally) poops on the world? Is that what we want to put out into the universe? Is that what we want our children to emulate?

Is daily life sometimes a wicked pain in the bum? Absolutely, but each time you leave your living room and step into the light step into the day, there’s potential for positive interaction. It would be silly to ignore that opportunity.


Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Cultural Critique


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Where Have All The Good Hosts Gone?

TV - Mike Douglas, James Earl Jones, Ray Charles - 19740204

Does anyone remember Mike Douglas? Not Kirk’s son, but the singer, or more to the point the talk show host. If you’re old enough to know what the dial is in “don’t touch that dial” you remember talk shows. There were the urbane slightly sexy late-night variety, that is still offered, though diluted, today. Mike and his contemporaries; Dinah Shore and Merv Griffin were on during the daytime hours. They had each been singers during the big band era and were all incredibly affable.

Each weekday, Mike, Dinah and Merv would host guests, sing a little tune and perhaps perform in an iffy sketch. But it was the guests one really tuned in for. The known and unknown would flock to the couches (and chairs) to chat. Maybe they would perform a bit, but mostly they were there to chat. There was nothing being sold or pitched or positioned. The host (whether M, D or M) would engage the guest (as a good host does) and entertain us with their conversation. The guests were incredibly varied and included political and controversial figures (they also included dancing dogs.) Many of the guests were boldfaced names of Broadway and Hollywood. Others were simply great conversationalists. Some guests were clearly friends of M, D or M, some just dropped by while passing through town. The guests would not then reappear spouting the exact same quips on the couch of the remaining M, D or M. There wasn’t a circuit being run guided by handlers.

Daytime television has changed much over the decades. The popular rhetoric is that people are not home during the day to watch television. But of course this does nothing to explain the spate of news-lite talk shows. For at least a decade the networks, and others, have filled their morning programming with chattering, relatively unscripted talk shows. There are usually a gaggle of hosts sitting around drinking out of large mugs and perhaps a guest drops by to sell his/her wares. There are a small handful of afternoon talk shows built around a host. Every pilot season a new “oh is that what happened to him/her?” celebrity is packaged and (hopefully) sold as a talk show host. Some find their groove some do not. It hardly matters for the guests are exactly the same on each and every show. The questions asked are the same (as written and contracted by handlers) the answers and ‘ad libs’ are the same. The movie, book, show, image, is pitched, the host fawns and everyone goes home happy. You could spend a week clicking the remote and see and hear the exact same thing on each and every show. There is no longer a place for Tiny Tim (look him up), Norman Mailler, a yogi, Martin Luther King Jr., Liberace, Truman Capote or Spiro Agnew (look him up) on the couch, unless of course they were selling their reality show.

Is memory rose colored? One would desperately hope. Who wants to spend their later years remembering anything but hazy romantic perfectly lit moments? But even if the memories are completely faulty and that of a child, even if Minnie Pearl was in fact selling a line of hats, wouldn’t it be grand to have Mike, Dinah and Merv back on the air? How much more entertaining would it be to hear extended conversations without being sold anything besides soap and canned soup? Wouldn’t it be fun to see stars of yesteryear and the yet undiscovered side by side? How interesting would it be to hear from actual writers and artists and even politicians? And to have all of it delivered with a thousand watt smile and a song? Don’t touch that dial.

Merv Griffin Show Theme Song


Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing


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