Our Lives in Jeopardy

In 1968, if you were off from school in Detroit on a weekday, you might start the day at 8:30 am with Rita Bell’s Prize Money Movie where she would dial for dollars during commercial breaks from black-and-white-movies. It just had to get you to 10:30. Time for Jeopardy.

James, Ken, and Brad battle to be the best on “Jeopardy” 2020. Photo at NYPost.

Last night, Jeopardy completed its “Greatest of All Time Tournament” in riveting fashion as nearly 20 million viewers watched a trio of America’s fastest trivia buffs duke it out for a million dollars. It’s strange to think that you’d spend much of your life watching a particular show, seeing the drama of life play out in questions and answers, risky wagers and eye-popping pull-out-of-your-fundament responses. The players have aged; the hosts have aged; I’ve aged. This is no longer television. This is mythology.

The Game Before Alex

It may seem like a tangent to go back to the first rendition of Jeopardy, which ran on NBC from 1964 to 1975, then again from 1978-79. But, in a way, Jeopardy saved the quiz show, bringing respect back to fact-based questions following the scandal of the 1950s, where contestants were fed correct answers in order to boost TV ratings. In the early 1960s, game shows had switched to focusing away from trivia, where contestants guessed dollar amounts (Price is Right), played simple games (Concentration), or performed silly physical challenges (Beat the Clock.) Jeopardy was the first where contestants had to demonstrate knowledge more than luck and where the answers were more interesting than the banter between barely known celebrities.

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On Reflection

Mirror art which says "Are You Really Here"
Mirror artwork by Jeppe Hein, photo at curator.com

One fun gift I received for Christmas was a book for making short daily bullet point lists, such as “Things to Do on my Next Day Off,” “People I Miss,” or “Advice for my Future Self.” Like a blog post prompt, it lets you do a little self-reflection and riff on the stream of consciousness that ensues. There’s space for three years’ worth of thoughts, so it will be fun to look back on what you were thinking–not to mention that you don’t have stick to three years. Yet, after a few days entering highlights and fun memories from 2019, I was taken aback by the suggested entry for December 30:

Some Things to Say in the Mirror Today:
a.
b.
c.

Ugh! To be honest, this is a detestable thought–looking in a mirror! That seems like a recipe for self-criticism of disastrous portions. I immediately resisted the thought with every fiber of my being. I have never liked looking in mirrors, considering it a necessary requirement of life, rather than an enjoyable pastime. Rather like laundering one’s undergarments, looking in a mirror is a needful chore, not one to get excited or thoughtful about. Does anyone like looking in mirrors?

Bronze Egyptian hand mirror
Mirror from the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, @1700 BC. Metmuseum.org.

Ancient Mirrors, Ancient Self-Absorption

Apparently, the Mespotomians did, or at least they had mirrors, made from polished obsidian and bronze dating roughly back to 4-6000 BC. Found in Turkey, Egypt, and even Central and South America from millennia ago, mirrors seem nearly as old an invention as the boat. Greek urns and Roman busts depict looking in mirrors, so that preparing one’s self to go out into the world seems nearly as ancient as writing or collecting taxes.

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What to Expect for Christmas

‘Tis the season, right? What is it a season for? This week’s Share Your World has made me consider what happens in December–

Long Lines

Lines at the mall, lines for parking spaces, lines at the post office, grocery, freeway exit… it’s a wonder that there aren’t more instances of Holiday Rage. People are more tolerant than usual, except for line cutters… grrrr… bring back public stocks for line cutters! To me, lines at Christmas most often mean people want to get things for other people, which means lines are rooted in good intentions. That can’t be bad. Except for line cutters, who need to go back to kindergarten.

photo from Getty images

Christmas Cards in the Mail

Do you enjoy receiving Christmas cards through snail mail? 

Love getting cards. And letters. It’s going out of style. I especially enjoy getting the photos of people’s kids who are growing up so fast. I like holiday letters, too, because even writing more than one paragraph or 500 words is going out of style. I send long rambling letters, and if you got one and you didn’t like it, sorry. Usually, people say positive things which compels me to write the following year. The long letters are what got me started writing these blog posts. If you don’t do it, there’s no black mark against you, but if you do, ten brownie points. I got a card today from a volunteer agency, which was nice, especially because it was personally signed. Yay cards!

photo by kajmeister

Requests for Money in the Mail

It used to be catalogs filled the mailbox this time of year, but I think charitable solicitations are starting to outnumber them. Unfortunately, this is a case where No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Give generously! But when you have to give your address, which you do for tax purposes, then you’ve sealed the fate of your mail carrier and your recycling bin during December. Guilt is powerful, too. Tossing them out always reminds me of the characters in “A Christmas Carol”…”At this time of the season, we think of those less fortunate….” and Scrooge says, “Are there no prisons? are there no workhouses?” or something like that…. *shudder*. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to cough up a little more money to the local food bank…

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How to Put Together a 3000 Piece Puzzle

Author’s Note: this is a repost of an essay from 2018 because I think the original post may have gremlins, and I’m laying a diabolical trap for them.

Have patience.
Pace yourself.
Take deep cleansing breaths.
Change your perspective, often.
This is either about practicing yoga or putting together a large jigsaw puzzle.

3000 pieces is a gobsmacking lot of pieces. The level of difficulty is turned up to an eleven. It’s like completing six separate 500 piece puzzles with their pieces all mixed together. There is a lot of guesswork involved.

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History Is Only in the Rear View Mirror

With the impeachment hearings going on in the background, it’s hard to write today about other topics on my mind, like Medicare-for-all or whether the laugh track is a spawn of Satan. Comparisons have been made for days back to the 1973 Watergate hearings, although I don’t know if that will turn out to be the right comparison. Historical accounts depict those hearings as riveting coverage that all of America tuned into, day in and day out, when the reality was a little different. I remember because I was there.

Who watched Watergate in color? Only the people in the room. Photo from ABCGo.

One of the reports last night showed a picture from the first day of the hearings, with the green Senate table, splashing across the view like a movie green screen. This is misleading. In 1973, less than half the households in America had color TVs, and even though we had one, that was not the TV being watched in the middle of the day. It would be doctoring the past to describe the hearings with that kind of illustration, though several journalists have done so in recent weeks. The first time I saw that vision, all I could think of was, “Well, the hearings weren’t conducted in color.”

The Senate Select Committee on Watergate convened these public hearings in May 1973, and they continued until September. When it’s noted they were on during the summer, that means All Summer Long. It’s hard for me to imagine today’s Congress or public having the kind of stamina or interest to generate hearings for that long.

There had been precedent: the Army-McCarthy Hearings of 1954. Those televised hearings were on the subject of whether the fanatical anti-Communist Senator Joseph McCarthy had misused his status in helping promote an aide. McCarthy had made a name for himself by accusing the government of being infiltrated by communists, and he was a rising star in the Republican party, which had control of the Senate. For several years, McCarthy had been pointing fingers at the Army for harboring enemies of the state, and the Army in early 1954 started pointing back. The Senate decided to investigate the counterclaims and chose to publicize the hearings. The brand new TV networks were happy to have something interesting to show.

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