a Fact, Jack.
by Mad Dog
The Pew Research Center say its worse if
youre young, which they define as anyone who thinks George Segal got his start on
"Just Shoot Me" or is under 30, whichever comes first.
|| Separating fact from fiction these days is like separating egg whites and
yolks from a plate of scrambled eggsyou should have thought of it before you ordered
the Grand Slam breakfast with the extra side of hash browns. Between hype, spin, sound
bites, ads, and web sites masquerading as information when all theyre really trying
to do is sell useless products to people who have more money than sense, hows a
person supposed to have any idea what to believe?
For starters, you might consider believing everything you
hear on late-night talk shows. Thats what ten percent of Americans do. A survey by
the Pew Research Center (motto: "If the results stink, just say Pew") found that
ten percent of the people they spoke to got information about the presidential campaign
from late-night hosts like Jay Leno and David Letterman. Not from the newspaper. Not from
campaign ads. Not even from the guy next door who sends emails from the underground bunker
he crawled into on December 31st and refuses to vacate until he learns how to spell
The Pew folks say its worse if youre young, which
they define as anyone who thinks George Segal got his start on "Just Shoot Me"
or is under 30, whichever comes first. According to the survey, a whopping half of the
young people in this country get political information from late-night talk shows, 37
percent get some from comedy shows like Saturday Night Live and Who Wants to Be A
Millionaire, and 24 percent say MTV is a source.
Now it turns out that another thing we believe in, the wind chill factor, may be full of
hot air. That's the index invented by the Army in the 1940s that factors in the
temperature, air speed, and how bad TV weather people need ratings.
|| This isnt
good. It scares me to know that people cant tell the difference between humor and
reality, especially since I write humor. Or so my mother tells me. Id hate to walk
around feeling responsible for George Segal becoming our next president because people
actually based their vote on something I wrote. But it wouldnt be surprising. After
all, a survey done last year found that 80 percent of the young people in this country
cant decipher a bus schedule, compute the change they should get back when they buy
the new Backstreet Boys CD, or understand that Lara Croft isnt going to the prom
with them no matter how many times they ask. This buttresses my concern, and right now
those very people Im talking about are probably snickering because they think
buttresses is a new brand of seat cushions that come in single, full, queen, and king
Movies and TV are other sources of information for people
who have a light grasp on reality. Its amazing how many times Ive heard
someone spout off something they saw in a film as if its the gospel. The only time
they dont seem to do it is when they see "The Greatest Story Ever Told"
which actually is the gospel. I hate to be the one to tell you, but heres a news
flash: Movies arent reality.
Oh, stop crying. Its not surprising that directors play
loose and fast with the facts because, face it, real life is rarely dramatic enough. Not
to mention that it doesnt happen in three acts and time out to a little over two
hours (less if its on TV and you dont count the commercials). Just because
Oliver Stone has made a living out of changing history in peoples minds doesnt
make it true. Just because Denzel Washington played Rubin "Hurricane" Carter
doesnt necessarily mean thats the way it went down. My parents used to joke
that Don Ameche invented the telephone but they werent serious. They understood that
he played Alexander Graham Bell in a movie and that he actually invented the electric
light bulb. Of course my parents can also decipher a bus schedule, make change, and
dont like the Backstreet Boys. See what intelligent stock I come from?
They should start a few more, like the rain index, which factors in how hard its
raining, what youre wearing, whether you remembered to take your umbrella, and if
you actually listened to your mother and wore galoshes.
|| Now it turns out
that another thing we believe in, the wind chill factor, may be full of hot air. The wind
chill factor, for those of you who get your weather forecast from Judge Judy, is an index
invented by the Army in the 1940s that supposedly lets you know how cold it feels outside.
It factors in the temperature, air speed, and how bad TV weather people need ratings.
After all, like everything else these days, the weather report has to be bigger, better,
faster, and colder if people are going to watch. Cold fronts, warm fronts, inversions, and
isobars only get you so far. And there just arent enough hurricanes, tornadoes, and
hail the size of the average weatherpersons brain to go around. Whats a poor
meteorologist to do?
The problem with the windchill index as it
stands is it doesnt take into account that the temperature is measured on the ground
while the wind is measured 30 feet up. Or that other factors affect how cold you feel,
like whether its sunny or if you have on a heavy coat. The same thing holds for the
heat index, which combines heat and humidity to supposedly indicate how low you need to
set your air conditioner.
Both of these indices need to be adjusted. And while
theyre at it they should start a few more, like the rain index, which factors in how
hard its raining, what youre wearing, whether you remembered to take your
umbrella, and if you actually listened to your mother and wore galoshes. This will let you
judge how wet youll get when you go out. Or the snow index, which factors in the
amount of snow, whether its wet or powdery, and if you have teenage sons, the result
being a handy index that lets you know how long youll be laid up in bed with a
sprained back after shoveling.
But dont believe me when I tell you these will make your
life easier. Wait until theyre talked about on late-night TV. Or they make a movie
about my life story and cast Denzel Washington or maybe George Segalin the
lead. Then youll know its the truth.
©2000 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them instead of calculating the windchill.