First, a little name-dropping….!
I spent a weekend seminar in the late 60s with Dustin Hoffman and Marshall McLuhan just as their respective achievements were becoming widely-acclaimed (the movie “The Graduate” and the book “The Medium is the Massage”). Hoffman spoke of the power of the film, McLuhan of the television set. What they addressed in common was the enormous efficacy of the screen in our daily lives.
I was thinking about that as I wandered Chicagoland’s newest gambling casino which somehow chose to open approximately 6 minutes from my quiet suburban front door. Nothing quiet about a casino. Everywhere screens popping and flashing and assaulting your sensorium. From the giant wall screens showing today’s headlines; from the pyrotechnic screens atop your clanging slot machine; good lord, even from that miniature screen on your slot machine featuring whatever news-breaking event some distant cameras can bring to your jangled nerves while you play this nerve-jangling slot machine.
It’s Hoffman and McLuhan’s long ago predictions come exhaustingly true. In a casino — lets admit it, in modern life — there’s no escape from the ubiquitous screens. The only thing missing on them is Big Brother. And he’s sure to follow sometime soon.
Three universal habits drive home the point. First, most people simply cannot control this peculiar passion to wave at any television crew’s camera. Second, watch people watching an event being watched by a television camera; 9 out of 10 will be watching the monitor more than the event. Three, McLuhan enjoyed telling the story of guests in his home remarking about how handsome were his children; to which McLuhan grinned proudly: “Yes, but you ought to see their pictures!”
We walk in a world of images. From our casinos to atop our latrines to inside our bedrooms. Each image spun by its image-makers in whatever ways they and their cameras choose. Now the question becomes: What and who and why is really real in this new media-ized world?
Frankly, I gave up long ago. So you’ll excuse me. I’ve got a hot slot here…!
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