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An Argument in Favour of "The Apprentice"

"Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind" - Catherine Drinker Bowen

Reality shows on television are all the rage during the last half dozen years or so. I've been doing some thinking about why that is. There are several obvious reasons: the proverbial instant 15 minutes of fame for the contestants, the exposure for the host/sponsor, the reduced costs for the production. But I think they exist for a social purpose that goes much deeper than any of the superficial, fame and money games that corporate america would have you buy into.

Donald Trump is today's Hugh Hefner. He has it all. He flies around in corporate jets and private helicopters, owns New York City (literally!), and is audacious enough to adopt what only a rock star could be entitled to; the single name. The Donald. I never know whether to mentally finish that with "mac", or "duck". Others can't copy him, Martha tried. But all mocking aside, he's a good man. In each show he drops a little bit of corporate wisdom and human wisdom too. He laughs at himself. He teaches team-building, and demonstrates strategies that work and ones that don't. He shows the arbitrariness of fairness in his decisions to fire or not. But it's even more than that. He provides, at his own expense, this huge non-Hollywood set where we can all play out our "if I won the lottery" fantasies. Tens of thousands apply to be contestants. He incorporates a bit of the soaps through the hand-picked candidates to present representative social conflicts, be they religion, colour, ambition, simply weird and anti-social, whatever. It's a microcosm. And all for what? A job interview! Something the majority of people have been through in one form or another at some point.

Here's my point. By having him do it, no one else needs to. We just need the knowledge and satisfaction that it can be done. That's why we buy lottery tickets, never expecting to win. That's why we watch reality shows. Nobody's competing with The Donald to build another over-consuming Trump dynasty. There's just one, and he openly shares it with millions. One is all it takes, but it probably takes one.

When I was a kid, every year there would be an amateur variety talent show. I remember entering it one year as part of a gymnastic team through the YMCA. We did miserably....but I got a taste of.....wait for it.....THE STAGE!!! It was an empowering feeling. I never forgot it. It eventually led to several public-speaking contests and a 20-year career in teaching. When TV first started, there were several amateur hours (one I remember hosted by Ed McMahon, another called the "Gong Show"). Now, it's a little bit slicker, they call it "(fill-in-the-country-here) Idol". It's about every kid who ever had parents, and wanted them to be proud of them and their accomplishments. To show off a bit in public: "That's my girl up there!"

You might well remember the name of the first Survivor series winner, Richard Hatch, especially since he's been in the news recently for not paying taxes on his winnings (ironic, that!). If you ask him, he had the strategy for winning figured out from day 1, and to this day tells everyone that's how he played it. I'm smarter than the whole wide world. What every one forgets is that the panel of contestants who picked him from the last two was split 4-3, and the winning vote was cast based on which of the two came closest to the number that Eric Buis, this guy here, was thinking of. That's how he decided who to vote for. I used to cancel my life to watch Survivor, as much for the shots of the incredible scenery on this planet as the game itself. I haven't watched an episode this year because it offers nothing new or insightful. It's in re-runs essentially.

What I found most intriguing about it when it was at its zenith was that the whole purpose was to devise a society intentionally bent on destroying itself. That seems so perverse to me. Why not start out with a single player and invite one new person from a diverse selection of options onto the island each week, and see what set of minimal skills spread amongst how many people is required to build and sustain a society? As numbers increase so do talents, but so do needs. Where is the balance point achieved? Is it attainable? Can it be generalized? Can it be set up to still allow "wars" and all those other real-life uglinesses (in a different but equally fulfilling format). Can you "trade" away skills no longer needed, or do they have to be re-trained, or simply become redundant consumers of rare resources?

It's the story of Walden, and of Eden. It's the story of Bangladesh, Israel, Woodstock, Haight & Asbury, and the Burning Man project. It's Greenpeace and abortion clinics. It's the game of "Fear Factor", and "Jeopardy".

But is it the game of life?

Do we watch that one too, or are we participants? Is it a choice? Is it a choice we make individually, or like that experiment in New York I talked about yesterday, does our game depend on how others play it? Does that make us passive? Are they playing it depending on how we play, or are they ignoring us? Are "you" "they"? Castro said "I began a revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I'd do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action". Those strangers in New York found each other within 4 hours. Faith? Plan of Action? Both.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody", Bill Gates declared as he launched Windows. Last week, with some sophisticated and secret profiling software, he helped the Toronto and Edmonton police crack an international ring peddling kiddie porn. That's the kind of police state I'm fully in favour of. That's the kind of forecast I'm willing to not only overlook and forgive, but marvel that if such a visionary as he is could be so wrong about something like that such a short time ago, where next? I had a chat with my friend last night about what kind of MP3 player I should be looking at to transfer my vinyl collection to. He suggested at least a 60 gigabyte drive. 60 billion bytes. Roughly ten thousand times what ought to be enough for anybody.

The game of life. The soundtrack to life. The people of life. The life. Life. is.




(click on cartoon to enlarge)

To be alone.
PEACE music.
Inner peace music.



Swingin by to say GOOD MORNING!! I have had much coffeeeeeeee! LOL!
I like your survivor idea - that should be on TV. I watch the other survivor religiously and have since the begining. I don't know what the attraction is for sure. :)

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  • I'm Evydense
  • From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • And I'm tired of living in the shadow of narrow-mindedness and ignorance. So here's the fax, Jack! "The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and three hundred and sixty-two admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision." - Lynne Lavner*** I'm confused; curious; satisfied; realistically resigned to being a frustrated idealist; usually at peace with myself, but not always. Amazed at how little I know, and wondering how much I need to understand.
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