I have been home recovering from Covid and a broken ankle that required surgery for over a month now. I’m not used to shuffling from bed to chair and back again as the main events of my day, but I’m unable to walk and so that’s simply the way it is now and will be for a few more months.
That said, there are aspects of my current existence that have taken me by surprise. The biggest being Daytime TV. I have rarely glimpsed this slice of life, aside from streaming newscasts and weekend football games. But that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s the endless array of “talk shows” that blare at me in strange and awkward ways.
Many of these programs have big panels of participants, which are almost exclusively women. (Why is that?) Sometimes six hosts share their thoughts, occasionally all at the same time. As a former news anchor, I find all that talking over one another jarring, but that’s not what bothers me the most. It’s the topics they discuss that have me reaching for the remote.
“If your boyfriend has cheated on you consistently over the years, should you stay with your man?”
Now, in my mind, this should be a very short segment: No!
“Serial plastic surgery. Can you have too much?”
Yes! When your skin is as tight as a Barbie doll’s and you constantly look surprised, maybe you should break up with your surgeon.
Some shows focus breathlessly on what “famous” folks are doing in their personal lives. Who was seen stepping out on their spouse. Who wore a designer outfit worth mocking. Who got a horrible haircut and had the “courage” to go out in public. I should mention here that I rarely know who these celebrities are. That either means I’m old and out of touch or the people under discussion are of the D-list variety. As I read the paper and watch various news shows daily, I’m going with the latter.
I do find some of these guests unintentionally hilarious. Actors or musicians few have ever heard of droning on about the “importance of my craft” and how “It’s so difficult be famous.” Oh, the paparazzi! The horror!
And let’s not forget shows like Dr. Phil who never met a familial car-wreck he didn’t drool over like a hungry hyena. How do they get these miserable people in front of a TV camera and a live audience? What type of person wants to plop themselves into a seat on stage where they will mostly be ridiculed for being dopes? I am truly baffled here. Sometimes, I think they must be actors. Actually, that’s far easier to believe than the alternative: that they are real people with big problems who think sharing them on national TV will solve their issues. Really?
I was also surprised to see that soap operas are still in favor. I tried to picture who might actually tune into these vapid tales of overdressed, bored-looking, mostly upper-crust people, none of whom are happy with their partners, jobs, homes, or families. Mommies, maybe, who are folding yet another basket of laundry and wondering where the romance in their lives skedaddled to. That many of the characters seem good-looking and financially well-off is a stumper. Are their lives really all that dreary?
As you might expect, I constantly flip through the stations, hoping something palatable will appear unexpectedly. To stop my brain from turning to mush, I check the news, but the local shows routinely let me down. I used to teach my students that the definition of a news story was something of interest to the general public and an event that was relatively rare. Alternately, fluff pieces—kitties rescued from a drain pipe, babies dressed up in sports-themed clothing, dog-costume contests—were once reserved for the very end of the broadcast, a time-filler to make it to the break. But today, these stories appear at regular intervals throughout the “news”. Why? Are they afraid real news will frighten viewers off? Have station consultants determined that the average viewer is not smart enough to understand real news?
Or perhaps members of the viewing public are simply not interested in knowing what’s really happening in the world. And maybe that’s the answer as to why Daytime TV flourishes. It’s an escape from everything even remotely real. A diversion from why life didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped. Cotton candy for the brain: sickly sweet and sticky, stifling our ability to think clearly.
So, I’m turning off the TV now. There must be something better to do.
Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.
Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense
September 13, 2021
Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.
One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.
Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.
One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.
In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.
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