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ADDICTED TO FLUFF, DETERMINED TO CHANGE

Have you ever bought a CD because the cover looked cool? Ever decided against seeing a movie simply because the poster or trailer looked stupid? Decided to rent a video game because of the screen shots on the back of the box?

Largely because I'm an idiot, I have done all of these things. I also, very literally, judge books by their covers, am a sucker for Flash-driven websites, and wanted Reuben (less talented but better looking) to beat Clay (who, by comparison, can sing his caboose off) on American Idol.

All of this might lead you to conclude that I'm a very superficial person. In all honesty, you would be right (most of the time. Sometimes I really do scratch below the surface). But I would argue that superficiality is a problem that pervades society and, particularly, the entertainment industry. One needs only to flip on Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight for evidence of that. These shows spend all kinds of time talking about Michael Jackson's plastic surgery (while ignoring his obvious psychological problems), the amount of money The Matrix Reloaded makes at the box office (while ignoring altogether the messages it preaches), and consider Demi Moore's public appearance with a twenty-something T.V. star the story of the year.

Fluff assaults our senses every time we listen to the radio (especially in the morning, when moron would-be comics rule), pick up a magazine (ever read the "articles" in Maxim?) or read popular fiction (has Stephen King ever made a statement that was really worth making?). Even Rolling Stone, which offers (or, at least, once did) the most insightful and informed commentary on popular music on the continent, often resorts to using near-nude images to boost sales.

I like fluff because it's easier subject matter to deal with than the alternative. I've written articles on how to grow to be 6' 3½" (of all things), why I'm in love with Britney Spears, and why I hate my left foot (no joke). All of them have been published, which, of course, makes me part of the problem. But dwelling on the surface is something even I can't do forever. I (like most people, I think) have a need opposite to that of the whales: in order to prolong my existence, I need to dive into the deep and stay for a while.

Another of my faults is my tendency to make lists. With apologies, I offer another, containing things that help me dip below the surface:
  1. The Bible. The deepest thoughts of man are nothing compared to those of God. It's all good, but the Gospels are a good place to start.

  2. T.S. Eliot. His poetry is difficult, so you might want to find a commentary (or, as I did, an English teacher) to help you along. But once you get it, your mind is expanded and your life is thus enriched.

  3. The Counting Crows. Some won't like their style, but I'm convinced that Adam Duritz (lead singer and vocalist) understands love and heartache (something we all experience) better than most. And, if you listen to it well, their music will take you places.

  4. Fight Club. This movie, released in 1999, is at times vulgar and there are parts you'll want to skip through (a lewd bedroom scene being one). But it's also one of the smartest, best-written films I've ever seen. Don't replicate the characters' actions, but take to heart the film's messages: material possessions are nothing; don't go through life avoiding pain (embrace it); find ways to truly live.

- Ben Forrest
July 2003
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