Monday, November 21, 2011

“Andy Rooney, Remembered”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
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The recent passing of CBS commentator and beloved curmudgeon Andy Rooney caused many of us to pause and reflect. His career was long and productive.
Five years ago, I wrote a column about Rooney for this newspaper. What follows here are excerpts from my tribute:

An Andy Rooney Moment (March, 2006)

Andy Rooney is a classic media figure. He has enjoyed a prolific wordsmithing career as a newspaper columnist, published author, producer, and scriptwriter. His stay at CBS began in 1949, working on ‘Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.’ Installments of his segment on the CBS program ‘60 Minutes’ have entertained viewers across America for many years. (They have appeared regularly since September, 1978.) He is admittedly liberal, agnostic, and crabby. Yet his witticisms are uniquely entertaining. And age has only intensified the grandfatherly charm he projects.

Recently, the moody power of a ‘Rooney’ moment took hold as I tried to make my newspaper deadline. I pondered how his oddball style might sound in a local context. What would he make of a column like ‘Thoughts At Large?’ Questions swirled in my brain… I tried to focus on the task of interpreting this network curmudgeon… everything faded into a netherworld of characteristically silly, rambling observations… and the following manuscript began to appear:


Did you ever wonder why so many 8-track tapes still show up at thrift stores and
flea markets across Geauga? I mean… really! Why are they still around? Such cumbersome audio-bricks haven’t been commercially popular in thirty years. But as artifacts go, they are ever present. Manufacturers must’ve cranked out millions of the plastic cartridges, because a wide selection of titles can still be found at 50 cents per item! This is in spite of the fact that almost no one still has a machine to play them! Major record labels had them out of retail stores by the early 80’s. Mail-order music clubs kept them available a bit longer. Yet they endure like the aftertaste of a bologna sandwich. Some people continue to treasure the clunky relics as a reminder of yonder days. A slew of alternative, ‘indie’ performers has even kept the format alive in 21st-Century terms. But ask yourself this question. "How crazy do you have to be… to still own a stash of 8-Track tapes?"

Have you ever actually seen anyone use a paperweight to hold down paper? Sure,
these trinkets make nifty ornaments for a desktop. But are they really functional in the 21st Century? And with everyone typing away on a computer, is there any lingering need for a decorated stone in your workspace? Or is it just a matter of Joe Paperweight not wanting to go out of business before he and Mrs. P Can retire? Isn’t it like making horseshoes after the ‘Model T’ was invented? Maybe we just feel better knowing the paperweight is there… in case someone left a window open, of the office fan gets stuck on ‘high.’

In America, you can get water almost anywhere. There is water in your kitchen,
bathroom, and maybe even in your garage. You can get water from a drinking fountain (‘bubbler’ for my friends in Wisconsin) or a garden hose. Any good restaurant will bring you water without an extra charge on the bill. So why do we buy bottled water? Is there something special about water in a plastic jug? Can one company say "Our water is better than your water!" with a straight face? Doesn’t all water ultimately come from the same source? Try placing some empty bottles on your picnic table during the next rainstorm, and you’ll have the best refreshment nature can provide, without a trip to the grocery store…

Why is it that newscasters on television love to show off newspaper stories? Isn’t this like a car dealership reviewing bicycles? Could it be an admission that the print media existed first? Or is it because text journalism still seems more credible? (Would they admit being second to written reporting, even if it were true?) Can you remember seeing a newspaper with screen captures from a video news program? I don’t think it has happened. But on CNN or C-SPAN, you can enjoy a review of ink-borne headlines from around the country. This seems particularly strange because there is ‘lag time’ involved with printed matter, while TV news is immediate. But in reality, most of us are probably on the computer, anyway. So it doesn’t really matter!

My ‘Rooney’ moment passed quickly, like one of his brief, spoken essays. It was a refreshing detour from the typical subject matter of my column. But most important of all, just like my television hero, I made my deadline!

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