On the entertaining side of catastrophe.
“I said to him, “Why is it, Alfonse, that decent, well-meaning and responsible people find themselves intrigued by catastrophe in television?”
I told him about the recent evening of lava, mud and raging water that the children and I had found so entertaining.
“We wanted more, more.”
“It’s natural, it’s normal,” he said, with a reassuring nod. “It happens to everybody.”
“Because we’re suffering from brain fade. We need an occasional catastrophe to break up the incessant bombardment of information”.
“It’s obvious,” Lasher said. A slight man with a taut face and slicked-back hair.
“The flow is constant,” Alfonse said. “Words, pictures, numbers, facts, graphics, statistics, specks, waves, particles, motes. Only catastrophe gets our attention. We want them, we need them, we depend on them. As long as they happen somewhere else. This is where California comes in. Mud slides, brush fires, coastal erosion, earthquakes, mass killings, etcetera. We can relax and enjoy these disasters because in our hearts we feel that California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.”
Cotsakis crushed a can of Diet Pepsi and threw it at a garbage pail.
“Japan is pretty good for disaster footage,” Alfonse said. “India remains largely untapped. They have tremendous potential with their famines, monsoons, religious strife, train wrecks, boat sinkings, etcetera. But their disasters tend to go unrecorded. Three lines in the newspaper. No film footage, no satellite hookup. This is why California is so important. We not only enjoy seeing them punished for their relaxed life-style and progressive social ideas but we know we’re not missing anything. The cameras are right there. They’re standing by. Nothing terrible escapes scrutiny.”
From “White Noise” by Don Delillo (pages 77-78)