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The Real Artificial Reality
by Mad Dog
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Mad Dog column has been published by Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, NY Daily News, S.F. Chronicle, Boston Phoenix and other fine newspapers.

Reality is highly overrated. Granted we have no choice but to live in it — well, not unless you like the idea of a rehab clinic as your retirement community — but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. And apparently we don’t, since most of us aren’t very interested in the real thing anymore. Except, of course, when we drink a Coke, though even they don’t use that slogan these days. Now it’s “The Coke Side of Life,” which sounds more like a bad ‘80s book by Jay McInerney than an ad campaign.

Go ahead, take a look around you. You’ll see artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, artificial grass in baseball stadiums, even artificial insemination. There’s a whole generation that thinks the word “artificial” means “new and improved” and that ersatz is the beginning of a sentence, as in “Er, satz the best tasting imitation bacon around.” Funny how no one bats an eyelash about bacon coming from a lab, probably the same one that dreamed up such Nobel Prize-winning ideas as soy meat loaf, tofu dogs, and soyrizo, which is chorizo for people who don’t care whether their chorizo tastes like chorizo or not.

Now I have nothing against new products, just give them their own name and stop pretending they’re real. They’re not. They never will be. Face it, even if it’s good it’s still not the real thing. There’s a reason why nylon wasn’t named ny-cotton, Pringles aren’t called potato chips, and the Scissor Sisters didn’t name themselves Elton John Sisters, though they should have.

It’s tempting to say the desire for artificiality is caused by artificial intelligence, but why denigrate computers and robots, they only do what they’re instructed to do. It’s the scientists and marketers who are behind this, and they’re only giving us what we want. Is your hair too curly? Straighten it. Too straight? Curl it? Not enough of it, get a hair transplant. Just be careful when that someone-who-might-turn-out-to-be-someone-special wakes up next to you for the first time. Now there’s a dose of reality it’s hard to avoid.

Don’t like how you smell? Change it. You can choose from at least 3,586 perfumes and colognes, including Britney, Paris, JLo, and now one from Derek Jeter. Yes, as in the New York Yankees shortstop. Hey, nothing says “I smell good” like the scent of sweat, chewing tobacco, and old baseball mitts. Unless of course you were to smell like dirt, paint, sawdust, sushi, or vinyl. Which you can. Heck, you can even alter your personal reality so you smell like — True Fact Alert! — earthworms and funeral home if the mood hits you. Best of all, you don’t need to rub worms all over your body or sleep next to a cadaver to do it. Isn’t technology wonderful?

These scents, and many more, come from a company named Demeter Fragrance. They offer them as cologne, bath and body oil, shower gel, calming lotion, room spray, and air sickness bag sanitizer. So let’s say you don’t want to smell like condensed milk, a stable, or rye bread, there’s always Whiskey Tobacco. Yeah, right. Like I need to walk around smelling like cigarette smoke and liquor. Hey, if I miss the aroma that much I’ll light up a Camel and take a few swigs of Jack Daniels, thank you very much. I’m sorry, but “All the smell and none of the fun” has never been, and never will be, a good advertising slogan.

If you want to visit a place where they’ve taken reality changing to new heights, visit Dubai, the Gulf emirate that has more oil than sand, and that’s saying a lot. It’s home to the world’s largest indoor ski park. Yes, you can ski in a country where the average daily high temperature ranges between 75F and 105F. You take a ski lift to a height of 25 stories, then ski down the inside of a giant, slanting metal tube filled with artificial snow. I guess it beats playing another game of sand hockey. There’s also tobogganing, bobsledding, and chocolaty flavored hot cocoa-like drink in front of a fake fire in an artificial ski lodge. Just kidding. I hope.

Dubai also has a water park with fake thunderstorms, four man-made palm-shaped islands being made from millions of tons of trucked-in Persian Gulf sand and rock, and a fake hotel named The Royal Accord that only existed in a BBC online game but keeps getting requests for reservations. Oh, and don’t forget that Michael Jackson moved there. See, nothing in Dubai is real.

Face it, reality is dull. That’s why the media — 24-hour cable news to really point a finger — has to create crises. Just as no one wants to hear good news, in spite of what they say, no one wants to hear mundane news. So everything becomes a threat, a crisis, a conflict, and a war, getting its own slogan and logo, complete with dire music in the background. “War in the Middle East!” “Devastation in New Orleans!” “Heartbreak of Psoriasis!” Remember, crises equal ratings. Heck, even Reality TV isn’t real. After all, they know they’re being filmed, so how real do you think they’re acting? Not to mention it’s edited because, face it, reality is slow, tedious, dull, and doesn’t sell toilet paper.

So where does it end? Maybe with the ultimate, if the International Society of Artificial Life has its way. Hey, I’m not making that up. They’re real. Honest.

# # # # #

©2006 Barry H. Gottlieb All Rights Reserved.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: His compilation of humorous travel columns, “If It’s Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?” is available from Xlibris Corporation.

Published: Sep 7,2008 18:33
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