I spent Monday in a DayQuil haze, trying to fight off a cold. As the evening fell, I eagerly anticipated the transition to DayQuil's night-time party partner, NyQuil. This, I thought, will be a lot like the late '70s, except without disco or Air Supply. But I just fell asleep. Which, come to think of it, was a lot like the late '70s.
But I had great dreams. I dreamed that Eddie Money was performing at this year's Liberty Bowl. Or maybe I heard that on the radio the next day. It's all very hazy.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting change. It's not insane that Eddie Money is playing the Liberty Bowl in 2009. It's just not exciting or innovative. It's safe. And he'll probably sound great. In the long run, it's only rock-and-roll. But still, come on, was Meatloaf not available?
In other arenas, playing it safe can lead to disaster. Think of General Motors, for example. Safe decisions left the largest American auto manufacturer bankrupt, as the world turned to more innovative and cost-efficient auto manufacturers.
And in media, as well, playing it safe — doing the same thing over and over again — can be a killer. I saw a video interview this week with a television consultant named Michael Rosenblum on the "death" of local television news. The problem, he says, is that local news is mired in its traditional ways, using the same formulas that worked for decades. Television news, he says, like newspapers, is going to have to reinvent itself or die. We shall see. My suspicion is that the first local station to break the mold will achieve a competitive advantage.
And in the most important back-to-the-future move of all, President Obama opted this week to throw a "surge" of 30,000 or so more American troops into Afghanistan. If you remember, in the late, yes, 1970s, Russia began its ill-fated incursion into Afghanistan. The subsequent depletion of the USSR's blood and treasure in that losing adventure contributed mightily to its fall in 1989.
Thirty years later, an American president thinks things will turn out differently this time around, that we will "stabilize" Afghanistan, then stage an orderly withdrawal. I pray that he is correct. But what are the odds? Better than those that Eddie Money won't play "Two Tickets to Paradise"?
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."
(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings