Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wise Words Indeed

Occasionally it's nice to hear something said that makes sense. Such statements demonstrate that the speaker (1) had something to say that was worth sharing and (2) took the time to organize those ideas in a meaningful way.

The older we get, the less intelligent conversation we encounter. Today, many people speak in sound bites, talk in short bursts during TV commercials or type their communication via text messages or email.

Expressing oneself in heartfelt conversation has become a thing of the past. People on TV still talk but it's a far cry from speaking intelligently. Try to remember the last time you heard a speaker express himself clearly and confidently. Chances are the clip came from one of the following sources:

1. Historical television video. In days gone by, people took pride in their reputation as an intellect. In fact, some people who were branded as being "intelligent" saw their careers screech to a halt. Folks like Jack Paar and Dick Cavett were apparently too esoteric for the general public. Guests on their programs included celebrities who possessed wit and sophistication comparable to that of the hosts. Watching them interact was entertaining and enlightening. However, scintillating conversation had limited appeal in a world of diminishing comprehension and networks could not afford to lose viewer ship. After all, words over two syllables were difficult for most to absorb.

2. Foreign heads of state (especially the British). American politicians are not good speakers because they are too concerned about open microphones. Politicians are aware that everything they say -- including missteps -- will be scrutinized on every computer and television screen from New York to Los Angeles. An unintended slight or display of stupidity will damage reputations, if not lose an election.

Foreign politicians actually think about what they are going to say before opening their mouths. How refreshing! They are generally quite well educated, aware of their audience and the impact of their words.

3. Old movies. Dozens of phrases have morphed into our everyday conversation from their origin in classic movies. Here are a few examples:

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."
"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
(The Godfather - Parts I & II)

"Here's looking at you, kid."
"Round up the usual suspects."
"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"Tomorrow is another day."
"As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
(Gone With the Wind)

Part of why these phrases (and many others) have endured is that they were carefully constructed, not blurted. Occasionally I will hear a phrase spoken in a less memorable film or television show that catches my attention. The line leaps off the screen because of its perfection. At such moments, I think to myself that someone actually wrote that line. No doubt when the writer typed the line, he/she leaned back in the chair and smiled. A writer cannot help but acknowledge a great line. Gems stand apart from the rest.

Alas, all fields of entertainment have decided to scale back what they expect from the public. Rather than confuse the audience with new ideas or sophisticated concepts, the majority of television and films now focus on portraying ludicrous situations, rude behavior and bodily functions. Some in show business have dared to challenge today's guidelines only to find themselves considered as box office poison.

In a world that fails to see beyond ratings and box office receipts, this trend is likely to continue for a while.

Hopefully the pendulum will swing back one of these days. Here's hoping.

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