hello dolly

Saturday, mar. 15, 2008   |   0 comments
One more time, so I don't get sued, this column is re-printed here thanks to permission from MSN (who owns all this stuff now).

exploring the disturbing question: "what does it mean when your entire life is summed up by a dolly parton vehicle?"

by evany thomas

Last Sunday I had the rare pleasure of lazing through one of those fabulous nothing days, an all-pj-all-the-time, roll-out-of-bed-at-the-crack-of-noon, ice-cream-from-the-carton, don't-know-if-it's-raining-or-scorching-outside, let-the-dishes-soak, voice-mail'll-pick-it-up, shirk-every-duty kind of day where nothing is too bad to watch on tv.

My comforter/couch day grand finaled with my rapt beginning-to-end watching of "Straight Talk," starring Dolly Parton (who, of all people, is becoming a re-occuring theme in my life) and James Woods. Even if I tried really hard I don't think I could have found something more pleasantly mindless to watch.

"Straight Talk" follows the ups and downs of unemployed, unlucky-in-love dance instructor Dolly as she makes a fresh-start move to the big city (insert "circling job ops in classifieds using red nail polish" sequence here). Finally, Dolly sweet-talks her way into a receptionist job at a radio station (insert painful yet plucky "cutting callers off" sequence here), and, on her very first coffee break she wanders into the studio at the very moment a mysteriously absentee famous psychiatrist is expected to launch a call-in advice show. A la "Three's Company," Dolly finds herself thrust in front of the mic, ON THE AIR sigh a'flashing. Of course she gives it her very best hard-working farm girl, Little Engine that Could treatment...and, whataya know? She's fabulous! Listeners just LOVE her down-home advice ("Honey! Get down off the cross 'cause someone needs the wood!") and all seems well. But no! Since a Sleazy Marketing Guy convinces her to maintain the illusion that she is a Doctor in the "can dispense medicine" sense, Dolly's is a fraud, Dolly is LIVING A LIE. Work-a-holic reporter James Woods sets out to uncover her scam, but falls in love instead (insert happy ending here).

The scary thing (even scarier than me writing a detailed synopsis of "Straight Talk") was that as I grimaced through the onslaught of big-boob jokes and Dolly soundtrack (not only can she act...!), I began to feel myself actually relating to this "drama." Dolly was no doctor, yet here she was, doling out advice simply because she was willing, chatty, and world-savvy. And I have lucked into a advice dispensing job as DOCTOR Net, while lacking the proper MD or PhD credentials. As far as online savviness goes, I'm just like Dolly: nothing more than an opinionated gal who's been around the block a couple of times and just can't shut up about it -- there're plenty of techno junkies out there who're endowed with more experience and knowledge than I'll ever have.

My fluffy, thought-free day suddenly turned to scorching introspection. Was my life a sham? Was someone going to blow the whistle on me? Should I step aside and let someone who was really qualified take over?

Half way through a comfort pint of Ben & Jerry's Holy Cannoli, a life-saving floatation device/seat cushion of a thought bobbed into my mind. There WAS a difference between Dolly and me: we operate in different mediums. And, according to McLuhan, that can make all the difference.

Unlike established mediums such as television, newspapers, film, or radio, the Internet is still in its infancy, which means, for the time being at least, it's an even playing ground where anyone can succeed. Twas the same in the beginning of all the biggie mediums: people could still make a name for themselves based on little more than luck and chutzpah. (Se habla Orson Welles?) The Internet IS beginning to slowly move in the direction of the "hard to break into" mega-mediums, but for now it's still possible to make a name for yourself sans money, education or experience.

Maybe I don't know the answer to every single mondo-technical question or scary medical inquiry or intricate romance issue, but the fun part of my job is finding the answer. I have no problem whatsoever dipping into my knowledgeable pool of programmer, graphic artist, 'puter geek, and generally omniscient friends to get an answer. "Hi, yeah, what's the 'T' stand for in James T. Kirk? ... okay-great-thanks-bye!" And if my friends fail me, then (let me tell you a little secret) it's all out there on the Internet.

With deep, dark, who-the-hell-am-I depression averted, I turned back to the magic box to catch the tail end of "Brewster's Millions."


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