Saturday, January 17, 2015

Battle of the Broadcasting Erins

I need to get some quick copy in here while waiting for the appearance of my next important think piece. I do have a few new posts up on my spinoff blog dedicated primarily to the nostalgic feelings aroused in me by old books and literature. It has an appropriately miniscule readership, so anyone going there will immediately be one of the elect, after a fashion.

Of course there is no actual battle here. That is entirely the creation of my fancy. Doubtless if these two seasoned professionals met they would embrace cordially and agree that they would never let that silly Bourgeois Surrender pit them against each other.

For some time now when I have a fifteen minute break at my work I often go and sit in an empty meeting room in the dark and watch television. There is never anything on that interests me, but I'll still sit there and flip through the channels figuring there must be some cute girls on somewhere, if nothing else. In spite of supposedly knowing better I find some of the Duggar girls to be cute (the ones old enough to get married, obviously), so I've watched five or ten minutes of that show a few times. Their lifestyle and belief system would not be my ideal, but evidently they have some qualities I find appealing. I assume they fit in much better in Arkansas than they would in the east, where there is a lot of company it would be problematic to bring them into. They are not in themselves weird in the least; if anything, they are the very product that the culture they grew up in desired them to be, and the projection of that inner sense of success probably contributes to my perceiving them as attractive. It is the people who end up completely at odds and unable to connect with their own native environment that develop the most characteristics of pure weirdness.

There was another night, however, when I noticed that the woman doing the news, or some kind of news-driven program, on CNN was more than usually attractive to me. I lingered for a minute or so and moved on, as the topic on the show was terrorists or racism or immigration or some other subject that never gets resolved or even produces interesting conversation on television. But afterwards I came across the same lady on a few other occasions and thought each time 'she is really quite pretty', I made a point of finding out her name so that I could at least look her up on the Internet. This proved to be *Erin Burnett*, which is a very good 90s-era liberal arts girl kind of name. I could relate to that. Of course the substance of her interviews with leading experts on major international financial and political events was always so far above where my mind was in the moment that I never even bothered trying to analyze or otherwise make sense of it.

Erin Burnett seems to be an identifiable representative of the .01 percent, certainly of the northeast meritocracy division of that club. She grew up in Maryland (albeit on the eastern shore, which is not a region at the white hot center of the production of these kinds of people), went to a boarding school in Delaware and to Williams College, in my lifetime always considered one of the only real contenders (out of a field of about three) for the title of American's best liberal arts college. She got a job at Goldman Sachs, and not as a secretary either, right out of school before getting into television, it seems through connections acquired through the Goldman Sachs job. Seeing what is at the end of that gauntlet, socially, of trampling all the competitors of your generation for admission to the best schools, the best graduate programs, the best internships, the best jobs, in traveling and athletic prowess and financial acumen, is interesting to me. I don't know these people at all naturally, though I admit that if the king were to tell young me before I set out to try to achieve something worthwhile that my reward on coming back successful would be the best-looking (or even the second or third best-looking) girl on the Williams College field hockey team, I would have been pretty pleased with that prospect without even needing to know who the person was as an individual. And it will always be curious to clueless people that individual persons not of immediately obvious and overwhelming superiority should occupy particular positions at such commanding heights, and to possess a value in monetary terms that would appear impossible of attainment to most onlookers.

Erin Burnett acts out the course of her life trajectory vis-a-vis the author 

Here are the students of Williams College on the annual day when they hike their mountain. They don't look that intimidating, but nearly all of them will make their way to being high end adults. Not too many of them are very fat either. From what I have seen of other top schools in my neck of the woods (Dartmouth, Middlebury, Bates, Bowdoin) they seem to do some kind of screening to weed out fat people, and the slovenly and unkempt in general. Coming from St John's, the total absence of this element (which includes a lot of highly intelligent people, by the way) on these campuses strikes one immediately.

For all that I don't really 'like' Erin Burnett all that much, though my response to her indicates to me that her type is representative of one of the especially important missing pieces of my youthful experience and attempts to participate actively in Life, the paucity of success in which I have never been able to overcome. Also I can only take her show in very small doses. Fortunately her program often runs opposite The New Hampshire Chronicle on WMUR-TV channel 9, an ABC affiliate that is New Hampshire's only non-PBS broadcast station. One of the stars of the Chronicle, and also WMURs news anchor, keeping us informed on a nightly basis of all the crimes, fires, car crashes, wild animal incursions and other perils of living in the Granite State, is Erin Fehlau, the other half of our battling Erins. In contrast to Erin Burnett's nightly powwows with potentates of finance and government policy breaking down the state of the world, Erin Fehlau, in her NH Chronicle incarnation, travels around to the hidden corners of our tiny state visiting apple farms and outposts of the Appalachian Mountain Club. It is truly a Main Street versus Wall Street confrontation.

Erin Burnett was born in 1976, and Erin Fehlau in 1973, the same year as my wife. 1973 was a great year for women, though the vintage is a rare one, 1973 being the year with the lowest total number of births in the United States of any since 1945, and the only one in which the total number of births dropped below 3 million (by comparison, the current number is around 3.9 million, and it was over 4 million in the years before the recession). I was born in 1970; the birth rate crashed noticeably in 1972, bottomed out in '73, and remained low all the way through the remainder of the decade. Like many men, since I was and remain fairly immature it was evident from a fairly early point that if I were ever going to get any women they were going to have to be from one of the younger age cohorts--age cohorts that turned out to be considerably smaller than my own, causing a squeeze in the competition for these ladies. I have always clung to the theory that this shrunken pool of women in the key years for my fishing for them was a leading cause of my restricted success in getting to date many of them. Because even admitting my many shortcomings, I am still far enough above the true average in most areas that I should have been able to do a little better than I did.

Like most successful people in New Hampshire, Erin Fehlau actually grew up in Massachusetts. I wonder if there is any other state in the union where the majority of the most prominent citizens originate not only from another state, but from one particular state, as if it were a de facto colony of that state. I guess Vermont seems to largely run by people from New York (Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders, Ben & Jerry; J.D. Salinger, ever the contrarian, managed to end up in New Hampshire, though the town where he lived was right across the river from Vermont, and is culturally more like that state), and I suspect there is a state or two in the west that has been taken over by settlers or refugees from California. Whatever native talent there is in New Hampshire usually finds it necessary to leave. Anyway Erin Fehlau went to Syracuse, which (along with Northwestern) is a school people actually go to to study how to be in television media. She has three children (Erin Burnett, though she is married to a Wall Street trader who presumably has genes nearly as spectacular as hers are, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars to boot, has just one, which lends credence to my theory that people who perceive that they have attained kind of maximization or perfection of their genetic potential do not feel as great a need to have children as people who do not think they have done this). I actually know very little about her, and I don't even have much of an idea of how smart she is, but I enjoy seeing her on television, she doesn't annoy me, and I think she is cute, so she must have some kind of brains going for her.

This guy plays 'rhythm bones'. Sounds like something you could make a joke out of. Erin F. was intrigued enough to put him on her show.

Erin F with a retro 80s hairstyle. Still cute. 

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