Columns » Bob Lancaster

The search is on

by and

One of the big Internet layovers has a googly feature it calls What the World Is Searching For. Got me to wondering what IS the world searching for, in the old-fashioned sense of the question? Answers, I suspect, is the answer, now as ever. What life means. What should we be doing with it, instead of pissing it away as people always have and still do, irretrievable, unliveoverable, the enemy time steadily tightening its grip. The 21st century shies from profundities, though. Or it has so far. And we are left to conclude that contemporaneity’s search is for lesser, shallower things. We no longer dream the impossible dream; we just toss and turn, and finally get up and take a pill. Earnest answers, and not-so-earnest ones, as to what the world is searching for today might include these: Coors says the search is for the world’s coldest-tasting beer. The methed-up drummer rabbit says it has to do with battery life. Physics says it’s for a snapshot of the superstrings. Sports Illustrated sort of says that, too. Agricultural science says the search is no longer for a good-tasting tomato, merely for one that tastes a little less like toejam. A search is underway by a British scientific team to produce an aerosol spray that can cause clinical depression in treefrogs and songbirds, thereby cutting down on the screeching and whistling, and on the annoying exuberance of it all. German researchers are said to be experimenting with a new variety of rap music that’s audible at even greater distances from car radios than at present, and that can trigger irrational retaliatory violence in those who suffer resulting dental occlusion or cerebral thrombosis from reverberations of the metal plates in their skulls. For Stanley, the search was for Dr. Livingstone; for Dr. Kimble it was for the one-armed man. For O.J. it’s for the real killers, should they be lurking about on a golf-course somewhere. The search for Osama bin Laden doesn’t admit easily of comparisons, but it sometimes bring to mind the perpetually unsuccessful search by the stupid Spanish authorities for Zorro. There are a few of us who thought the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq had some importance, or continuing interest, but obviously we were wrong. Hernando de Soto, who died in Arkansas nearly 500 years ago, was very much a modern man in that he was never sure what the object of his search was here in the New World. It tells a lot about who you are whether your search preference is the iffy proposition or the sure thing. The search for intelligent life in the universe goes on, out there and back at you. Whatever happened with that scooter that was supposed to have ended the search for the all-time greatest invention? I don’t remember how the search for Bridey Murphy turned out, either. There are athletes who think the great search should be for performance-enhancing drugs that testers can’t detect. I think our search for someone to do a lot of pointless, clueless monkeying with Social Security might be over. There are those who search the best-seller lists for evermore steamy romance novels written by scary-looking white women. Scary-looking white women tend to write better novels of that genre than the likes of Saddam Hussein and Newt Gingrich, but those guys have their following too, searching Amazon for new releases. The driest hole among modernity’s famous searches has to have been Whitewater. With the recent death of Superman, and the fading popularity of the Power Puff Girls and the Crimson Chin, we could use some more Superheroes, and presumably the search is on. We need more Jerry Falwells and James Dobsons searching for and finding evidence of homosexual inclinations or anyhow sympathies in cartoon characters like Spongebob Squarepants and in furbies like the Teletubbies. The more modest and most often successful searchers are those who look not for answers but merely for clues. A whole lot of the latter-day searching is for nothing more than punchlines. I mentioned that Yahoo feature called What the World Is Searching For, and I should tell you that when I logged in there, nine out of the Top 10 searches being conducted involved people or products or organizations that I’d never heard of. I thought it meant we’re groping more than searching here in Century 21; either that, or it was just another indication that time is passing me by. The one name I did recognize in that Top 10 was Ashlee Simpson, the, uh, entertainer. Thousands were searching for information about her. Perhaps looking to download fragments of her distinctive whinny. People obviously with time on their hands. Or idiots. Or masochists.

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