Reading Is Fundamental.

     There is something dangerously wrong with the attitudes and trends prevalent on the everyday streets of this great country, and I believe it can all be traced to one evil, sinister source: reality television.

     Reality television is having a dumbening effect upon our nation, and no one is immune. There was a time when I would have known that "dumbening" wasn't a word, but now all I can think about is scantily clad persons frolicking and cavorting about on an island, beach, riverbank or some other exciting locale.

     What has become of us? What will happen to us? Can I make penicillin out of that? These are all questions that plague me every day, and I can no longer take the distraction of this whiny internal monologue. I tried wearing earplugs to try to drown it out, but in retrospect this was not a very good idea, as I failed my oral French exam and almost got hit by a bus while crossing Kenmore Square.

     If public service announcements have taught me nothing else, it's that "reading is fundamental," so I traveled to the Boston Public library. I asked the librarian to point me toward books that had nothing to do with temptation, islands, or 32 attractive singles. She handed me three books, the first of which was Don Quixote, and told me what a great show "Temptation Island" was. I thanked her for her unsolicited opinion and sat down to read the books.

     You know what bothers me? The name of the beach on "Temptation Island" is "mata chica." During my three wasted years of high school Spanish, I have learned two things: "sacapuntas" is the coolest word in the entire Spanish lexicon, and "mata chica" means "kill the girl" in English.

     Man, it really gets me fuming that Ytosse and Taheed had to leave the island. They had the most openly hostile relationship, and it was really great to finally have a show where I could get some sincere sarcasm every once in a while.

     Oh yeah, Don Quixote was all right. It was basically about windmills and some knight asking this guy Kaya why his shorts got smaller every day and why three women gathered around a fire every night to hysterically cry for no reason. There was also something about some rival knight frantically waving his arms and performing twenty minutes of trite sketch comedy to try to get Mr. Quixote's attention, but he never watched him. Probably because he couldn't take his eyes off of Senorita Dulcinea-Mandy's increasingly hideous hairstyles.

     I moved on to the next book, 1984 by George Orwell. Did you watch "Big Brother?" Neither did I.

     The last stop on my little adventure in literature was The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a charmingly wonderful novel about a group of sixteen castaways, picked to live on Long Island to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start eating insect-filled figs at extravagant all-night parties. I'd have to say that I liked this book the best, as it accurately portrayed several themes that I find not represented enough in modern art.

     First, old people are much more cool than you think they are. In the first chapter of The Great Gatsby, the character of "Mr. Rudy" kept the orphan girls in his mansion on East Egg entertained with his witty, straight-shooting zingers and subtle political commentary. In a later chapter, "Great Aunt Marilyn" had to eat a bug for some reasons she didn't really care to explain, but before she did, she removed her dentures, downed the entire worm and released a feral howl that reverberated through the sleepy barrier island scrub forest. Go get 'em, Mad Dog.

     Second, the book taught me good old-fashioned morality with quotable mini-philosophies like "Outwit, outplay, outlast," "Fire represents life," and "Mercy is for the weak." It also reinforced the moral "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he'll feed the rest of the tribe and vote your generous posterior off the island, sucka."

     And finally, the book taught me that the best kind of advertising is creepy advertising. Gatsby always walked past the piercing, ultra-symbolic eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg on his way to tribal council, and he always remarked on how he really needed to get to a good optometrist when he was voting.

     As you can see, there is a vast world of fantasy and wonder available to those who read instead of watching "the idiot box," as my mother once called it. So put down those remotes and pick up a book! Maybe I'll see you in the library, but first I have to go learn how to make tortillas so I don't get kicked out of housing.