Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Media Hot Air

In today's low-brow media, everything is always new, everything is a surprise, because there is no history. There is just this strange thing they call "breaking news," which seems to occur with startling frequency during the course of any day.

So now we are diverted with dramatic photos and stories of Mt. Etna erupting in Sicily. Crisis!

In fact, Mt. Etna is in a constant state of volcanic activity and has been so since time immemorial. Many years ago, I spent a year writing a book on the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, and a typical diversion on a brilliant summer's day was to loll on the rocky beach and watch the smoke plume from Etna trailing away high in the blue sky, 150 miles across the sea.

Etna has been erupting for so long that an eruption there was lain as the cause of the thwarting of the Carthaginian advance on Syracuse -- in 396 B.C. Virgin waxed eloquent on Etna's eruptions in the Aeneid. The ancient Greeks believed that Etna was the home of the cyclops.

Once in a while, rather frequently, in fact, the volcano really rocks and rolls, and this is one of those occasions.

Today we have the Daily Mail of London, an excitable newspaper making big inroads online in the United States, sounding like a Monty Python parody of one of those airheaded old British newsreels. You can almost hear the cheery music. "So determined are they to enjoy their time on the beach, they don't even turn their heads to the sight of Europe's largest volcano erupting behind them," chirps the Daily Mail in the caption to the beach photo. It adds, "Or perhaps it's just volcano fatigue - after all, this is the sixth time Mt Etna has erupted in the last month."

Haw-haw, those crazy Italians!

Right. Or perhaps it's because the beach shown, which appears to be Taormina, is a 90-minute drive from the base of the 10,000-foot volcano, and the people on said beach probably did have a good look at the pretty volcanic plume before they settled in on their beach towels on a glorious sunny day.

After all, like just about everything else in Italy and Sicily, they have seen it all before.

On the other hand, it does make for pretty pictures.


1 comment:

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Sharkey:

Thank you for including this photo of a nice Italian beach, with the smoke plume from Mount Etna in the background. I found myself glancing more to the foreground, and wondering if this beach has a topless section. If do, can you still see the smoke rise from there?

By the way, your article cited "Virgin." Unless you meant the airline, I think that should read "Virgil." Do I win a prize?

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe