Sunday Life Magazine, The Sun-Herald, Sydney Edition
December 13, 1998

Attention - seeking headline

From a blae of glory when we're first born, we then have to cope with the dwindling interest in our lives, writesPaul McDermott

How we cherish those moments when we were the first. When as a child there was wild acclaim and adulation for the simplest actions. Where stumbling foward was rewarded witha kiss. We remember fondly when we were the centre of the universe and all the planets and suns and moons were forced to revolve around us. Over the years the interest generated by that initial appearance will dwindle. It will dwindle from the eyes of our parents, from the hands of our friends and from the hearts of our loved ones.

We are, of course, loved as much as in that first moment but we're just not as interesting. Over time we become commonplace, accepted, nothing special, part of the furniture. Eventually we pass from day to day largely ignored. The ego is affected profusely by this lack of recognition and as a result invents a multitude of devices that can alleviate the pressure of going through life unnoticed. They're called Attention Seeking Devices, or ASDs.

My most recent experience of a blatant ASD occured during the film Saving Private Ryan. Several million dollars worth of investment were totally overpowered by a shallow coughing device which could have been overcome with a minimal investment in a back of Throaties. To maintain a sonic dominance over the film, the sufferer cleverly combined her hacking cough with a high-pitched "whisper". Thus between her barking mortar blasts and the untuned static of her speech, there was always something to drag you back to her. Tom Hanks could've been marching through Normandy naked and no- one would have noticed. As she left the cinema she gladly soaked up the angry glances of the other patrons. A smug, self-satisfied smile creased her face and she didn't cough once. It didn't matter that most of them wanted to throttle her because, in the battle for an audience, she had defeated Spielberg.

Antrhopologists now believe the ASD is as important for our development as the opposable thumb. If you look around you'll find that most tings we do don't have to be done at all. Work, play, sport, philosophy and reproduction are merely different ways of drawing attention to oneself.

A classic ASD example that has spanned centuries is the newborn baby. The question that must be asked is whether this bundle of joy is the perfect embodiement of the physical union of man and woman, a testament of love, or an eight-pound Barbie doll made out of skin? New parents are worse than drug dealers when it comes to getting the unconverted hooked. Any recent convert to the wonders of reproduction will chant the birth mantra: you've got to have one, it'll change your life, I've never been so happy.

One popular male trait, which rivals the dance of the Rifle bird for its audacity and shamelessness, is the ability to lose commonplace items. It may be a remote control, a pair of glasses, or a book put down minutes before that suddenly disappears into the ether. The things that go missing are small, everyday objects. The male will insist on searching with unneccessary displays of frustration and anger.

The reason for this is purely evolutionary: it's an act to attract the partner. Whoever is around is forced to participate in the hunt. The object is frequently inn view, neither misplaced or gone. this is not the first stp towards dementia, it's deeply tied to the human need to create something to talk about, and that something should be oneself.

The true dilemma of ASD epidemic is the domino effect it creates. Once you're aware of the disease, it forces you to reassess all your actions and thoughts in light of an "attention deficiency". You may descend into a maelstrom of conflist and cofusion. There's a simple solution: you're OK if you leave the cinema and you're still coughing o when you find the remote ther's actually something you want to watch. Use the ASD, never let it use you.

-Paul McDermott
-Typed up by VellaB