Fireball takes bow in Short Attention Span Theater

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer November 08, 2013 08:13 am

Attention spans are getting shorter these days. What with TV sitcoms, Facebook rantings and Twitter snippets, of TV and radio headline-intensive news, people are developing the attention spans of a dog in a scent factory.

Even Mother Nature is getting in on the act. Viewing a fireball blaze across the sky is the ultimate in Short Attention Span Theater.

On a recent Wednesday morning, at 6 a.m., when even the roosters were still sleeping in, when mayors were grabbing that first cup of coffee and congressmen blow-drying their hair, a fireball shot across the Grande Ronde Valley sky.

Of course, the fireball wasn’t seen just here, at the center of the universe. It was also seen by early rising outdoor enthusiasts from Salem to Shaniko. The sky, after all, is shared by all, Mother Nature’s grand experiment in socialism.

Sitting in a hot tub on the back porch — yes, even the impoverished have luxuries — I caught the fireball out of the corner of my good eye. It happened so fast though — perhaps three seconds at most — that I wondered if it had really happened.

Later, the Walla Walla newspaper, and The Associated Press for that matter, reinforced that I was not the only person up at that glorious hour.

So much for being special.

The hot tub, as you might expect, makes a terrific blind. Whether you are spying on raccoons up to banditry, foxes hauling off fast food or Canada geese attempting a getaway when Mother Nature pulls a trick and dumps snow right after Halloween, the hot tub is the place to get a front-row seat.

It’s also great for sky watching, whether it’s a falling star screaming toward earth or the once-in-a-decade fireball.

Contrary to rumor, I don’t sit in the hot tub all day. Sometimes I come to work.

I also sometimes defy the short attention span generation and actually pick up a book. Occasionally, I even read the book. And I do this even though I am a few decades out of college and no longer assigned by ogre professors hoping to fill my every waking hour with polysyllabic gobbledygook.

Books, though, have no moving pictures. They have no orchestras providing background music. They are not over in 30 minutes, the plot wrapped in bright paper with a bow on top.

But I am no reading snob. I also enjoy television, especially the ads, which often feature as many as 20 scenes in a minute. Watch closely. The transitions are breathtaking.

Once, as a cub reporter on the endless plains of North Dakota, between blizzards and death-defying thunderstorms, I got an inside look at the making of a television commercial. It was astonishing. I got to see the story boards. Interview the actors and director and even, if I remember correctly, a pickup truck, back in the days when the word “pickup” was not forbidden.

Now we just drive Trucks with a capital “T.”

This was a high-budget production at its best. The filming might take an hour for a three-second snippet. The minute-long commercial might take a week to film.

The project was anything but Short Attention Span Theater. The result was short attention span at its best.

I also enjoy Facebook. Despite its continual bouncing from subject to subject, like grease on a hot pan, it’s a great way to reconnect with old friends, a chance for a high school do-over — and this time to be friendly.

Twitter, however, mystifies me. I am too busy living to record my every hiccup and flatulence to a breathlessly awaiting world, all the while hankering for an audience that might exist — but also might be illusory.

No, I didn’t mention the fireball sighting on Twitter. To all my Twitter followers — yes, you, Mike — I apologize for not being with it and up to the minute.

Fireballs are one thing, but most of life unfolds at a slower, more glacial pace.

Sometimes it’s nice to get off the rollercoaster and read a book. Even if it moves along at the speed of a glacier. 

Contact Jeff Petersen at 541-963-3161 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Jeff on Twitter @lagrandenewsGo.