DON'T BLINK; '96 COULD ZIP BY IN A TWINKLING

By Published on .

Somebody was saying how fast 1995 has flown by, and he's right, it has. But 1996, I fearlessly predict, will speed by even faster.

It's not just because we're all growing older-the Baby Boomers begin to turn 50 next year-and each passing year is a smaller part of our lives. The new, faster speed limits on our nation's highways-in Montana you'll be able to go as fast as you want-will save so much time that we'll be able to finish next year by September-or so it will seem.

All that additional time will likely make us more impatient than ever and less tolerant of delays. When you hurtle down the highway at 80 mph or more, everything else will seem like slow motion.

The new speed limits will be the final nail in the coffin for baseball. Who will have the patience to enter a time warp from the days when people ate peanuts and Cracker Jack and didn't care if they ever got back?

Our attention span for news and information will continue to narrow, but at an accelerated pace. CNN Headline News will seem like the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Andrew Lack, president of NBC News, talked about the "dumbing down" of American TV viewers in a recent speech to the Radio & Television News Directors Association. "I feel we are spawning a generation of reporters and news directors who no longer place any value on the written word, the turn of the phrase, the uncut long, hard question. All we care about are the almighty pictures, the video, the story count-and that it moves like a bat out of hell. We barely listen to what is said anymore," Mr. Lack lamented.

With the new supersonic speed limits, viewers will have an appetite for nothing more than sound nibbles. And speaking of nibbles, you know that things are progressing at a little too much of a hectic pace when the editors of New Woman lead with this story in the current issue: "Sex: The fast and fun way."

It will be much more difficult to put your money on the hot new trend. I'd be reluctant, for instance, to wager my money on riverboat gambling. It's true that riverboat casinos are draining funds away from off-track betting parlors. But bettors will be quick to tire of the riverboats and will be susceptible to the next lure for their money: Gambling on the Internet, from the comfort of home. There's going to be a lot of old casino boats for sale in the not-too-distant future.

But there will always be a segment of the population that will want to slow things down. CBS is bringing back Bill Cosby. "The Beatles Anthology" was a big hit as was the charming retrospective on Jack Benny. Whether we'll have the patience to appreciate them is another thing. As newspaper columnist Bob Greene said, "You wonder whether Jack Benny, were he to come along now, would be given a chance to shine. Where are the headlines in Jack Benny's demeanor? Where are the news flashes in a career built on taste, and impeccable timing, and respect for one's audience. And yet-this is what is being lost today-those are the things that stick."

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