Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chris Ayres' "Death by Leisure"

Chris Ayres joined The Times (London) in 1997 and has since been posted in New York, Los Angeles, and Iraq. The latter stint inspired his first book, War Reporting for Cowards.

He now writes from Los Angeles for The Times while contributing occasional columns to the Los Angeles Times. His work has also recently appeared in Forbes, Conde Nast Traveller, and Playboy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Death by Leisure: A Cautionary Tale, and reported the following:
Having relocated from a sheep farming village in Northern England to Los Angeles—to take up a job as Hollywood correspondent for The Times of London—I have moved into a gaudy eighties-vintage apartment complex named ‘The Leisureplex’ and embarked upon a scheme to use borrowed money to impress the local women.

The scheme isn’t working, even after I spent $5,000 on an ill-advised bribe to get myself (and my unimpressed date) into Michael Jackson’s 45th birthday party at Neverland ranch. Still, I’m persevering—although I’m already beginning to suspect that there might be some serious consequences to the instant self-gratification made possible by the Bush/Greenspan credit bubble.

Page 99 finds me once again trying to raise the stakes (I’ll do a lot more of this before the book is done) having just taken delivery of that ubiquitous status symbol of the mid-2000s: a plasma TV “big enough to beam messages to extraterrestrials”. Meanwhile, LA’s infamous Santa Ana winds are raging, and the catastrophic 2003 Cedar Fire is beginning to take hold, a natural (or perhaps unnatural) disaster that I will go on to experience first-hand.

“Sweating, stripped to my boxers, and matted with dust from lying on the floor, I finally located the ON button," I write, having just hooked-up the TV. "I will say this: the picture is dramatically different than that of my old TV. For example, it’s a lot bigger. Tuned to CNN, I can now see every pixel in Larry King’s face. The manual tells me that if I want to make the pixels smaller—and the picture sharper—I will need to buy a new high-definition receiver and a new high-definition cable subscription. And then, after I acquired both of these things, I will need to buy a new high-definition TV.

"Say what you want about obsolescence, but it doesn’t waste any time these days.”
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Ayres' website.

--Marshal Zeringue