Tag Archives: media

Grrr, Tough on Crime

crime, heroes, tough on crime, Captain Marvel, fighting,

Captain Marvel gets tough on crime (Marvel Comics)

Yet again, we’re hearing about the Harper government’s tough on crime slogan. I actually get shudders because this phrase just sounds a bit too much like the Bushism “War on Terror.” There’s a crusader’s zeal to it that means not taking measured steps or looking at issues sensibly. It’s a fervent belief that actually has no facts to support the need.

Crime in general and violent crime has been going down consistently in Canada, so what’s happening?

Well, on one level, you have a Conservative government with some scary religious zeal being redirected to where Canadians will find it more acceptable than true religious right-wing zealotry. Crime! Everyone hates crime and yes we want people to be punished for their misdeeds. But the government’s smoke and mirrors means they’re really spending relatively little on building more prisons for a crime rate that’s going done. Then in a few years when the greatly diminished statistics are available (because this government cut out a lot of what’s needed by statisticians) they can say, “Look what a great job we did.”

Hmm, in the meantime they haven’t spent money on crime prevention, which includes lessening poverty, providing education for children (including those who have learning disabilities), and helping people get away from drug addiction. Much better to throw the drug addicts in prison where they can become ever more hardened than try to rehabilitate.

The other half of this weird equation where crime is going down but it “looks” like it’s going up can be blamed on media. When I say media I mean all, from the comic above to all those TV shows and movies with violent criminals or sometimes savvy and cool and handsome ones (the thieves and internet heisters). This also includes radio, TV, newspaper and internet news. We are now supersaturated in the fat of tragedy. Every trauma, tragedy, disaster or crisis is reported on. We don’t get the news just twice a day, but every hour, in twitter, on the internet, in colour, with numerous graphic pictures. We get talk shows and articles until all we see is the DIRE HORRIBLE STATE OF THE WORLD. Aieeee!

No wonder the Conservative government can sell wasting money on more prisons when crime is going down (gang warfare however, is going up). It would be nice if the media went back to unbiased reporting, which means mentioned the good things in life too. How about a few more tales of human kindness and achievement, of the beauty in the world both natural and made by humans. I want to weep sometimes as the mess we’re making but we also have great creative beautiful minds and the majority of people aren’t criminals and really do want the world to be a better place. So while we stay tough on crime (England’s thugs, I’m talking to you) let’s also be gentle and uplifting with beauty.

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Our Lives: the Microcosm vs the Macrocosm

The world revolves on a grand scale and on a small or microcosmic scale. The macrocosm can be something as enormous as the galaxy or the universe. But within the environs of the earth it comes down to a country’s personality. It is also earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes. It is war, and pandemic diseases. As well it is the nature of both humankind as a whole and the planet in its entirety. On this grand scale we see the war in Libya, the overturning of the government in Egypt, the rising price of gas, heating, food, etc., the many deaths from Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the political temperament of France or Tunisia, the cholera in Haiti, the religious fervor in Afghanistan or the human rights issues of China.

The macrocosm can be scary and all-encompassing. It is the onslaught of the human condition. It can also be beautiful: the ocean, the skies above, a forest, the many species that blanket the earth. It is humanity in all its great creativity, the collective consciousness, the evolution of our kind.

But when we look at the world as a whole we see doom and despair. We see death and cataclysms and everything looks like it’s spiraling down the hole. There are rapists and murderers and pedophiles, drug dealers and car accidents, disease and poverty, wars and subjugation. The news dwells on the negative and not the uplifting. It’s one reason I don’t read newspapers or watch TV; to lessen the onslaught to my sensibilities. My soul weeps when all I see is the tragedy of life and ever impending doom.

But…and this is a big emphasis on a small word…but when I look at the microcosm I see my neighbor who will rescue my cat, the friends who push my car through the snow, the person who holds the door open for me, the intimacy and love of friends and family. I smell a flower, watch a tree slowly unfurl its leaves and blooms, pet a cat, plant a flower, nod to a fellow shopper, go to a party, have a drink with friends and listen to their trials and tribulations, and relate to people every day. That’s my world.

We have to remember this  to achieve some balance in life. To look only at the macrocosm means the world is a despairing place bereft of good and beauty. To look only at the microcosm can mean your problems seem to be mountains or you are ignorant of the world around you. I remember the microcosm daily so that my spirit lifts and I have hope and joy. What matters most are the relationships we form with the people around us, and our environment. What is greatest is sharing love and joy. It is the only way to exist and stay sane in a world filled with chaos. Here’s to the intimate moments in the microcosm.

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What Makes a Word a Word?

Oxford University Press, the supposed authority on the English language has recently been updating the dictionary. Every living language evolves, with slang as well as words falling in or out of favor, and meanings changing. I would think though that instead of regional (or these days, media generated) changes that are as popular as long as a show or fad lasts, the words would have staying power.

But Oxford claims they very much research these words. Their criteria are listed on their site. The word has to be used by more than one person and be in use for a certain period of time. They say that words or definitions are added when “people are using them unselfconsciously, and expecting them to be understood.” The word must appear in print at least five times, which when you think of a review of a show or movie, can give that word staying power rather quickly. In our world-wide web, that doesn’t seem to be a very high criterion at all. Only five times to gain the immortality of the dictionary?

Now when you consider the English language it’s been evolving for a very long time. Spelling was definitely not codified even in Shakespeare’s time, partly because it was still only the elite classes who could read and write. But people wrote it how they liked. The first English dictionary is credited to Robert Cawdrey’s A Table Alphabeticall published in 1604. He listed the words, with definitions. Before then there were lists of words, sometimes to try to control their spelling but not with definitions attached. Yet, the change in words was slow, because few people traveled and then by horse and carriage or by foot.

Along came faster transportation by train and then car and planes. These modes helped to also transport the language and various usages to a larger geography and population.  Then came the interweb (one of the newly added words) and suddenly words from all over the world were more accessible, through blogs, books, websites, reviews–information and entertainment sites of all types and styles.

Oxford says it used to be that a word had to be used over a period of two or three years, but now in the digital age this time period has shortened because a word can attain enormous currency rather quickly. Well, yes it can. I’m surprised that they looked at words that were around for only two or three years. That doesn’t seem to be enough time for a word to have staying power, and now less time is needed? I never heard of chillax (to calm down and relax, which when you think of it is about the same thing) or bromance (a close but nonsexual relationship between two men–I thought that was called friendship) until last week when the news announced Oxford’s newest additions to the language.

Now, sure these words are used by some. I don’t watch TV sitcoms or comedy shows so maybe I’m the equivalent of living in a small town far from London in the Middle Ages, and I don’t hear the new lexicon. But I just think that some words should be a bit more permanent. Okay, I know. The language changes. No words are necessarily permanent but to add the latest fad or cool word that might only be used for the season of a show and then fall out of everyone’s vocabulary, well it just seems too temporary. Will bromance and favicon even be around in a year. Playing Scrabble is going to be a lot easier and harder. You’ll need a new dictionary every year to play the game if you’re play one of those new hot words that everyone’s using but no one’s heard of.  But hey, you can make up words more and they may actually be right.

I have heard of and used turducken, tiki torch and steampunk, all new words in the dictionary. But then tiki torch has been around a long time and steampunk at least for ten years. (Hey WordPress, why are these words being highlighted as misspellings?) Maybe Oxford can start different lines of dictionaries. The could have the New Oxford Dictionary of Temporary But Utterly Cool Words, and the Oxford Dictionary of Words We Will Understand in Ten Years. But then, it’s not an easy job picking and choosing and the English language is rife with changes and additions. I think a job like this could be fun, but I wonder if there would be huge arguments such as  whether staycation is a real word or just a passing phase.

Evolution of the language is speeding up, which means in ten years you may not be able to understand what your neighbor’s saying, even if you do now. So perhaps I’ll just go the WordPress “favicon,” check my “hashtag” at the door and “tweetup” with an “ampelographer” for a drink later if we can avoid the “attack dog.”

Oxford Press Site

A Table Alphabeticall

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Five Things To Be Grateful For: the Cornucopia List

Yeah, I know it’s bad grammar and should say, “Five things for which to be grateful,” but pretend you’re listening to me talk, where we tend to use more slang and colloquialisms.

I think I might try this once a week for a while, listing things that are shiny and happy. After all, with buffoons and tyrants in positions of power and the news reporting the dire events everyday it’s much better to list some positive aspects of life to counteract the darkness. It’s harder because we’re told more and more about things like murders and teenagers turning violent and the media feeds on this, with a sparse quip from time to time stating that incidents of violence have gone down. It’s hard to believe when we feed like ghouls and the bad stuff. So, without much more ado, here are five things.

  1. I’m grateful that I live in a country where I can complain and write about my government’s shenanigans. Whether they listen to me or not, at least I’m not shot or imprisoned.
  2. I’m grateful for spring, watching trees and plants push for shoots and blooms, seeing the earth revivified, alive and vibrant.
  3. I’m grateful for my eyes. Though not perfect, they let me see the world fairly well. They let me read and perceive.
  4. I’m grateful for Q on CBC. Even though the station has gone through cuts and now repeats itself to the point that I change channels, Q is still of very high quality and interest. Jian Ghomeshi is entertaining, intelligent and even keeled. He’s weathered the greats like Phyllis Diller and Leonard Cohen and suffered elegantly through Billy Bob Thornton’s idiocies.
  5. I’m grateful for computers. They’ve sped up many aspects of writing, without having to retype a page for every error, editing only on paper or trying to remember where you put that manuscript. Sure they’re time sinks and sure they haven’t cut down on paper but they’ve opened up a bigger world.

That’s it. My short list. Not a bucket list but perhaps a Cornucopia List. Cornucopia’s are horns filled with plenty. The first was said to be from Almathea, the goat who suckled the infant Zeus. When he accidentally broke it off he replaced it with a horn that could give fruit and flowers. A possible precursor to the holy grail, the cornucopia is always a sign of abundance.

Let’s see how long my list of plenty can continue. If nothing else, it will counterbalance all the horrible stuff out there.

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Booty and Buying Jeans

I’m one of those gals with booty, as they like to call it. Or a bigger ass than is the norm. However, I must really wonder what the norm is. We often think we’re the only ones with an issue or a problem, but mention it and it turns out it’s common for a lot of people.

Like booty. My hips and waist have quite a difference in ratio. First I must get them over my hyper developed calves, (not the ones mooing in the fields), then over the larger than average thighs and hips to the smaller than average waist. Should I get them all the way up, I usually have enough room in the waistline to cart a baby around. Suffice to say it’s extremely hard to find any pants and I revert to skirts more often than not. Yoga pants are fine because they stretch.

You would think that pants that fit below the waistline would make it easier because there is less disparity between upper hip and lower hip. But oh no, this is not so. Often when I try those pants on they give me plumber’s crack and that ain’t attractive on anyone. Now it’s easy to think that I am some misshapen creation but when I’ve talked with other female friends who I wouldn’t consider overweight at all and some even very skinny it turns out most of them have the same problem.

They say they can’t get them over their thighs or if they get them over their hips, they gap in the back. These slim women, like me, cannot find pants to fit. Interestingly, tall women can’t ever find pants or shirts long enough. Now if you are of genetic Asian heritage your waist to hip ratio on average will be less than those of European or African heritage. You’ll have to ask an anthropologist for the difference in people’s physiologies because there are books written about the subject.

But suffice to say, for the average North American woman (that’s you and me and not all the anorexic models) we come in a variety of sizes. I remember being at a new year’s party once and we got talking about clothes and the whole booty problem. When I looked around the room, all these beautiful women had what many would call a slightly bigger than average butt. The media goes on about J-Lo’s booty and I can’t see anything wrong with it except that it looks like a nice curvy butt.

Media and fashion, the bane of every normally sized person. And just who is it that the fashion industry makes all those clothes for anyway? Sure there are “average” size people, according to those sizes but many of us are curvier. I went shopping last week for a new pair of jeans. I hate shopping for pants because it’s trying on size after size, often with no luck in getting anything even up to the hips, and by the end you feel fat. My jeans are always pretty near to skin-tight because if I go for a larger size, it’s far far too large for my waist. So I’m always wedging myself in.

Last week’s excursion saw me in about seven different stores; Sears, Bootlegger, Stitches, Le Chateau, Suzy Shier, American Eagle, Zellers even. In some there were not enough jeans to try on, as in the legs were too skinny or the sizes too small to even start the laborious process of struggling into fabric and getting overheated. Stitches seemed to have nothing but 00, 1 and 3 sizes. Zero isn’t a size and it certainly wasn’t even ten years ago, but hello, anorexia. However, this told me that Stitches was catering mostly to the tweens, the young kids before hormones wop them and give them breasts and leg hair and shape.

After negating several stores just for sheer similarity in jean sizes and one place that had $98 pairs (I won’t pay over $50 for just jeans), I tried on about 40 pairs of jeans. I developed a system for measuring the narrowest part, the knee, and if it wasn’t as wide as my hand I didn’t even take the pair in to try. Of those 40 a few only got as far as myknees. Most of the others I pulled all the way on, a few with jumping about, and did them up. But between plumber’s crack and gapitis none worked. I think there was one pair but they didn’t look good. There”s no point buying something that fits if it doesn’t look good on you and you end up not wearing it.

Tired and hot, I gave up and headed out of the mall. But I happened to pass Mark’s Work Wearhouse. I think of them as work clothes, overalls, muckin’ huge boots, that sort of thing. But what the heck, I went in. Not only did I find pants that fit I found that they had four styles: contemporary, classic, modern and curvy. Contemporary fits slightly below the natural waistline; classic fits at the waistline, modern fits below and curvy fits below but designed not to gap.  They didn’t have a lot of the curvy style in but they fit me and they didn’t gap. I ended up finding the only one left of another style with a modern waistline, and they were on sale. Thank the gods for curvy and recognizing that there are those of us who have hips.

Many of my friends, when I posted my yippee on Facebook, wanted to know where I found them. Stores that decide to cater to more than boy-hipped girls would probably find their sales going up as many girls with booty would worship there.

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Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, Oh My God, Tiger Woods!

You would think by all the hullabaloo, the prime time furor and general gossip that no one ever ever ever has cheated before. Certainly not those famous people, our modern gods: rock stars, movie stars and sports stars.

I don’t read the paper or watch TV but do listen to enough radio news (daily) to be up on current affairs. So when I’m being inundated with Tiger Woods this and Tiger Woods that, you know it’s hit a high saturation point in the media.

Past Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said that “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” And likewise, the media has no business in the bedrooms of individuals. You would think we lived in a puritan world where every marriage is sacred until death do they part, with fidelity the center, and love binding everyone close. You would think there wasn’t a divorce rate at about 50% for first marriages (higher for subsequent marriages) in North America.

You would think that every two couples who read the news would be mum or offer no comment because probably one of them is cheating. Not all divorces mean people cheat but infidelity is the number one reason for divorce. So why does everyone care about yet another celebrity caught with his pants down and another woman involved? Because, like the rubber neckers that have to stop and stare at every accident, we revel in the misfortune of others, in the dirt and the downfall of the mighty. Because we’re petty and we want to see those more successful than us fail so that we can say they’re no better than us. Of course, if it wasn’t for media and the population putting these people on pedestals in the first place, their indiscretions would not matter as much.

When it was reported that Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe it titillated somewhat but that might have been after the fact. With Clinton’s blow job or not from Monica Lewinsky, the US government spent millions investigating it, yet polls showed the majority of the public didn’t give a damn. That Tiger Woods is taking  a break from pro-golf over this is frankly, ridiculous. What does his personal life have to do with his professional life, unless he’s an emotional wreck and can’t play? If he could still play, being caught in coital indsicretions shouldn’t matter. I don’t care if he runs around in pink panties and oinks like a pig. What matters is that he plays golf. Now, overall I don’t care one iota about golf, and I equally don’t care about Mr. Woods’ private life.

But what gets me over and over again is that anytime some famous personage has been found to be doing something naughty everyone titters and gasps and is “SHOCKED.” And yet the two-faced standard is that most of those who are aghast have the same indiscretions. And really, can it even be helped when most ads for everything from clothing to booze use sex to sell these items. All you have to do is look at a billboard or a magazine to see women and men in provocative poses with sexy pouts upon their faces. You’ll be popular, you’ll have sex, the beautiful people will loooove you if you buy this product.

Does this mean we live in a culture of loose morals? To the true fundamental puritan types, yes. But it doesn’t mean those people lead any happier of a marital life. It’s just their culture might not allow divorce or for a person to have frequent sex or for anyone to be trained in how to give sexual pleasure. In all cultures and cases, whether people of fame, infamy or unknown to anyone but their friends, what happens in the bedroom should be of concern only to those in the bedroom (barring of course abuse) and anyone they’re in a partnership with.

The biggest culprit in all this is the media, creating a frenzy, and chewing over Tiger’s life, sharks in bloodied waters. It is voyeuristic in the extreme and all the “in-depth looks” at Tiger’s life, wife, mistress, the sordid interviews, the speculation should just be stopped so that we can get to real news. If the media is tittering over infidelity, then they should turn the spotlight on themselves and ask why they have such a kinky, unhealthy and unwholesome interest in his life.

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The Media Circus and the Bandwagon

The media is a powerful tool (whether internet, print or radio) and how a story or event is portrayed can sway popular opinion, raise hopes or fears. There also seems to be two types of news: there is the news that reports an event that has just happened, and there is investigative reporting, which involves giving backgrounds and both sides (sometimes) into current events. Of course some investigative reporting also takes noncurrent events and makes them current by revealing what has been going on behind the backs of the public.

Reporting is supposed to be unbiased but as we know the range is vast. The best news presents only the facts but that’s rare these days, and even those facts and events are embellished with adjectives and descriptions that can color the story. The worst news reportage is given to hypberbole and innuendo or even outright conjecture and sensationalism.

But media in general, to draw audiences and increase sales, must report current and hot topics, sometimes over and over and over again, ad nauseum. This mindless media bandwagon is like the chatter of an excited child who has noticed a bright balloon. They forget to ask other questions or point out more than the obvious. For whatever reason, the media might latch on to a certain topic and deem it newsworthy, and flog that horse till everyone whether they wnant to or not Here are a few examples.

H1N1, also called Swine Flu. The vaccine is out, the vaccine is out, British Columbians are rolling up their sleeves, health authorities ask the public to be patient, many British Columbians have been waiting. Have they? How does the media know? Have they done surveys or is that just hyperbole? So here we are told over and over again about the vaccine, about the flu, about the number who have been hospitalized or died in BC.

Here is what we aren’t told and which I’ve had to dig out on my own. What’s a pandemic? It’s a case of a particular strain of disease that is infectious and shows up in different regions (global). There are different levels of pandemic. The Spanish flu (a strain of H1N1 coincidentally) of 1918, estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population killed between 50-100 million people and was a stage 5 flu pandemic. It was one of the most deadly flus in the last hundred years.

The WHO says a flu is pandemic when these conditions are met:

  • emergence of a disease new to a population;
  • agents infect humans, causing serious illness; and
  • agents spread easily and sustainably among humans
  • Flus recur often and flu pandemics (AIDS is also considered a pandemic) at least three times a century. The media has been hyping the shots and the spread of the flu but not putting it into context with what a pandemic is or how severe it is. At this point, it’s still not that severe but it has been classed a stage (or level) 6, which indicates spread not virulence. More people die every year from a regular flu than have died yet from this strain. However, what they also don’t say is that because it is of the same type (but not the same) that caused the Spanish flu they are worried that it could be as deadly. Avian flu was more virulent than the current flu but didn’t spread as quickly.

    The media needs to do a better job of presenting facts without increasing fear. By only reporting over and over again about the flu and vaccines makes it sound very deadly. And though it is to some people and there are risk groups, that is no different from the yearly flus that can kill 500,000. So what are the facts in perspective, instead of the facts segregated out for greater effect and emotion?

    Then we have the Olympic bandwagon. Over the past several years we’ve been presented with several perspectives. The cost of the Olympics, how much the province, the city and the federal government were going to put in was mentioned first. As projects and venues were completed, these things were reported of course. The lighting of the torch is now in the news.

    Also in the news is the fact that the city and the province are fighting huge deficits. The provincial government wants to bring in a tax (after the Olympics of course) that will ding everyone into paying more for things that weren’t previously taxed. Jobs are being cut by the city and province. Oh and somehow the Liberal government has prebought enough tickets to Olympic venues to equal a cool million bucks.

    It should be up to the media to now present a picture of what we were told and promised at the beginning and what we’re getting in retrospect. But I think I can figure that out. We were given wishful thinking and lies so that some people would naively believe that the Olympics wouldn’t be over budget and that we wouldn’t be paying higher taxes to cover it. But really, I’m as bad as the media (though I’m not being paid) because I base my beliefs on conjecture and what I can remember. But perhaps we’ll see some good investigative reporting on this before the Olympics begins though it’s more likely to happen after the close of the event.

    And of course, media can be influenced by and even muzzled by politics. And politics plays in anything that a government is involved in.

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    Writing: To Shine or Not to Shine

    It’s been a while since I posted anything on my own writing. Partly because I’m in a slow stage and partly because well, I guess because I’ve been plugging at one story for a bit and revisiting an old novel. Earlier this year I polished up the long running story (long running in that it took me 15 years to write) and sent it off to the Shine anthology being edited by Jetse de Vries in the Netherlands.

    It’s an intriguing anthology because the point is that the future is bright, not the dystopian worlds so often shown in SF and fantasy, and especially in short stories. The subgenre (or maybe getting back to the grassroots genre) of “mundane SF” looks at the world within the next 50 years, on our planet (mostly) and with a possible, believable extrapolation of future science and technologies. No bug-eyed aliens, no extra worlds or space-faring races.

    For Jetse’s anthology, he also wanted a future world that was better than this one. My world starts out worse but with a hopefully uplifting future, so it didn’t fit. But there have been discussions of late, on the SF Canada writers’ list, as well as at Worldcon about all the dystopian SF that’s being written. How, some editors were asked, do you get people to write something uplifting that takes place in the near future?

    A good question and I think one reason we are writing so much dystopian fiction is because of the inundation our culture receives of news stories about the terror and horror and pollution and the fall of civilization. In some ways, today is no worse than it was fifty years ago. In other ways, it is worse. There are more pollutants, more severe forms of crime (even if there is less crime), more illnesses and allergies. Or is there? Some yes, but we have 24-hour news channels, and as they say, no news is good news.

    With the constant fear-mongering, the visuals of graphic crimes, the devastating natural disasters, the “wars on terror” we find our mindset dwelling on THE END, or the present and how to survive it. We have no faith of a good future. We have no pretense that there will be endless resources. We’ll run out of water, oil, food and space. So how indeed do we write utopian fiction?

    This discussion and Jetse’s comment to me has got me thinking. My own fiction is often dark but not always. Yet I’ve never sold the two humorous pieces I’ve written, but then they’re fantasy more than SF. Still, part of bringing our future, our tangible world to a brighter place is to not succumb to the gloom and despair but to hope and work towards a dream, not a nightmare. I’ll consider this as I write some of my future fiction.

    So with that in mind, Jetse de Vries is planning some contests for the pre-release of his anthology, Shine. Here is what he said:

     

    Shine is slated for an early 2010 release, and until that time I will keep several features (‘Optimistic SG around the World’, ‘Music that Makes You Feel Optimistic’, etc.) running on the Shine blog, while adding new ones. 

    First, I will be running a number of stories that came very close, but didn’t make the final cut for a variety of reasons (I’ve tried to walk the tightrope of getting maximum quality while also obtaining great variety in tone, content, characters and setting). This to promote Shine and optimistic SF in general. I’ll probably be setting up a new site for that.

    Second, I will be holding a competition where people need to guess the correct ending of a certain paragraph—choosing from four alternatives: three bogus, one real—and this for 16 paragraphs, each from one of the 16 accepted Shine stories. Extra points for guessing who the author is. I’m working on interesting prizes. Depending on the actual launch date of Shine, I intend to hold this competition in November or December 2009.

    Jetse de Vries
    Editor, SHINE anthology & OUTSHINE Twitterzine

     OUTSHINE guidelines: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/outshine-submission-guidelines/  Shine: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/ Personal blog: http://eclipticplane.blogspot.com/

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    Perspectives on the World

    The world is an amazing complex sphere. None of us can truly understand the scope of all that it encompasses nor be knowledgeable in all ares. We can fathom some of it but are our views accurate?

    I long ago stopped watching TV or even reading newspapers. To this day I have never seen a picture of the twin towers falling. I didn’t need to. The horror was all too real without that. And that is just one reason why I don’t watch TV–the horror of it is too much. These days we have 24-7 news and programming and multiple channels. You can catch the news on a particular subject at any time and if it’s something big, like Michael Jackson’s death, the predators start circling immediately with “in-depth” commentary on his life, his fashion, his eccentricities, his doctors, his drugs, his family, his kids, his debts, his fortune, etc. On and on, with huge drama in every commentator’s voice; melodrama one could say. (I did catch a little bit while at my neighbor’s)

    That’s one example but news is never (or rarely) about the good stuff. The adage goes, No news is good news, and that can mean that if you don’t hear anything that’s good news and of course, what sells papers or draws audience viewing is the bad news. The disasters, the accidents, the murders and rapes, the lost children, the poverty, the wars, the despotic regimes, etc.

    And what does this do? It weighs us down with darkness and despair, with loss of faith in humankind, with  fatalism. When I watched this stuff, the news, the same plane disaster would be played out several times a day with graphic depictions of the accident. I wept and felt terrible, and grew depressed, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t have compassion for anyone hit with hard circumstances. We should, but we can also be bludgeon into insensitivity with a constant overload of the bad and the tragic.

    My outlook would start to cloud and I thought as the world on an downward spiral into eternal darkness. We didn’t need religious myths, we had our hell now. But then I stopped and thought. Were my coworkers, my friends, my family despots, murderers, rapists? Were they evil and uncaring? No. Were they uncaring? No.

    And that was just the people I know. On the macrocosm of the world and world events, there are horrors beyond belief. On the microcosm are individual organisms, you and me. Each person can be good or bad but the majority are caring people, who follow the law, who try to help out, who want to believe in the goodness of their fellow human. I try to remember this when I look at the likes of Mugabe, Ayatollah Khomeini, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden, Willie Picton, Paul Bernardo, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. that they are the small percentage, the very few.

    Their crimes are so vile that they make the headlines. Your friend that picks you up when your car breaks down on the highway, the father who comforts his child, the person who donates to organizations where money will help the underprivileged, we don’t hear about those people, except once in a while. Only if it’s a celebrity do we hear of charitable acts.

    And so we get a skewed outlook of our world. Yes, one war can wipe out thousands or millions and is terrible and on the macrocosmic scale still speaks of a problem for human kind in general. As a whole homo sapiens need to strive harder to be better. Yet we must remember the good that people do for it is these small acts that give us hope and faith.

    Even with only getting my news through radio (I do stay informed) it is still skewed towards the tragic. But I try very hard to remember the good and that I would have been in more dire straights were it not for the support of friends and family and yes, at times strangers. Give a little and you can receive a lot.

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    The Death of Rock Stars

    Untimely deaths in the world of entertainment may not be every day, but they are a little too common, and of course because these people are famous we hear of all the sensational aspects that went along with the death. Looking at three stars of the music world, we have Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Michael Jackson, to name a few but perhaps the most famous deaths.

    Elvis made it to 42 and died from complications of obesity and drugs. His life of fame ate at him and like many stars, brought out the hollowness of always being in the spotlight and having money to satisfy every desire but a happy heart. His funeral was big and his grave still gets many fans at Graceland.

    John Lennon, didn’t die by his own hand, but was shot down by a nut, at the age of 40 (and Lennon actually said in a interview that day that he would probably be popped off by a loony). I remember when he died and I was incensed that the local paper didn’t even mention it on the front page of the newspaper. But some deaths hit the front pages because they sell newspapers.Because Lennon had moved on from the Beatles to a new phase of his life, his death was big but probably not as big as Elvis’s though they had been contemporaries.

    Michael Jackson made it to 50, so did relatively well of the three big stars. He too died from drugs, addiction and who knows what else. His funeral this week was a spectacle with rock and movie stars and the thousands who attended being chosen through a lottery. It was in one sense a big dead concert, with booklets being given out as souvenirs or mementos of his memorial.

    Comparing funerals and the splash that any of these men made in death could be difficult. Even Sarah Bernhardt’s death in the 20s held a spectable. Jackson has died in the age of computers and internet, blogging and tweeting. That his death will have hit more media forms than any other big stars death is obvious. This will of course increase his impact on his fans, or the number of people influenced by him. On TV, there must be at least five stations with long, dedicated shows to dissecting Jackson’s life. Not to mention every news hour covered Jackson’s death in detail.

    Although stars often do charity and public works, funneling some of the gross amounts of money they make into good deeds, they are not overall big on world impact. That often takes world leaders and the power of their countries behind them to make those changes. But the King of Rock n’ Roll, the King of Pop and the Fab Four were known for their music, for touching the hearts and souls of millions of people. On TV, in movies, on stage, they were more visible, more beautiful and more charismatic than our world leaders.

    Is it any wonder then, that we idolize them, place them on pedestals and call them our modern gods? People must place their faith, hopes and dreams on someone. We may not all be famous but we can fantasize of these princes of music and try and dig into evey aspect of their lives. And we can hate them enough to pull them down or shoot them, should they show a flaw or just somehow be what we can’t be.

    Michael Jackson, like Elvis and John Lennon, left a huge legacy. It will stay in the hearts and minds of people for a long time. It will be a hundred years or longer before they fade from memory. But other stars will rise and shine and burn brightly for a time, then fade. And amongst those supernovas, there will be millions of other stars, not so bright, but the lives of you and me and those around us who deserve attention and love while alive. The price of fame and fortune was that Elvis and Michael at least, sought drugs and were unhappy. So we, the little stars, should remember this and be happy that we have the ability to be obscure and not always in a spotlight that can singe us to the soul.

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