Tag Archives: TV

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, family, people, relationships

Things I’ve Learned From TV

I recently took a week off and, conserving my funds, made it a working vacation for writing. This means I wrote one story, finished another, submitted a bunch of poems and stories and started rewriting my novel…again. In between that, cleaning and doing the great purge on my place, I was also suffering from a case of Smallvillitis. What’s that? Well it’s where you start watching Smallville, on your laptop and watch an episode every day. Of course, this was season 9 so I’ve had the disease for a while. In fact, I watched season 1-9 this year.

That’s actually pretty bad for someone who professes to not watch TV. But I can blame that on Joss Whedon and Buffy who got me back into watching interesting and intelligent TV. Still, I try not to become a total couch potato. However, watching so many seasons at once really lets you see the character and story arcs of the show. What gimmicks or themes are big for them: for Smallville, the theme of power and what’s right and wrong are tantamount, laced with unrequited love, jealousy, faith, fear, alienability, etc. The other thing that becomes evident are the gimmicks or tricks that the directors and producers like for a show. Some of these are the clichés of Hollywood and some are clichés in the making.

Smallville survives because it has interesting enough plots, characters changing sometimes so subtly from good to evil and back and pretty good dialogue. But it falls captive to some of those TV realities, which do not affect our real world. Not just Smallville, but other shows and movies get caught up in the same trap. Below is a partial list of some of the things I’ve learned from TV and from Smallville.

  1. Creepy things in fields and graveyards (or meetings in such places) are always accompanied by mist. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Kansas or the Alps, there’s bound to be spooky mist.
  2. Cars, no matter how small the fire, will always explode. If this were true people would probably never drive them. Explosions are actually very rare. I once copyedited a Hulk novel (I think) where the truck transporting grape jam exploded and the fire was hot enough to melt glass and turn everything purple from the jam. Of course, that’s hot enough to melt a lot of stuff and anything organic would carbonize, not retain its color. I think they still left it in, no matter how inaccurate it was.
  3. Air ducts are always big enough for a full human to crawl though, and spic and span clean. I look up in the buildings I walk through and never notice ducts this big, nor do I think that they could support the weight of a human if I see one. And usually they’re half the size. Where are all the spiders and grungy dirt bits filtered out from the great outdoors?
  4. Elevators always have a hatch at the top, big enough and easy enough for someone to escape into. Everyone is of course a super athlete. In the one level elevator into the underground garage where my bank is, there is a grill and yes a hatch big enough to crawl through, should I be able to hoist myself up. But I don’t often see these in business buildings. And what do the escapees do anyways, crawl up the greasy cables to the next floor?
  5. Fires in houses, even primitive cottages will still cause and explosion. Yes, like cars and trucks watch out for the giganto fires. Toss a lamp down, and it will flame crazily and instantly, and yes the house will explode sooner or later.
  6. Every slum even in big cities, has guys burning fires in oil drums. Next time you’re out in your big city, think about or drive through that bad or down and out are of town. Vancouver has Canada’s poorest postal code with the Downtown Eastside, and you know what, even there with drug addicts and alcoholics and people who need care, there is not one oildrum with a fire burning in it. Dang where is that disenfranchised utopia?
  7. Glass tables; everyone has them because they can fall through them. Yep, you would not believe the number of times someone has tossed someone through a glass table on Smallville. They love it and it happens about every three episodes (I’m just guessing) because well, it looks so good and makes great crashing sounds (done afterwards in the foley studio but who the heck cares).

I’ve already talked about the brainiac glasses cliché where every egghead computer user sports them. But I’ m sure I’ll be able to add more to this list in the future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, humor, movies

Movie Fallacies: Eyeglasses

The movies are notorious for giving us views of the world that don’t actually reflect reality. Granted, movies are make-believe, there are those “realistic” ones that still skew the truth. Early operatic Valkyries colored people’s views of Vikings and it is still popular to see hulking Norse berserkers with giant horns (or wings) on their helmets, when in fact, archeological evidence indicates this was never the case. There was one helm with straight conical horns and deemed ceremonial due to the decorations, rather than functional.

Now, if we look at Hollywood’s view of intelligence, it almost always involves glasses, especially for women. If a woman isn’t portrayed as a vixen or a housewife, then inevitably she wears glasses so that we know she couldn’t possibly be sexy and therefore must be intelligent (because no way can Hollywood fathom sexy and intelligent–sexy and devious yes, but not straight-on I’m-going-to-solve-this-crisis smart).

Sometimes synonymous with eyeglass intelligence is that of nerdiness. Your nerd, more often guys than not, in any movie is often connected to a computer and wears glasses; big glasses, nerdy glasses. Once in a while you may have an exception, the guy that works a computer all the time but doesn’t wear glasses but it’s rare. Tom Cruise or some other star might, in the role of his Mission Impossible character, need to use a computer but he doesn’t have to wear glasses. Even Tosh in Torchwood, when she’s at the computer puts glasses on.

And that’s what happens to most “intelligent” women, no matter their age in a movie or TV show. As soon as they’re at a computer they wear glasses. Because Hollywood thinks we won’t believe a person’s intelligence without that very noticeable symbol. Although most people don’t need reading glasses until they’re in their 40s or 50s you would think, by Hollywood standards, that everyone is going farsighted early. When I worked on Level 9  for its brief life, the show (about cybercops) was full of computer users but one young woman had to toss glasses on each time at the computer, because that’s just what computer users do. I’m sitting here right now typing without glasses and I do need reading  glasses in low light.

Hollywood’s second name is stereotype. All those old westerns had the good guys in white (or light colors for B&W) and the bad guys in black. Then The Avengers came along and sexy, competent Emma Peel wore black. Gotta give that show credit for mixing it up a bit at an early age.

Next time you’re watching a show that has an intelligent woman in it, check to see if she’s ever sexy in her glasses (also a rarity) or if she is only ever dressed to kill minus the eyewear. And look for that sign of her intelligence when she puts her glasses on, no matter how young she is. And check those nerdy scientist guys. Even if they’re good looking hunks, chances are, if they’re scientists or tied to computers, they’re going to have the eyeglasses (and maybe even the ubiquitous white lab coat).

Hollywood is certainly not into leading in the forefront and often into perpetuating stereotypes. I’m betting some of the HBO shows break those stereotypical taboos more than other stations. Maybe PBS too. It would be interesting to do a survey and see who the worst offenders are, or if it’s the formulaic movies. Signing off, without glasses, and with intelligence.

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fashion, movies, myth, people

Archeology and Waste

? For some reason, even though I checked, WordPress did not publish this. A glitch in the system? Here is what was supposed to be Wednesday’s entry.

When archeologists dig around looking for artifacts there are several places that become treasure troves. Obviously where cities once were, and more, houses will relinquish many items of eras past. Various places that served as guildhouses or factories will have pieces that were considered of  inferior quality, or flawed some way. But the best place of all  to find treasures are the midden heaps.

These were the garbage piles, sometimes the leftovers of the latrines and garderobes. Castle toilets often just open from above with the waste falling down to a festering pile below. Some had troughs built and some might have been contained. But the best way to keep the stench down was to let some air in, even if the stench was below on the ground. Unwanted items and refuse went into various midden heaps. Garbage yes, but something worn out, something no longer wanted. Of course in the centuries past, possessions were hard won, made by hand and expensive to the common person.

A piece of clothing would be worn until it fell apart and usable pieces would be incorporated into newer garments, if they were salvageable. Utensils and dishes would be used through generations until they broke or wore out. Then they would be tossed on the midden heap. And of course, people have always lost things. Those who could afford a higher level of affluence would eventually toss out or pass to their servants an item they no longer wanted.

Our midden heaps of today are  landfills and garbage dumps. But whereas of old usually only the most worn out items would ended up in the dumps, now we have a plethora of discarded things. A thousand years from now, should humanity not have completely depleted resources and polluted the planet, there will be archeologists digging in our midden heaps.

This weekend I spent an hour going through my trough of pens, finding the ones that worked, unscrewing the ones that could be taken apart and trying refills in them. Not one of my refills fit these pens and though they say refillable we often just throw out the pen that has died. So yes, archeologists will find pens but perhaps fewer and fewer as they move up through the strata, indicating our greater dependence on electronic media. Yet, at home I have a glass calligraphic pen (Venetian), other calligraphy pens that use nibs to be dipped in ink or come with a cartridge, as well as ballpoints,  felt pens and pencils. I don’t use them as often as I once did but I do still use pens.

Our middens will contain numerous paper clips and pennies. Was any coin considered so beneath notice in Roman times or Rennaisance Italy? No wonder some places want to eliminate the penny (and make more money as a result). I’m sure there will be numerous hangers of wood, plastic and metal. These are the tiny items, along with buttons and zippers after the fabric has corroded away, that will litter our landfills.

Plastics eventually grow brittle and crack, breaking down and in a thousand years would only be evident if buried. So there will be some containers buried deeply, leeched of color and symbols. Glass of course perseveres for centuries so our dishes will still be there to check out. Clothing as stated, will deteriorate quickly, if it’s natural fiber but the polyester blends and synthetic-made-from-plastic-bags polar fleece will stick around a bit longer, though it’s still a plastic and will break down, even if it does take a long time.

And then there are the TVs, stereos, fridges, cars, phones, digital this and that’s and computers. Hundreds of thousands of computers. Archeologists will probably judge rightful conclusions from the fact that the midden heaps will be festooned with TVs and computers. And those conclusions will be that we were a wasteful society, that somehow these things gave out quickly (planned obsolescence–the worst idea to hit the last two centuries), that we needed them to survive or that we were a leisure society bent on possessions.

Well, yes, there it is. Waste not, want not. And unfortunately we waste a lot and want a lot, and our wastage will continue to leech into soil and water. Heavy metals, radioactive materials, plastics–they’re all changing our environments and if you wonder why were developing more and severe allergies, this is why.

But in essence, the future will be filled with archeologists trying to figure out what ran our society, what was prevalent, what was popular and cheap. Whether they’ll come away with that we were an affluent, decadent, careful or conservationist society will be in the making of each layer. I hope it’ll be evident before a thousand years have gone by that we started to change before it was too late.

Leave a comment

Filed under cars, Culture, environment, history, internet, life, nature, people, science

The Demise of the Printed Word

When I say printed word, I mean that literally. Not the electronic word nor the spoken word but everything from books to newspapers are in jeopardy of a discontinued existence. Nearly everyone these days has a computer and is connected to the internet, even the poorest people. In essence the computer has supplanted the TV and in fact could take over that role, completely being one system for everything: music, TV and internet resource/communications tool.

Many of us don’t enjoy sitting at our desks, reading or even watching a computer screen for hours. But then we have laptops so you can move to a more comfortable setting. Imagine a large, wide-screen TV and your console (read keyboard) at your couch, remote and wireless. Weird future? No, we have this ability right now and it will only be a matter of years until we see this as a common evolution.

On top of making computer usage more comfortable, there are a myriad of PDAs (personal digital assistants) or whatever fancy name they’re branded under. These are the small, light, handheld devices to which you can download images or text. Some people are already reading stories on devices as small as Palm Pilots or the slightly bigger ebook styles that would be the equivalent size of a thin paperback. So it won’t matter what you want. There will be some form of electronic medium on which to view images, listen to music and read written works.

What still stands in the way of full electronic immersion for the common person is that the cost is somewhat prohibitive, not every book you want is available, the tactile feel is very different between paper and plastic/metal and we don’t always like reading onscreen. One trend that has become prevalent with computers and the internet is our short attention spans. People like short paragraphs to read and stories of a certain length. Fill the screen with a huge block of text and our attention deficit minds wander off to another webpage or site. We’re not willing to sit as long to read onscreen. How that will translate to palm readers overall remains to be seen.

You could say the internet is perpetuating a lack of concentration and patience. So how long a paragraph can someone put on any of these reading ebooks and still keep someone from wandering away? I doubt Victor Hugo will read well on an ebook format, but I could be wrong. So what we’ll have is shorter and shorter sentences and paragraphs and perhaps even books, which could lead to a new fad in literature, that of simplified writing. There are already twitter websites. That’s worrisome in itself for the intricacies and depths of plot.

Even more problematic is the future for writers. There will be more internet publishers, not willing to actually hire a copy editor and pay them a decent wage to correct a manuscript. Instead, they’ll offer the editor a portion of the net sales, so the copy editor or proofreader will work for free or even peanuts unless the book sells through. Authors will not even get an advance against royalties but again a share of the books that have actually sold. They’ll write first and maybe never get paid later or be paid a couple of bucks.

Now most writers have written first, and sold later so that, you could say, is the same as it’s always been. But copy editors don’t work for free and writers now can “sell” their books to a publisher and still get less than they should if they sold to a traditional publisher. With low cost output to the epublisher, an author should get a much larger percentage. If the epublisher also does print on demand paper publishing than there should be a separate rate for that as the overhead would be slightly higher for shipping and printing. But how well does an epublisher advertise or do they leave it up to internet searches rather than promoting an author? This too can make the difference between putting your book on a dusty eshelf or having it actually sell.

What does the publisher put out? Very little in costs. They acquire the book and the editing for free and run a website that lists these items, where people can stop in to buy them. Perhaps the publisher must run the manuscript through their program to format it properly but once you have it set up, it’s not that much work.  If a novel is bought, the publisher gets the lion’s share and some of the rest of the money is divvied up to the author, editor and perhaps artist. This is a way to have authors work for free.

This may sound like a prediction but it is already happening with many epublishers. As well, with news readily available on the internet, actual newspaper sales are dropping. Some newspapers have stopped paying freelance journalists. Why bother when everyone and his robodog is sending in articles? Writing has only been a rich profession for a few but it may well become one of the poorest paid professions, if pay still enters into it.

My advice to all writers: don’t give up writing but don’t quit your day job either. Be very careful what epublishers offer. Ask them about advertising, marketing and where your books will be shown. Do they actually copy edit (everyone’s books can use a copy edit)? Do they also offer paper copies and what percentage can you expect? Also is that percentage of books produced or sold and of net or reatil price? Very important, that.  The electronic future does not seem to offer riches to authors.

1 Comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, entertainment, internet, life, movies, music, people, Publishing, Writing

Sci Fi Channel: When Branding Goes Stupid

Sci Fi Channel is trying a new branding idea that is seriously going to backfire on them. Really, I don’t watch TV but I’ve heard enough, including comments on my writers’ groups that say this is one big dumb idea.

The executives, those guys who get paid the big bucks, decided that the term sci fi (pronounced sie fie) which people everywhere identify with science fiction was just too geeky and they wanted to distance themselves from that overly geeky image.

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

Anti-social boys as opposed to the general public and the female audience? Urr, have any of these guys actually paid attention to the changing world of science fiction in the last fifty years? Have they noticed that the stories and characters are farther reaching, that perhaps they’re thinking cliche here? Yes, the demographics will still have a majority of men but I’m thinking not as big a margin of difference as they might believe. Hmm, well they want to broaden their audience. That’s a good thing, right? “We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”  They wanted to distance themselves from what they were selling. How odd. The execs must suffer from a lot of split personality disorders.

So, in their infinite wisdom, they have decided that a rebranding of a channel that shows science fiction and fantasy programs will be better if it doesn’t look like sci fi, even though that’s what they’re selling, sci fi shows. The think tanks specialists of NBC worked long and hard I’m sure, trying to find the right name. Over 300 ideas in fact.  And guess what they came up with: SyFy. Yep, if you think that sounds the same as sci fi, you’re right.

“When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it,” Mr. Howe said.

Hilarious. I mean, if I was being techno savvy and texting I would use SF, pronounced ess eff. My techno-savvy friends would figure that out and it takes fewer letters. And aren’t they trying to bring in new viewers besides those techno-savvy viewers who are already watching? But “SF”, maybe the general public can’t recognize what that stands for so SyFy will look better and “cooler” as the execs proclaim. Cooler. Yeah, way cool. And of course more identifiable as umm…science fiction but not science fiction.

I wonder why they didn’t go for “skiffy,” one former pronunciation of the term sci fi, which I was told once was what the nongeeky people called SF. It just sounded too goofy to me. In the world of speculative fiction where we who are female or older than sixteen but perhaps still geeky tend to say sci fi, or SF or science fiction even. We even say speculative fiction to encompass horror, fantasy and science fiction. I’ve not noticed people at the theaters worrying about what category the films like Wall-E, Watchmen or Star Wars fit into. In fact, Vancouver’s top grossing movie last week was Watchmen. But then:

Mr. Brooks said that when people who say they don’t like science fiction enjoy a film like “Star Wars,” they don’t think it’s science fiction; they think it’s a good movie.

And that’s the point. They don’t think sci fi, SF or SyFy. They look at what they think they will enjoy. A rose by any other name? But hey, if these big execs want to spend their time mixing letters up, well that shows what’s important. I wonder what their programming will be like. I’d like a job like this, to spend time thinking up a new way to spell the same word.

Oh and I really hope they haven’t gone international with this. If they have, people in Poland may not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon as “syfy” translates to something like heretical and unclean. The full article is below and people’s comments are worth reading as it indicates how well the brand change is going over.

http://www.tvweek.com/news/2009/03/sci_fi_channel_aims_to_shed_ge.php

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, internet, movies, people, science fiction, space

Media Frenzy

I don’t read the paper and I don’t watch TV. I also rarely but occasionally look for news on the internet. However, I’m not ignorant. I listen to CBC Radio One’s news & interview programs usually all day. Sometimes I tune out.

Since the time that I was a kid news has changed. It didn’t used to be as frequent for one thing, just at 6:00 and 11:00 pm, or that’s what my kid mind remembers of TV news. There was no internet. Newspapers did whatever they did. I sometimes read them as a teenager but I wasn’t always reading the front page.

Now we have 24-hour news networks, through TV, radio, internet. We’re bludgeoned with news. Every media form needs to gain or maintain subscribers and really, the old adage of “no news is good news” seems very true. Who wants to hear, “Today we had a sunny day. There were no robberies or car crashes. No one was mugged. Three people died of old age and one baby was born.” Well, frankly, I’m at the point where I would like more of the feel-good news, which is usually relegated to the entertainment (Only fun about the stars) section or a small filler piece on a back page about the milk of human kindness.

Why don’t I use other forms of media? Because it’s the same thing over and over. If it’s TV and a horrible accident happened, you see the gory pictures over and over and over again. In many cases I believe this numbs people to the horrors and bleeds away any compassion. The other extreme is that it rubs people raw and gives a skewed sense of the world. We have copycat crimes because certain unstable types see it as a way to fame and to be noted. I can’t take seeing atrocities every day and several times a day. I don’t want to hear over and over all the grisly details of a murder. Yes, I want to know what’s going on in my world but I’d like it less biased, less graphic and sensationalistic.

Media used to be just reporting. But even the tamest news has some judgment and colorful adjectives thrown in. I listen to the radio because I find it the least biased, though not perfect, medium. I don’t get inundated with pictures that will spiral me into a permanent depression and belief that there is no good in the world. To this day, I have never seen even one picture of the Twin Towers falling. Not one. I didn’t need to. The terror and horror and despair I felt that day, the tearing up that still happens, is no less strong for not having gaped and gawked at a thousand nightmares. I know how bad it was. I don’t need to see it.

And I’m aware of the people who die in plane crashes, tsunamis, earthquakes, mass murders and rebel insurgencies. I know there is wrong in the world that can’t be swept under the carpet, that must be acknowledged. But could we please just temper this with some of the heartwarming things that people do. Balance it more.

What has made me think of media and good news-bad news today is the Olympics. It’s one of the few times that the media in every participating country actually concentrates on accomplishments and joy. That in itself is refreshing. Even if I’m hearing the same “Canada won four medals today” several times a day, I’ll take it for a while over the disasters.

It’s hard to keep a balanced view of the world when only conflicts and disasters are ever highlighted. Most of us follow the status quo and morals of our culture. It is the aberrants who are highlighted and pinpointed. For every bad egg there are thousands of good ones. Thousands of normal people who are willing to reach out and help someone, to give charity (as long as we don’t let the me-me-me culture take over). But we rarely hear of it unless it’s in conjunction with someone stopping a thief or averting a disaster. It’s there but usually buried under an accident or disaster.

This is why I mentioned the two little acts of kindness in “My Mental Health Day.” They were small but they made me feel so much happier. I get this same feeling when I can make a donation to a worthy cause, that somehow I’m helping to make the world better, not darker. I’ll continue to filter my news. I sometimes think the world is spiralling into darkness and chaos. But I try to swim against the tide.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, history, life, memories, news, Publishing, sports, Writing