Category Archives: Society

Don’t Try This At Home: TV Worth Dying For

Reality TV likes to push our buttons.

It aims for the jugular, encourages the pathos, and pokes the bear inside. Yep. And it’s as cliche as all those statements, too.

But there’s almost no filter anymore. It’s one thing when people are debasing themselves and showing the very worst of humanity, but it’s another when we put life-risking behaviour on television and call it entertainment.

With shows like America’s Got Talent, there’s nothing more important than raising the stakes with each performance. That means something completely different when you’re comparing singers to circus acts.

Take this week’s performance show. A danger act had this guy with a crossbow, upon which he bracketed another three pre-loaded crossbows. In a full theatre with a live audience. Naturally, a sexy blonde stood terrified, her smile fake and breath quivering, between four balloons on a wall. Sure, he hit everything dead-centre, but what if?

What if the audience has just one guy with a screw loose who shouts when the archer is aiming? What if he has a muscle spasm, or sneezes?

What if?

We like to think we can account for everything. We are man, we have science! Opposable thumbs! Rah! We have got it covered, baby. Besides, we had a dress rehearsal.

Whether it’s the scandalous talkshows bringing together people who clearly hate each other at the point of violence, or pushing at guests with known mental issues in the past, or shows that take obviously over-the-top risks, television seems to to want the ultimate tragedy for the ultimate ratings.

When it comes to something like BMX stunts, I’m all right with the insanity. Riding a bike comes with risks. When it’s a guy doing a 50-foot dive into a 8-inch pool of water, or whatever it was last year, not so much. When it’s an archer with four pre-loaded crossbows? Also not a fan.

What irked me, though, was Howard Stern. I know he’s “the Shock Jock,” but his words cut a little too close to the truth. And where’s the hue and cry? I see nothing on the web. No one’s even blinked, it seems.

“You’re a danger act. If anyone ever thinks that that’s not dangerous, that is insane. I thought we were gonna have a death on this show, which would be great for ratings. Let’s be honest. Maybe next time.”

Really?

And no one blinks. Really? Oh, but he said it dryly. Yeah. But he said it.

It’s like we’re in the Thrill Kill Kult fanclub or something. It’s the entertainment equivalent of porn escalation. We like it rough, then rough doesn’t cut it anymore.

“Sorry, that was dangerous in 2009 but it’s old hat now. We’re gonna need a bigger knife.”

Romans used to throw Christians to the lions, and medieval townsfolk would cheer on torture in the town square, so this is kind of who we are. We’ve always cheered on the primal. We like death. We celebrate people’s demise. The messier, the better.

We try to pretend we’re offended at the thought, but deep down inside, we’re entertained. Let’s just admit it, then run to hell and back with that ball.

Murder television, it’s good ratings. Just ask Dick Wolf and the Law & Order franchise.

But here we are, popcorn in hand, televisions glowing in the night, eyes wide open, watching as a guy with four crossbows takes rather nerve-wracking aim at an innocent blonde on live worldwide television. What could possibly go wrong?

Someday, somewhere, something’s gonna go wrong. But will you be watching?

Television hopes so.

And that day might come sooner than later. After all, more people than ever are cutting their cable connections and going web-only. But what if you could only experience the enthralling nature of someone dying live if you had a television subscription?

Marketing hasn’t demonstrated a healthy respect for boundaries before now. I can’t see why they’d let a silly thing like taste or death get in their way.

Television: Entertainment worth dying for, coming soon to a cable provider near you.

I Hate The Way That You Twitter

STEFF NOTE: I think we all do some of the following to some extent. It’s stuff we can all cut back on, but doing any of these points to excess is irritating to many folk, like me.

I thought the timing was right for me to have my say about All Things Twitter.

In the interest as someone who’s NOT trying to sell you social media systems, who doesn’t want to fix your blog, who doesn’t give a shit about your search engine optimizing, and who’s on Twitter solely for the reason it was invented — to microblog and interact — I’ve got some ranting to get off my chest here.

Now, if you’re new to Twitter, you might foolishly think there are rules. And if you’re some old guard on Twitter, you might foolishly think there are rules. Yer wrong. There are no rules on Twitter. And that’s why it’s fucking awesome, but you can still do it badly.

I know, anything I write here really doesn’t matter, because this is all about how I like my Twitter. But that’s cool. And I should warn you, I actually *am* PMSing and have chosen to embrace it. You’ve been warned.

1) Starfuckery.

I’ll reply to celebrities occasionally because they’re “part of the conversation” once you get past the “famous” bit, but I don’t do it on a daily basis and I don’t actually delude myself into thinking they’re likely to read it or respond. I’m generally aware I’m throwing 140 characters in the wind and maybe 12 people will read it.

But to indulge in this often? What are you, in grade 10? Come on. Talk to real people. They may actually reply. People who engage in chronic starfuckery are people I’m assuming are trying desperately to raise their Klout scores, and you don’t want me going there.

2) Circlejerking.

When you mention a specific group of people all the time, people who are of benefit to you business-wise but aren’t pumping out great Twitter content, then you’re wasting my time and everyone else who follows you. Instead of “chatting” to 9 specific people in your group, remember that you have 500 or 2,000 or however many OTHER followers you’ve specifically not mentioned by name.

Twitter is about content, not you getting a reach-around and a smile, so if you continue down this path of exalting a few users over everyone else, you may do so at the cost of having an audience who no longer are invested in you.

3) Noise.

No, you don’t need to thank people for retweeting your stuff. If people can’t assume you’re grateful for spreading the word on your tweets, then they’re stupid.

Of course we want to be heard. Of course we want to be retweeted. Of course we want our content to grow legs and cover a wide territory. When I’m retweeted, I notice, and I’m happy about it. But it happens 10, 15, 20, or more times a day. If I start thanking all these people, then I’m increasing my tweet count considerably, and with absolutely NO VALUE in its content. Then I start hating Twitter because it feels like a job.

Hearing me THANK people isn’t why people follow me. I’m not a fucking Walmart Greeter. If you want gratitude lessons from me via retweets, you got the wrong guru, man. Stop with the endless thank-yous. No one really gives a shit except the 12 people who think Miss Manners invented Twitter.

4) Music & Lyrics & Check-ins.

Who died and made you DJ of the Year? I don’t really care what you’re listening to on Spotify or what you’re watching on YouTube. I certainly don’t want to see you channeling your inner-13-year-old and typing line after line of broken-hearted lyrics. We get it. You like music. And you got dumped. Wow. Aren’t you special?

Every now and then, tweet it, but don’t default your third-party apps to broadcast every track you play. It’s noise, and most of us don’t want it. These reasons are also why I don’t give a shit that you’ve “checked in” to a coffee shop or a drug store. You don’t need to push those notifications to Twitter, so don’t be surprised by those of us who think you’re a douche when you do it constantly.

5) Event Tweeting.

If you’re out for dinner with people, and you tweet the location, and you mention everyone by Twitter names, and it’s NOT a public event, NOR an invitation to have the event crashed, then shut the hell up. Just grab the KY Jelly and get on with your little circlejerk then.

Again, you’re excluding EVERYONE in your following except those who are there. It makes you look like an exclusionist douchebag, or else some happy little tag-a-long who’s just thrilled they Made The List. Either way, I’m betting the majority of your public thinks it’s douchey. Again.

And if you do happen to see event tweets, no, it’s NOT an invitation to you, so don’t go crashing events without at least asking. (I hear you can do actual replies and ask permissions on Twitter. Wow, who knew?)

6) The Sanctimony.

Don’t assume everyone follows every aspect of Twitter as religiously as you. I’ve accidentally retweeted things that have come back to bite me, and never even knew I’d retweeted it, because the UI on Twitter’s apps makes it far too easy to kneejerk retweet or unfollow/block people. Don’t presume you’re always in the right, or that people knew when they fucked up. Get the chip off your shoulder and just relax. Ask people if they meant X in Y way, rather than getting on your high-horse and getting bent outta shape about it.

7) Grammar.

Not everyone’s got the writing thing down pat, and I get that. I don’t mind some spelling mistakes or missing grammar, but can you stop turning it into an Olympic sport? This isn’t TEXTING. It’s communicating. It’s out there for the public. It’s on record.

It’s in the Google now, bitches, so maybe demonstrating your communicative powers in succinct tweets like “I c wut u mean” is a little inappropriate. Strive higher. If I see people at least attempting to make sentences, I’m a lot less judgy, and I know I’m not alone.

8) iAwesome Tweeting.

Oh, look at you, you got “#FollowFriday”ed. Aren’t you special? Wow. THANKS for retweeting that, you douche, but I’m already following you. Or I fucking well was before you started retweeting other people name-dropping you. Then I decided to embrace UNFOLLOW Friday and ditch your smug self-congratulatory ass. What is this, high school?

9) The HumbleBrag or PityParty.

This is the crowd that belongs in a narcissism support group. Yes, the Twitter is all about you. Yes, we’re all here to support you and quell your little ego panics. Yes, yes, yes. No, no, no! I think everyone does this to some extent, but some take it to new heights. Get over yourself. Or at least don’t constantly tweet it.

10) The ReTweeter & OldNewsers.

Don’t be surprised that I don’t follow you when I see 90% of your stream is made up of retweets. I can find other people’s content too. I can also read the news. So, when you’re THAT GUY who logs in Monday morning, ‘cos you’re some marketer or weekend warrior, and you just start arbitrarily sharing news links without realizing everyone’s been talking about that celebrity’s death for 2 days already, you’re a waste of tweet space. News has a 6-hour shelf-life on Twitter, so don’t bother if it’s a day old. Seriously.

________________

I’m sure there are far more infractions that get under my skin, but here’s a good place to end it.

I mean, god, this doesn’t even touch on the misinformation, retweeting broken links, not checking the article you’re about to tweet, and so forth, but there’s only so much a girl can do.

What’d I miss? What pisses you off? Why do you agree/disagree with?

RANT: You’re Stupid And We Know It, School Board

A six-year-old has been suspended for singing the words an LMFAO song: “I’m sexy and I know it.”

The school board thinks he should’ve known better.

You know what the six-year-old knows? That these people look like they’re having a LOT of fun when they’re bouncing around singing this song in the video. They’re cool, weird, neat performers with great hair, exciting lives, and they’re singing a super-catchy song that makes the six-year-old come to life when he sings the song too. And they were on top of the world because of it. That is what he knows.

Know what the adults on the schoolboard know? Better. They damned well know better than to suspend a six-year-old for mentioning the words to a ludicrous song by a campy band. And to call it sexual harrassment?

“Zero tolerance” laws are for a moronic people in a moronic world. We’re smarter than that. We know that not everything’s a crime. We know that kids tell lies, adults make mistakes, and shit happens. But we want to seem tough, strong, and like we’re in the moral right, and so we say HEY, ANY CONTRAVENTION OF THIS LAW, AND YOU’RE SCREWED, PAL.

So what happens? A kid gets suspended because he’s singing lyrics to a song he probably doesn’t even understand.

When I was a kid, I was 8 when I found an Elton John record with my brother at a yard sale. On it was “The Bitch is Back.” I didn’t understand the lyrics, but I loved the way it sounded when he sung the words, and I remember dancing around the room singing all summer long.

In grade 7, I loved the song “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It would be years before I’d understand it was about premature ejaculation, or even what “premature ejaculation” meant.

We can hear songs as kids and love the way they sound, but not have a clue what the premise is.

Even if the kid had any gleaning of this song’s meaning, to call it sexual harassment when he’s just emulating what’s in pop culture is a ridiculously hypocritical move.

I don’t want to live in a world where there are no shades of grey. We’re boring enough already, people.

Let’s get over ourselves and stop the stupidity. Zero tolerance makes zero sense. Look at cases on their merits, not just under the dimwitted light of asshat politicians who pass laws under the guise of looking tough on crime — because it’s we who pay the price, not actual bad guys.

Our Lives After Their Death

There’s a full moon tomorrow. I’m in a weird headspace.

In social media, I’m seeing snippets here and there from those I’m connected with, remembering the passing of our good friend Derek Miller last year. My thoughts on Derek, as his death took the world by storm by way of an incredible blog post, were posted here.

Someone once graffiti'd a lot of sites in my new neighbourhood, and this one made me think of Derek last week -- a lighthouse, a beacon, at the end of a long path, and at the foot of it, "The things you really want, you can't buy."

Derek’s death became a lot of things for a lot of people, and I’m having trouble even now identifying what it meant to me, but I know his blog post, and his passing, were part of why I spent the next few months realizing how unhappy I was with my life. The thing was, I knew someone like Derek would simply comment, “Well, then change it.” So, I tried to figure out what I needed to change, why I was so deeply unsatisfied with everything.

He may have “just” been a husband, father, and all-around geek, but I got the sense that there was really nothing else Derek wanted from life. He had everything he wanted. He was where he wanted to be. All he wanted was more life, more of the same with the people he had around him.

All The Things I Wasn’t

I found myself thinking a lot about, well, I’m not where I want to be. I don’t have what I want. I don’t have the people in my life I want (ie: love). Let’s not even talk about the bigger picture.

I’d been kind of skating through life and sort of ignoring anything below the surface. I’d stopped being a good writer (in my view) and stopped living the deeper, observant, involved life I’d once had. I’d been depressed before, but this wasn’t depression — this was plain old unhappiness.

Derek’s death somehow was a slap in my face, like a loud shout of Wake up! Get it right! Time’s ticking!

And, it took a while, but I think I’m where I am now because I’d realized through him of just how far afield I was from the things I considered basic requirements in life — time to write, close to the ocean, quiet, and so many other little things that speak to who I grew up being, who I was in my 20s, when I was most “myself.”

I’m new here, in Victoria, so I’m ironically even more “alone” than I had been in Vancouver. I’ve not been looking for a new tribe yet, but I will begin later this month. Because that’s another lesson I’ve learned through him. Some people just make our souls feel better, and we need them in our lives. We are better people when we have better people around us, and there are few we can’t learn something of life from, but others offer a master class in it.

Two Lost Souls Swimming in a Fishbowl

When I sat in that theatre for his remembrance, listening to all those amazing people paying homage to Derek, hearing their stories, I couldn’t stop thinking about the degrees of life. This couple, Derek and Air, they were in the same crowd I’d run with nearly 20 years before. But by inches and degrees, we must have missed each other here, there, and at different times. Somehow, some way, we never connected until the end of Derek’s life.

What if I’d paid more attention? What if I’d slowed down? What if?

I’m not done learning lessons from Derek’s life. Or anyone’s life. I’m just not done learning.

Next week, Mother’s day rolls up again, and the Hallmark Machine is playing that message loud and clear. So, these days, I’m thinking a lot about the people I’ve lost in life, the legacies they’ve left me, and whether I’d feel I’d done enough if I were to leave this realm tomorrow.

Coming Back to Life

Getting here, moving, that was a start toward the life I’d like, and the legacy I seek to leave. But I’ve barely even begun on my way. I was off-track so many years that just getting back on-track is a hell of a journey in itself.

I’d like to think there’s plenty of time for me to get it right, but that’s foolishness. Sooner is better than later.

So, as the full moon messes with my frequencies, and the hazy oppressive clouds dampen the world beyond windows, I’m lost in thought about who I am today versus who I’d like to be, when I really should be writing a project quote and starting my day job’s work.

Sigh. I don’t know how to finish this post. I’ve tried six different endings and I keep deleting them. Maybe there is no ending. Not for me, not for this, not yet. Maybe there is just a beginning.

Well, then. That’s how it is.

RANT: Censorship & The Nonsense of a Non-Seuss World

I’m swearing a lot here on purpose. When I talk about censorship, it makes sense to do so. Avert your sensitive eyes if you’re all bent out of shape by cusswords, and all will be fine. Because that’s all you need to do… not fucking ban it.

We’re regressing as a society, and it scares the shit out of me.

Dr. Seuss is being banned. Why, I can’t fucking fathom it, but it is.

Some bureaucratic asses who are terrified of lawsuits have deemed a story about a turtle as political.

Here’s what the Globe and Mail explains in this article about a BC’s schoolboard’s choice to ban this much-loved children’s classic:

The quote in question – “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights” – comes fromYertle the Turtle, the tale of a turtle who climbs on the backs of other turtles to get a better view.

In the midst of a labour dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the province, the quote was deemed unsuitable.

“I responded that in the context, it was borderline,” Mr. Stigant said. “Contextually, it was political – but it was grey and I would prefer it didn’t appear and I believe she agreed.”

Yertle’s quest for a higher vantage point ends when the turtle at the bottom of the stack – who’s pleaded, “I’ve pain in my back, my shoulders and knees – how long must we stand here, your majesty please” – burps, sending Yertle hurtling to the mud.

Yeah. “Political.” Fuck.

Look, people. Banning political messaging from schools is precisely part of why we’re now living in a society where constructive thought seems elusive at best. We’re in the age of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives, when people become famous for partying and being dysfunctional assholes, and the least we could hope for is a return to critical thinking by the children who are our future.

I mean, DUDE: Teach them well and let them lead the way. So sayeth Whitney.

Instead, political hacks who can’t even be trusted to file expense reports have decided the politics of arguably one of the most intriguing children’s authors is too political to be morally tolerable when teaching kids ‘cos — oh, the unthinkable of unthinkables — it might inspire children to think of classism.

Excuse me while I ram my head into my desk for a minute.

Well, that feels better. Okay. Deep breath.

PEOPLE. We’ve dumbed down EVERYTHING in society.

We print legal warnings that coffee cups contain HOT liquid and therefore are DANGEROUS. We rubberize playgrounds because some kids scraped a fucking knee. We pander to the lowest common denominator in everything we do, and North America is suffering an epidemic of stupid. Are you infected?

Instead of offending ANYONE EVER ANYMORE, we live in a completely vanilla society where the mere suggestion of offense means some public relations department comes running with an ass-kissing statement that does nothing but blow bubbles.

Saying “goddamnit” on television would probably explode transistors coast-to-coast in America, for Christ’s sake.

Children today grow up without any threat of getting hurt. God forbid they go ziplining in a public park, go head-first down death-defying slides, or even get a sunburn. Quick, shield little Jonny before he gets a bruise!

Back when I grew up, we actually got grades on report cards, fell down on concrete, jumped off things without safety nets, learned about racism and political parties in school, and look at me — I’m just as fucked up as the next guy, but I get through my days A-okay without needing meds or therapy. I’m normal, Ma! Fucked up in all the best ways.

Not like today. Kids are growing up without critical thinking, scared of getting hurt on adventures, and obsess over looking good instead of being smart, because that’s the pansy-assed culture we’ve given to them.

Stop it!

Allow kids to fall. Encourage them to fail, so long as they’ve tried. Let them learn conflicting ideas and find their own ways. Make them flex brain muscles.

Let’s pray we haven’t undone everything that’s made our culture so awesome for the last century, and let’s get back to embracing free will, allowing competing ideologies, and enjoying everything else that makes life in a free society so goddamned much FUN to endure.

Bureaucrats are making life boring, and it should be a crime. Lock ’em up! Stop saving us from ourselves.

Wake the fuck up and  say no to censorship, people.

And let’s just stop the rubber playgrounds, please. Buy a motherfucking box of Band-aids and live a little, mm-kay? Like they say, life’s tough. Get a helmet.

Of a Girl and Her Overfilled PVR

Moving means lots of change.

Like, cable providers.

The good news is: My new apartment building comes with free extended cable TV. The bad news is: It means I have to cancel my Telus Optik contract and turn in my PVR.

Unfortunately, my PVR is jam-packed with programming I’ve not yet watched.

Just now, I was flipping through that dreaded unwatched PVR recording list and my little grey cells began hopping with thoughts.

Art by http://feliciamaystevenson.blogspot.com is very groovy.

Between my writing, what I read on the web, and the fact that I work with words on the job, when I have down time, I’d rather watch TV than read, but even with the amount I do watch, I’ve managed to amass a backlog of 211 programs on my PVR, with a huge chunk of that being movies that clock in at 2-hours-plus viewing time — everything from Das Boot to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Just looking at the fucking list feels like I’m giving life a cold, wet swirlie. And worse, the programs keep amassing! WHOOP, there it is — another way to suck two hours of my life through a straw.

It’s like I feel this obligation to watch it all, since this inanimate machine took the time to track it down and record it. Wouldn’t wanna hurt wittle Optik PVR’s feelings, now, would we?

These are the stupidities by which our lives are consumed. These illusions of obligations we allow ourselves to be controlled by. In a digital world, there’s no reason to have to watch it now. Once magnetic data, always magnetic data. These programs shall live to be seen again.

So, there I am, wondering when the hell I chose to get a series recording of Extreme Clutter when it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, needing to cancel my contract for my move and give the PVR back, with these hundreds and hundreds of viewing hours left unwatched, just MIGHT be a GOOD thing.

In many ways, that’s what moving is for me. It’s a great big reboot button.

POOF. Start over. Clean slate. Movin’ on. Lock the door, Henry.*

A more judicious start with a new PVR. A decided restocking of the bookshelves with a new list of Must Reads for my Slower Life that comes with Beach Reading Time and Park Sojourns a-plenty.

But how did I fall so far into the digital/physical realm of cluttered life like I have? How did I let it get so complicated?

More importantly — how do I prevent that from happening again, on The Other Side?

See, in moving, it’s close enough that a lot of people in Victoria are acquainted with people I know over here, and vice versa. There’s the social media there bridging the gap, too. So, before even moving, I know a bunch of folk want to have drinks or whatnot, and soon. It’s a little intimidating, actually.

Now, part of me likes this. Great! Peoples! Let’s have peoples. Everybody needs peoples.

But I also worry that I might just go from working/commuting all the time to having a life filled with appointments and get-togethers. I can’t just pivot from one kind of distraction to another.

Balance, grasshopper. Except, to be a writer, the balance needs to be askew. One requires a bit more of nothing time so they can juggle the words and ideas of their craft. And there has to be moments of doing nothing. Like, watching mindless television in which thoughts can go swimming in that big vapid head, causing a sudden desire to press pause and run off to write.

Works for me.

So, naturally, I’m concerned about the social/private mix before I even get there, because I do want both, but discipline is hard to have in the summer. (Again with the “Maybe not having 500+ hours of recorded content to watch is a good thing.”)

Or maybe I deserve a few months of enjoying life and being social in a slower place, after what’s been a long road of becoming gradually unhappy with my big city life.

It’s a good thing I’m keeping an open mind about everything, and it’s nice to drop by the blog and bounce a few of these ideological balls around, because I know some of you relate to these dilemmas.

It’s also good that I’m beginning to emotionally accept that I might not do that Good Wife season 3 marathon I wanted to have, or catch up with Modern Family or watch the rest of the horror movies I’d recorded in my “exploring gore” burst last fall.

This too shall pass. Let’s have a moment for the long-neglected PVR list. I’ll rent you, Where the Wild Things Are. We’ll be together again, Harry Potter.

Now just watch. Despite my attaining some kind of Zen/Big Picture life-lesson out of all this, some geek will come along with a remedy by which I can transfer my 300 gig Optik PVR box to that external hard drive I have, and I’ll be all over that like Oprah on a ham.

Because we’re nothing if not creatures of comfort.

Oh well. There’s always Netflix.

*Except digital people I haven’t met, no one in my life is named Henry. Fact!