Friday, 28 March 2014

"If He Loves You"

I was tempted to share my latest poem - written yesterday! But, I've shared it with only one person so far. And, it does need a bit of editing, I think. Plus, an additional stanza has been engraving itself in my brain. So, there's that.

The poetry work-in-progress is almost through. I've had it edited. There is a category I'm hoping to fill with poems that speak of happiness and loving and being loved in return. Grabbing the closest piece of paper I could find yesterday, I hurriedly penned such a one. They do not come by very often, so I dared not lose the moment. Turns out I'm pretty excited about getting those words down on paper or some electronic device. They carry with them a measure of...hope, if you will.

And, hope is a good thing. :-)

This one is entitled, "If He Loves You". It's from that batch I wrote in April 2012 when I took off for vacation and ditched the playwriting contest. But, I had to keep myself writing, so I went on an "A Poem A Day" adventure! Glad I did. I produced some that took the focus off of myself for a bit.

And that was a good thing. :-)

If He Loves You

I overheard someone at work today
Talking about a fight they'd had
Sounds like it was pretty bad
Between she and her lover,
And, like any other love story
It had the element of surprise
I saw it in her eyes
She blamed his mother.

Seemed he found it hard
To give what due to each.
That one was out of my reach.
I smiled because, well, to be honest
I did not know what to say.
Not that she was talking to me
But I felt hard pressed to duly
Inform her it would be okay.

There was something inside that said
Tell her it gets better
It looks bad but it doesn't matter
If he loves you - and he does - 
Then you two will work it out.
But something else spoke even louder
Above the din of my despair
So, why didn't you guys work it out?

- Dnafcnatgada


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Stretched Minds: Beyond the Zapruder Film

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

As I prepared for this post, I reflected on whether the course I had alluded to in the previous post, had in fact been Ethics in Media. I revisited the Comms site of my alma mater, and I am now wont to think the course in question was Media and Society. That's what happens when you have the same professor for more than one course - and several years have passed since graduation. :-)

What I won't forget, though, is the impact that that morning's class had on me. The new information to which we had become privy made me stop and think. Suddenly, and almost involuntarily, I began to reflect on the shape and texture of the world around us. How long did it take for us to get from there to here? And, what had we given up in the process of being stretched in mind; in expectation?

The clip Prof showed us that morning is what has been popularly known as the Zapruder Film. It depicts the assassination of President John F. Kennedy - in the moment! The Zapruder Film is the most famous - and, I think, the most graphic - film of the shooting. Apparently, Abraham Zapruder, a member of the public, had managed to get a sweet spot to test out his newly acquired home-movie camera. He wished to record the President's motorcade as it made its way through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, on that fateful day, November 22, 1969. He had it rolling as the motorcade came by and, well, he managed to get that moment caught on film. Of course, he realized afterward the value of what he had in his possession. I do not recall the intricacies of how it came to move from his hands to media - after a bit of negotiating - but, do feel free to look it up. Here's a good starting point.

After sharing the story and the clip, Prof facilitated a discussion that raised comments on what was appropriate for television (in the USA) at that time; how much of a shock was it to people's sensibilities; looking at where we are these days with scenes of a graphic nature on television and in movies; how did we get from there to here? One student chimed in: "That happened." That's all he said, "That happened."

I think it took a few seconds for that profound statement to sink in before we each did a quick reflection - well, I did - trying to think of a time before that present when we were not inundated with violence on TV and in movies. And, what was more, when we were put off by it.

I did a quick search... Yes, it was quick. After all, I am no longer obligated to turn in papers for this course! :-) This should be enough to get you going, should you wish to do some more reading about whether there is a correlation between that 1969 broadcast assassination, and what we have progressively come to tolerate - as entertainment, to boot! So, yes, I did a quick search to get an idea of what the mind set was re violence on American television pre-November 1969 and post-November 1969. I found a few posts of note:

  • The American TV series The Wild, Wild West, aired from September 17, 1965 to April 4, 1969. It was popular and earned high ratings, but was cancelled as a concession to Congress over television violence.
  • The Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior was announced on June 3, 1969. This came as a result of "15 years of 'consistently disturbing' findings about the violent content of children's programs." Makes you wonder what was the nature of the "violent content of children's programs" at the time (and 15 years prior to that) that gave rise to "consistently disturbing" findings.
  • There's a site that lists, in the compiler's opinion, the 30 most violent movies (published 2012). I'm still not sure how 300 and Kill Bill Vol. 1&2 did not make the list. But, as I said, opinion. Of the list, one of the closest to 1969 was "Salo", released in Italy, January 1976 - noting: "an almost universal banning greeted Salo in the beginning." It was released in the UK in 2000 and in Australia in 2012. The other closest to 1969 was "Shogun's Sadism", released in Japan in 1976. 

Other factors, unexplored here, and, likely, in class that day, have had a measure of impact on how violence on American TV and in film has made progressively bolder moves over the years. It is my opinion, however, that the sensibilities of many became less and less jarred after - and because of - that pivotal moment.

Do we even give a second thought now to movies like 300? 300 - Rise of an Empire? (Can you tell?) Kill Bill? Speaking of Kill Bill. A then-friend and I went to see Kill Bill Vol. 1 in Rochester, NY, shortly after it came out. I could not sit through it. It was simply too much. Sometime after that, I saw 300. Well, sometime after that, I had the pleasure of watching Kill Bill - Vols 1 and 2 - sans flinching.

The mind had indeed been stretched.


Saturday, 8 March 2014

Stretched Minds: A Twitter Example

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

That thought came to mind a few days ago. I came across a story in a newspaper about a man from Texas, who'd set out to break the new record Ellen DeGeneres set for most retweets (RTs). Ellen's tweet, posted on March 2, 2014 (Oscar night) - and now sitting at 3,352,469 - has far surpassed the record set by Barack Obama's tweet of November 6, 2012, now sitting at 781,484. I'm not sure what the Obama RT count was when Ellen tweeted. For a while, it had stood at over 700,000. Hardly matters now. She wanted to break the record of most RTs - and she shattered it.

What struck me about the Texan's story is not that he was, in Internet speak, a "virtual nobody" who decided to pull this little stunt using a selfie of himself and his two dogs. (The fact is, there have been other tweeps who've set out to break the record, but their tweets have not gained as much traction.) No, it is that the Terry Shipman tweet has so far received 179,138 RTs - mine included. (Go get 'em, Terry! :-)) It is that so many people have "bothered" to give their support on this fun journey. Sure, there may be a few bots, but I'm pretty sure the majority of those RTs are from real folks.

But, what really struck me? The fact that, after Ellen's 3.35M RTs, a 180K RT count hardly seems like a big deal. Those numbers are usually enjoyed - for need of a ... nope, I don't think I need a better word - by celebrities with follower counts in the millions. After this, figures like that, even though they mightn't come along very often, will not carry that awe as they might have before. Pre-Obama tweet, they were jaw-dropping. Post-Obama tweet, meh! Post-Ellen tweet, yawn...

However, this 180K RT figure for someone who was not "Internet famous" (or any other kind of famous, it seems), is a big deal - at this point in Twitter time. So, on the one hand, the numbers aren't so shocking anymore. But, on the other hand, they kinda are, for a "regular guy".

Now - and this is very important - just in case this is a hoax by the likes of, say, late night show host, Jimmy Kimmel, the point would still maintain its validity about how the mind, once it gets stretched to accommodate a new reality, cannot shrink to its previous dimension as though it had never had that new experience. Once something new comes along, whatever similar follows in its wake does not have that shock/novel value. Celebrities/Entrepreneurs would agree - hence the constant re-invention of self/service. These days, people get bored very easily. They want the next "next best thing" the next minute.

Look around; listen. There are so many things that we accept as the norm these days, that were, at first, shocking to our sensibilities. Have we become jaded? In a sense? In more than one sense? Next time, I'll write about a more serious and common example of the way our minds have been stretched. That realization struck during a class on Ethics in Media years ago. Certainly, for me, that was an A-ha! moment.