Real World Views

In case you haven’t noticed, just about every television show nowadays is some sort of “reality TV” program. A cooking show. A travel show. A spouse finding show. A house flipping show. A rich-people-fighting show. Heck, there’s even shows about people taking their junk into pawn shops! Every channel is teeming with shows that peek into the (heavily edited and likely scripted) lives of our fellow non-celebrities or even would-be-used-to-be celebrities.

Believe it or not, despite how inescapable it is, I’ve never been bitten by the reality TV bug. My parents watch Big Brother and Survivor. They’ve been trying for years to get me hooked on them, but I just can’t. Not for lack of effort, though. To be fair, I did watch Survivor ONCE. What happened in that episode? Let’s see. If I recall correctly, one of the players stole all of the other team’s stuff before they even got to the island where the contest was supposed to take place. When that happened I said “screw this” and put reality TV in my rearview mirror. I just find that watching cheaters do terrible things to other people is more annoying than it is entertaining. As it turns out, that’s pretty much the entire foundation that reality TV is built upon. Not just Survivor, but all of them. Apparently, playing dirty is the norm and expected.

Sometime after the Survivor fiasco, I went back to the well and tried again. This time I chose Dancing with the Stars (after it had been on for a while). That one wasn’t too bad. I even made it through a couple of seasons. The first season I watched was okay, but I had my qualms. I didn’t like that the fan voting made it more of a popularity contest than a dancing contest, and the good dancers got sent home because of it. The second and third seasons kind of lost me when I realized some of the “celebrity” guests they threw in there were pretty much professionals themselves who had obvious dance expertise (a choreographer, an ice skater, a gymnast). How is that fair to the others? That’s like competing in a swim meet and the person you’re up against is a professional lifeguard. Plus, the one guest celebrity who had absolutely no dancing experience and yet was improving over time (which I thought was the whole point of the show) was treated horribly by the judges. I mean horribly. It was cringe-worthy. That turned off whatever interest I may have had in the so-called contest.

Even though I’ve been burned twice, I can’t say that I’ve given up on reality TV quite yet. Much to my dismay, actually. My daughter has turned me on to Project Runway and, to be blunt, it’s driving me insane. I get anxious. Then, I get angry. Then I get anxious AND angry, not to mention loud. And while the emotional roller coaster the show puts me through is not exactly a pleasant experience, I just can’t turn away. I must see who wins. And if it ends up not being the person I want to win, well, I simply can’t be responsible for my actions or what happens to my TV. The problem is that I get too invested. I feel attached to certain players. I become incensed over the rude comments made by the judges. I feel betrayed pissed off when someone cheats. I take offense when a player reveals they are two-faced. How annoying is all that!?  And hey, it’s only my first season of watching. So, yeah.

Watching reality TV just reaffirms everything I hate about people in general and I find it very frustrating that I now wait anxiously for Thursdays to roll around so I can see what the hell happens. I won’t be watching another season of Project Runway, I’m sure, but as it stands now, I just want to make it through this one with my TV and vocal chords intact.

Eye of the Beholder

We live in an age where people list their occupation as “Television Personality.” This means that they appear on television, and that gives them a marketable personality. Think “Kardashians.” No, please, don’t think Kardashians. God knows they get enough press. We have become a Reality TV culture. We watch relatively unknown people, waiting to see what wild and crazy thing they do next and by so doing, make them famous. This brings me to young Farrah Abraham and an article I just read about her.

Eight years ago, Ms. Abraham was a pregnant 16 year-old living with her parents in Council Bluffs, Iowa. MTV announced that they were going to do a program called 16 and Pregnant. Farrah, apparently realizing that she filled the requirement, applied to appear on the show. She was cast and appeared on the second episode. Her baby was born, and, quite fortuitously, MTV announced the premier of a new show, Teen Mom. Farrah was again cast to appear. A Television Personality was born.

Teen Mom was followed by a stint at cooking school and the release of a cookbook. In 2012, she released a studio album AND an autobiography, both called “My Teenage Dream Ended.” This was followed by an appearance on “Couples Therapy.” Of course, her burgeoning fame led to starring in adult movies, you know, as it does. Still, I guess Television Personality sounds better than Porn Star on the resume. Farrah landed a $500,000 contract to appear as a regular at a “Gentleman’s Club” in Texas. Celebrity Big Brother came along in 2015. Farrah was then just 24 years old. After she was “evicted” from the Big Brother house, she looked for the next project.

In so doing, I suppose she felt she must somehow perfect herself. She was already quite lovely. However, some folks think that multiple plastic surgeries will make them more attractive, happier, …and more marketable. It’s sad, really.

Abraham underwent three breast augmentations, a rhinoplasty, chin implant, and lip injections.  Then, she decided that maybe it was time to remodel, as she calls them, her “lady parts.”  She just recently announced that she’d undergone a “vaginal rejuvenation” procedure.  That is the not-so-discreet subject matter of the article I read.

In an interview, she said this about the procedure: “Like you’re 16 again!”  I find that odd in and of itself. It’s not as if she’s 80 to begin with… she’s only 26 for Pete’s sake. Not to mention, I have absolutely no idea why someone would want to announce to the world that they’re even having this kind of procedure, let alone document the whole thing on Instagram and discuss it at length in interviews. But there you go. That’s the world we live in today.

Apparently, this procedure is becoming more and more popular. Who knew?  Ms. Abraham said that she did it so that she would be more attractive and to “heighten feelings of intimacy.” What!? I won’t even get into the fact that science debunks the claim this surgery enhances sensitivity. However, I will say that if she rationalizes her attractiveness and worth on her nether regions, I just find that overwhelmingly depressing.

Now, I’m big on “live and let live” so long as whatever you’re doing isn’t somehow infringing on someone else in some way. But this issue, it just boggles my mind and it saddens me to see us, as a society, going in this direction. I’m reminded of the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder,” but in a much more intimate setting.

I know women have altered their appearance since the dawn of time, but we’re not talking tattoos or hair color here or even breast implants. This type of surgery, with all of the inherent risks that go with it, is a permanent alteration to your innermost person for no other reason than to look good during sex (or simulations thereof). That’s it. That’s the purpose.

It’s so very disheartening to see women feel the need to go under the knife just to be more accepted, more attractive to others (key word, others), to further their career, to become… more.

Quite frankly, it also seems to run against her claim that she is a “model for all teen moms.”  Having plastic surgery on your vagina at 24 years of age shouldn’t in the remotest be seen as a goal for young women. Well, unless you want to be a Television Personality, I guess.

When Superpowers Fall Flat

Have you ever wanted a  superpower?  Of course you have…it’s just a matter of which one. While more of a supernatural power than superpower,  I always thought it would be awesome to have the freezing and blowing-things-up abilities that Piper from “Charmed” had. Her power centered around being able to control molecular motion — she could slow it down to freeze things (and people) and speed it up which resulted in the thing or person exploding. I’m not sure I’d be nearly as ethical as Ms. Halliwell though, in the use of such powers. So perhaps it’s for the best that I’m just ordinary.

But I got to thinking of other powers, and the pros and cons of each. You know, I’m not sure all superpowers are all they’re cracked up to be. After watching “Jumper,” I realized that teleporting would be a particularly cool skill to have. Think of the places you could see, the travelling you could do, the banks you could rob…umm, I mean, the travelling you could do!

Although, knowing me…it wouldn’t help my social calendar at all.

being late

It’s Good to Be Bad

As a society, we’ve been fascinated by villains in literature and drama for thousands of years. Greek playwrights gave us the concept of protagonists and antagonists, good versus evil.  Every good guy needs a bad guy to provide “moral dissonance.” But not all villains are purely true evil. Many classic villains have been molded by adversity in their lives. Great examples are Victor Frankenstein, Javert from Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Spider-Man’s Doc Ock, and even Darth Vader (okay, so maybe we can’t feel too bad for Darth Vader). What happened to turn them into villains? Chance meetings, life experiences as youngsters, personal tragedies, being misunderstood, poor life choices, and, quite possibly, poor personal hygiene molded them in their formative years.

The same is true for two of the dastardliest villains to plague Gotham City: The Penguin and the Riddler.  The Penguin entered the world as Oswald Cobblepot; The Riddler as Edward Nygma. Ed’s parents obviously had a twisted sense of humor. The name E. Nygma was too good to pass up.  With a name like that and an obsessive love for puzzles, little wonder that Edward chose Riddler as his nom de la criminalité. Twists of fate and circumstance caused these Gotham residents to turn to lives of depravity. Yes, I realize depravity may sound a little harsh, but come on! Riddler has tried every way under the sun to kill Penguin after being practically blood brothers, to which Penguin promptly responded by turning Riddler into a block of ice. Sorry, spoilers.

The early years of Oswald Cobblepot of “Gotham” fame are somewhat shrouded in mystery. What is known is that he was raised by a seriously over-protective mother. Adding to young Oswald’s difficulties, he inherited his father’s short, stocky stature, and something his mother lovingly called “a Roman nose.” Actually, it looks more like a beak. Turns out PeeWee Herman is his long-lost dad. I can’t help but think, poor Oswald. But I digress.

His physical features surely caused him no end of problems on the schoolyard. His classmates teased him and called him “a stupid puffin.” “Oh, Oswald dear,” his mother would say trying to comfort him, “if anything, you look more like a penguin.  An emperor penguin at that.”

Experiences during his adolescence honed his cunning nature and hurried his development toward acts of unbridled malfeasance. He would open his school locker and find it filled with fish. After serving at the feet of some of Gotham’s true villains, Oswald discovered that revenge soothed a lot of his ruffled feathers…no pun intended. Okay, so maybe it was a little bit intended. At any rate, the point being he decided that a life of crime brought him great joy.

Penguin’s ex-friend, Edward Nygma, followed a somewhat similar path, although his metamorphosis occurred somewhat later in life than Oswald’s. There is an old saying that goes, “There’s a thin line between genius and insanity.” Edward was living proof.

After graduating from Gotham University, Ed was no doubt recognized for his brilliant work in criminal science writing essays such as “Just the Facts Ma’am!” He worked closely with the Gotham Police Department to help solve crimes, often giving them clues in the form of riddles. Indeed, his brilliance is unparalleled. But things went off the rails for Ed when he fell for a woman who worked for the department, and, oddly enough, after his friendship with Penguin began.

I’m not too shy to say that Riddler and Penguin are my favorite characters on Gotham. They remind me a bit of Loki. Oh sure, they’re evil…but also maligned and misunderstood. Who knows what they would be like if they had only been accepted by those around them? If society had been nicer to them, would they still have gravitated to a life of crime and underhanded devilry? Would their cunning and brilliance have been contained to the side of good instead of forwarding their goals of petty revenge or feeding their delusions of grandeur and dastardly ambition?

Being a villain, however, is not all bad. They get to do bad things, which seem a lot more exciting and fun than the hero’s lot in life. Comic book villains often take great pleasure in performing their wicked villainy…often laughing as they do it. I mean, hey, at least they enjoy their jobs, right? We should all be so lucky.

Thanos, Red Skull, and their genuinely malevolent ilk aside, villains are terribly underrated and underappreciated. AND they perform a valuable service. Do you think Batman and Superman would be considered superheroes if all they did all day was to act as crossing guards and pick up dog poop in Gotham City and Metropolis? No. They need villains to fulfill their life’s work as superheroes. Their very status in the world relies on the Penguins and Riddlers of the underworld. Villains on the other hand don’t need anyone to be…well…villains. So, who’s the better character now, hmm?

Netflix and Chaos

Sometimes I feel sorry for Netflix. Well, as sorry as one can feel towards a combination of old style in-home Blockbuster and new-age Artificial Intelligence.

You see, there are three individuals who use Netflix in my house, and we could not be more different. Can you imagine the havoc we must play on the poor program’s algorithms?

First, you have me. I love horror. I’m not ashamed. Love it. “No One Lives” is one of my favorite movies – the name sort of gives away the plot, but hey. Great movie. Classic B movies such as Dead Silence? I am so there, popcorn in hand. BUT. I’m also addicted to British crime and mysteries such as Miss Fisher, Midsomer Murders, and Ripper Street. Throw in period dramas like Pride and Prejudice, Peaky Blinders, The Tudors, Versailles, and The Borgias, along with a smattering of off the wall shows like Psych and Monk, and well…you’ll kind of get a sense of my eclectic taste.

On my chaotic watching alone, Netflix could not be blamed for pulling its hair out when trying to pull together a cohesive list of matching shows.

But then you add in my kids.

There’s the daughter who watches anime along with sitcoms like Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Office, and Parks and Rec. BUT. She also likes superhero movies and so gets her fix by watching Gotham and Daredevil. Continuing her love for animated movies, she watches those frequently, but only certain ones – namely Megamind, Moana, Emperor’s New Groove, Road to El Dorado, Zootopia and the like – no standard princesses for her. Add in her love for stand-up comedy, especially that of John Mulaney, and movies such as The Way He Looks and Out in the Dark, and you’ve got quite a confusing trend for Netflix to track.

The boy on the other hand, he watches a different kind of anime (I’m told there are MANY varying styles of anime) and Seth Rogen movies (ugh!), and a surprising number of stand-up comedians I’ve never heard of before but that I’m assured are hilarious. BUT. He shares my love of comic book inspired entertainment and watches Iron Fist, among others. So, that’s a good thing.

I can only imagine what Netflix’s algorithms must think about our household. As many of you probably already know, Netflix loves to make recommendations “for your viewing pleasure.” It’s one of the system’s more endearing qualities. Netflix’s complicated programming allows for it to analyze your extensive viewing selections and then based on that analysis, the system generates a list of shows it recommends that should, theoretically, match your past selections.

Well. With the diverse t.v. viewing going on in my household, how on earth can Netflix condense these wide-ranging choices into a coherent recommendations list? One answer. It can’t. And for that, I feel sorry for it. The little man in there must be really scratching his head. Or pulling his hair out. One or the other. I don’t blame the system. I mean, it must truly appear that at times we are simply choosing shows at random. You should see some of the recommendations we get in return. I find it quite amusing myself.

After checking our “top picks for you” list recently, I found that next to Axe Murders of Villisca, is Minions. The Unborn has a place next to That 70s Show. Secret Life of Pets is immediately to the left of Twin Peaks. Chicken Little? It resides beside Doc Martin. Arrested Development was next to Octonauts for god’s sake. Last Airbender is followed by It Follows (a movie about a sexually transmitted curse – I had to check the plot after seeing the name). British comedian Jimmy Carr’s latest stand-up is listed right beside an anime called Mushi-Shi. The odd pairings go on and on.

So yeah, quite the eclectic list of recommendations, I must say. It’s sort of like my bookshelf, I suppose. If anyone wants to come in and go through the list without asking, they get what they deserve.

 

 

Waiting Game

There’s not many things that will make me shout out “Hallelujah!” but it did recently happen. Care to guess why? Was it because I nearly avoided being involved in a terrible car accident with my one and only daughter in the vehicle with me? Did a friend called me with news of their cancer going into full remission (I wish!)? Was Publisher’s Clearinghouse outside my front door one morning with a big check? No such luck.

Sadly, none of these are the reasons for my exclamation. In those examples, I think a word like “Hallelujah” is pretty appropriate. There’s no shame in admitting that. Unfortunately, the real reason might not be quite as noble. So enough with the suspense. You want to know what happened? Here you go…

A show I really like just released a new season on Netflix.

Wait, wait. Before you judge my use of religious superlatives you have to understand. I’d been waiting SO LONG to catch up on the latest episodes and re-watch some others.

Something tells me most of you understand that feeling; the jubilation that you can finally see how that cliffhanger turned out. The wait between seasons is becoming more and more common and as much as I enjoy the higher quality television we’re getting, I am not a fan of the wait.

It used to be such a simple formula. Shows began their seasons in September. There’d be a good couple months of new episodes, then some repeats, then another stretch of new shows up until the big season finale in May. We all have our summer vacations where we spend time outside and away from the TV. In August, the commercials whetting our appetite would start again, then in September the cycle would start over again.

Not anymore. This new “Golden Age of TV” is like the wild west. There are no rules. No promises of when we’ll see these characters again. There’s not even a guarantee that they’ll be back on the same station. It’s all up in the air now making some of the wait times far, far too long.

I only need to bring up Game of Thrones and any devoted watchers are sure to understand my frustrations. But if you’re not into GoT that doesn’t mean you’re immune. Walking Dead anyone? Season 2 of Jessica Jones? Peaky Blinders? Don’t even get me started on Sherlock. Always Sunny in Philadelphia just ended their latest season in March and won’t be back until 2019! Heck, there’s a comedy on TBS, Nobodies, that just finished their first season. I repeat, their first season. At the end of the finale they had the audacity to put up on the screen “We will return in 2018.” 2018!? What the hell? I sort of understand when you have shows with high production values and intricate set pieces, but this show is literally just about three writers sitting around their office getting into awkward situations. There are no CGI dinosaurs to create. No monster make-up to apply head to toe. How can it take so long for them to give us another season? If a tiny show like that can take more than half a year to give us new material, what hope do we have of quickly made Westworlds or Fargos or, be still my heart, Taboos?

Like I said previously, I’m loving what TV studios are putting out there for us now. Trust me, I don’t want to go back to the days of choosing between King of Queens and Malcolm in the Middle (blech).  But a person can only be expected to be so patient and I’ve been finding that patience tested on a regular basis when I get invested in a new show. All I have to say is thank god for books and Netflix. If I didn’t have them I don’t know how I’d get through.

What Did You Say??

I was watching a Hallmark channel love story this past week – one of their typical “June wedding” movies.  And as I usually do, I had the captions on because, having the attention span of a gnat, I don’t always catch the dialogue of t.v. shows and the captions help. Usually. But in the case of this destination-wedding themed bit of escapism, the captions let me down. Big time.

I can’t be the only one to have noticed. I mean, I realize these movies cater to a very particular niche, but nonetheless, I’m sure they have a somewhat broad audience who, like me, partake in the weekly guilty pleasure. You’d think with the revenues generated by the romance industry, especially considering it’s Hallmark of all people, that there would be a higher quality of closed-captioning available. Well, you would be wrong.

Now, I realize that most captioning is mechanized these days and with automated translations come massive translation fails, especially when the actor on-screen is speaking a language the captioning program doesn’t understand.  I’ve seen some very good, high quality movies or shows where the caption states “Jane Doe speaking Vulcan…” or “John Smith speaking in High Valyrian,” which demonstrates an obvious programming flaw, but at least in those cases, even the caption program realizes, hey, I need to be respectful here even though I can’t make heads or tails of whatever it is they’re saying. If we’re really lucky, the movie’s internal production system kick in and the translation appears via subtitles built into the movie. Sadly, that’s not always the case, as proven by my foray into the wilds of Hallmark movies previously mentioned above.

So, as I said, the plot was centered around a destination wedding set at a resort in Acapulco, Mexico, complete with white sand beaches, turquoise water, the obligatory romantic tension between completely dissimilar people, and Spanish-speaking locals…you know how they do…in Mexico. With such a heads-up as to the setting of this movie, you’d think that a strategy would’ve been put into place to cover and possibly translate any oh, I don’t know, Spanish dialogue. But there, you would be wrong again.

I’ll set up one of the scenes in question for you – zoom in on a beachside table at which sits the starring couple, who just happen to have perfect teeth and great tans, and who also just so happened to be in love years ago though it didn’t work out because they were completely unsuited for each other and who now reluctantly find themselves thrown back together while planning the wedding of a friend and whilst doing so forget that they’re completely unsuited for each other and eventually fall in love all over again – but, BUT before they realize they are once again besotted with each other, it is time to try out different foods for the dinner aspect of the aforementioned wedding they are planning – hence sitting beachside, surrounded by food. Enter one Spanish-speaking local who, apparently flustered by the couple’s nitpicking at each other, does his nervous best to describe the food he has prepared – and the results are these impressively awful captions.

 

 

I don’t think that means what you think it means…

I pretty much had the same look of utter confusion, though admittedly my teeth aren’t nearly as perfect. So. Yeah. I’m hoping before Hallmark releases another movie with bilingual dialogue that they sort of up their game on the whole captioning thing — on so many levels. One can only hope, but in the meantime, I won’t hold my breath.