Easy

Easy is often used in tandem with convenient.

Easy implies simplicity.

And if something isn’t hard, why not do it?

Aren’t we fools for not doing what comes easiest?

Actually, no, but it can seem that way at first.

Why not throw trash out the window of a moving vehicle? 

Why not eat drive thru or prepackaged food every day and night? 

Why not put off necessary responsibilities things when you’re not in the mood to do them?

Why not take the people in our lives for granted? 

Why learn new skills when your job pays pretty good and you never liked school before?

Why start working on a project early?

Why not stay in bed instead of going to work or school?

Why speak up when I might endure ridicule, embarrassment, or backlash? Who is even listening? What is the point?

Why not avoid confrontation?

All of the above “whys” are easy choices to make in the moment. But they’re not wise.

Easy isn’t censored, though it is, literally, a four-letter word. But like expletives (four letter words) that are censored, it should give us pause. Easy isn’t innocent or harmless. It’s effects are just slow to show themselves.

Taking the easy route is a shortcut to a pointless, wasted life.

Totes Adorbs Doesn’t Mean Cute Handbag…

“Totes Adorbs” is a slang abbreviation of “totally adorable.”

It’s a phrase that’s evolved among the 20 and under age group here in the States. I probably will never use this phrase, but I felt like blogging about it because I think language evolution and changes are interesting as they happen.

When I heard “totes adorbs” the first time, my reaction was “what?” Then the realization: “Ohhh, totally adorable. Is it that really that hard or pesky to say in full?” (You know you’re too mature for a phrase when you’re asking yourself that last part.)

 

I grew up in the South. When I hear “tote”, I think of a verb meaning to carry, a usage that dates back to 1670 and possibly shows West African influence. Totes means someone else is doing the toting.

A “tote bag” is used to carry items you don’t wish to carry by hand, like groceries, books, or office supplies. This usage dates back to at least 1900. There is even a brand called “Totes,” that started with bags, then moved into umbrellas and raingear before merging with Isotoner slippers.

 

But, full disclosure, the slang phrases that stick long after childhood is over are all too familiar for me, and pop culture always has an impact in any decade.

When I was younger, my generation said “like” as a filler word, and it became a lifelong habit. Both “Like” and “Awesome” outlasted their peer words ” “Tubular” “Fer Shurr”  and “Gnarly”. Films like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, family sitcoms on ABC, NBC, and CBS, and John Hughes’ films, and pop music were a big part of the language.

As the 1990s arrived, “you know” and “whatever”, ‘whatevs”, “as if”, “all that (and a bag of chips)” and “(<<something the opposite of what you really would do>>…NOT!” arrived. “Clueless”, Kevin Smith films, Mike Myers’ films, Terminator films, Tarantino’s films, SNL, and In Living Color were just some of the influences for that decade.

As the 2000s arrived, so did more phrases: “Wazzup?!” “That’s hot!” “The tribe has spoken” “Is it real or is it the Matrix?”

Which brings us to the 2010s, enter “totes adorbs.”

The more I aged beyond the schoolyard years of life, the more I lost track of what the contemporary catchphrases were and how much I cared about using the latest, greatest ones.  There’s also a delicate balance of wanting to sound informed and contemporary, but not so slang that your peers can’t understand a thing you’re saying. People are far more judgmental of your language use after your 20s than they ever were before that age.

So I hope I’ve maintained that balance…you know? 

News and Infotainment and the Music Biz in My Lifetime: Netflix

“Why can’t you stop watching Netflix?”

I saw this story today with its click-bait headline. It got me thinking about my own views of what Netflix has gotten right. I think it boils down to three words: convenience, quality and variety. There are some sidebars to those points below as well.

  • Convenience, insanely cheap convenience: Netflix delivers a smorgasbord of content for under $8-10 to start. That is insanely cheap compared to what cable has always cost (nevermind the upgrades to HBO and Showtime.) With streaming, it’s all at your convenience. No hopping in the car to shop for a videotape or DVD only to find out the hottest new titles are sold out. Or, aw shucks, I brought the disk or tape home and its been played so many times its scratched and warped and unviewable. The original Netflix DVD in your box wasn’t half-bad plan either, but the company didn’t want to get stuck in a rut and left behind, a la Blockbuster.
  • [SIDEBAR: Someone in the CNN article said young people don’t know what it means to watch something when it’s on, instead of when they want to watch it. Actually, though, a funny thing happens on twitter when MTV runs a feel-good, coming of age classic: that title is trending. I think it’s cool when I spy Freedom Writers and Love and Basketball are trending. Why? Because it’s being rerun on cable, most likely MTV, right at that moment. All these teens scattered around the US are having this “flash mob viewing party” thing and can’t resist commenting about it online. These kids probably don’t know each other, but they share this film as a source of ’emotional comfort food’ they always enjoy coming back to. This kind of phenomenon is the stuff that made The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music legend for us middle-aged and older folks; those two films were regularly run on network TV around major holidays. Hallmark cards has proven with the The Wizard of Oz you can make a fair amount of money selling new merch for movies that are older than most Americans alive today. Isn’t that amazing? So I counter what this person said a little. Yes, most kids younger than myself know and love convenience-watching, their tune will still change once they near puberty regardless. Once adolescence arrives, preteens and older kids are more flexible with their watching because they want content that their parents don’t understand, don’t care about, don’t approve of, or both. If it’s convenient and/or the parents have a copy, “it’s not desirable/it’s probably for little kids” in an older child’s mind. That means sacrificing individual convenience for a bigger purpose, “getting away from the parents, finding friends, and establishing my own identity.” Now I’ll move on.]
  • More on Convenience: “Free Refills” If you found something you like, Netflix doesn’t play keep away and say “sorry, tune in next time.” They say “hey having fun? have a refill, let’s keep this party rolling.” Now that it knows what you want, it wants to give you more of that if you wish. If you are binge-watching it even pauses between episodes to ask if you’re still there and still interested in watching. When you run out you can start on a new show or at least some common thread content–same genre, same cast members, same director, or all of the above. 
  • Quality. Netflix delivers lots of quality content you couldn’t find anywhere else: the documentaries, for instance. The only place to see docs in the pre-cable, non-cable world was PBS. Otherwise, maybe someone in your community was giving a special viewing at the library or a cinema, but you need typically need a certain community size, more urban landscape for that to happen. When I was younger, it seemed like NYC and LA were the only cities in America where it was possible to see all the movies that were truly out. Everywhere else got only blockbusters and big-budget pictures. [SIDEBAR: I am surprised to learn that people mainly watch Netflix for binge-watching old TV shows because cable, and even local affiliates, run lots of reruns already, they just don’t run them at the viewer’s  convenience. This is another point where Netflix is winning. I learned that some public places with TVs will run binge sessions of old TV shows, and preferably the content is child-safe which means 1980s and prior programming. It’s hard to run modern series because inevitably the content gets racy now and again.] 
  • SIDEBAR: Instant, but not necessarily classic: You’d think the oldest networks would make an effort to make shows people might still want to watch 10 or 20 years from now. Give the crime shows and reality shows a rest, stop trying to be shocking and salacious all the time, stop trying to be so edgy because networks always lose when they try to play the cable content game. Will people watch old episodes of Big Brother, Survivor, and will they 20 years from now? I seriously doubt it unless they get the MST3000 treatment. Write something the late Andy Griffith would have starred in, that guy was the Elvis of classic TV and long running series. And bridge generations for gosh sakes. Modern Family’s shown it’s possible and it can really work. Our population is grey-haired, don’t write the 40+ age groups off so quickly.
  • Variety. I like the docs, the indies I never would have seen otherwise, and catching up on shows I never saw when they were hot just to see what I missed. We have limited basic in our house so we’re missing this current Game of Thrones wave, and we also missed the LOST wave a few years back. Clearly, I’ve never been hip, but Netflix is still interested in ‘being my friend’ so to speak, it’s also other people’s friend for old TV series. Then there’s the House of Cards and Orange is the New Black crowds, it’s their friend too. Netflix is winning by being a lot of things to a lot of different people. As the article pointed out, networks fail because they abandon shows that have followings and they interrupt series for major sporting events all the time. Networks are classic commitment-phobes: they want your relationship until something better comes along. They get a winning series, then they knife it (and its audience) in the back with shifting scheduling, and stop everything for sports seasons or big events. Maybe this made sense in the 3-5 network, pre-cable world. It doesn’t now, and it hasn’t for probably 30+ years. It’s what they’ve always done and they don’t seem motivated to unlearn it anytime soon.                                                 Cable challenged their status, now Netflix (and Amazon and Hulu and Crackle are challenging it, too. Let’s see how they survive the next 20 years. Networks always think people need them and acted with arrogance and too big to fail attitudes, Netflix has always thought how to better serve its customers. Yes, those customers are paying, but it’s insanely cheap price to pay for good relationship that’s respected by both parties. 

What are your thoughts, blogosphere?

 

 

This is Not A Turing Test

In the first week of June, a computer allegedly duped enough people (33%) into thinking it was a real 13-year-old Ukrainian boy. Incidentally, the Guardian notes at the end of the story that humans are only accurately identified as humans 63.3% of the time. A popular sensationalist headline for this story is “Are We All Doomed Now?”

If we are all doomed, it’s not a machine’s fault, it’s our own. The machines are getting better, but it’s possible humans are also getting worse. It’s a strange switch to learn about computers imitating humans with greater skill as actual humans tune each other out. A person remains a human being throughout their life, but the less they want to deal with the feelings of themselves and other people, they lose more and more of their humanity.

When was the last time you felt you had a real honest, rewarding conversation with another human being? 

INITIAL HEADLINES:

FOLLOWUP:

FILMS EXPLORING HUMAN AND COMPUTER/HUMAN AND MACHINE RELATIONSHIPS:

  • 2013’s Her
  • 2002’s S1m0ne
  • 2001’s A.I.
  • 1986’s Short Circuit
  • 1983’s War Games
  • 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Did I forget one?

Just Musing: Trigger Warnings

I’ve been reading about the phrase “trigger warnings” recently. Here’s a few bulleted links:

I do not work in academia, and I admit I am late to the game. [I doubt academia or the blogosphere held their collective breaths in anticipation for my thoughts.]

Apparently trigger warnings started in the blogosphere and carried over into academia. In short, students want their required reading to brief them in advance with the words “trigger warnings ahead” or “trigger warning: reading contains child abuse, racism, rape, <<i.e., insert other violence or bad behavior that’s upsetting here>>.”

I guess I understand where some young adults are coming from to expect trigger warnings, or TWs. If he or she has grown up seeing disclaimer-type statements in a lot of situations in life, they might think they belong everywhere, in every situation.

For example:

  • The evening news has made a point to brief viewers about graphic images being shown for years.
  • Movies, TV, and video games get ratings that imply their content’s intensity. Some shows, like Family Guy, even have a list of potential content shown before its episodes air, even in syndication aka “reruns”
  • Just about every music album in certain genres contains a “Parental Advisory” sticker, so do many popular video games
  • We live in an age where food labels are getting a revamp for genetically-modified organisms, gluten, soy, and other content.
  • Drug ads list all potential side effects.

It’s safe to say warnings are pretty ubiquitous in our daily lives here in the States. Add in terms and conditions statements for software, one could easily say we all suffer from some form of ‘briefing fatigue’.

Today’s collegiates certainly aren’t the first generation of college students to have members who have experienced trauma, but they may be the first to request special treatment by their teachers because some students have had that trauma and the rest just don’t want to get worked up by their reading, maybe?

When older people, myself included, read this development, they shake their heads for lots of reasons. Here are mine:

  • IT’S A PRIVATE MATTER. If a student who suffered trauma is concerned about their experiences making their classwork difficult to accomplish, I think that is a private matter between a teacher and the student. It’s possible the student should opt for a different class, if not a different major. Hopefully they aren’t an English major, because they’ll be having a lot of talks with a lot of professors about reading material ahead of them. In the time it took to rework lesson plans in multiple classes, the student could have earned an additional degree.
  • FEASIBILITY. I think it’s unrealistic if not impossible to produce an all-encompassing trigger warning statement for classes of 50-200 individuals that are reading 5-10 books, maybe more. Everyone’s triggers are different, and one person’s trigger is another’s minor annoyance.
  • LIFE COMES WITH NO TRIGGER WARNINGS, WHY SHOULD READING ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE? Life’s major changes come with no trigger warning, why should literature written about someone’s life experiences? Epic moments are not all happy, but they are unforgettable. They shape each one of us. Usually what’s uncomfortable today is something a person is thankful for tomorrow, if for no other reason than because of what he/she learned from these experiences about him or herself. Now deceased authors shared their experiences in the hopes of creating a better future. Future generations covering their ears or turning a blind eye on darker parts of history or someone’s life because these stories are hard to hear are doing their ancestors a disservice and quite possibly, fumbling their role in creating a better world in their own lifetime. If you can’t accept the truth of the past, how do you move things forward for the future?
  • STUDENTS CHEATING THEMSELVES OF THE JOYS OF READING AND WRITING CRITICALLY aka WHY A STUDENT PAYS TO GO TO A FOUR YEAR COLLEGE VERSUS CAREER PREP SCHOOLING. Students are cheating themselves of what a good college program is supposed to do for each of them in their lives if they want a disclaimer or TV guide synopsis of their required readings’ major plot points before doing the reading of the actual books. Reading about racism and or rape bothers you? Thank goodness, that means you’re human and capable of empathy. Fight those things in real life, don’t turn your frustration on books about things that already happened you can’t change. To “photoshop” the past means creating myth.
  • TRIGGER WARNINGS (TWs) ARE CONSIDERATE BUT NOT EMPATHETIC OF THE READER, AND NOT CONSIDERATE OR EMPATHETIC TO THE BLOGGER (OR OTHER WRITER.) The blogger (in bullet 3 at the top) suggested that it’s not censorship to include trigger warnings in blogposts because it’s empathetic for the reader. My problem with this is, blogs, like all written work, are intended to be read in full. Blogposts build connections and have emotional impact, whether the reader chooses to like them, comment on them, or neither. Until one party shares our experiences with the others, I don’t think empathy occurs at all. A blogger wrote because they had experiences they felt compelled to share, as do authors and writers, both past and present. Why would someone write a book, and then give readers the copout to just read plot points? What about the journey or the character who experienced these things, and how those experiences shaped them? That can just be fast-forwarded through?When I encounter people that repeatedly demand empathy from others, I fear they presume they are the only ones who possess feelings or warrant empathy. Worded another way, they expect and demand to receive empathy, but lack the interest or concern to provide empathy to others. I feel true empathy is all-persons-inclusive, not some-persons-inclusive.
  • Which reminds me, that I keep hearing what a empathy deficit exists in our culture, and I truly believe part of is because some kids were denied arts, literature, and theater exposure growing up. They haven’t had to think once about how others feel, why those others’ feel as they do, and others’ life experiences. As these children become grownups, they may gain the money, the time, or both to seek the arts out, but there’s an allergy or an aversion to them. If art exists for them at all, it’s just pretty stuff that doesn’t require analysis, self-reflection, critical thought or feeling. It’s as if the now-grown child thinks, if my parents, school, or church didn’t make something a priority, it’s not important at all. It may be the devil leading me astray so I can’t be bothered with it, whatever it is. What a missed opportunity. What a waste.

Matthew Weiner was on the Tavis Smiley show the other night (May 23) talking about how easy it’s become for the affluent to function in a very closed off little privileged bubble, anything that might pepper their bubble’s surface, disrupt their American brahmin worldview, has never been easier to avoid. It’s another example of an avenue for empathy are being closed off.

Trigger warning–that’s both a sad and dangerous phenomenon. Revolution inevitable. If people don’t know each other, don’t understand each other, or care to understand each other, it’s easier to demonize the other party. The results aren’t pretty.

 

Things That Reflect Real Southern Charms

As promised, here’s a growing list people and events that, unlike recent reality shows, ‘do the South proud’. Most are new or contemporary, but others are not:

  • A Chef’s Life on PBS
  • Chef Vivian Howard (North Carolina)
  • Garden & Gun Magazine
  • Lizz Wright (Georgia)
  • The Lee Bros.
  • Foxfire Magazine (made into a book series)
  • Art Fields in Lake City
  • The Local Palate Magazine
  • Wynton Marsalis (Louisiana)
  • Bonnaroo Music Festival
  • Chef Sean Brock (Charleston)
  • Madeleine Peyroux (Georgia)
  • Leaf Festival (North Carolina)
  • Octavia SpencerFrom a Garden & Gun interview: “It actually makes me smile when people underestimate me because I’m Southern…because I know I am about to blow their minds.” Click the G&G link for the full profile. (Alabama)
  • Tank Jackson Nicholson of Holy City Hogs recently pranking the UK’s Million Dollar Critic.
  • Unity across the Ravenel Bridge on June 22, 2015.
  • Marshall Tucker Band (South Carolina)
  • Walter Edgar (Alabama)
  • Melanie LaBouche (South Carolina)
  • Ben Vereen (Florida)
  • Morgan Freeman (Tennessee)
  • Aziz Ansari (South Carolina)
  • Darrell Hammond (Florida)
  • Former President Jimmy Carter (Georgia)
  • Sweetgrass baskets (Coastal South Carolina and Georgia)
  • Alison Krauss and Union Station (Tennessee)
  • The Spoleto Festival (South Carolina)
  • Viola Davis (South Carolina)
  • Samuel L Jackson (Tennessee)
  • Stephen Colbert (South Carolina)
  • Tom Petty (Florida)
  • Brett Barnard (Georgia)
  • Nat King Cole (Alabama)
  • Frogmore Stew dish
  • Jeff Foxworthy (Georgia)
  • William Faulkner (Mississippi)
  • The Squirrel Nut Zippers (North Carolina)
  • Dinah Washington (Alabama)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. (Georgia)
  • Truman Capote (Louisiana)
  • Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS) (North Carolina)
  • Brunswick stew
  • The Indigo Girls (Georgia)
  • Patina Miller (South Carolina)
  • Harper Lee (Mississippi)
  • The B-52s (Georgia)
  • Mark Twain (Missouri)
  • Darius Rucker (South Carolina) and Hootie and the Blowfish (South Carolina)
  • Flannery O’ Connor (Georgia)
  • James Carville (Louisiana)
  • Eudora Welty (Mississippi)
  • REM (Georgia)
  • Ray Charles (Florida)
  • Josephine Baker (Missouri)
  • John Grisham (Arkansas)
  • Medgar Evers (Mississippi)
  • Harry Connick Jr. (Louisiana)
  • Oprah Winfrey (Mississippi)
  • Juliette Gordon Low, creator of Girl Scouts (Georgia)
  • Esau Jenkins (South Carolina)
  • Maya Angelou (Missouri)
  • Lady Antebellum band (members fm. Tennessee, Georgia)
  • Rich in Love, a novel by transplant Bret Lott
  • Edwin McCain (South Carolina)
  • Old Crow Medicine Show (Virginia)
  • Drink Small (South Carolina)
  • Chick Willis (Georgia)
  • WC Handy (Alabama)
  • Rita Coolidge (Tennessee)
  • James Taylor (born in Boston, but raised in North Carolina, penned Carolina in My Mind)
  • Jimmy Buffett (Alabama)
  • Zac Brown Band (Georgia )
  • Shovels & Rope (South Carolina)
  • Dr. John (Louisiana )
  • Shelby Rogers (South Carolina)
  • Charles Kuralt (North Carolina)
  • Justin Wilson (North Carolina)
  • Charlie Rose (North Carolina)
  • Jim Henson (Mississippi)
  • Faith Hill (Mississippi)
  • Lawrence Fishburne (Georgia)
  • Johnny Mercer (Georgia )
  • Bob Ross (Florida)
  • Dixie Carter (Tennessee)
  • Delta Burke (Florida)
  • Johnny Depp (Kentucky)
  • Reese Witherspoon (Tennessee)
  • Naomi Judd (Kentucky)
  • Alan Jackson (Georgia)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis (Louisiana)
  • Wynonna Judd (Kentucky)
  • Annie Potts (Tennessee)
  • Elvis Presley (Kentucky)
  • Marilyn Monroe (Kentucky)
  • Brett Barnard (Georgia)
  • Tommy Thunderfoot (South Carolina)
  • Booker T Washington (Virginia)
  • Ben Folds (North Carolina)
  • Skye Paige (Georgia)
  • Hunter S Thompson  (Kentucky)
  • Wayne Brady (Georgia)
  • Tina Turner (Tennessee)
  • The Avett Bros. (North Carolina)
  • Keith Whitley (Kentucky)
  • Jack McBrayer (Georgia)
  • Zach Galifianakis (North Carolina)

I don’t anticipate this blog post ever being done. There are so many awesome people and creations out there to discover.

Musings on the Arrival of Southern Charm

Local media is all abuzz about Southern Charm. I don’t have cable, but I’ve seen clips. If someone doesn’t have a merchandise or book deal coming out of this show, I will be very surprised. That’s just how these things work. Reality TV is just QVC* preceded by a predictable, stereotype-laden plot line. If a star didn’t start rich and famous, he or she will get there, for a little while at least. 

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I won’t deny it can be stupidly exciting to see your hometown’s sites on television. Back when I was at College of Charleston (CofC), I remember Scarlett: The Sequel to Gone With the Wind mini-series debuting on television. Joanna Whalley played Scarlett, Timothy Dalton played Rhett. More importantly (sorry Whalley and Dalton), Randolph Hall played a hospital. ‘Too cool–CofC on TV! Other locally filmed productions that decade included Prince of Tides and Rich in Love. But note all of these were books first, and the movies were made when the main reality show on television was COPS and The Real World:<<Insert City Here>>.

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A puzzling aspect of American culture is this television obsession with the wealthy behaving badly, whether they are real-life people or fictional characters. Soap operas go back to television’s earliest days and actually were on the radio first. Rich characters who have a career and/or a roof over their head no matter what. They mess with each other’s heads and ruin each other’s love lives, perhaps out of malice, perhaps out of sheer boredom. Evening soaps a la Aaron Spelling were big in the 1980s and 1990s. Hello catfights. Fast forward to today, reality shows feature real people playing a caricature of themselves in ridiculous scenarios. By episode two, somebody (or everybody) has a catchphrase that makes the show a drinking game.***

Yes, rich people have problems. Alcoholism, drug abuse, runaway heiresses, daughters in love with the wrong guy, inconvenient pregnancies, adultery, sons who don’t want the family business, sons who like the lifestyle but lack the instincts, mental illness, and dysfunctional relationships. I could mean Downton Abbey**, Brideshead Revisited, Dynasty just as easily the British Royal Family, the Kennedys, or the Bushes. If everyone has problems, what makes rich people’s more interesting? A lot to lose with each misstep? ‘Always pulling through like a cat with nine lives? What is the appeal?

Watching rich people on television may be funny, but it doesn’t make the rest of us rich, intellectually or otherwise. We might get entertained, but the stars get the last laugh. Rarely did they need the money–so who’s the joke really on here?

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Seeing someone come from out of town and make a “Southsploitation” reality show doesn’t warm my heart. What it does shows me is how some people want to see us, and how that will effect what viewers who hadn’t given Charleston a second thought will think about us after watching. West Virginia didn’t universally love Buck Wild, Louisiana doesn’t universally love Duck Dynasty. It’s funny how reality television is filmed in color, but its scenarios couldn’t be more black and white. And that’s not reality. 

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As a Lowcountry native and a writer, it’s my job to tell you what is worth checking out. Look for a blogpost list coming soon. I also have a sister blog at SeaIslandsdining.wordpress.com.

*= a home shopping network 

**=I do watch Downton Abbey. I also watched the class-clash films made in the last 30 years based on Forster’s, Austen’s, and Wharton’s books. 

***=to be fair, just about every TV show starts following a formula, and therefore, can be made into a drinking game.