Saturday Morning TV…If You Dare…

Poltergeist-movieHave you watched Saturday morning TV lately?
In a while?
Ever?

Saturday morning television (and, I’m sure, Sunday through Friday too), is not quite what it used to be in the olden days. Since my grandkids have lived with me, I’ve seen weird talking sponges, bunnies and squirrels using cell phones, human families with wild superpowers, princesses and pirates, and idiotic starfish, to name a few.

Now, I don’t expect it to be much like when I was a kid. With the ease of computers, poppy music, and an overabundance of adorable, obnoxious, little kid actors and actresses, it’s not hard to put together a half hour of babble. There is money to be made in morning TV land, and somewhere there must be a study that says to sell to kids you must be loud, colorful, hip, and overbearing.  It is a sugar-filled, rude, sassy, whirlwind trip through psychedelics and jammin’ music, fast talk, and junk food.

And it’s sooooo grating on my nerves.

I suppose commercials were obnoxious to my parents’ ears, too. Things like AlphaBets and Cabbage Patch Kids must have sounded like tires squealing across the parking lot to them. And I imagine I was taken in by slick commercials and TV shows, too. But today’s kids need louder and bolder to catch their attention. It seems like they are pounding out cute funny kids and dumb parents, and cute obnoxious kids and dumb grandparents, and slick beautiful kids and even dumber parents. Poor oldsters still don’t get credit for being able to breathe, no less save the world.

According to a recent article in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/10/donna-stevens-kids-watching-tv_n_7544888.html), Australian-born photographer Donna Stevens says, “The images (photographs she took) capture the children not as the curious budding humans we hope them to be, but comatose zombies, cast in the alien glow of artificial light.”

A lot of attention is paid to how hip and sparkly girls are, their skirts up to the ying yang in middle school, countered smartly with a pair of tights that are supposed to make the shorties okay; vests and hats and bling and sparkled eyes and oversized glasses that make a little kid even more “adorable”. There is always a “lesson” in the half hour variety shows, so their obnoxiousness (or adorableness) makes their antics okay.

Herein lies the problem: the lessons are given by kids who are thin and adorable (with an occasional chubby kid thrown in), sparkling and sassy. Quite the opposite of those who are watching.

Most of the kids I know are somewhere in the awkward, insecure, and gawky stage. That’s part of being a kid. They want to fit in. Eventually they do, yet some do, some don’t. And from these mindless television shows comes more pressure to be cool, fun, smart, and well-dressed.  A lot of kids can’t draw the line between “pretend” cool TV characters and their own life.  And that’s where I see trouble lurking.

I’m not saying that the trying state of childhood is based in artificial worlds created on TV and in the movies. Far from it. Television is a place where dreams form; a place for information, for adventure, and entertainment.  It’s a world separate from our own. A world we visit, but, for all practical purposes, do not stay. Kids’ worlds are made of parents, siblings, soccer and singing, school and swimming. Life is formed from all experiences combined.

But I just wonder what is accomplished by loud, colorful, hip commercials aimed at the young and impressionable? To someone who doesn’t have outside activities or a family life to get involved with?

Of course, this blog is written by an oldster, in of herself quite removed from the innocence of childhood. A lady who prefers sitting on the deck watching the branches bend in the breeze. A granny who has always stood at the edge of popularity in all its rainbow forms, yet has never quite crossed over the line.

Maybe I just need some Fruity Pebbles to make my life complete…

 

 

The Twilight Zone

200There was a Twilight Zone marathon on television over the New Year’s holiday. It was a delight in its black-and-white originality. Like the original Star Trek, the episodes are pretty dated; stiff acting and unrealistic props make the episodes occasionally uneasy to watch.  But if you get past the technical blips of 50 years ago, you will see the beginning of real science fiction.

In 1955, Rod Serling branched out into television script writing with the TV business drama Patterns. Patterns earned Serling his first Emmy Award. His second Emmy win came a year later, with the 1956 production ofRequiem for a Heavyweight, starring Jack Palance.

What I didn’t know was that during the late 1950s, Serling fought the CBS network when they insisted on editing his controversial scripts.

In a television era today where the bloodier/sexier/bolder the better, it’s hard to imagine such censorship laid the early foundation of storytelling. Fortunately for us, instead of continuing to fight inevitable censorship, Serling turned from realism to the sci-fi fantasy genre in 1959 with the iconic series The Twilight Zone.

Side by side in the world with Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling was able to take the politics of the day and turn the truth into something real and foreboding. The themes that ran through The Twilight Zone continue to be relevant in 2015. Our horrors, our problems, may seem much more complicated these days, but we are not so different than those who feared the Cold War or alien invasions.

The real purpose of this blog was to read the “description” of Rod Serling’s leap to other worlds. It sums up the reason why writers write. No matter if it’s biography, science fiction, poetry, mysteries, or editorials. The reason we write is to escape into the “fifth” dimension. That world that exists beside us, beneath us, inside of us. Whether we can see it or not, the story is there. No matter where creativity lies, it’s waiting there for us. To open the door. To open the mind.

Listen:

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call “The Twilight Zone”.

Isn’t that ALL art?

Creative Cooking Lessons

mcI am happy to say that the elections are finally over. Ballots have been cast, candidates have been turned into winners or losers, and life goes on. There was a lot of nastiness on television these last few days; a lot of sour grapes both before and after the polls closed. I know that politics is a serious world, but I think that candidates and pundits alike could take a cue or two from some of the most serious — and competitive — people on the planet.

The kids on Master Chef Junior.

Some of the kids are as young as 8 and have to stand on a stool to cook. Some are 12 and tall and lanky and move around gracefully. Some are articulate, others talk just like an 8-year-old. They are chubby and tiny and skinny and of all nationalities. They come with glasses and pigtails and braces. Yet they are alive and excited and they love what they do.

Now I know you say that’s TV and those kids are little prodigies and they don’t have to deal with unemployment and underfunded schools and brow-beating bosses. And you are right. But that doesn’t mean that the pressure isn’t on in their little world. They are competing for a lot of money and a lot of publicity and, of course, bragging rights. They are competing on a stage that they’ve been on for only a few years (after all — how many years can a 10-year-old have been cooking?) and are cooking things without a printed, written recipe.  They are digging into their little brains and coming up with things like chicken liver pate on a crostini, Brûlée pears, chicken wings with a Vietnamese marinade, Yuzu salad, and Chicken Parmesan.

But you know what else they do? They high-five each other. They congratulate each other. They share their ingredients and hug each other when they fail. They say things like, “I kinda feel bad for Isabella; she’s really nice, and no one wants to see her cry.” They aren’t there to hang each other out to dry; they aren’t out to sabotage or fight or scream at each other. I’m not saying they’re not competitive; it’s just that there’s not a bad attitude in the bunch. Their downers disappear in the freshness of their attitude. They are an inspiration to the curmudgeons among us.

There’s a lot of apathy in the world these days. A lot of frustration and impatience and intolerance. A lot of people hate their jobs, their family, their situations. They are fed up with the leaders and the followers, the policies and the politics. Lest you think I point a finger at you, I, too, am guilty of the “hate” rap at times. My patience is thin, my understanding of the world, thinner. Everyone around me has an attitude; often ~I~ have an attitude.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I have no idea what the lives of the competing chefs are like. I have no idea about their living conditions, their families, or their pressures. What I do see is an attitude of lightness. Of being in the now, working towards tomorrow, and having fun doing it. These kids blend their innocence with their love of cooking and food, making them the competition of the future. These are the kids that will make our work place a better place. Kids who will find enjoyment in the stress of a world they love. They will have hard times ahead of them, but they’re starting life out on the right foot. The foot of fun. The foot of creativity.

We so have to dump this defeatist attitude, this “I hate the Republicans/Democrats” mentality. It’s time to get over whatever it is that bugs us. If something in your life doesn’t “do it” for you, find something fun to do that does “do it.” Don’t let those bad feelings about the way of the world fester into something that, left unchecked, turns into a disease you can’t escape. Trust me. It’s just not worth it.

One of the kids from MCJ said it best:  “My dad’s favorite saying is:  Number one rule: always have fun.”

Weird World

xI swear, the older I get, the weirder the world gets.

We human beings are an interesting lot. Not only do we wait five minutes for a close parking space when there’s six of them five spaces back, but hold deep conversations with our pets (including our fish), go on one-food diets (the banana diet, the steak diet, the carrot diet), wear spandex (which never looks good on anyone), and dial numbers our cell phone while driving and drinking a soda. It seems that we also have an insatiable appetite for the absurd, for the extraordinary. For the idiotic.

And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

We all have slowed down to look at an accident; that’s a strange but common habit. I think it’s one of those “There, for the grace of God, go I” kind of thing. So it is with chuckling at people who fall down or get stuck in their car door,  playing fantasy football (how can you bet on someone who might not even be playing?), or playing the lottery. We do things and watch things and say things and hope things will make sense in the end. But then there’s the things that cross the line of normalcy.  Things that touch that nugget of sanity that we hold so close and dear and tight. An invasion of the senses…an invasion of the common sense kind.

There are television shows about people who can barely walk through their houses because of the “stuff” they’ve collected, restaurants who have dead bugs and two inches of grime mixed with dirt on their food vents, and young, hip people who do nothing but swear and have sex and  hang out somewhere in Jersey. There are talk shows where the guests scream and swear and throw things at each other, and others where they share their most private disfunctions. There are movies about dismemberment, torture, and being buried alive. Cities crumble like dominoes and civilizations are wiped out.

And America watches. And wants more.

I have to admit that I’ve fallen into some of these holes.  Half the time I can only take the first 30 minutes of Restaurant Impossible or Kitchen Nightmares. (Those kinds of shows make me not want to eat out ever again.)   I have peeked into the show “Hoarders,” although I can only stand 5 minutes at a time.  The bloody dismemberment/torture things I steer clear of, although I have been known to peek out from behind the pillow to watch a few zombies get their heads chopped off.

So I ask you: Why are humans drawn towards the flame of extremism?

This nonsense runs the gamut from funny to freakish.  Why do we ride the fastest and highest rollercoaster in the land?  Why do we make three dates for the same time, knowing we can’t keep any of them? Why do we waste time watching TV shows about murderers and drug addicts and out-of-control bikers? Why can’t we turn away from movies about cheating wives or possessed nuns or hillbilly duck call makers? Hollywood has made death and destruction and sex second nature to us. The more blood, the better. The more bizarre the situation, the better. The more stupidity, the more we watch.

Why do we push ourselves to the horrific edges that we do?

Maybe it’s an attempt to reconnect with our primal self. An attempt to prove to ourselves that we’re better than we think.  Better than everyone else thinks. That we can experience absurdity at its worst and  survive. After all, survival is primal. It is a part of our DNA.  And there are a lot of techniques we have developed through the centuries to maintain that level of survival.

I’m not tearing down others’ forms of entertainment. Everyone is different. Everyone comes from a different part of the cosmic thread to form that all-familiar tapestry of life. But I do sometimes wonder how far humans will go for the sake of entertainment. How scared we will allow ourselves to become. How smug we will get from others’ misfortunes. After all, it is them and not us, right?

How this all ties together for a blog I’m not sure. All I know is that I don’t want to be one of those people who  throw their panties at a talk show host. I don’t want to be sliced or diced or have to eat bugs to survive on some deserted island. I don’t want to taxidermy my pets after their demise or tattoo every inch of my body.

But what I don’t want even more is to desensitize my life. To compare cinema buildings toppling to the fall of the Twin Towers. I prefer to take the lame train through life. I don’t need to prove my endurance level is higher than the rest of the world. I don’t need my adrenalin pumping any faster nor have my blood pressure shoot up.

That’s what my day job is for.