The Cynics Workshop

Where I can try to influence the world, one word at a time.

Month: February, 2012

The Movies

To say that movies are not what they used to be is a huge understatement.  On one hand they are better, but on the other hand they are worse.  We have advances in technology that make you feel like you are flying through the air just as the Avatar’s are, but on the other hand we seem to be suffering from a lack of creativity to the point that most of the new movies are either second or third installments of their predecessors, remakes of cartoons that I read about as a child, or movies that have no business being made into movies.  The bottom line is that the movie industry is severely flawed, and here’s why.

There are very few people out there who deserve to make $20+ million a year, and movie stars aren’t one of them.   In most circumstances, the actual stars only work 6-12 months to shoot the movie, then they are off to another shoot.  There is no way that the work they do entitles them to the money they make.  Nowadays we have stunt men to do the serious action shots, we have vocal coaches to teach the starts how to talk, and we have writers to tell them what to say.  So when we strip it all away, this is an industry that will pay millions to have someone memorize words on a page, then recite them…brilliant!

The lack of creativity we are seeing is scary.  Instead of new and exciting movies, we are forced to sit through sequel after sequel, rarely being treated to something better than the original product.  It is the classic mentality of this Country, where we take the easy way out and add another chapter to a story instead of creating a brand new story.  What creativity we are seeing is only with the technology, with creating new graphics, or a new way to tell the story instead of having the creative juices flowing while the story itself is in production.  Most of the movies that are coming out now are simply real life creations of all the comic books we read as children.  They are fun to watch but outside of seeing what technological advances can be brought to a 30 year old story, what motivation do I have to watch?  It’s not like we don’t know how the story ends.  It is nothing more than video voyeurism.

The nail in the proverbial coffin would have to be the price of a ticket.  We have overpaid buffoons reading words that someone else wrote, we have a boring lifeless story, in most cases we have loud and disrespecting people in the theatre either talking or texting, and for all that, I have to pay $22.50 for me and a companion?  I can hardly fault the theatre’s for charging that much, they are forced to by the movie companies…I mean how else are they going to get the funds to pay for their blockbuster movie star?

There are the rare instances when a new movie comes out that I do want to see, and given the choice I would much rather wait a few extra months until it comes out on disc so I can watch it in the comfort of my own home.  We as people have so few chances where our voice is actually heard, but this is one of them.   As long as people continue to pay the outrageous prices that come along with these films, what incentive to studios and theatres have to lower the prices?  As long as the money keeps rolling in, the move stars will continue to demand their exorbitant salaries.  The math is so simple, if we don’t go to the movies then the studios will have no choice but to either re-evaluate the product they are putting out, or lower the price.

The Art of the Minimalist

In this age of acquiring as much as possible, and having the most up-to-date gadgets as soon as they come out, I am beginning to embrace the other side of that equation.  I actually find that my life is easier, and definitely more fun without all the fancy toys that everyone else has.  There was a time when I was one of the go getters, I had multiple blackberries and iPad envy, but after getting rid of one of my blackberries and spending the train ride reading The Economist instead of surfing the net, I find life a bit more enjoyable.

I saw a news story the other day focusing on a man who was going to go 90-days electronic free.  I am not exactly sure why that was news worthy, but I congratulate him none-the-less on his desire to simplify his life.  Most of us remember the days when not every high-schooler had a cell phone, when land lines ruled the world, when it was common to have to go to the library to use the computer, and when you didn’t know what every single person in your life was doing at that exact moment because Facebook didn’t exist.  I still do carry one blackberry, it is for work and it also represents my only phone, as I own a home but refuse to get a house line.

During my train ride to and from work, I notice hardly any human interaction.  Instead I notice people listening to iPod’s, playing video games on iPad’s, scrolling through iPhone’s and blackberries, or sleeping (I am envious of those people).  I can’t really scrutinize the iPod listeners as occasionally I listen to mine, but what seems to be going on here is that people have an insatiable desire for information and a need to know everything about all their friends, essentially we are all, in the words of my wife’s grandmother, yenta’s.  I mean really, do I honestly care if Katy Perry and Russell Brand are getting a divorce, or is it really going to alter my life because one of my friends scored a 26 pointer during our game of words with friends…no, not at all!  Everyone seems to be on a path of more, more, more.  More information more frequently, more online acquaintances, more iPhone apps, more gigabytes, more RAM, more information!!

I have only watched a handful of Oprah episodes in my life, maybe five, but during one of them I remember the story was about stress and dealing with it.  One of the main outcomes that I took from the show is that everyone needs to have some part of their day where they have no imputs.  By input I mean nothing coming in to their brain, no music, no television, no conversation, just time to give your mind a rest, outside of sleep time.  For me that time is the afternoon train ride.  During that ride I used to listen to music and scroll through one of my blackberries, but since watching that show I now find that the best use of that time is spent alone, mentally at least.  I find that it is a good time do de-stress from my day at work, and to get ready to spend time with my family.  I try never to bring work home, or to bring home to work and this has significantly helped with that.

I don’t think people fully understand what the digital age, and this desire to acquire things and to continuously populate our brains with information is doing to them, and doing to us as a society.  I still prefer to talk to people on the phone versus texting, and I prefer even more having a conversation in person to one over the phone.  Minimizing that amount of information you take in, the amount of activities you try to participate in, and even the amount of people you know and things you have is a good thing.  There is a phrase, jack of all trades, master of none.  If people constantly try to spread themselves to thin, things will suffer, and most importantly, they will suffer.  Take some time to evaluate what is really important in your life, and I am pretty sure your iPad will not make that list.  Take some time to re-connect with the people that are important in your life, but not through Facebook.  If everyone spent a little more time scrolling through a book as opposed to their iPhone, or if everyone would do a bit more charity work as opposed to giving their time to Facebook, this world would be a considerably better place to live.

The Real Housewives of Anywhere

When this show first came out, I will admit that I did willingly catch a few of the episodes of the ladies from Orange County.  While considerably wealthier than myself, they for the most part seemed like somewhat normal people, if it is in fact possible to be ‘normal’.  I say that because they had jobs, they had spouses, they had kids who didn’t seem like they grew up with a silver spoon in their mouth, ultimately they seemed like they had something positive to offer society.  The network couldn’t keep a good thing down, they signed up for more seasons and soon they began to franchise.

I’m not sure what city signed up next, possibly New York, but it only took a few years for this to turn into a classic reality television downward spiral.  As with most of these reality shows, there seems to be an unwritten rule that each season has to out-do the previous one in virtually every sense of the word.  The ladies from the new cities all seemed like they had to swear more, be trashier people, make more enemies, and all-in-all, just be bigger losers than the ladies from the other cities.  Season after season of allowing cameras to film virtually every aspect of their lives, we started to see these ladies succumb to that reality beast, that is to say for some of them, their lives slowly started to unravel.

Not wanting to slow down, the network did the only obvious thing, they added more cities to their line up and continued to show the nation what real housewives look like.  A person of lesser intelligence might look at their own situation and think they are doing something wrong, for I doubt that the main goal of the ordinary man’s wife is where to dine for lunch and what hat shall be worn.  And remember ladies, the hat must match the shoes or don’t even think about showing your face in public.  Come to think about, many of these ladies shouldn’t be showing their faces in public regardless of what hat they are wearing.  For the most part, these ladies are a disgrace not only to reality television (not hard to get that honor); they are a disgrace to women.  I happen to catch a few minutes of the show now from time to time, and it’s hard to know what’s being said due to all the bleeps that you hear, add in all the fights and talking behind each other’s backs, and it feels like I am watching a wrestling match filled with teenagers.  My favorite moment of course is when that nice upstanding mom from New Jersey lifts that throws aside the table while dining with family, ahh it makes me think back to my own holiday family dinners when Aunt Irma couldn’t control her temper and would always end up throwing the gravy across the kitchen.  The ladies from New Jersey make the original Orange Country ladies look like the Partridge Family, and I have no idea what planet the ladies of Beverly Hills came from…but where ever it is I wish they would return.

I have watched reality television for many years and there seems to be two constants, one I mentioned earlier is that unwritten rule that each season must out-do the previous one, and the second rule is that almost without exception, your life comes out worse than it was when you went in.  Why if that seems to always be the case, do people enter into these things?  The only answer I can think of is that the people who do it have nothing better to do with their lives.  Under no circumstances would I ever want every aspect of my life put on television, I am not that interesting and neither are 99% of the people on reality television.  I realize that many people blindly enter into reality television hoping it will be a springboard to something better, a way for them to launch their perfume or clothing line, but why can’t they just go to business school and do it the old fashioned way?

The Truth

What is it about the truth that scares people? According to John 8:32 in the Bible, ‘then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ If you live by that mantra, then I guess people like being censored (by their own actions). We live in a society where people are so afraid of consequences that we find it easier to just lie instead of investing the time required to tell the truth.
I used to lie a lot when I was a kid; I still do it now but for much different reasons. The reason I did it as a kid was probably the reason every kid lies, because I didn’t want to get in trouble. As you grow up though, you realize what it means to dig the hole deeper, and how much harder it is to get out if you keep lying. Now though, I find myself lying as sort of a sociological experiment. I might lie or purposely take a different view point to try to get a reaction out of someone, or to entice someone into a debate in an effort to challenge a thought they have or a statement they made. The truth will always come out later on though as a matter of courtesy, but sometimes it is necessary to play devil’s advocate.
I worked at a company once where during a meeting, the person in charge would purposely make other people take a stance that was different to their own and argue with others against the point they had originally made. Imagine being a small business owner and having to go into a bank to get a loan to open a second location, and then arguing against opening that second location when you were the one whose idea it was to open a second location in the first place. I think it’s a brilliant strategy; it forces someone to see all sides of a situation, in my mind making them a more well-rounded intelligent person.
I stated earlier that it is usually easier for a person to lie, which is true. We have gotten so lazy as a society and we care so little about our fellow societal members, we would rather just lie to them instead of being sucked into a conversation having to give all the usual caveats that come along with the truth. Doesn’t telling the truth mean you then have to defend your point, often when I state the truth to someone, I find myself having to give my rationale and supporting points to back it up. Our fast food, Facebook culture has trained us to automatically calculate the time it would take us to tell the truth, then decide it’s just not worth it.
Ultimately, I would rather people know how I am upfront and either like me or not like me because of that instead of constantly having to say what I think people want to hear and then not liking what I see every morning when I look in the mirror. I am fine with the fact that people may not like me, but they at least have to respect me for telling the truth.
Just remember what the Warden found out in The Shawshank Redemption, salvation really does lay within.

The Facebook Backlash

There will come a time when Facebook will no longer be en vogue, it is inevitable. Everywhere you look on the internet, that’s all you see…Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. There are now certain websites and certain events on the web that you can only access through Facebook. People don’t even send party invites through the mail; you have to be a member of this Facebook club in order to snag certain invites.
Virtually every single person you know is on the site; even my Grandma has a profile. I do not have a profile and I do not intend to get one. I would rather give up the internet completely than join Facebook. I don’t want everybody I know to know everything about me, I know that makes me the minority, and I’m fine with that. I’ve spent most of my life being a contrarian and I sleep like a baby every night. I heard an expression a while ago that seems attributable here – ‘the moment something starts being cool, it stops being cool’. For all of you that have profiles, do you really think you have 472 friends, or whatever your ‘number’ is? It is more of an acquaintance tally as opposed to a friend total. Do you think it makes you look cooler to have more acquaintances? It doesn’t. It actually makes you look more like a tool, like someone who is simply trying to acquire things. How can someone really devote enough time to all those “friends”? You’re left with a situation where people are spread too thin, sort of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none scenario.
There is going to be a point in time when people are going to revolt. It’s not going to be a violent revolt, it will be quiet, like a slow moving glacier that has suddenly move miles. I won’t pretend to know when it is going to happen, but it will happen. It will happen for the same reasons that I am not a member, privacy. To put it simply, I don’t trust Facebook. I don’t think they are doing anything wrong now, but they are still a young company and as it grows, the values and morals that were present when it was founded will slowly be passed to the wayside. I like Mark Zuckerberg, I respect a lot about him, but he won’t be around forever and the people who follow in his footsteps will more likely be in it for a profit. When money becomes the driving force, people lose sight of what’s really important.
The internet is a juggernaut and there are too many people out there who are of less than questionable values, people that I do not want to share any information about my life with. Trusting one entity, be it Facebook or any other entity with too much information is simply not smart. It is putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s going to happen, you’ll find yourself sitting around one day saying to yourself, “I can’t believe Facebook is doing that.” The moment that happens, you’ll decide enough is enough…it’s inevitable.

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