Tag Archives: Television

New Sci-Fi – The Day She Started Counting

Today I released a new story called The Day She Started Counting, an EVE Online fan-fiction piece about a little girl in the Amarrian Empire who murders a police officer in an attempt to protect her father’s illegal hobby of assisting runaway slaves. I wrote this around 2010 I think and it’s one of my favorite fiction pieces that I’ve ever written. The editor of EON magazine told me that he would find a way to put this in the magazine even though it was twice their maximum length. His only complaint was the title: I Killed Him, Daddy. I hated that title too and totally agreed that it needed to change before we could publish it. I eventually realized The Day She Started Counting was a much better title. I hope that’s not why they never got around to publishing it, but now the magazine is out of business so I’m finally just going to post it here.

This is another one of those stories that depicts criminals as heroes. It’s funny just how common that is in books, movies and TV, and even when they’re anti-heroes like Walter White, we still identify with and root for their success. I find that so strange about our society. But the moment these same kind of criminals appear in real society, we suddenly hate them and want them to suffer and refuse to admit that they may have had real human reasons for committing their crimes. I mean, how many people really wanted to see Walter White thrown in prison and his family’s future destroyed? But that’s exactly what most people wish for when those exact same people exist in our real-world society… unless… of course, that criminal in the real world is someone we know personally. Nobody ever sees their own friends and family as being criminals. We look right through their crimes and we make excuses for them in the same way we do criminal characters in fiction stories. It’s only with the people we don’t know that we can be cold-hearted and genuinely support our criminal justice system.

Now, The Day She Stared Counting is about people rescuing slaves. Sure, they’re criminals, spitting in the face of their culture and established social order, willing to murder for their beliefs, but I think most people would read this and understand where they’re coming from and tell me these characters are different because they’re trying to rescue slaves, and nobody can support slavery.

Except that most Americans do support slavery. Most of us would never stand for the American version of the characters in this story. Our criminals in penitentiaries are basically used as slave labor these days. Would anyone really support someone who went to break them out, murdering a couple of police officers along the way, even if they were only releasing the non-violent criminals? No, we would hate them just as much as the Amarrian society hates my characters regardless of what we claim we believe about slavery.

And everyone knows that child slaves are being used over seas to produce much of our clothes, toys, nearly all our cell phones and God knows what else. Sure, we all say we’re opposed to slavery and are ashamed that we used to have slaves in this country, but the moment we have to pay a little more for our electronics, we forget all about that. Imagine if some corporate big-wig at Nike or The Gap were murdered in an attempt to stop those companies from keeping slaves in their manufacturing. Only the anarchists could stand for something like that because we’re so ingrained in our society’s distorted view of right and wrong and cause and effect. We’re only capable of seeing our own lives, our own wants and desires. We know logically that other people are suffering, and we claim to care about them, but we have no real empathy, so the moment we have to suffer in any way for their cause, all of a sudden we consider them monsters.

So it’s funny how fiction writers can get away with some really outlandish messages sometimes. I once saw an episode of The Drew Carey Show… at least I think that’s what it was. It was one of the only episodes of that show I ever saw, but it was a story of how he had sex in his early teens with a teacher, but he spent much of the episode talking about how much the experience had helped him socially and had actually been a significant benefit to his life. I could not understand how he could get away with so blatantly portraying child molestation in a positive light on network television. It’s strange how if you come out and say a message like this, it would be found horribly offensive by society, but if you bury it within characters that those same people can get to know, all of a sudden it’s acceptable and they will make whatever excuses they can to still see that character as being fundamentally different from the very same people in the real-world.

I think that’s one reason I love writing fiction. You tell lies in order to get to the truth. It allows people to get out of their own perspective and see things from a new perspective. The problem is that it’s so rare for people to carry that perspective over into the real world, to recognize that Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are terrorists, and that the real-world terrorists have reasons and justifications just as the Rebel Alliance had. We need to learn to make that connection, but I think in our modern society, we are so quick to get offended by things, so quick to deem someone as a horrible monster for the things they say, that we separate the moral values of our fictional world from our real world, and build a wall between them, when in reality, the lives of people and the development of our societies of our fictional stories work just the same as our real-world ones.

The Final Season of Roseanne

A friend the other day mentioned that he thought the final season of Roseanne was one of the most brilliant ending’s to a series. Years ago, when the show was on the air, I watched virtually every episode all through the 8th season. Then for some reason I don’t recall, I stopped watching. The ninth season got horrible reviews and the critics totally trashed her for it, but I also remember everyone disliking the final episode of Seinfeld and I thought that was an excellent way to end the series, so I decided to torrent the final season of Roseanne and this last week I watched it all the way through.

And I’m forced to agree: I can’t think of a single television series I’ve ever watched with a more creative and powerful ending. Roseanne and her writers took an average sitcom and for just one year, turned it into a work of art. Unfortunately, you never get to understand the true brilliance of it until the final ten minutes of the last episode.

So there’s gonna be some spoilers in the rest of this post, so if you are like me and was a fan of the show but somehow missed the last season, I highly recommend downloading it and not reading any further.

The metaphor of Dan cheating on Roseanne I think is explained fairly well in the end, but I found that particularly trippy for some reason to think about her inventing the whole idea that he was cheating on her in order to cope with reality, which was much worse. Also earlier in the season I felt the show did an excellent job of silently communicating the idea that it really doesn’t matter ultimately where your partner happened to put his body parts on some friday night and what really matters is what’s in their heart. There were some other good episodes in the season, such as the one where the grandma goes to visit her mom and reveals their relationship. The episode where she rescues everyone on the train from the terrorists is a little weird, but even that episode makes sense in the context of the final episode.

The other part I particularly liked is the moment they decided to take Darlene’s baby off life-support. The baby did survive, but they all assumed it would die. They let nature take its course, and realized that the same devices keeping it alive were sucking its will to live. Kind of a powerful metaphor of our own modern society, all these social, political and economic systems designed to help us that are actually destroying us from the inside.

But my favorite thing out of the season was what they did with Dan’s boat. In the very first, pilot episode of Roseanne, they introduced Dan’s boat that he was building and showed him dreaming about the day he’d finally push it into the water. Nine years later, he still hadn’t finished it, and finally, his crazy mom burned it down, at the end of the series. A dream neglected and ultimately destroyed… but with that loss, Roseanne frames her novel, and we realize in the last few minutes of the final episode, as she finishes her book, that her dream we thought was long gone, was actually alive and well, and out of all this pain, rises something positive and meaningful.

Thoughts on Dual Perspectives and the Hoarders TV Show

I watched a couple episodes of Hoarders the other day, the documentary show about those people who refuse to throw things away and find themselves buried in trash, and found myself rather shocked. I didn’t know this psychological issue was so common. If I remember correctly, they claim that it affects 3 million people. That’s more than what the experts claim is the number of people in America addicted to cocaine. It’s strange that hoarding isn’t a criminal act, even though, judging from the show, it can destroy people’s lives and be a detriment to everyone around them, just like cocaine… well, okay, I guess it is a criminal act once it becomes ridiculous, but why do we not have a Partnership for a Hoarding Free America?

Anyway, the concept I was getting to relates to this one individual on the show: a 21 year old guy who lived with his alcoholic dad, both refusing to throw anything away. This kid had two interesting psychological hangups. The first was that he felt that every little thing was a memory that represented something spiritual. If someone bought him a soda, for example, he would feel like he was insulting that person if he threw away the can when he was done with it.

The other hangup was that he believed that his dog’s life was relying on the doghair that was accumulating on his floor. He truly believed that if he vacuumed up all that hair, his dog would die.

Normally when people have wacky spiritual perspectives, they tend to make excuses for them, come up with arguments to try and justify their logic or come up with distractions. This kid, however, seemed totally aware and willing to admit that he was crazy. He knew logically that there was no conceivable way vacuuming dog hair could be killing his dog, yet he truly believed it. It was like his emotional and logical brains were totally separate, yet still aware of each other. The normal logical cause and effect of the world held no sway over his beliefs, yet he clearly still had an understanding of that logic.

Dual perspectives. He truly believed that cleaning up was necessary and beneficial, and at the same time, truly believed the exact opposite.

Now, my belief is that this type of dual perspective is not nearly as uncommon or crazy as most people believe. The unique thing about this case is that the person recognized it.

But you can see the same kind of dual perspective in most religious individuals who say things like ‘only God can heal’ and ‘all things are possible with God’, but the moment they get sick they run to the doctor, searching for someone of science instead of faith.

It’s interesting, however, that the whole idea of dual perspectives is rarely used consciously. It seems like the idea could be used for balancing motivation with failure preparedness. If you have a difficult task, you want to be able to prepare for failure, but at the same time you want the confidence that comes from believing you can never fail. Why can’t you just believe both? One part of your brain prepares for failure while the other remains separated and totally confident of success. It’s an interesting idea that I’ve used over the years with varying success, but still it seems strange that it’s so difficult and rare to implement this consciously, when our subconscious minds seem riddled with it.

Sign the Food Revolution Petition

Join Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and sign the petition.
"Seven billion American dollars are spent every month in Afghanistan, but we can only get 4.5 billion out of the government for a 10-year-plan to keep the obesity epidemic from killing children." - Jamie Oliver

I just discovered this new show on Hulu, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution about some famous chef I’d never heard of who went to the fattest city in America to try and transform their school lunch program and promote healthier eating habits in America. I’ve only seen a couple episodes but it can be quite shocking at times to see how some people eat and what the schools are feeding to our kids, so I wanted to pass on the link to sign his petition to start making a transition in our public schools.

Junk food and healthy eating is something I struggle a lot with. It’s certainly a weakness of mine, but at the same time, our whole capitalism based society is blatantly promoting poor eating habits because it’s the quickest and easiest way to make a buck.

Check out his PDF of some shocking facts and figures on obesity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baconaise - "everything should taste like bacon. You can choose to agree or disagree."


Bart Simpson, Addicted to Punishments

I watched a recent episode of The Simpsons (Postcards from the Wedge, Season 21 episode 14 – spoilers follow) where Marge and Homer decide to let Bart do whatever he wants because otherwise he’s going to drive them crazy with stress. Bart then gets frustrated with his new freedom and talks about it with the bully, Nelson, who tells him that he’s got to up the ante, to do something really awful to get their attention. Bart takes this advice, then writes a note, pretending to be Lisa, telling on himself so that he would get in trouble.

The specific things Bart did to get in trouble were definitely outlandish, but the core idea behind the episode I believe is quite real and relevant. Kids can very easily become addicted to punishments and discipline. They don’t necessarily enjoy it (though many do), but they can come to a point where they feel more at home while being punished than they do anywhere else. They can become addicted to the lifestyle, which is something I think many parents overlook because they believe that only pleasurable things can become addictive. In these situations, parents and teachers often simply try to increase the dosage of punishments, which can halt the young person’s behavior temporarily, but ultimately drives them further into the lifestyle of punishment addiction.

We can see this in adults as well with the phenomenon of “stupid” criminals, the guys who go out and commit crimes without a plan and without seeming to care whether or not they get busted. It could be that many of these criminals became addicted to punishments when they were children. They’re not actually “stupid” for letting themselves get caught, they are merely addicted to the lifestyle of being repeatedly caught and punished.

Perhaps this has to do with an avoidance of guilt, or the satisfying of guilt. Without that punishment, they must feel guilty for the things they’ve done, and they get on a psychological pattern early in life that allows them to believe that everything’s even again as long as they’ve endured their allotted punishment. This is why I feel that over-use of discipline and punishments is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your children.

Addicted to lost – why television is a bad influence

About a week ago I overheard someone talking about a professor who had spent a whole class period lecturing about video game addiction. He seemed to think it was all a joke, like it’s not a real concern, which is an attitude I find interesting. I wanted to tell him about the episode of Intervention where a guy gave up his family and most of his friends for some video games, or the cases I’ve read about where people have died because they forgot to eat or drink while playing video games.

Certainly you can’t say video games are on the same level as something like crank, but if you compare them with marijuana, you’ll see video games kill more people (though admittedly the numbers are still quite low) and suck away more physical time away from individuals. I can’t help but wonder if many people feel that video game and television addiction is not a real problem because it’s not illegal. Cops aren’t willing to point guns at people and destroy their lives over video games, so therefore they can’t be a real problem.

The day after hearing the guy talking about his class, I saw that Hulu had the first five complete seasons of Lost. I’d tried watching it once and found the first episode to be simple violence porn that somehow didn’t hit me as anything interesting. This time I gave it another chance and have found myself completely addicted to Lost. I’m not sure if I’m subconsciously trying to prove the guy wrong or what.

I’ve been addicted to other television shows in the past, when I’d get them from Netflix or download the torrents. I’ve been addicted to shows like Farscape, The Sopranos, Firefly, 24, Star Trek Enterprise, Arrested Development and probably a few others that I can’t think of, but Lost has just a little stronger pull. I’m already on the third season and it’s this endless string of underground lairs, secret experiments, mysterious fires, lies and deceit, capturing, torturing and mysteries that go on and on and on in an endless tease of questions. I watch one episode after another, and even now am trying to divide my attention between this entry and yet another episode. It’s sucking my life away and my only consolation is that it will end at the sixth season… but there will always be another amazingly entertaining show to get sucked into.

So I’ve been thinking about why television is a bad influence this last week and have read a few arguments on the web. Fortunately a few have pointed out the importance of avoiding over-simplification and claiming that all television or video games are bad, but what I didn’t hear much of was the issue of the sheer volume of time that these activities steal away from people.

So by embedding this in my post am I considered an enabler now? Damn you Hulu for sucking my life away!