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Umm.. nice try but author needs to know pop culture better

Catherine Nichols argues that pop culture has polarized good and evil whereas the characters of old folk tales were a more complex mix. I’m not sure I agree. Characters like Deadpool and the moral mix-ups in Star Trek: Discovery and the sleeper hit Vikings make me wonder if things are changing to the more complex.

Nichols mentions Wonder Woman. True, in an idealistic moment Wonder Woman feels for humanity. But she also kicks ass and is no saint. Another reviewer on the web saw Wonder Woman as a paradox. Gal Gadot herself says she loves the fact that Wonder Woman is not perfect.

I think that because she’s not perfect, she’s more interesting.¹

Gal Gadot – Image via Wikipedia

As for Darth Vader, whom quite a bit of ink is devoted to, Nichols misses the whole point. When push comes to shove, Vader sacrificially saves Luke and does not let him die. By doing so he is redeemed in the afterlife.²

So who’s polarizing here? Pop culture creators or Nichols herself?

I’d reproduce her article in its entirety but unlike that last post from AEON, this one is not Creative Commons. Funny how the one that’s paid for is not as intellectually flexible as the free one.

Image via “Star Wars: A Modern Day Morality Play ” http://www.theolatte.com/2016/12/star-wars-a-modern-day-morality-play/

[A little later…]

Another point that came to mind after a nap, of all things, was the medieval morality play. These made a pretty clear line between good and evil. Often one religious formation demonizing another.

So if Nichols wants to cherry pick a few old folk tales but ignore the greater ‘pop culture’ of that era, that’s one thing. But her comparison to today’s pop culture is a faulty one due to her selectivity.

¹ https://youtu.be/PeCOeqjVAXg

² https://youtu.be/VAuodoEOTto

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Why some mamas and papas don’t like pop music

Last night I was listening to Stingray Music, a Montreal based company which is one of the highlights of Canadian industry. Listeners can switch among several good streams in any given genre, without ads or talk. And the programmers dig deep to find not just the hits but a whole bunch of stuff you’ve almost forgotten or never heard before.

Tuning in to the 70s, I came to appreciate how it’s all variations on a few themes. The hit songs put everything together in the most effective, original way. But there are oodles of copycat, cover and “not quite” tunes. So are things really simpler today? I don’t think so.

As I say in the above tweet, we just have to learn the new medium and its message.

Krewella via Wikipedia


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Time Travelling with Max von Sydow – A blast from the past, err… future

Millennials might not know about Max von Sydow’s legendary acting career. The Swedish-French actor has starred in films as diverse as Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957), The Exorcist (1973) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).

Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957)

Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) via Flickr

In 2016, von Sydow reappears in another medieval style drama, Game of Thrones.

Spoiler alert for Game of Thrones, season 6 ! 

Playing the role of the Three-Eyed Raven, von Sydow leads the young Bran Stark through a mystical adventure of destiny fulfillment.

In the scene below, Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven journey through time to witness an incident that shapes the noble Hodor’s life… and death.

The young Hodor is mysteriously struck by an ailment (while his future self is being devoured by evil creatures) Image via http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Hodor

The adult Hodor is a gentle giant with a disability. He understands what others say but can only speak the word “Hodor.” He is a loyal companion to friends but seen as a ‘simpleton’ by foes.

Because the past and present are linked in a temporal loop, Hodor’s adult death retroactively causes the onset of his boyhood disability.

Before his death disables him back through time, the youth speaks perfectly. But the event of his death ripples back to adolescence, causing him to undergo something like an epileptic fit. And this brings on his speech impediment.

The Three-Eyed Raven and Bran “time travelling” while in a mystic trance

The only word Hodor speaks as an adult is also the name everybody calls him by, “Hodor.” This is a portmanteau of a repeated cry heard just before his death:

HOLD THE DOOR!

In his final hour, Hodor sacrificially holds a wooden door shut to prevent evil creatures from killing his friends. His friends survive but the wily creatures hack through the door and destroy him.

This development left me spellbound. The implications are grand. Especially when we consider that time is relative. And not just in sci-fi but in science.

The Hodor cycle got me thinking about how people struggling with difficulties, psychological or otherwise, could actually be doing some kind of noble service in ways – and on other levels – that we are only dimly aware of.

Most MDs and psychologists would probably dismiss this as “unscientific.” And fair enough. But can we fully understand the human predicament from the perspective of a microscope, test tube or brain scan?

I don’t believe so. And it would be equally unscientific to ignore alternatives, no matter how far-fetched, without giving them a fair hearing.

Bran Stark and the adult Hodor via looper.com


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Today’s Top Tweet – RT (Russian Television)… life after the zombie apocalypse?

We get RT through our cable package. Every now and then it’s fun to watch. You get a totally – and I mean totally – different slant on the news. Coverage of Europe seems a bit better than the major American and Canadian networks. But what really struck me last night was the coverage of the US.

With an almost obsessive focus on the States, RT showed clips of a seemingly harmless group of anarchist protesters being clubbed by American police in LA. In this case, I don’t think the video was lying. But I’m not sure if it was the 1992 riot or something more recent.

Members of the Toronto Police Force

Members of the Toronto Police Force (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The scenes reminded me of a time, a few years back, when people questioned whether Toronto police were too heavy-handed during a G20 protest.

If a news network were to repeat a few choice clips of that Toronto event, it could make Canada look like, well, the Russian front!

But the point is, on the whole our cops are pretty decent people who do a good job, and a very difficult and dangerous job to boot. And I suspect it’s the same in the US.

Sadly, the veneer of civilization is pretty thin. This was painfully evident during a Toronto blackout a few years ago.

Before long people began to vandalize and rob. I began to feel scared. Would the downtown mobs reach my North Toronto neighborhood? A nearby bus shelter was trashed, shattered glass everywhere. They got close.

English: Plainclothes Officers -- circa 1919

Plainclothes Officers — circa 1919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even in our enlightened age, it seems that life without cops would quickly revert to jungle life.

But I digress.

To return to RT, except for a story about apparently innocent athletes tested for drugs, I also noticed a dearth of news about Russia, itself. Always this obsessive attention to other countries. And the anchors, forgive me for saying, look like they are slightly doped. Say the wrong thing and God knows what happens to them. Even Larry King, whom I used to admire, has a show on RT. I’m not sure what’s worse. That, or his cheesy paid for TV interview/ads.

Speaking of ads, I didn’t see any on RT. Just lots of filler between news stories. Promos for RT.

By way of contrast, CNN’s Carol Costello seems so alive this morning and certainly NOT drugged. A real personality. I wonder what it is about Russians and their history that has lead to these dull, controlled mouthpieces we see on their news? Whatever happened to Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Gogol, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky? Clearly not all Russians seem like they’re auditioning for a zombie flick.

Why don’t the people stand up?


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Detergent ad controversy: Is China less racist than the West?


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Those post-binge-watching blues? They might be real

Embed from Getty Images

Monita Karmakar, University of Toledo and Jessica Sloan Kruger, University of Toledo

With the release of the fourth season of “House of Cards,” all 13 episodes are available for Netflix subscribers. Some fans might space each episode out over the course of the ensuing weeks. But many will binge-watch – completing the series in a thrilling, draining marathon of being glued to their laptops or TV screens.

And when it’s all over?

Many report feeling sad or anxious once a TV binge-watching session has concluded. In an essay for The New York Times, writer Matthew Schneier reported feeling “anxious, wistful, bereft” as his binge of Aziz Ansari’s popular comedy series “Master of None” neared its end.

A couple of years ago, one binge-watcher interviewed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said she felt “depression” and “emptiness” after finishing her favorite shows.

On Twitter, others have expressed similar sentiments.

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Are these merely the experiences of a few people who have watched too much TV (and could probably use some fresh air)? Or could binge-watching actually affect your health and well-being?

There’s been limited empirical research on the consequences of binge-watching. So with the advantage of a large sample size, we conducted one of the first forays into studying binge-watching from a public health perspective.

A binge-watching bonanza

According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, watching television is one of the most common leisure time activities in the U.S.

On average, Americans spend about 2 hours and 49 minutes per day watching television, and it accounts for more than 50 percent of their daily leisure activities.

Yet the way Americans consume television is rapidly changing, and binge-watching has become a relatively recent phenomenon.

The rising popularity of on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have made it easier than ever to have uninterrupted access to full TV series, and Collins Dictionary even declared “binge-watch” the word of the year for 2015.

Marketing and social media campaigns have also encouraged binge-watching, with the popular streaming service Netflix calling it the “new normal.”

To date, most of the surveys and research surrounding binge-watching have been conducted by private research firms and companies.

A 2013 survey by Netflix showed that 73 percent of the respondents viewed binge-watching as a socially acceptable behavior. A similar survey by TiVo in 2015 showed that negative perceptions about binge-watching have decreased between 2013 and 2015. About 92 percent of the respondents to the TiVo survey reported that they had binge-watched at some point.

Are binge-watching and mental illness related?

Excessive TV watching has long been associated with health problems. Scientific studies have shown that prolonged television viewing increases the risk of obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.

It’s also been linked to mental health problems like depression. And a recent Texas A&M study revealed that binge-watching is tied to feelings of loneliness and depression. They also found that those who binge-watch lacked the self-regulation to stop, suggesting that binge-watching may be an addictive behavior.

For our study, we surveyed 406 North American adults, recruited from an online data collection platform. We wanted to know more about binge-watchers – particularly their viewing habits, mental health status, and how prevalent and socially acceptable binge-watching was among their friends.

The majority of our respondents defined binge-watching as two to five hours of consecutive video viewing in one day. About 35 percent of the respondents admitted that they binge-watch TV. Not surprisingly, those who self-identified as binge-watchers were more likely to report higher average screen time in the past seven days compared to those who did not identify as binge-watchers. Self-identified binge-watchers were also more likely to report higher addiction to TV (as measured by a validated scale).

The major highlight of our study, however, is that self-identified binge-watchers were more likely to report higher stress, anxiety and depression.

We were ultimately able to demonstrate a relationship between binge-watching, average screen time and mental health status.

However, these results should be interpreted with caution. Our research shows only a correlation and not causation. We don’t know if depression, stress and anxiety are caused by binge-watching, or if it is the other way around. In other words, people might binge-watch as a way to temporarily alleviate preexisting feelings of stress and anxiety.

We also discovered that media influence and social acceptance of binge-watching were found to be significant predictors of self-reported binge-watching.

About 85 percent of the respondents said that they had noticed advertisements or articles encouraging binge-watching, while 74 percent of the respondents reported that they have read articles on binge-watching. An estimated 62 percent of the respondents believed that most people binge-watch and 53 percent of the respondents indicated that most of their friends binge-watch.

Of course, more research is needed to understand the true effects of binge-watching on physical and mental health. In the interim, the next time you load up “House of Cards,” “Jessica Jones” or “Game of Thrones,” it might be a good idea to exercise some caution once the show concludes, and resist the urge to click “next episode.”

The Conversation

Monita Karmakar, PhD candidate in Health Education, University of Toledo and Jessica Sloan Kruger, PhD student in Health Education, University of Toledo

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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Star Trek Memories – Thanks Spock!

Vulcan (Star Trek)

Vulcan (Star Trek) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Michael Clark

Born in 1962, I was almost too young to really appreciate Star Trek by the time it had run its course from 1966-69. Seven years old, and Star Trek had been cancelled.

My first memories of watching Star Trek are in the basement on Saturdays. It might have been a black and white or maybe a fairly primitive color TV. I can’t remember. What I do remember, though, is that the picture was pretty snowy. So it could have been a Buffalo NY channel. Or possibly a Hamilton ON channel. A snowy picture wasn’t uncommon back in the 60s and early 70s—if a household didn’t have cable, that is.

Even though the picture was fuzzy, I was captivated by Trek‘s faraway ambiance. It was low tech, for sure. But very high on the imagination. And that’s what really counts in storytelling, sci-fi or otherwise.

A few years later, the show came back as daily reruns. My friends and I would watch Trek, almost like an after school congregation. Sometimes we’d watch two episodes a day. The reruns were that popular.

Star Trek – “City on the Edge of Forever” – via Wikipedia

One of my favorite childhood episodes took place on a planet similar to Nazi Germany. Another great episode saw Kirk being accused of witchcraft on a planet similar to Earth’s European Middle Ages. And then there was Trelane, that Renaissance spoilsport who played the harpsichord, mostly concerned with his own pleasure.

There are several other outstanding episodes. Some explore the notion of parallel universes. Others, the merging of fantasy and reality. And others, the pitfalls of gangland violence or hippie idealism. But my all-time favorite, “City on the Edge of Forever,” won a Hugo award.

In this episode, Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (Bones) travel back in time through a doughnut shaped portal to America’s Dirty Thirties. Kirk falls in love with the beautiful and insightful Edith Keeler. Unfortunately, she dies at the end of the episode. So Kirk must return to the Enterprise, to his own time, and suppress his feelings in order to command the starship.

It was a brilliant episode about time travel. One of the first to blend metaphysics and human emotion.

English: Jolene Blalock in Cairo

Jolene Blalock in Cairo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for Leonard Nimoy, he was forever clever, funny and played the role of Spock perfectly. Jolene Blalock, who expertly portrayed the Vulcan T’Pol in Enterprise, once said that Nimoy was a hard act to follow.

Spock was groundbreaking because he was, perhaps, the first ET on TV with a full personality. As a self-proclaimed Vulcan, he was also half-human, a being who’d been taught as a boy to bury his emotions. That’s what Vulcans did. But the inner conflict was always lurking, just waiting to rise to the surface.

Despite his apparent rationalism, Spock would fall in love. He’d be reckless. He’d exhibit great valor. And when teased by Bones and Kirk, Spock would coolly rationalize his underlying emotionalism, in true Vulcan style.

Nimoy certainly was the man for the job. He played the innovative, complex character of Spock to a T. So Mr. Nimoy, thanks for the memories. And to you in the next life:

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER! 🙂

About the Author

Mike Clark earned his Ph.D in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa. He’s an ardent supporter of dialogue and free-thinking. Not one to uncritically accept the latest politically correct, scientific, religious or trendy opinions, Mike wants to get at truth. But as a limited human being, he realizes he’ll probably always have to settle for (hopefully better and better) theories about truth.