1 Shot Wednesday: Blooming Cacti

Today, I got out of the hospital after nine days. This is a dastardly Groundhog’s day! Last spring, my body created drama when she conjured up a strange condition that included a liter of cysts and a confused bile duct. Let’s not go there again. This year, my gut brewed up an unhealthy potion that poisoned the host. Last year, I was down and out for six weeks. This year, as I walk into my home, I wonder, “Are we done, now? Please, no more complications.” The monster bacteria will be silenced by the sword of an anti-inflammatory. I will watch as it assails monster b. back to its evil kingdom for good.

I pat my bulb drain, affixed to my tummy like a good luck charm. Hope urges me on with a response. “We’ll see how it pans out.”

I picked this lemony cacti in all her glory; despite how I feel on the inside, looking at this 1.21 meters (4 feet) plant makes me smile. I don’t know when I’ll return with a fresh post. A happy first day of spring, to you.

IMO: Extremism is the New Reality

I assume the intellectual set has come up with the term for today’s obsession for extremism representing the last decade in television and filmmaking. Or is this post-post-post modernism? Netflix and Amazon, HBO, to name a few, have kicked the shins of the traditional format for movie making and television. They don’t have to abide by FCC rules. FCC rules found here. The result? Cable television has few restrictions, if at all. Their influence has had a dramatic effect.

1. Nudity and sex are commonplace.

2. Profanity has never been raunchier.

3. Deviant behavior storylines abound.

4. Apocalyptic storylines abound.

5. There is no God.

By now I’m guessing you think I’m a prude and ultra-Conservative suggesting we reinstate a censorship board to protect the virtues inherent in children and society as a whole. Like in the 80s when the moral majority attempted to control the hair bands by censoring their music with a warning label.

NO. I’m not on a soapbox trying to persuade you that amorality has us enthralled. I’m saying we are desensitized. Like blogging and self-publishing, we are inundated with choices. The speed at which the removal of barriers, not for the purpose of telling a story that needs to be heard, but for the shock value to hook us, is akin to the rush of cocaine to distance oneself from the boredom of normalcy. The barriers I’m referring to are 1 – 5 above. 

For the record, narratives of varying viewpoints are welcome. Go LGBT. My idea of deviance is a storyline about torture. Especially children. (Absentia, The Alienist). Nudity and Sex in all its variations. Game of Thrones. Westworld. The use of extreme profanity. Even The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has its raunchy moments. Pick your series!

Take Netflix’s new hit, The Russian Doll, for instance. Created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, it is a dark comedy-drama that has a smart, highly entertaining storyline. Natasha Lyonne’s character Nadia describes herself as “If Andrew Dice Clay and Merida from Brave had a child…” referencing the Disney heroine with big red hair along with the 80s NY comedian who was banned for his crass and rowdy routine. (Since A Star is Born, his raunchy routine redux tour has sold out.)

I focused on the Mindbender aspects of the story when I watched season 1 and tried hard to ignore the extreme profanity and casual sex and substance abuse like it was a mainstream part of life. It’s obviously made for a mature audience, but like the previous examples, the access to them is unrestricted. The story for select audiences becomes mainstream. 

As a teacher,  I have seen students watch this before, during lunch, and after school, because they heard it was really good. I have to confiscate phones daily. Students will plug their buds in their ears and tune in to their phone during the middle of class. They are addicted to extremism. And it can’t compete with learning. Learning a subject takes imagination and repetitious practice and active engagement.

Dragons and witches will rule in April with the advent of Game of Thrones. Who does the storyline target? Banging sex is a part of the package. It’s hard to watch students obsessed with it during school hours. I’m betting elementary and middle school kids have seen it, too.

It’s the stripping of inference and the death of imagination for the sake of extremism that has me concerned. When you reposition what was once behind closed doors to the center stage and put it up on a platform for all to see, especially children & teenagers, the loss of innocence has me wondering what price will we pay for this new liberation? 

Can you imagine films and television in the next ten to twenty years? What happens when there is no more envelope to push? Taboos a thing of the past? Do we need taboos in society? Or will it one day be okay to watch child sex in a television series and sadomasochism and bestiality?

“Restriction” has now become the foulest word in the English language followed closely behind “moderation”.

I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock and film noir. Talk about gritty, deviant storylines. I know Hitch was restricted by the studio system (probably a good thing) because it caused him to tell a creepy story by using devices that activated the imagination. I enjoy historical fiction, science fiction, and mysteries. I crave complicated characters and smart dialogue. Tell the story. Please, don’t forget the underrated technique of subtlety.

The point: films and television series have pushed the envelope off the table with unnecessary jolting language and abusive or sexual situations to the mainstream.

What films or television series do you notice embrace the extreme? If you took out the extreme elements would the storyline suffer?  

1 Shot Wednesday: March Street

My stepfather died three years ago. 

Photos trigger memories and transport one to the past. That is the purpose of the Wednesday 1 Shot series.

This photo is from my hometown in Illinois. Just a typical street on the blue-collar side of town. The sky lacks definition. A misty rain coats the trees making them look gangly and tragic. Cracked streets and decaying homes suggest depression in our town.

The setting echoed how our family felt about the passing of a steadfast man who devoted decades to my mother–mind, body, and soul. Maintaining his corner of the world with dedication, he ignored the drama of humans surrounding him and expressed love with pride in his home and garden. He was a man who showed love not with words or touch but by action.

At this point, he would wave me off and tell me not to be so melodramatic. So I will try to obey. I raise my beer can and salute. “Thanks for taking care of Mom.”

March. Sadness & Hope

The wind blows. Soon, the leaves will fill the branches. The sun will return. Soon, a walk down this simple street in the heart of my town will elicit the nostalgic scenes from my youth and replace the chill. But not today.

 

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