Archive for July, 2011:
Let’s start with a disclaimer: there are words here that you may find offensive, I’m quoting them from other sources. There are also other words here that you may find offensive . . . but I don’t think they are. You’ll figure it out.
I recently saw an ad on TV that went like this: A black man says “Don’t call me nigger.” Then a younger man says “Don’t call me fag.” And lastly, a cute little girl says “Don’t call me retarded.”
Okay – the term ‘nigger’ grew as slang from the word ‘negro’. It has always been pejorative when used in any way from a source outside those who might be called that term. Enter the term ‘fag’. Though this word does have some rational uses – it means ‘a bundle of sticks’ or (if you are English) a cigarette – it has never had any positive association with homosexuality. Again, it has always been pejorative when used by a source outside the associated group.
Now, let’s talk about ‘retarded’. It is NOT slang nor a slur. Yes, it is getting used in common parlance now as in “Don’t be retarded.” But if you look it up in the dictionary, that phrase translates to “Don’t be mentally slow.” Hmmmm. Since that’s exactly what I meant, I don’t see a reason not to use the term.
There is a valid argument against “Retard” and the disturbing “Rebo.” (I have no idea where that one came from.) I don’t think anyone should be called names. It’s just mean. And there’s nothing good about it. But “retarded” is a term that’s dictionary accurate.
A long time ago, when I was in school and computers had green flashing DOS prompts, there came an invention called ‘email’. I got an email account through my school (about the only place you could get one in those days) and waited. I sent some ‘hey, I sent you an email’ emails and I got some back. But my friends used it more: they would send me important things and then rag me for not getting the message.
Was I supposed to check it EVERY DAY??? And why didn’t they just call me? It wasn’t like they didn’t have a phone . . . (Remember there were no attachments back then, so there was nothing in those emails that couldn’t come over the phone.) Other friends of mine played chess via email. Each day they would open the email, post their opponent’s move on the board, think of theirs, then email it back.
I was ready to shank someone! These guys saw each other every day in class, but wouldn’t talk about these chess games at all. I finally got so tired of being reprimanded for not checking daily for my once-weekly, oh-so-important email that I closed the account. Email was stupid. And it was never going to catch on!
Okay – clearly I was so very wrong. And now that there is stuff coming daily, and I can get it on my phone, I LOVE my email.
When I was in high school I wasn’t very good at writing essays. (Yeah, bestselling novelist now! Take that Mrs. Finane!) Okay, Mrs. Finane had a point – I DON’T do a good five-paragraph essay. Never have, probably never will. What this meant was that I was bounced out of Advanced English every other year. In the regular English classes I got to diagram sentences and . . . take the ASVAB. (That’s the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.) Apparently, if you couldn’t write a good essay, you should check out the military.
Since the ASVAB didn’t care if you could write a 5PE, I scored really well. I can diagram sentences like there is no tomorrow. Throw me a vocab word! I can also fold those odd cut-outs into 3D shapes really well. And there was a mechanics section, too – where should the fulcrum go? What’s the blast radius? How much rope and how many pullies does it take to get enough of a mechanical advantage for a small native boy to lift a wounded 300 lb soldier on a back brace?
Who knew that I had this kind of aptitude? Actually, I could have told you this. In my family, there’s a point of pride about knowing how to put something together . . . without the instructions. I can’t tell you how many futons I helped build or repair in my college days. Yes, you can stack the beds in your dorm room, but you have to go to Home Depot and get the right size dowel, and – if you’re smart – some braces and a few wood screws, but don’t tell them I told you that.
I’m giving away an AudioMovie prize pack to a lucky chicken. The grand prize winner gets personally autographed copies of both AudioMovies and paperbacks. Just by registering, you’ll receive my novella DISSONANCE and the first 2 chapters of God’s Eye for free. The drawing is on July 20th, so enter now to get your free stuff!
TV started in the US in the 1930’s and it’s been on a roll ever since. Personally, I’d argue that some aspects have gotten better and better (Sons of Anarchy, anyone?) others have stayed the same (I would argue that Two and a Half Men shows no growth from the uberformulaic 80s – seriously, the only thing missing is “What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”). Yes there’s 3D TV now – though most of us don’t have that yet . . . but the stations themselves have upgraded to color and HD over the years. Technology aside, the medium has grown . . .
Still there’s one aspect of TV that has grown by leaps and bounds, but maybe not in a very good way. It seems to be a uniquely American thing, too: The advent of news as entertainment.
The nightly news has been around since TV started. So who’s to blame for this change? Is it the people’s fault for buying in? Yes! It is. But it’s also the news stations’ fault for doing it, for looking for that buy in. If I hear “Could your refrigerator be killing you?” one more time, I’m gonna scream. Especially when this is consistently followed by a news article that takes about five minutes to say “No, though there are very small amounts of mercury and other harmful chemicals in your fridge, they are safely tucked into the back of the unit and nowhere near your food. You would have to disassemble the appliance and lick every element to get an exposure to even a trace amount.” I have learned to ignore these sensationalist tactics . . . oh, and I got TiVo, so I just gratefully fast forward past any talking heads.