Sunday, October 23, 2016

Good Story . . . but Gory


This was the summary provided by a family member half way through a novel.   The story was engrossing and exciting but the gore was overdone.   The author description including the information that he was also the creator of video games which may be a factor.  Video games can be notoriously violent.    I suppose it is something like the over the top realism in popular television shows like  Game of Thrones  and The Vikings.    I suspect there are various approaches to viewing program of this nature, perhaps similar to how graphic books are dealt with.

Some people revel in the gore and violence.   They are no doubt mild-mannered people who wouldn't hurt the proverbial fly but somehow violence viewed is a vicarious pleasure.   Perhaps it is cathartic in some way.   Then there are those viewers or readers who avert their eyes, fast forward the remote, take a bathroom break or flip pages when some hapless victim is being tortured, beheaded or similar.   Other parts of the movie/book feature terrific dialogue, suspense and character development.   The gore is the wasabi on the sushi tray that their palate seeks to avoid.   The rest is delicious.

Movies have ratings, sometimes focussed more on the sexual content than the violence level.  At the theatres the ratings served to keep minors from entering.   Television often/sometimes would only screen an adult movie after 9 or 10 p.m.  With Netflix you are on your own.   Perhaps there are parental controls that can be instituted.

Research has been done as to the effect of viewing violence on children and young people.   Is there a desensitization that occurs?   An article in the Psychiatric Times concludes : 

Despite the links between media violence and aggression, Anderson stressed, “media violence is only one of many risk factors for later aggressive and violent behavior. Furthermore, extremely violent behavior never occurs when there is only one risk factor present. Thus, a healthy, well-adjusted person with few risk factors is not going to become a school-shooter just because they start playing a lot of violent video games or watching a lot of violent movies.” 

That's good to know.   

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Blogs, blogs, blogs

I like blogs.   They are the new version of full-of-ads magazines which I used to buy in my younger days.   After awhile I realized there were more ads than copy and that the copy was sometimes suspiciously like the ads.   Even the articles in women's fashion and beauty type of magazines on how to achieve a natural look didn't involve not wearing make-up but rather buying a new supply of supposedly more natural looking make-up.   And look!   There's a handy ad facing the article for just such a product.   To think I paid to be an advertising victim.

Lest you think me narcissistic, let me haste to say that especially as I grew older I read other magazines besides Glamour and Cosmopolitan.   (Especially as I came to feel less attractive, less desirable, less sexy . . . after spending a couple of hours with one of these magazines.  A problem that could be solved  by following their advice slavishly!)  I read New Yorker,  The Economist, MacLeans, Time Magazines . . . you get the idea.   These days these former print magazines all have on-line versions.   Some try to encourage you to subscribe for a 99 cent trial run with the hope you will pay for a few extra lines or articles.   I guess some people do.

These on-line versions have on-line ads but they don't seem as focussed.   On different pages of the on-line version of  The New York Times I observed ads for casinos, encouraging me to use a realtor as opposed to D.I.Y., information about development plans at the local airport.   

Blogs are better I find.  There are ads as well;  usually useless ads for how to lose belly fat, trivia about a move star  or encouraging me to click through to Amazon.   There are blogs for everything and anyone.   If you have a lot of time at your disposal you can go down the rabbit hole for a long time as many blogs contain links to other blogs or interesting related articles.    I feel I meet interesting individuals on blogs but if I don't care so much for them personally it can be sufficient if their information has some value to me.   I don't have endure time in their company and I don't have to feel I am using them for their knowledge.   

It's a win-win!

(To let you know, If Llamas could Talk . . . is available free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers for the next few months.)

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Some people set lofty goals for themselves.   Others indulge in unrealistic expectations as in  if you want something enough, the universe will provide it.  To achieve the pinnacle of success in sports and be a professional hockey player is a dream shared by early rising hockey parents and hopefully their offspring as well.  What about producing a top selling song that is covered by big name artists and an appearance on the Grammy's to graciously accept an award.   You've prepared your acceptance speech already.  For authors, some long to see their book turned into a movie to critical acclaim (and their financial betterment).

Those who have neither the talent nor the drive, must resign themselves to not attaining their goals.   Perhaps youthful optimism gave way to adult realism.   Some go through life bitterly blaming parents who couldn't afford the time or money to continue sports lessons or a coach who didn't recognize their obvious talent.   They should have been great.

For those few whose stars align and the top of the ladder is attained, I wonder if they enjoy and revel in their achievement and success.   I am surprised when I read of musicians who suffer from depression or actors who become addicted to drugs or  alcohol or athletes who stop trying and quickly lose their competitive edge.Their family life is problematic, they divorce over and over and have conflicts with their children.   They don't speak to their parents for twenty years.  They're not happy.    Having achieved what so many long for, dream of, has not brought them lives of ecstatic happiness.

To paraphrase an old Spanish proverb:   The worst that can happen is that your dreams will come true.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Bath or Shower?

I recently read an interesting piece by Jessi Klein in the New Yorker magazine (May 2016) entitled The Bath:  A Polemic.   (I suppose it is embarrassing to admit I looked up the word polemic.   I had a general idea, but I wanted to know specifically.  Google was pleased to advise:

  A strong verbal or written attack on someone or something.   
Synonyms:   diatribe, invective rant, tirade . . .

  1. The two page article engendered two responses which I value when I read: It made me think and it made me laugh.     She postulated that women like baths, love baths and need them as an escape from the stresses of life. A place to be alone, a room of her own.   Men, almost universally, prefer showers.

    The writer (and myself) placed herself in the small minority of women who don't care for baths.   She goes as far as to describe them as vaguely miserable.   She feels "as if I were stewing up the world's saddest soup out of myself."   See . . . funny!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Can You be Useful to Me?


When networking first became a thing lots of people loved it.  (Here's a definition by the way:  Interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's career.)    Sure, this type of thing has been going on since the beginning of time.   I visualize an early hominid chatting to a fellow hominid about matters that generally concern  both of them before enquiring whether his new friend had discovered a new way to make fire.   Something that didn't involve waiting for lightning to strike a tree.

Friends have always helped friends and nepotism (the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.)  has a long history.  These are people with whom you have a known for a long time and they would be your friend (sister-in-law, cousin, co-worker) even if did not have any useful job leads.

But have you ever been introduced to a charming and attractive person at a social gathering and had the suspicious feeling that you were being evaluated, not for your character and sense of humour, but to see if you could be useful to them at some point.     Do you own a truck that could be used to transfer a garden shed?  Do you work for a large corporation that always has job openings in various departments?   Are you a computer nerd who could be called upon for network meltdowns?  Are you a good prospect for their home sales party next month?  Or, is your conversational partner's interest starting to wane as to your future usefulness?   Are their eyes starting to scan the room for more promising prospects?

Consider your escape fortunate.    Network friends may not understand the concept of reciprocity. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Perhaps you have visited a small town or country museum at some point in your travels.  They are full of relics from the past, lovingly curated, labelled and displayed.   Old milking cans and school slates, tin washboards and rusting disc plows suitable for the sticky soil of the area share the space with yellowing theatre programs, ornate ladies' hats and sturdy travelling trunks.   All recaptured from someone's attic, scrapbook or shed to show us how people of this area used to live and work.

Rust aside, they would still all work today, should the need somehow arise, but they do require manual labour to perform.   We may congratulate ourselves or feel grateful that those labour-intensive, backbreaking days of our ancestors never applied to us.   Some can still be purchased today;   the washboard above is available through Amazon.

But the list of items that are fading into obscurity and will one day grace museum shelves and walls is not static, rather it is growing.   That we have used some of the items might make us feel like relics ourselves.  True,  all are still in use, more or less, sometimes, when all else fails, but transitions happened gradually in the past, too.  The moral is, if you own one of these items, especially if it is in pristine condition, wrap it up carefully and put it in your attic.   One day a  museum might come calling.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Think about it for a minute.   Or survey those in your immediate vicinity.    Where are you likely to get the worst customer service?   . . . Right, a Government monopoly.   The Department of Motor Vehicles,  the Passport Office,  the government Medical Services Plan, the tax department.    There are no qualms it seems when the in person waiting time is an hour or more or when you wait on hold for thirty minutes.   No, a disembodied voice on your phone cheerfully advises that wait times are estimated to be 40 minutes.   How can they be so cavalier about this situation and without fear of losing business or declining revenues?   Because you have no choice;   they are the only game in town.   You need them; they don't need you.   You want a:

a)  Passport
b)   Driver's License
c)   Answer to a question about the government medical plan
d)    Information about your income tax deduction that was disallowed

Be prepared to wait! 

Following on the heels of government monopolies must be  organizations and institutions that have your money.    You've paid your University fees for the year, talking to you will not generate them any more revenue.    The bean counters have taken over.  Your local cable company, which has you on a 2 year plan,  has high call volumes and, of course, no plan in place to deal with this.   Why bother?   You're committed to paying them for another twenty months.    Credit card companies can be guilty of this as well, especially annoying after you spend five minutes replying to a circuit of menu options, involving entering your account number and various other options.   It doesn't help when the person who eventually answers doesn't seem to have access to the information that you diligently entered and starts the question process confirming your identity all over again.

But try to remember:  The person you eventually end up speaking to has little or nothing to do with the unacceptable service.   Customer service doesn't generate revenue and is prone to being the victim of budget cuts.  He or she is doing the work that three people previously shared.   Their hours are cut and calls are monitored to ensure 'quality' as in how quickly did they get you off the line. 

If only a small portion of what  is spent on government publicity/photo-op budgets was spent responding to citizens/residents queries, much improvement would occur.   The ads are so clever, the promises so profuse, the self-congratulation is ubiquitous.   The multitude of happy smiling faces must be residing in an alternate universe.