Entertainers, drug dealers, fans and junkies

I’ve been reading Saga, a critically acclaimed comic series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Think about a cross between Romeo and Juliet and Game of Thrones by way of Star Wars, and you’ll have the general idea.

Alana and Marko are our star-crossed couple, members of two warring species in a conflict that has lasted so long that the origin has largely been forgotten and the actual fighting is done by proxy through conscripts and allies on different worlds. Yet somehow, they end up falling for each other and have a baby… and that puts them on the run from both sides. Can’t have someone showing that it might just be possible to not be at war, after all.

While they’re on the run, Alana briefly works as an actor on the Open Circuit, a kind of virtual reality successor to television. And she has this conversation with Yuma, a set decorator for the bad soap opera she works on:

Alana: We’re not soldiers, we’re entertainers.

Yuma: Like hell. We’re drug dealers.

Yuma: It’s true, the Circuit has only ever existed to pacify an angry and hopeless population.

Alana: Maybe shitty shows like ours, but what about actual good ones? I got into “Filament City” when I was young, changed the way I thought about poverty.

Yuma: And what did you do? Join a nonprofit organization? Volunteer at a soup kitchen? Or did you lock yourself in a tiny room, shut the blinds and mainline every transmission like a junkie?

Yuma: Some art might have the power to change people, but the Circuit can only ever change the way we feel, and never for very long.

— Saga Chapter 20, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

And you know what? It kinda hits home, not just about television but about a lot of our entertainment in 2018.

Art can change people and give them something to aspire to… just look at all of the folks who ended up in science because of Star Trek, for one example. People have found love through fandoms. People went on to become authors and artists after starting with fan fiction and fan art.

But Netflix, Hulu and the internet put so much entertainment at our fingertips that it’s easy to get lost in the escapism. And as someone who’s managed to watch whole seasons of a series in a weekend, I do wonder what I might accomplish if I pulled the plug.

But that’s just it… I wonder. And odds are pretty good that I’ll go back to watching Lost in Space shortly after I hit the “publish” button.

So yeah, I might be a junkie…

(But check out Saga and Lost in Space, they both look pretty good so far.)

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Posted in Odds & ends

A touch of spring

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Before I headed over to the ballpark on Tuesday to catch the Mets’ game, I stopped at Macy’s Herald Square flagship store to check out their 2018 flower show. If you’re in the area, you can check in out through April 8th.

Posted in Odds & ends

Could the world be about to turn?

Maybe the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who organized Saturday’s March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C. are an answer to all of the ‘thoughts and prayers’ that follow school shootings and other horrific acts of violence.

At least 200,000 people turned out in the nation’s capital, with other demonstrations throughout the country. People — especially our young people — are trying to convince those in power that we can do better. Students should not have to practice what to do in the event of a shooting at their school — something that never even crossed our minds when I was a student.

Maybe those in power will listen and try to do something this time. Maybe they will be voted out of office. Maybe the world is about to turn.

Maybe they try and it’s not enough, or it’s the wrong thing. Maybe we will have to try again.

Maybe nothing changes at all, and we just wait to express sadness and outrage again after the next horrific act of violence.

I don’t know. I’m choosing to believe in the possible.

Posted in Odds & ends

Lenten reflection

This is a little late for this year, but a member of my church family shared this Lenten reflection with me last week and I thought it was worth passing along.

Give up complaining – Focus on gratitude

Give up on judgments – Think kind thoughts

Give up on discouragement – Be hopeful

Give up on bitterness – Turn to forgiveness

Give up anger – Return good for evil

Give up gossiping – Control your tongue

Give up pessimism – Be optimistic

Give up gloom – Enjoy the beauty around you

Give up jealousy – Pray for trust

Give up worry – Trust Divine Providence

Give up giving up – Hang in there!

— Author unknown

Posted in Odds & ends

I’m back…

So…it’s been over a month since you’ve heard from me. Spring training is just about over and Opening Day is next week.

I’d like to tell you that I disappeared because I’ve been super busy with other things… and I suppose that’s even accurate, if you count binge-watching Netflix as a thing. But it’s more truthful to admit that depression has been an issue. Compared to what I went through in my early 20s, this was fairly mild. I still went to work and did everything I had to do (though, if we’re being truthful, some of those things were not done on time, exactly.) I stuck to plans with friends, as long as I didn’t have to make them and they came to get me.

But I had no energy left for things that I enjoy, like writing. None. And I couldn’t even really tell you why.

This past week has been a little bit better. I actually felt like taking photos. I started working on things for my garden (in between the snowstorms). I wrote some autograph request letters. I made plans to go to Chiller Theater with my friend Bart next month. I went to see a student production of Sweeney Todd at my old high school last night, on my own. I’m thinking about going to the Bronx Zoo next week on my day off. I’m writing again.

Here’s hoping I don’t disappear again.

Posted in Books, Odds & ends

Recommended listening: “Cat Pictures, Please”

One of my favorite podcasts is Escape Pod, which brings a new science fiction short story every week. I particularly liked this week’s episode, “Cat Pictures, Please” by Naomi Kritzer.

Many stories that feature advanced artificial intelligence programs seem to focus on ones that want to destroy humanity, from Wargames‘ WOPR and Terminator‘s Skynet to The 100‘s Allie.

Kritzer imagines an A.I. that wants to be helpful… but her story also asks us to think about how much algorithms already control our lives.

Check it out if you have a half hour to spare.