Friday, November 11, 2011

Financial Woes Make it to Scripted TV

I read this article on, and decided to leave a comment on it.  I actually do this quite a bit, and I don't usually post what I write here, but after looking it over, I was a little impressed with myself and the points I made (arrogant, I know).  So I decided to post my comment on the blog as well.  The article is about how the entertainment television industry is finally making shows about working people.  But as I point out, I found this more than a little disingenuous. 

The thing that really turns me off about these kinds of shows, is that the only way the entertainment media seems to be able to reflect the reality of hard economic times and poverty, is to make light of it, to make it into a joke.  It shows how detached from reality the people who greenlight these shows really are.  They see things like people losing their jobs to outsourcing, and come up with an idea for a half-hour comedy about it (there was a comedy on last year called, yes, "Outsourced").  Or young people not being able to gain traction in the job market due to the staggering economy and the crippling student loan debt, and they go "hey, let's make something funny out of that", and you get "2 Broke Girls" on CBS. 

I think the motivating factor is that the corporate media does not want people to think too seriously about these things; this might motivate them to get angry and organized.  So the assertion the writer makes at the beginning of the article, on how the TV industry is finally making shows about working people rather than about cops and doctors, is more than a little disingenuous.  Yes, they are making shows about working people, but these shows aren't seriously addressing the many struggles the working poor face on a daily basis or are carrying a message that many can relate to.  It's taking their misery, their failures to pay their bills and raise their kids, and making it into something for people watching their TVs to laugh at.  The more I think about it, the more disgusted I get. 

Not to say that there aren't serious dramatic works that deal with the subject matter of the economic crisis we're in.  Take the new movie "Margin Call" with Kevin Spacey, the docudrama "Too Big to Fail" with William Hurt and Paul Giamatti, the sequel to "Wall Street", etc.  But the dramas I mentioned aren't about working people; they're about the ethical and moral travails of the top one percent as they navigate through the crisis.  As good as these films are, I can't remotely relate to the characters.  What's the worse that will happen to them, they won't be able to buy that yacht they want?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No Country for Old Men

This is a really, really good post from Bill Hicks about the challenges and perils facing the elderly in the oncoming collapse.  As grim as the future may look for the rest of us, it is really going to bite hard for old people.  At least most of us have the physical wherewithal and mental well-being to possibly adapt to these changing events, as challenging as that process will undoubtedly be.  Plus, we have the advantage of not living our entire lives in a BAU paradigm.  Many of our elderly, unless they were born before or around the Great Depression, have lived their lives in relative luxury, expect to retire comfortably (provided they aren't already) and have a mindset in which economic and social collapse are the furthest thing from many of their minds.  Bill provides many great reasons for why our elderly are in for a rude awakening.  In addition to the reasons you'd expect (insolvency of our few safety nets, especially SS and Medicare), he also points out our decaying transit infrastructure, piss-poor public transit (if it exists at all, and in many parts of the country, it does not), and the atomization of our society (people constantly moving around, and away from their parents). 

Another aspect I'd like to add, although it can be strictly abstract, is the potential for intergenerational warfare.  I think, as resource constraints really clamp down on us, be it within the next year or two, the next decade, or later, younger generations are going to be really fucking pissed off at the generations before them.  We were able to grasp the fruits of these great, energy-rich resources, and pissed them away on structures and activities that had a limited shelf-life, leaving next-to-nothing for the children of tomorrow to hang on to.  In turn, currently, there are a lot of old people who simply cannot relate to the struggles that the present-day young are facing.  They look at our problems in finding gainful employment, and think "what the fuck is our problem?"  This was symbolized perfectly by the presidential candidate Herman Cain, when he was addressing the matter of the Occupy Wall Street movement and remarked that it was "their own fault" that they were not able to succeed.  Many of the Baby Boomers aren't able to grasp that their relative success in life wasn't so much a result of their hard work and efforts, but that they lived in a time of massive abundance, and in which there was plenty for everybody.  As the pie is shrinking, those at the top are still taking their big slice, but this time, there isn't enough for everybody.  And there are a lot more people now than there were then.

So there is a huge potential for this facet of collapse to play out, IMO.  The question is whether it'll be limited to cold stares and a few harsh words amongst the generations, or if it'll escalate in a few cases.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Freemium" Gaming

Over the past year or so, I've come to appreciate the game of golf, which I never thought I would do.  No, I don't literally go to the nearest club and hit the links.  I play golf video games.  A lot of them are very accessible to the layman, like the Hot Shots Golf series.  Another one I really enjoy is a series called "Let's Golf" for mobile devices.  I have the 1st one for my iPod and the 2nd one for the Nintendo 3DS.  Between them, they were less than $10 and I was impressed by the replay value.  The gameplay tends to be more forgiving than the Hot Shots series, and the 2nd one has a cool, RPG-style level-up system. 

I had just seen that the 3rd one was now available in the App Store, and even saw that it was FREE!  I figured I stumbled into a limited-time offer; BTW, the reason why I love games on the iPod is that they are usually very affordable and their graphics could rival Nintendo's and Sony's offerings (I think gaming on mobile devices like iPod, Android, cell phones, etc. will be the death knell for Nintendo and Sony as far as portable gaming goes).  So I was excited and downloaded the game.  And then I read the reviews.

Let's Golf 3 has what is called a "freemium" system.  "Freemium" means offering the initial game free-of-charge, and then charging for advanced features, or merely to progress further in the game.  In "Let's Golf 3", you are given a certain amount of "energy", which you use every time you play a hole.  Once you use up the "energy", you either have to wait an hour for it to recharge or pay for more energy using in-game cash (which is utilized either by playing well, or paying for the in-game cash with actual money).

Opinions seem to be mixed, but they're veering towards the negative side of the spectrum.  I must hang my hat there as well.  I'm a lifelong gamer, and am used to paying for games.  When I pay for a game, I am used to having unlimited access to it.  In this case, I'd rather pay the $2 or $5 or $10 for the latest Let's Golf and be able to play as many holes as I please, without having to wait an hour for my "energy" to fill up (or having to pay to fill it up).  I have not tried it out yet, and now am not sure that I will.  I heard that under this model, you can play one hole of golf an hour; that's right, not a round, a hole!

Oh, and to really add insult to injury, Gameloft (the makers of Let's Golf) have removed the first two games in the series from the App Store.  These games were not "freemium" games, they were full-featured games that provided hours of fun for a very low price.  I'm thankful I have the games, and I don't have to wait an hour to play a hole either. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Life Without Electricity

I read a comment that someone made once about electricity and how we have come to know it in our lives.  He/she referred to electricity as society's "central nervous system".  Meaning, that in those rare instances when the grid fails, our collective central nervous systems are hopelessly impaired, to the point where we barely know up from down.  For much of history, societies have not known this level of dependency.  In fact, energy use as we've come to know it (appliances like washing machines and entertainment devices like televisions) did not really come into fruition until the year 1953, approximately.

There are many converging events that should lead to a discussion on our use of energy, like peak oil and the earthquake/tsunami in Japan.  And some people, as evidenced by this Energy Bulletin article, are already pursuing a "non-electric" lifestyle, not by merely living without electricity, but by creating inventions that are variations of appliances that have come to be associated with electricity.  A doctor of engineering in Japan has created a refrigerator and a coffee roaster that do not require electricity.