Light Blogging, Heavy Stress

Sorry if the blogging has been light lately – we’ve both been pretty stressed out with the buying of the house.

There have been some issues that have come up, none of which I want to make public right now. Suffice to say we think we will have resolution this week, but it has really been dragging us down. We are packed and down to the last minute “essentials” packing, and were ready to move this week if we closed yesterday. That didn’t happen. If the issues get ironed out and we close next week, I think we will be moving another 2 weeks later. That actually may work out better, because then we have more time to prep the house – cleaning it to our “specs” as well as moving the fish tank.

But it’s a wait and see situation till week’s end. Will certainly update on the blog as we get more information.

Harry Pod-der

Just discovered – there are three Harry Potter themed podcasts:

Mugglecast – run by the folks at Mugglenet.com – the premiere Harry Potter resource.

The Secrets Of Harry Potter – Fr. Roderick VonHogen explores the symbol and themes in the books with an eye towards what real life things may have inspired them. I haven’t listened – but it seems like he’s not bashing the books – but tracing historical references that inspire them.

Harry Podder Podcast – A Weekly Podcast Featuring Magical News for Muggles and Other Harry Potter Fans

I finished Half Blood Prince. Email me if you want to discuss.

–*Rob

Things I Miss From Childhood

Rob’s post about this never got tagged back around to me – so I’m gonna throw together one myself here. Here are things I miss from childhood:

Hanging out at Great Adventure – Living so close to GA, I used to get a season pass. Seems like I spent the entire season it was open there with friends. We couldn’t drive there, and it was good way for mom and dad to get me out of the house for a day. Whether it was with Jim or someone else from my block – we’d always end up doing more then just riding rides. It was a hangout, not a day trip like it was for people who did not live so close.

– American Top 40 – and the wonderment that went along with Casey Kasem and the way songs would move up and down the charts. It was pretty much the one and only definitive guide to popular music, and I tried to never miss it on Sunday mornings.

Computer Games – Well actually, the time to sit and play them for hours on end. I don’t miss loading the games from cassettes, because thet took forever. But the games…the games…. I had an Atari 800 computer which was more then most kids had – it had more power and better graphics and sound. The games were just amazing for their time. Yet, I still came back to the old text adventures too (Scott Adams seemed to be preferred over Infocom). I still play games occasionally on the Playstation 2 – but I don’t have the time to really sit for hours to master a game. Which is probably why I prefer the shorter, easier games now. (Lego Star Wars is a lot of fun!)

– Trips to Florida to see my grandparents – My mom’s folks lived in Hollywood – not far from Ft. Lauderdale. They used to put me on a plane by myself for Christmas and/or spring breaks. I loved flying by myself – at age 7 it’s a HUGE deal. I also loved being down there, playing with the other grandkids who would be visiting every year. It was like a second neighborhood.

– Hong Kong – We lived in Hong Kong for two years when I was age 10 to 12. When we were there, I learned so much about world cultures. The International School – which was American style but had kids from many different countries – gave me new perspective at an early age. But moreover – living there had its share of freedoms. Being an actual city – using public transportation with other kids to go to the movies was a regular thing. And I miss the fact that my dad worked for a toy company (Mego) and brought me to the factory sometimes. I remember him sitting me down in a conference room one day. They had a video casette player (which to me was a technological marvel in and of itself) – and he showed me the ppilot to a TV show they had acquired the merchandising rights to. The show? Buck Rogers starring Gil Gerard. Talk about kid heaven…. Our family is still friends with an Australian family we met there – we’ve gone there and they’ve come here to visit.

Riding bikes to get somewhereLike Rob I remember riding bikes with friends to get comic books. I also remember riding up to the local diner that had a variety of video game machines in the lobby. We’d pump quarters into those machines, everything from Pac Man to Moon Cresta, Phoenix to Asteroids. Later we would ride to the local pizza place that had an arcade. Karate Champ amazed us…. We also rode to Fun Town – the local toy store that had lots of D&D stuff.

My grandparents on my dad’s side. They lived in Montclair, and we’d go up there for a lot of holidays. I feel this certain kinship with my grandpa Irving – I think of my family I am most like him. I remember getting my driver’s license – and one of the first places I drove was to their house.

So there ya go. Let me start the tagging again – and see if maybe Allen wants to tackle this one.

–*Rob

Mean Spirits

Where is our society’s sense of humor going? Why have we suddenly moved into what I see as a “mean streak”? Or have we always been there and I’m just seeing things recently that piss me off? Three things came to my attention this week which caused me to ask myself these questions.

It started last week when I was reading the NJ.com Radio message boards. I read them regularly being a radio geek, and there are occasionally interesting posts, though the board really is not that active. A debate erupted there over the inherent entertainment value of NJ 101.5’s Jersey Guys. If you haven’t heard their show – it’s not hard to imagine. Sophomoric, right wing humor, with little basis in fact. Craig Carton – the “star” of the show to Ray Rossi’s sycophant, is little more then a shock jock wanna-be. He stirs shit up just to get rise out of people – that’s the act. In the past year he’s been at the center of three controversial incidents at the station. The first in which he stirred things up in the Muslim community over their gathering at Hightstown high school, as well as their yearly outing to Great Adventure. The second was his remarks about Mary Jo Codey – acting governor Dick Codey’s wife who admitted to post partum depression and mental health issues. The third involved his rather pointed opinions on Jun Choi – running for Mayor of Edison.

In all these cases, he used a public event to stir things up. He used ethnic accents and stereotypes, and he made fun of people who didn’t agree with his views. The problem I think I have with this – is that he crosses the line from funny to mean spirited. His stereotyping goes over the line – characterizing the people he villifies in a nasty light. For example – on The Simpsons the character of Apu is Indian American – and the stereotype is not lost on anyone – but it’s done in good fun, and he’s portrayed in an intelligent light. Carton just crosses that line of good fun and I’m left shaking my head, wondering how someone can be so mean. The answer is of course – it’s for his own personal gain – whether that gain comes in dollars for his salary (tied to the station’s ratings) or notoriety (again, bringing the station ratings). It just seems that to use it to that level is just mean spirited. I don’t know, it’s something I’m left wondering. But at least thepeopel affected by his nastiness are adults.

So the second thing that came to my attention was a t-shirt that gives away a key plot point in the new Harry Potter book (“It says XXX happens on page XXX – there, I just saved you $15”). I first saw mention of it on MuggleNet, and then I saw it on Gigglechick’s site. Mugglenet had a spoiler warning up right away, but Gigglechick did not (she eventually added it – more on that below). In the comments section on both blogs – some people debated the humor of the shirt pretty vigorously. It got pretty heated on both sites, and I have to say it really bothered me. I see the humor in the shirt – it’s an obvious play on this new spoiler culture we seem to have evolved into since the advent of the internet allows us to see information about the books, TV shows and movies read so readily that it IS laughable. I guess the reason the shirt struck me as mean spirited though – is that the Harry Potter books are kids books (though adults read them). It might take a kid (let alone an adult like myself with limited amounts of free time) a month to finish the book – or maybe more. Or maybe the kid’s gotten turned on to the series recently and is working their way through it. If that kid – wide eyed with wonder about the series saw that shirt on some teen in the local mall – it would just ruin it for them. It would ruin it in the most mean spirited way I know – and that is just sad to me. It’s sad that our society has come to such nasty humor. Yet – people defended it in droves – saying it was jus hilarious and they’d love to wear the shirt because it would just drive other people crazy. Key words: drive other people crazy – aka stir things up. Humor out of controversy – attention out of nastiness.

The third thing that I saw happening this week involved some podcasts. I know – most folks probably don’t know this subject from Adam but it was what finally drove it home for me yesterday. There is an excellent podcast called “The Bitterest Pill” which is hosted by a working actor and stay at home dad named Dan Klass. Dan is intelligent and also cynical. His humor is along the lines of a low key David Sedaris with a little bit of Ira Glass (from This American Life) and Harry Shearer thrown in for good measure. It’s funny in that smart, clever way that you find on public radio. Week before last the NY Times published an article on podcasting and described Dan as an “addict.” Now – Dan describes his fans along with himself this way because it’s an obvious play on the title of the podcast and nothing more but apparently the author of the article took it the wrong way and actually thought he was a real addict. So he called the NY Times to ask for an apology or correction – which they did. It was a little bit of controversey in the podcaster community so it got a bit of attention for a few days.

So enter this other podcast this week called “Keith and the Girl.” They can be funny at times – but they are not one of my regular listens. They decide that they are going to tear apart Dan’s podcast for humor. No really – this was their act – to play parts of the podcast, and to tear apart Dan’s act – in an attempt to be funny. This was the third thing that to me – seemed mean spirited. It was a cheap way to get laughs and, I might add, stir up controversy and publicity for the show. It was sophomoric humor to the nth degree. Rather then try and come up with a “bit” like a parody of his show (which probably would have been funny) they just chose to rip him apart for his humor and his handling of the NY Times situation. So here’s the thing – the humor once again springs out of a mean spirited well. Using one person’s vulnerability for their own personal gain.

So here’s the thing that ties all of these incidents together for me. It’s not just their collective mean spirits – it’s the collective dismissiveness of the people who chose to propagate the joke. In the case of the Jersey Guys – anyone who calls them, and tries to talk sensibly about the subject at hand, is the made fun of and summarily dismissed. The discussion becomes a one sided defensive attack on not only the subject of the joke – but of anyone who chooses to disagree with it. In the case of Gigglechick posting about the t-shirt (to give her credit – she didn’t create the joke itself) – her response was eventually “fine…spoiler alert. boo-hoo.” Like the sulky child who doesn’t get their way and is scolded for their actions – she lapses into defensiveness as her joke. Finally Keith and the Girl – I haven’t heard their reponse to the storm – so we’ll see what comes up. What’s also common in all these instances is the absolute defensiveness that all of these folks’ fans take with them. On the NJ.com radio forum – the Jersey Guys fans are just as nasty as they are in defending them. Intelligent conversation and analysis of the situation is unheard of. The same goes for Gigglechick’s fans in her comments section, as well as on Keith and the Girl’s comments. It just sets off a nasty firestorm to even try to get them to see your point of view. There is no concession. It is only nastiness.

Maybe I’m just too sensitive, but it all seems much worse then it did ten to fifteen years ago. Or maybe it’s just more visible because we have the internet – which allows instant response. I don’t know. But I can tell you that I don’t always like it.

–*Rob