Monday, August 26, 2019

Week of 08/26/2019

Creativity Versus Attention
I recently watched a really interesting TED Talk video by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  You may remember him from movies like “Looper” and “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises”.  He’s done a whole lot more before and after those big-budget blockbusters, so, sufficient to say he’s a hard-working guy in Hollywood.
In the video, recorded just a few months before this article went online, Gordon-Levitt talks about the similarities and differences between being creative and getting attention.  Both are highly addictive.  Both are extremely powerful feelings.  But they are diametrically opposite in what they do and the processes that are involved.
When you’re creating something, Gordon-Levitt explains, you pay attention to detail.  You’re aware of everything that goes into it.  You shut out everything else.  He knows this as an actor and filmmaker.  I know this as a published writer, comic book creator, former Internet radio personality, and former college stage actor.
But when you’re involved with social media, there is another equally powerful state, and that comes when you’re getting attention.  Gordon-Levitt singles out Instagram, but, really, there are several forums of social media that do the same thing.  When you’re getting attention, you don’t care about details.  You don’t care about what’s going on right now.  You just do more and more stuff to get more and more attention and to keep attention.
Now... I strongly recommend that you see the video for yourself, because he explains things perfectly from his own perspective.  However, I want to build from that, because there is a lot more that needs to be said.
Strangely enough, when Gordon-Levitt was talking about the dangers of getting attention and how social media like Instagram are encouraging it for their own financial gain, I had posted my column about marketers, and, specifically the people that call themselves “influencers”. I pointed out that what they were doing was really pitching product, and that whatever “friendship” that exists was only one-way.  And, really, what they are doing is getting attention so they can sell product.
Think about it.  They’re monetizing getting attention.  And not just for the providers... but for the marketers as well.
While Instagram is the most notorious for encouraging people to get attention for marketing purposes, they’re certainly not the only ones.  YouTube is equally rife with “personalities” that do crazy and stupid things to get attention.  Same with Facebook and Snapchat.
And long before the World Wide Web ever came into being, there were TV and radio “personalities” that also did (and some still do) crazy and stupid things to get attention.  Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Geraldo Rivera, and the late Morton Downey Jr. quickly come to mind.  And let’s not forget Howard Stern!  They’d all play the straight men to the sideshow freaks they’d have as guests, and they’d always get crazier and crazier.  The fact that most of them are still on the air, still doing the same zany things trying to get that ever-dwindling attention, only proves how addictive it is.
Hell, the President of the United States is the most notorious self-promoting clown act today!  He throws temper tantrums that crash financial markets!
But there’s something else that I’ve noticed going on at the same time.  There’s been a serious lack of creativity.
We are regressing when it comes to entertainment.  We’re recycling old shows and old movies.  Old shows from the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s are being rehashed.  Some even have the original actors coming back for more, while the rest are just recast with slight tweaks.  The folks in the CW just can’t seem to help but remake old characters with different ethnicities and sexual preferences.  I don’t have a problem with the diversity, but, come on guys.  Really?  You can’t create all-new diverse characters to work with the established ones?
How many times do we need to re-cast and re-tell the origin stories of superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman and Superman?  How many times do we need to re-set and re-boot “Lost in Space” and the “Fantastic Four” and the “X-Men” and “Godzilla” and “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween”?
Warner Brothers recently announced that they would be doing a third sequel to the twenty-year old “Matrix” series, featuring two of the principle characters that were killed off during the last movie.  Why?  Why go back to a series that was ended and the storyline finished?
Do you know what made the “Matrix” stand out twenty years ago?  Cutting-edge effects and a creative story that challenged the mind.  It was original.  Trying to go back to that today, two decades later, would not be original.  It would not be creative.  Warner Brothers shouldn’t be trying to get back to the “Matrix”.  They should be looking for the next creative idea that would replace the “Matrix”.
Let’s get brutally honest here... we need to encourage more creativity in life, not rewarding people looking for attention.
I’ve been doing online columns for over twenty years.  I’ve been doing fan-made comics for ten years.  Yeah, I wanted this to be my financial future, but I’d rather have people read my work and appreciate it than just doing stupid things to get attention. I would rather be respected for my creativity than make a paycheck making an ass out of myself just to get attention.
And we see those kinds of people every day.  They’re the people we see on TV and the Internet and we ask why the hell they’re doing it.  Well, we know why.  It’s about the attention.  We have a president making an ass of himself, and an army of soothsayers and enablers making asses out of themselves justifying his asinine antics.  Why?  Because getting attention is just as addictive as being creative.
We are better when we are creative.  When we showcase our talents instead of just getting our names in the media.  When history looks back at someone like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the near-future, they’re going to see an actor and filmmaker.  Someone who creates.  Not someone in the media making an ass of himself.  Compare that to the people you see in the gossip section all the time.  Which group would you rather be remembered in?

Monday, August 19, 2019

Week of 08/19/2019

It Will *Always* Be About Trump
In the “Harry Potter” book series by J. K. Rowling, there is a constant rule that you do not mention the name of the big bad villain that they fear.  You do not say “Voldemort”.  Ever.  Not in passing.  Not under your breath.  The pale nose-less caricature of evil is always referred to by everyone else in that fictional world as “You-Know-Who” or “The Dark Lord”.
Harry Potter and his friends never really understood why, and they never explain why in the movies, but apparently Voldemort had invoked a spell that would let him know whenever anyone said his name.  People feared his revenge, even after believing he was dead, so they refused to say his name, and they told everyone else to never say his name.  Of course, that did not stop him from returning and causing havoc and death everywhere he went. 
So the willful ignorance of supposed “wizards” was a huge stinking failure.
We have something of a similar problem with a certain orange-skinned self-promoting clown act who is currently infesting the White House.
Narcissist President Donald Trump seems to confound the air-fluffed ego-driven members of the media, not to mention the thinking members of the United States, with all of the weird things that he does.  They don’t understand why he makes personal attacks on people who criticize him.  They don’t understand why he goes to places where he knows that he is not welcomed and why they turn into some PR rally complete with seemingly starstruck fans and followers who worship him as a messiah.  They don’t understand why he makes asinine comments about himself at events that are clearly about something that doesn’t involve him.  They don’t understand why he makes BS claims and boasts and lies and why he supposedly wants to buy Greenland.  He certainly doesn’t act like anyone else in his position of importance would do.
The air-fluffed ego-driven members of the media – TV, radio, newsprint, and Internet combined – either refuse to acknowledge or refuse to accept the one thing that makes Narcissist Trump different from most people.  That one thing is something that this commentator has strived to include with as many references to him as possible since he took office.
The one word that they refuse to say: Narcissist.
President Donald Trump is a narcissist.
It’s almost like there is this unwritten rule that you cannot give that pronouncement on radio or TV.  Talk radio personalities on the progressive side (yes, they exist) seemingly refuse to say the word “narcissist”.  So-called political “experts” on TV refuse to acknowledge Trump’s narcissism when they try to comprehend the things that he does.
It’s a word.  It’s a word used to describe a person’s mental state.  You do not need a PhD to say it.  We had no problem hearing Tony Stark admitting to his “textbook narcissism” in “Iron Man 2”, and yet we are somehow afraid of saying it about Narcissist Trump.
Say it.  Understand it.  Accept it.  Acknowledge it.  This is what you elected.  This is what occupies the White House.
Because our refusal to say that word also prevents us from understanding the truth about Narcissist Trump and why he does what he does. We are dumbfounded by his actions and attitudes because we refuse to acknowledge this one word that describes him.
Let’s get brutally honest here... When it comes to Narcissist Trump, everything that he does will *always* be about him.  Always.
When Narcissist Trump goes to a scene of tragedy, such as a mass shooting or an area devastated by a natural disaster, he isn’t going there to offer support or sympathy to the victims of that tragedy.  Because at that point it is not about the victims.  It is about Narcissist Trump being there. 
That’s why he’s always smiling and giving thumbs-up amidst tragedy and surrounded by supposed idol worshipers.  That’s why he’s seen in El Paso with his current wife holding a baby who was just orphaned and acting like it was a trophy.  That’s why he was seen gleefully tossing paper towels to survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico like he was in a wrestling event in Madison Square Garden.  It’s not about the tragedy.  It’s not about giving solace and support to those who were the victims of tragedy.  It’s not even about that little orphaned baby.  It is about Narcissist Trump being there.  It is always about him, and his reactions, and his presence there, and how *he* is welcomed and treated by everyone. 
“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” meet “Trump, Trump, Trump!”
Yes, Narcissist Trump makes personal attacks on his critics, and even seems to go out of his way to do it, because that is what a narcissist does.  Everything is personal.  It is about him, after all.  He is not playing “seven-dimensional chess” or any other kind of made-up excuse that the overpaid so-called “experts” are trying to claim that he is doing.  He is really not that complex.  The President is a narcissist.  Narcissists see only two sides: with the narcissist or against the narcissist.  If you’re with him, then you have to blindly support and agree with and defend everything that he says or does or thinks.  And if you can’t, then you’re “the enemy”.  It really is that simple.
I might even suggest that the media is willfully refusing to acknowledge Trump’s narcissism because that gives the illusion of him being a “complex” person.  That his petty antics are all part of some act, some grand deception by a master tactician, instead of the symptoms of someone with a personality disorder.
It was ultimately wrong for the people in the “Harry Potter” series to willfully not mention Voldemort by name.  It only allowed him to regroup and recover and return, hiding in plain sight through the willful ignorance and stupidity of supposed “wizards”.  Likewise, it is wrong for us to refrain from using a word that can best describe the person occupying the White House.  It’s like not being able to say his hair is yellow or that his skin is orangish.  It only serves to give him more power over us that no person should ever have, especially in a country that supposedly cherishes freedom of speech.