Thursday, January 9, 2020

KJIR - Dictator Radio

It is funny how you can go from having an opinion and not a day later realize you might be overing it a bit. Two nights ago I was lying in bed playing the "If I Were a Dictator..." game. If you haven't heard of it before, basically you just imagine what you would do if you had the power of a dictator. The first decree that popped into my head was "I would ban all non-live visual entertainment: movies, TV, video games / VR - anything with more than 1 frame per second would no longer be allowed. I think it was the obnoxious advertisement for the movie 1917 that I had seen earlier where the guy who does the movie trailers kept repeating in that singular voice "1917 is..." and then adding some kind of superlative that set me off. Granted the movie is a WWI piece so it's wasn't about Hitler but it planted the seed from which the "game" sprung. In general dictatorial terms, I think I would be pretty much the opposite of Kim Jong Il though possibly still just as "ronry".

I don't believe entertainment is evil, I only would do away with the kind that requires your visual faculties to be consumed. Books, audio dramas, comics, card games, board games, sports (not televised) would all be okay. Why no video? All visual entertainment requires a disproportionate amount of times and resources to create and distribute (video requiring roughly 100 times more data than audio) as well as capturing and consuming our attention all the while we sit on our asses evaporating time as fast as it's made. Apparently 1917 is made to look like one continuous shot which people are raving about (at least the kind of people who rave about such things) and while I'm sure the film looks amazing, I have to wonder if it is really an achievement that merits its existence much less the self-aggrandizing-awards-season-advertising. As someone who has worked on numerous "big" and "small" movies, I can assure you that big budget, small budget, super hero, passion projects - they're all cluster fucks in one respect or another. Recreating life on a screen is a labor intensive process and wouldn't exist if not for the allure of money and fame. Even the original radio dramas were designed to sell products to their captivated audience. At least with radio you can still do other things and aren't ingesting quite as severe of an illusory representation of reality. What most people don't realize is how crafted everything you see in entertainment and advertising is. For example, it's hilarious to watch a comedy but it's a completely different thing to be on set for 65+ hours while the actors and director play mad-libs with the script trying to find a pull a nugget out of their asses.

As you may have gathered by now I have had some amount of antipathy for Hollywood which is what lead me to this pondering while lying in bed. I imagined making the announcement (not via Twitter) to my subjects informing them of the ban. Everyone would have a whole lot of time on their hands now to do, well, all kinds of lovely things not to mention the reduction in "waste" and pollution generated by the visual entertainment industry. There would also be a whole lot of billions that could go towards many more pertinent issues on the globe. All around win-win from my beleaguered perspective.

Now that the ground work has been laid for my most excellent plan "a plan that you are going to love. When it's in operation you're going to be so happy. Happier than you've ever been..." ok, satire aside, let me tell you about next day. While cleaning up holiday decorations my partner put on a movie called Wonder in the background. I was busy with a few things and only caught bits and pieces of the first twenty minutes via audio from the other room. Deciding to take a break and have something to eat, I found myself intrigued by what I was hearing and despite my dictatorial machinations of the previous night, sat down observing the screen while I munched on some corn chex. Within five minutes I was  crying.

Wonder is about August "Augie", a 10 year old boy who was born with a rare genetic "condition"  that left him with what many would label as a "sever facial deformity". So severe that in the movie he is called "Darth Sidious" and "Freddy Krueger" among other things by some other children. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone so I will attempt to only focus on the heart of the film. All the actors do a fantastic job of portraying relatable humanity so if you haven't seen it yet, I would highly recommend it. Maybe it's because I'm reaching "middle-age" with children of similar ages to those in the film but whatever the reason, I was struck by the realization that life isn't easy for anyone but we are often so self-absorbed that we can only see through the lens of our own pain. At one point Augie's sister tells him "everything isn't always about you" after he had verbally exploded based off the assumption that a situation was due to someone's discomfort with his appearance.

As a child it is easy to think that adults have it made, especially those who are retired. I'm reminded of a conversation with my grandmother who turned 90 recently. She was telling me about her dilema of wanting to stay in the house she has lived in for over 50 years but how it is getting more difficult and that her children were pressuring her to move in with one of them. When I hung up I felt sad. Sad that my Gram was feeling a host of things my illusion of life had told me you conquered at some age and sad that it never gets "easier" and all you can really do is get better at accepting what is.

Wonder is a masterfully crafted parable that shows these foibles of human existence while subtly encouraging you to step outside of yourself and realize that everyone is going through it just like you but with a different set of challenges and personal pain that you may not see. It was a heart warming reminder to embrace life no matter what and also a gentle reminder of why I'm not a dictator (though in all fairness it was a book first : )