Category Archives: television

Could be Tomorrow

Lungs

I’m off to Vietnam this week. I don’t know much about the country and its beautiful people, so I’ll talk about The Handmaid’s Tale instead. What a wonderful, wonderful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s work (a Canadian treasure)! Good job, Hulu! What’s really interesting about the book and the show itself is that if there’s ever a more apt book to adapt for the times, it’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Being a work of “speculative fiction,” much like books like The Road or Blindness, it doesn’t need much fantasy in order for something to become our reality. In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, religion and military dictatorship just needs to marry together, something which humanity has experimented with several times before.

And it’s not like we’re that far off from Ms. Atwood’s fiction. The world is becoming more and more militaristic. Many countries’ police officers are starting to look more like military forces. There’s a loud growing movement of conservatism with their adherence to religious dogma and a distrust of science and news media. And more and more, dictatorial rule seems to be coming back into fashion with many people blindly supporting strong men. Even my father pines for the days of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and praises the likes of Duterte. The show did a great job of incorporating current trends and technology and making it part of the narrative. It almost screams at the viewers, “this could be you! You’d better do something about it” It’s not enough that we trust our collective goodness as a society. Our hubris, our confidence that several others will do good despite of our inaction, will lead to our eventual downfall. I’d like to believe more Americans are sensible, and yet Donald Trump and his ilk run the country. I was impressed at how friendly, welcoming, and seemingly sensible everyone was the last time I visited the Philippines, but they’re the same people who would deny their neighbors are being killed for their vices, even if it happens almost every day. My workplace is surrounded by people who yearn for the days of dictatorial rule in Korea.

It is scary. It really wouldn’t take much.

 

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AIDS Cures on TV

Serial

My niece colors like a serial killer.

I saw Bill Maher interview Dr. Samir Chachoua, the doctor who is currently treating Charlie Sheen. He’s the doctor who advised him to get off his regular meds, use a treatment that he claims cures HIV (not therapy), and apparently even injected some of Sheen’s own blood to himself in order to assuage Sheen’s fears. It is a bit concerning that Bill Maher would give the doctor a media platform when prior to the interview, Charlie Sheen said in Dr. Oz’s show that his “numbers are back up” after getting on Dr. Chachoua’s treatment. Still, the booking was not much of a surprise. Bill Maher keeps giving questionable people platforms. He once talked to Sam Wurzelbacher or “Joe the Plumber” as if he was a serious person. He also basically birthed S.E. Cupp who often comes up with the most ridiculous points on issues.

But aside from the doctor’s many dubious claims on the program (“I’ve cured entire countries!,” “Sheen is HIV negative.”), I believe there’s value in the message that we shouldn’t be complicit with the status quo. We should have healthy skepticism of what’s being told as well as keep an open ear to what’s new. Is the current HIV and AIDS treatment truly the best science has to offer? Perhaps we should be looking at other options. I haven’t done much reading regarding Dr. Chachoua’s claims. But my skepticism goes both ways, to the established science which is married with corporate interests and to the unknown Dr. Chachoua. My skepticism for the doctor comes from Sheen himself. His numbers are back up. I already fear that he’s leading Sheen down the wrong path, whether the doctor knows it or not.

The many claims Dr. Chachoua put out on Bill Maher’s show paints a great picture of possibility regarding curing AIDS and other disease, but the media tries to ridicule him and his treatment based on arthritic goats. While he may indeed be a “quack,” we should not dismiss the possibility of finding cures in the least likely of places, even arthritic goats. There is value in looking at all alternatives and not just surrendering to what the established truth is. Scientists right now are looking at sloth hair clippings for new antibiotics. However, it all must be evidence and results-based. And right now, I still haven’t looked at evidence that supports the doctor’s claims.

I guess the fear here is that this will produce another Jenny McCarthy: more “experts” that would convince people to forego proven treatments to their detriment. This is generally a symptom of the mistrust against authorities, and unfortunately in many cases, people rail against scientific authority for the wrong reasons. This is why there’s a resurgence of flat earthers and creationists along with the climate change deniers. The Charlie Sheen/Dr. Chachoua HIV thing could very well be explained as a similar reaction against established scientific authority. I am hoping it leads to more creative zeal regarding the treatment of diseases, not necessarily from Dr. Chachoua who may or may not be a “quack,” but to many people in the scientific community. I’m hoping it doesn’t result in a wave of AIDS denialism. So yeah, for now, I’m cautiously optimistic about the doctor’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show.

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Legal Porn (No, not that.)

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The New York Post prints a fair share of dumb articles, but three days ago they published a particularly dumb one which touches on something that I just recently watched, Netflix’s examination of the Steven Avery murder case, Making a Murderer. The headline goes: ‘Why Making a Murderer’ is Better than ‘Serial.’ The article, written by Sara Stewart, talks about both investigative pieces like they are entertainment, which to many they are, and she fails to recognize that it’s this same attitude towards both cases that lead to injustices. The cases began in the media, became legal porn, and many people are already too biased to hear any story that would contradict their biases.

Let me quickly counter Ms. Stewart’s five reasons and why they are at the very least moot and at the worst, serves to further harm the justice process.

1. We don’t know anything about the case (Steven Avery’s) already.
-The reason why people watch a documentary is to hopefully learn something new, not to confirm their biases. I’m hoping this was what both producers of Serial and Making a Murderer were trying to achieve. I believe most people know of Bowe Berghdal mostly through conservative talking points. This makes an examination of his case even more necessary.

2. Its (Making a Murderer’s) subject is more sympathetic.
-This is the type of laziness that leads to so much injustice. Ms. Stewart must not have heard of the Duke Lacrosse case. Rich, white students were accused of drugging and gang raping an African-American woman at a party. And from the very beginning, it was painted as an example of the excesses rich white men get away with and even as a hate crime. Nancy Grace filled hours of show condemning the accused. It was great legal porno. Unfortunately, the sympathetic victim turned out to be a liar.

Being swayed by sympathetic victims is one of the greatest traps people fall into. Ms. Stewart describes Steven Avery as being more sympathetic than Bowe Berghdal. But I would argue that it is exactly this sympathetic bias that got Steven Avery into bigger trouble. Isn’t the zeal for justice for Teresa Halbach a perfect example of the Missing White Woman Syndrome? The volunteers combing an area, the media coverage, the aggressive police action, etc.  It’s like whoever murdered Ms. Halbach took Criminology 101. She’s one of the most sympathetic victims of all.

3. Its (Making a Murderer’s) subject gives firsthand interviews.
-This is just silliness. Comparing the availability of both subjects in wildly different contexts is just dumb. I suppose Sarah Koenig could’ve just gone to Afghanistan to interview Bowe Berghdal while he escaped. Unfortunately we don’t live in such a fantastically ridiculous world.

4. There’s a wealth of archival footage available.
-Ms. Stewart seems to lament that there’s not enough footage of Bowe Berghdal as opposed to the court footage, local news, and police reports that’s available for Steve Avery’s case. I would argue that Ms. Koenig actually took some restraint in not using the wealth of material slamming Bowe Berghdal and essentially convicting him prior to being tried and his reasons for leaving examined.  But doing so would be extremely lazy and basically going through what everyone has already been exposed to. What Ms. Koenig is doing with the “unpopular” Bowe Berghdal might not be as good as “entertainment,” but entertainment is just one part of what Serial is trying to do. It is also trying to inform its audience.

5. It’s (Making a Murderer’s) literally easier to hear.
-Again with apples and oranges. One is a ten-part documentary which most people can and will binge-watch, while the other is an ongoing radio series. It’s the visual media versus the theater of the mind.

I don’t mean to write an examination of a dumb New York Post article, but my frustration from seeing the story is basically the same thing that frustrates me with many legal stories, and it’s something that I admittedly am quite guilty of as well: treating these cases like legal porn. It’s all drama. The characters are just mere characters, not real life people. People opine on whether Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias, or OJ Simpson are guilty or not, but what often gets lost are the web of people they are connected with. Steven Avery is portrayed as some sort of villain in 1985. No one would have guessed that it would later start a domino effect which lands his nephew in prison.  Bowe Berghdal is talked about simply as a deserter… but his issues regarding the military and how it treats its own troops is forgotten entirely. Lots of people become self-satisfied legal experts just watching legal drama on the sidelines, not realizing that it sometimes feeds into the injustice that is fueled by the media (Hello again, Nancy Grace).

Ms. Stewart writes as if she sees both Serial and Making a Murderer as entertainment pieces, which to most of the public they are, like numbers on a Nielsen ratings scale.  They really shouldn’t be, and we should stop talking about them as if they were. These people’s lives are not being ruined by the justice system simply for our entertainment. I would like to think there is more to them than that.

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Love and Marriage and TV

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Sometimes my weekends are too long. My wife gets on my nerves or I get on hers. I’m afraid my job, which often finds me not talking to another soul for eight hours, has turned me into a bit of a lonely curmudgeon. And I’m starting to get used to it. I get uncomfortable around people, and I start avoiding social settings or just give off an unfriendly vibe. And unfortunately, this preference for seclusion includes my wife after a while.

Or maybe the media and roughly fifty percent of all married couple are right. We’re not built to be with another person co close for so long… that we all end up living like roommates or worse.

Louie has a failed marriage. I just started watching “Master of None” and the first episode is about the plight of being married and having a kid. I remember back in the 90s watching a show built on the worship of one’s spouse, “Mad About You.” I had a crush on Helen Hunt at the time. And (SPOILER) the couple eventually ends up divorcing on the last season.  They stuck together for six seasons; they were “Mad” about each other, only to end up as another failed marriage statistic. One of my favorite TV characters, Frasier, divorced his wife, Lilith. I enjoyed “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and come season six, same thing, Larry David ends up getting a divorce (again SPOILER). George Costanza was in an unhappy relationship until his fiancée died in an unfortunate envelope-licking tragedy (SPOILER!!!).

And it’s not just comedy. Don Draper had a couple of divorces. Walter White was trying to put a façade of a nice family life underneath a crumbling marriage. No one gets married for love on the “Game of Thrones.”

These are just a few shows off the top of my head that I happen to enjoy.

I think if you’re a TV couple and you’re not animated, you have a great chance of ending up divorced.

I don’t know if a study has been done on the subject before. I’m sure there are more shows with divorced or couples with troubled marriages now, but I would like to see how prevalent they are compared to married couples (who continue to be married). I would even count Al Bundy’s unhappy relationship with his family as somewhat “successful” compared to other relationships on television. Granted, Al’s life appears to be a bit of a nightmare, but I believe the lesson is that he sticks with it regardless of his marriage’s many dysfunctions. I wonder because I start thinking “are there more unhappy couples on TV, or are am I somehow more inclined to watch shows with unhappy couples?”

Now, I’m not saying my relationship is on a downward spiral. It’s settled to what I assume is the average experience cohabitating with another person.  I don’t think my relationship is any better than most married couples, nor is it any worse. I guess I’m modest like that. There’s just a bit of mixed emotions whenever I turn on the television sometimes.

“These people know exactly how I feel!”

“Oh shit! I’m gonna end up just like Louie!”

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Canada, I love you.

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I will be visiting Canada this week. I haven’t been home for two years, so I’m quite excited about it. I say “quite” because I’ve kinda been struggling with bouts of depression lately. It’s been like this for over two weeks now and my recent birthday didn’t really help to cheer me up. Birthdays at a certain point become no longer a celebration for surviving a year on the planet, but a marker on how closer we are to death. In any case, here’s hoping that Canada puts me in a better mood.

Being in Canada means being on the move, which means being unable to update the site for a while. It’s not like anybody would miss it, but yeah, my journey back home would explain the lack of updates at the Weekly.

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My sister’s best friend caught this on her TV a few weeks ago. It looks like my art is now gracing television sets all over my home province of Manitoba. Thank you, Shaw. As artists, we all aim to somehow contribute, no matter how small, to the zeitgeist. As an artist with no plans to have kids, my very small contributions are everything I have in terms of a legacy. Here’s hoping that someone, somewhere, will perhaps be inspired to draw and make art.

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Nothing on TV

David Letterman announces that he will be retiring from the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN on the broadcast tonight, Thursday, April 3 (11:35pm-12:37am, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

David Letterman announces that he will be retiring from the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN on the broadcast tonight, Thursday, April 3 (11:35pm-12:37am, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

This hit me much like Seinfeld did on its last show. It’s just entertainment, but it breaks my heart a bit knowing that the Late show is now gone. It is a sadness not just for a show ending, but a bit of mourning since it serves as a marker for time past. We are now at an age, when the Late Show with David Letterman is no more. And to the more extreme, it is a reminder of the inevitable. Everything ends. Enjoy every sandwich.

I guess the next show’s end that would affect me as much would be Conan O’Brien’s show, that and the Howard Stern Show on satellite. Here’s hoping both shows last far long into the future.

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Monkey See

monkey

So what’s on television?

Korean television is 40 percent people eating/cooking, 30 percent dramas, and 30 percent celebrities talking or singing, or being in any format where they’d end up just chatting or singing. That breakdown is a tad unscientific, but it’s basically all that I see whenever my wife channel surfs. Lately, there have been a couple of trends: having foreigners who speak Korean on television, and having celebrities’ children go about their everyday life. All in all, there’s nothing too compelling.

Some people say that Japanese television is also the same, just people eating or watching celebrities react to different topics. But I don’t really watch too much Japanese television.

There are foreign channels here but they are simply awful. There’s Discovery Channel, National Geo, and TLC. So if you want to learn about panning for gold, ghost hunting, or baking cupcakes, you got your channels. Local stations would show different CSIs, NCIS, and other network dramas, but not so much of the amazing Renaissance television has been experiencing on cable.

For years, all of my viewing entertainment has been on the Internet. I’ve become one of those people that would just watch whole seasons of shows within a week. Thank you, Internet. I’ve gotten access to long dead shows and movies that people don’t really hear too much about. These shows probably wouldn’t have been broadcast in Korean television. But then again, they probably wouldn’t have been broadcast in Canadian television either. Do they still show reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm? Last time I was in Canada, I wasn’t too impressed with what my sister had on television. She was watching OWN.

Speaking of sister, she was watching a lot of Filipino television as well. The shows seem to be very celebrity driven as opposed to being about good writing. There’s a lot of melodrama and schlock. Like everything, it could be good in small doses, but I’m not sure about a steady diet.

I also stayed with my best friend while in Canada and she’s content with just having Netflix. I guess much like me, she prefers to watch seasons of shows or have a movie playing. She’s not much for keeping up with what’s on on television either. I guess it’s not just me being here in South Korea that’s driven my viewing to the Internet. I guess it’s the future of the media.

In any case, if you’re in Korea, the Internet is vital. Otherwise, you’d either be watching a lot of Koreans eating things or you’ll simply be getting a lot more reading done.

I recently saw the latest Planet of the Apes film. I really like where they’re going with this franchise.

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More Empathy, Please

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More urinary tract stuff. Yay!

I like watching Bill Maher. I enjoy his panel, although I sometimes cringe at how he legitimizes certain people by having them on the show. Darrel Issa might be one of the worst political actors around, and but he has enough charm to appear like a somewhat reasonable person in his show. Bill also sometimes bring in S.E. Cupp who is the dumbest political commentator clown I tried to watch. Granted, she claims to be an atheist, just like Bill, so I’m guessing that’s why she has her on the show, but what the heck is a self-hating atheist who is jealous of the faithful?!

Now, I was raised Catholic, and although I don’t practice the faith too much, I still consider myself a member of the church. Now, I get Bill’s problems with religion, but really, he does paint with a wide brush especially when it comes to Muslims. There’s over a billion Muslims in the world and not all of them are seeking the death of infidels the same way not all Christians are seeking to stone all adulterers. Religion divides people into those who would be saved after death and those who would burn in hell (or those who simply don’t matter at all). This gives extremists of any religion an excuse to do horrible things. The Bible was used as an excuse for slavery. Heck, there are stories of wiping out whole populations in the good book. So to say that the Muslim faith is a great source of bad ideas is not only very selective, it is also racist, and wrong. Bill argues that the reality is counter to my idealism, and that Muslims are causing a lot of trouble in the world, but that in itself is very narrow-sighted. A lot of the troubles happening in the Middle-East is due to greed and an out of control capitalist machine. It is also due to populations who feel disenfranchised at the very least, and at most, angered by the injustice caused by a foreign force thousands of miles away. This injustice is why young people from countries outside of the Middle East are flying in to join. What’s happening is injustice, and it just so happens that the extremist leaders in those countries are religious and that they would use religion to control people the same way leaders in every country would use anything to control the people under them. Not all Muslim countries are controlled by extremist forces, and not all Muslim countries have bombings which give people cause to be extremists.

My Muslim neighbor doesn’t have any more bad ideas than my Christian neighbor. Both neighbors don’t have any more bad ideas than my Buddhist neighbor as. One could argue that my atheist neighbor might have fewer bad ideas. But if that neighbor starts trafficking in racist stereotypes, then he just me be the worst neighbor there is.

So yeah, the whole dismissive attitude people of the Muslim faith really turned me off. And then comes New Rules regarding the Hong Kong protests for democracy. Granted, it was just a joke. But really, saying that the protest signs look like restaurant menus? Let me guess, “flied lice?” What’s the matter? Can’t make a love-you-long-long-time joke instead? This is the thin treatment the protests get when it is a huge move for democracy in that part of the world. In fact, that dig makes me wonder if his empathy to people unlike himself only extends towards black Americans.

His show is off next week, so I’m hoping he’s got a better show when he comes back. I’d still be watching, but the hate disguised as critical thought and some of the tired jokes are starting to get to me.

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