Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bastions of Hope and Reason in the Vast Wasteland

As anyone who has ever worked the night shift knows you simply do not come home and go to bed after getting cleaned up. There has to be a certain period where you decompress, or unwind. For me this usually involves about an hour sitting in front of the television. Yes, I could read, and sometimes I do, but if I am tired I have a hard time enjoying it and often cannot remember whatever happened.

The problem with watching television in the morning specifically and anytime in general is that it is dominated by what at best can be described as lowest common dominator programming. I have Dish Network as a satellite provider and there are times I can surf the scores of channels they offer and find absolutely nothing worth watching. Cable networks like the History Channel, Discover, and several others which were formed to provide a higher level of broadcast entertainment, or even dare I say intellectual stimulation, are in fact bastions of near moronic reality shows that never stray from a simplistic formula involving an equally dimwitted cast of reoccurring personalities.  

Way back in 1961 the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, a Newton M. Minow called old fashioned broadcast television a vast wasteland. I can only imagine what he might think of if he saw Honey Boo Boo, Chumlee, or any of the myriad of other reality show characters that suggest American culture is an empty intellectual husk about to collapse under the weight of its own banality.

Before anyone starts flinging hateful emails at me saying I am a delusional elitist snob let me state that I am all for mindless escapism, I have my own shows that allow me to leave this crappy reality behind and reboot my mind. It is just that it seems a line has long been crossed where escapism is not only the norm but that the producers of such shows are in competition to reach the very bottom of idiotic and banal behavior.

The one oasis in all this is the various categories of TED Talks the internet video streaming company Netflix offers. TED Talks are conferences where various experts on such subjects as science, culture, politics, and just about anything else give short speeches in an attempt to spread ideas or information. Always insightful and very often profound these videos open brand new worlds to anyone who can access them through Netflix or free from the TED Talks website.

In an blatant attempt to induce anyone I can to these videos I offer three of my recent favorites. The first is Isabel Allende speaking on passion, not the sexual kind but how women from around the world stand up and make a difference for their families and others. If you do not come away from this video wanting to do more for the world you have no soul.

The second is by a man named John Hunter. He is a teacher who engages his elementary school students to think in ways that are simply astounding. One such very young student quotes Sun Tzu about war and appears to have a grasp on human's favorite pastime that far exceeds the vast majority of our glorious elected leaders.


The last is by Richard Preston who speaks on the giant redwoods of California whose complexities have been overlooked until very recently.

Be very careful, after viewing these videos you could actually come away thinking that if we had more of these outstanding people involved in public life the human race might have a chance at surviving.  


Pearl said...

There are still glimmers of hope!


Pixel Peeper said...

I watched the talk by Isabel Allende (I'll have to come back to see the other two video clips) and was impressed how she could talk about such somber subjects and still capture the audience's attention with humor.

I also bookmarked the TED website...thanks.

Cirze said...

Thanks for the info.

Did you see "The Secret in their Eyes" last night (2AM)?

Some terrific free movies on Dish late night/early morning.

Love ya,


Akelamalu said...

Thanks for the insights.

Life As I Know It Now said...

I too watched Isabel Allende and am impressed by her. Thank you for sharing this with us!

Marja said...

You delusional elitist snobs lol No not you Beach We need more of you No all the ones who take the freedom to only have escapism as pastime.
Don't you love Ted talks I am a fan. I watched the first one and dropped a tear for the woman who fight in passion against the injustice in the world. Here in NZ there is lots of injustice in the form of domestic violence against women. It is so sad. Thanks for your inspiration and keep up your good work Arohanui

goatman said...

The TED talks, and Netflix for bringing them, deserve the sound of one hand clapping. . .