The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 12, 2009 at 2:34 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Spawn of sci-fi at the gym

April 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm | In health, just_so | 3 Comments

I joined the downtown Y a few months ago and now work out regularly on all those contraptions I used to make fun of. (…It’s all part of denial – I am not getting older, I am getting better, etc etc etc.)

I’m sure it’s doing me a lot of good, although it certainly is hard work. It’s a lot easier to slouch through the neighborhoods at a leisurely pace with my terrier, or to sit around with a glass of wine dreaming of days when I could pack away thousands of calories without gaining weight. But at some point you realize that, yes, gravity doesn’t exempt anyone, and every inch of extra flesh moves inexorably toward the ground.

We denialists don’t want that. We are tits forward and head high type people, and we’ll go into the grave vertically, goddammit. So off I go, to the Y. I walk there, I change, I get on the damn machine for an aerobic workout. Usually it’s the elliptical trainer (except when I do the torture workout, i.e., weights, which involves all those nasty machines that target specific muscle groups).

Quite a few of the machines for aerobic exercise (including all the elliptical trainers) are lined up in rows facing three very big TV screens. In the first two rows are the bikes (upright and recumbent), followed by two rows of elliptical trainers, with a final row of stairmasters behind. Rowing machines and treadmills are on either side of the room.

The rows are considerably longer than the wall space for the TVs, so there are optimal spots on the machines if you’re a TV watcher. If you’re not, then you’ll move toward the other ends of the rows, from where you can still see the TV screens, albeit at an angle. The spots that provide the best views of the TVs are usually taken up faster than the spots that don’t offer clear TV screen sightlines.

I’m nearsighted, which means I need glasses to see distance clearly. But I don’t wear them at the gym: they’d slide off my face, since I really work up a sweat. When I’m at the Y, I walk around in this nearsighted fuzzy world, unable to recognize faces until they’re ~20 feet away from me. The TVs, with their closed captioning (the sound is turned off), are of no interest to me, in other words, because I really can’t see the images very clearly, and I can’t read the closed captioning at all.

But I can see the facial expressions of the other people on the machines near me. What stories they tell, what worlds they exude… What they reveal about TV

Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t get TV at home. We have a TV (although not a flat screen, alas), and we watch DVDs and such, but we don’t have cable (and antennas don’t work here). I’m a total virgin when it comes to reality television, I’ve become completely and utterly oblivious to network news (haven’t watched for well over six years), and I never watched sports to begin with.

But it’s “reality” TV, news, and sports (including weird shows of people playing poker for sport) that are on the Y’s three screens at all times.

The “reality” shows soften up your limbic system, and you can see this so very clearly in people’s facial expressions as they watch the programs. One popular show has to do with home renovation – some “unfortunate” family is chosen (how?, why?) to receive some kind of surprise make-over, perhaps a reprieve from foreclosure, or some special help for a child with a particularly horrible disease. There are invariably segments involving lots of emotion, tears, and close-up shots of faces as the participants speak. I’m guessing they’re explaining their situation and feelings, their plight, what they’ve learned – all of this is closed captioned, but I can’t decipher it, so I never catch the rationalizing. All I see (somewhat out of focus) is the emotion on their faces – including the coaching (what else to call it?) provided by the show’s host, at times egregious when he’s talking to children. But it’s the faces of the people watching the shows that fascinate me: they absolutely mirror the emotional spectacle they’re viewing. It’s uncanny.

All this is in the middle screen. To its left are the news. If something particularly disastrous or scandalous or plain worrisome has happened, the same images and snippets appear at length, looping over and over. The news mimic in many ways the limbic stimulus dished out by the middle screen. Meanwhile, on the right screen, there’s sports, which maybe appeal a bit more to our reptilian sensibilities: cunning, strategy, skill, win!, …or defeat. And then the emotional release in the group hug, or the group despair. (I’m referring to the presentation of the sports spectacle, not to what sport is for the participants, or what it represents as an ideal.)

We’re like those monkeys deprived of their mothers, who are given surrogates (tic-toc clocks wrapped in blankets). And boy, do we respond.

On all three screens, the limbic stimulus calls the shots, except it’s the money shots. Because when push comes to shove – i.e., when it’s time for a commercial break – the ads expertly appeal to all those emotional synapses already firing away in your brain. Quite good, really. Clever. I can see it working on people’s faces. I’m sure that if I could read the texts (or hear the audio), I’d “see” the limbic/ emotional stuff far less prominently, because the words provide a rationale for the emotions, corralling them into a “place” where they can’t overflow and inundate the brain (and our perception of the world). Yet that’s where the words, our love of rationalizing, fools us – it’s clear that the emotional stuff rules completely.

You have to wonder if that’s such a good thing when it comes to news – or to making decisions about what to buy.

You also have to wonder whether the creators of The Matrix got their ideas at the gym. There we all are, pumping away like maniacs on stationary machines, producing loads of energy (where does it go?, why is it not harnessed and used?), our eyes glued to a screen “reality” that’s utterly orchestrated and manipulative of our limbic system (maybe that also produces energy?). If that’s not fertile ground for the sci-fi imagination, what is?

We are such aliens.

Bonspiel leather goods rawk!

April 6, 2009 at 9:00 pm | In business, victoria | No Comments

Ok, time for a big shout-out to Ellen, aka Bonspiel Creations. We met earlier today and I bought the Falconista bag. It’s beautiful, soft, expertly stitched and well-thought-out. Love it.

Here’s a very small picture (it doesn’t capture the generous – and adjustable – strap, or the terrific contrasting colors and the great lining):

Falconista bag

Bonspiel sells her wares locally in Victoria (find locations on her stores page), and if you’re not lucky enough to live here, find her work on Etsy and on Artfire.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 6, 2009 at 1:26 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Susan Sontag chatting with Philip Johnson in NYC’s Seagram Building. Johnson makes NIMBY noises about how his view will be blocked when a surface parking lot across the way finally gets redeveloped. Too funny. (This video is from …?, the 60s.)

    tags: video, philip_johnson, susan_sontag, seagram_building, nyc, architecture, nimbyism

  • Interesting article, but most interesting comments, too. For example, that the honeybee is a cultural product of Europe, which has been breeding (in a sense) the species since the middle ages. A colony collapse disorder (species collapse, basically) isn’t just a ‘natural’ occurrence in such a highly cultured species. The other thing that struck me after reading the article (especially the comparison to what the honey bee does compared to some other bees): we have been making that little honey bee work its busted little tail off for hundreds of years. Maybe we’ve been working it too hard. The article is all about how we can find substitute creatures to do all this work to sustain our commercial crops. Wow. [By ‘wow’ I mean, “is that all we can ever come up with? Figuring out how to make something – in this case bees – work harder?”]

    tags: bees, apiculture, collapse, species_collapse

  • The “Did You Know?” video, which has been making its viral rounds through various social networks. Breathless, admittedly amazing facts, prepare to meet a firehose of information. (“What does it in-form?” is another question…)

    tags: youtube, education, technology, google, internet, video

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Front-line/Downtown – Community Solutions

April 2, 2009 at 1:25 pm | In addiction, community_associations, crime, health, homelessness, housing, justice, leadership, local_not_global, victoria | 1 Comment

On Monday March 30, the Downtown Residents Association (DRA) hosted a public meeting, On The Front Lines: Community Solutions for Homelessness and Social Issues, at City Hall. Moderated by DRA chair Rob Randall, we heard from Victoria City Councilor Charlayne Thornton-Joe, the Coalition to End Homelessness‘s Jill Clements, the Downtown Victoria Business Association’s Ken Kelley, and Victoria Police Department Chief Jamie Graham.

Rob wrote a follow-up report on his blog – go check it out (especially the comments). Davin Greenwell also posted a great summary, and included photo documentation, so do take a look at it here.

I haven’t commented on Rob’s post, but just left a long comment on Davin’s entry. Click through to read my (partial) response to the session.

One of the categories I’m filing my post under is “leadership,” a quality that Jill Clements of the Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness seems to have, and it’s something we expect from Jamie Graham. We also see it in Charlayne Thornton-Joe.

As I was checking off categories, I also checked “justice,” as I was reminded of Graham’s discussion of implementing Restorative Justice (see Saanich’s program), which we hope to see used more frequently in Victoria. Incidentally, Restorative Justice is modeled on First Nations approaches to crime and social disorder, and reminded me that the American Congress (and Senate?) is modeled on a New World/ First Nations approach (vs. the British Parliamentarianism we still practice in Canada, where everyone shouts at the same time and heckles the opposition). Sorry, can’t provide a link right now, but just think of the concept of the talking stick. Works for me – bring it on.

« Previous Page

Theme: Pool by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds.