June 11th, 2004


(no subject)

You can tell I'm a geek - I just got more excited than I have about anything in weeks because my C# book is _finally_ shipping.

Well, Harry Potter 3 was probably about that exciting.


(no subject)

Well, I'd been vaguely interested by The Stepford Wives, and now I'm very much not.

Spoiler-filled reason here.

(They completely ignore the entire movie for the ending, essentially)

(no subject)

Senators attempt to grill Ashcroft.  Ashcroft refuses to play ball.  Dissected humorously for you on video here.

yonmei - you don't have broadband do you?  If you have a friend who does, it's worth taking a look.

(no subject)

Results so far of the elections show how contrarily things can work out (and remember, these are local elections, not national ones - electing councillors to run local councils)
Convervatives have 642 councillors
Labour have 773
Liberal Democrats have 530

Look close, yes?

But if we look at the number of councils that equates to:
Conservatives: 30
Labour: 14
Liberals: 5

Presumably the vast difference there is down to size of different councils, but still, it just patently seems ridiculous.

Gossip and Celebrity

People like to gossip. We care about the people we surround ourselves with, what they do, how they are doing, who they are having sex with, their lives in general. Obviously this varies depending on how much we care about the people, but certainly for people we interact with on an even vaguely frequent basis it’s generally true (I say _generally_ because how much we care varies a lot and I’m sure someone on my friends list will chime in to say that they wouldn’t notice if all of their friends take up bestiality). Anyway, even if we don’t really care about them, we tend to take an interest in the people around us.

Entertainment, the media, etc. exists because it taps into some part of us that naturally wants something and provides it with a surrogate. We enjoy action films because the adrenaline is nearly as good as _actually_ engaging in Kung-Fu with beweaponed evildoers, but the risk levels are somewhat lower. We enjoy nature documentaries because while they aren’t the same as playing with pandas ourselves, they still evoke some of the feelings we get from them. Of course there are intellectual reasons to enjoy these things (you might learn something, for instance), but I’d like to concentrate on the pure entertainment side of things here.

Soap Operas and Celebrity are what tie together the two preceding paragraphs. Soap operas give us an ongoing story of a group of people that we become intertwined with. They’re designed to always have ongoing plot threads weaving in and out of each other so that even when one person’s story reaches a (temporary) conclusion someone else’s is drawing us in.

Lilian said the other day that she didn’t get the time to watch ER recently, but that she wanted to keep up with what was going on with the characters, because she’d known them for so long. This is obviously a perfectly rational response when talking about real people, and if you’re going to enjoy your entertainment at all then you have to allow yourself to be drawn in by it, to emotionally open up to the characters, to bond with them in some way. Otherwise it’s all just funny coloured blobs on the screen and you might as well be watching your screensaver.

If you don’t feel something for the characters in your favourite TV series then why on earth would you watch it? Which means that the best screen-writers are the ones who can give you something to care about and then keep you hanging on as long as possible, always wanting to know what happens to your ‘friends’ next. Whether you’re sitting on the sofa watching the cast of Friends sit on theirs, giggling along while Beavis and Butthead make the kind of remarks that you and your friends would like to (or possibly do), or laughing along in the ‘cinema’ while the cast of MST3k talk over the top of some abysmal movie, these people are standing in for the friends you wish you were hanging out with.

Celebrity is something similar – unless you’re very unusual you have heroes out there somewhere, or at least people you’ve made a connection with. You’ve listened to a song and wished you could hang out with the singer. You’ve watched a film and day-dreamed about being with the actor. These people aren’t just friend-substitutes, they’re _ultimate_ friend substitutes – the alpha-males and be-pedestalled goddesses that it would be so-perfect to be with that your heart could just break. And this is what most people care about – they don’t give a damn about a political system that seems both futile and so complicated they can’t even begin to fathom it – they don’t care about economics or the environment (beyond a vague tug to be nice to animals and see the occasional patch of grass) – they care about these perfect people. And that’s why the majority of the newspapers that most people read (not The Guardian or The Times or The New York Times or the SF Chronicle, but the ones that the average person actually reads, when they do) are chock-full of snippets about what celebrities are up to.

Of course, people usually don’t want to know what celebrities are actually up to – they want to hear the stuff that sounds good. So (until the celebrity begins their slide into non-celebrity) you get fake news – whatever the publicists and journalists dream up between them to draw you in and make you buy both the newspaper and the illusion. It’s why TV magazines tell you what’s going to be on the soaps frequently before it happens. It’s the ultimate in gossip – fake gossip about fake people, tuned to perfection to make you hang on the edge of your seat and see what happens next.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an episode of The West Wing to watch.