Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Mirror: Armageddon

I don't know how many times I've seen the film Armageddon or, until last night, the most recent time I saw it, but I really enjoyed watching it again. For those who don't know it, the basic premise is this: an asteroid is on a collision course with earth. The only way to stop it and the catastrophic destruction it would cause on impact is to land a deep core drilling team on the asteroid and plant a nuclear bomb in its core.

Armageddon was the highest grossing film in 1998. Aside from the impressive ensemble cast led by Bruce Willis, it has some funny lines, suspenseful scenes and mind blowing visuals courtesy of the awesome special effects, but I found one thing particularly interesting.

Willis plays Harry, the best deep core driller in the world. His crew includes Chick (played by Will Patton). On the eve of their trip into space for the dangerous mission, Chick visits a home where he sees his son playing outside. His estranged wife appears and tells Chick he's breaching court orders by being there. The viewers learn that the boy does not know his father, whom Chick's wife calls a salesman before sending the boy inside. We are not told anymore of Chick's back story other than he regrets the current situation. Before he goes, he apologizes and leaves a gift for his son: a model space shuttle.

Harry's crew fly into space amid much media hype surrounding the mission to save the planet. The men are lauded as heroes. Chick's son sees his father, who he thinks is a salesman, on TV. Now suddenly willing to tell her son the truth, Chick's ex reveals the true identity of the salesman. Only four of the crew return from the mission. Chick is greeted on his arrival back on terra firma by his wife and son and all is apparently forgiven...because he's a hero now.

This is typical of the simplistic way films and television shows deal with complex issues. It is also symptomatic of our hero worshiping nature. Most of the true heroes in the world don't get public acknowledgement or material rewards. We have a tendency to place public figures on pedestals and idolize them whilst ignoring or being dismissive of everyday heroes. Beyond these negatives, Armageddon also presents some echoes of profound truth.

Think of the broken relationships you've experienced or are experiencing. Could one monumental act of bravery or self sacrifice, or some other huge achievement fix it? I don't know why Chick and his wife split up in such acrimonious circumstances, or why his son didn't know him. I suspect it may have had something to do with Chick's gambling habit and the fact that his job kept him away from home frequently. It just struck me as implausible that one act, albeit such a massive one, could so easily fix things.

And then I remembered Jesus Christ, and his one incredible act of self sacrifice. His death and resurrection fixed things between us and God. The metaphoric end of the world for those who have hope in the God of hope is never actually the end of the world. One man died to save the world and repair, restore and renew all our relationships. 

What would it take for you to believe this?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Snake Oil: completely normal

Advertisers push boundaries, deliberately creating ads which will cause controversy because controversy sells. Sex is also a great seller so if you combine the two you, ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Even if the ad gets pulled because the standards council, or whoever has jurisdiction, says the ad has gone too far, the product will still get a boost. Controversial ads never lose.

I decided earlier in the week to not buy a particular product because of its use of women in sexy sleepwear. The women are depicted-let's saying putting the product on. If I mention camera angles I think I've said enough. I then decided to not buy any product whose advertising contravened my personal standards. Mainly in the area of sex which regular readers will know is a hobby horse of mine, but generally anywhere where I felt offended or didn't like the message the ad was projecting.

And then came Libra with it's "periods and menstrual blood are completely normal so why cant we show them in an ad." What do you think the chances are of a condom ad being produced which shows another completely normal bodily fluid? We don't have nappy ads which show faeces, do we? Sexual intercourse is also normal.  We used to little see very in films, and none on television, but is okay now. You can't escape it. Sex is used in some films even when it is of no relevance at all to the plot. Maybe we should depict sexual intercourse in ads for beds. Anyway, I digress.

Feminine hygiene ads have traditionally been a bit weird, for men and women, but I think has changed. Some companies have made some very humourous ads which were designed to defuse the awkwardness surrounding this natural function of the human female. There's no reason to be weird about it. My wife and I talk about it in the same way we would discuss what we're having for dinner. The question is: do we want to see it on the TV while we're eating dinner?

Advertising can do a lot of good. It can be highly effective at educating people, and changing people's opinions. However, it is also a front line weapon in the war against decency and moral standards.

I understand what Libra are doing with their ad, but I think the logical extension of their justifying argument takes us into dangerous water. It smells a bit like the pervasive and divisive social engineering undertow of which the majority of people are blithely ignorant. At times the effect of snake oil is subtle, being applied gradually and in small doses. At other times, it's more like a snake bite. Is there an anti-venom to fight against this poison?

Here's the ad if you haven't seen it. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

RelationDips: microwave relationships

It's a thing of the past now, but I once had a blog called 'I Don't Cook' which had a huge following in Poland. For all but 9 months (that's interesting) of my 3 year and 2 month long Darwin experience, I have lived alone. Those who live alone appreciate the problem of cooking.

Even if you like cooking, it often does not seem worth the trouble just to cook for yourself. My solution to this problem was to primarily consume microwave dinners. This had several benefits beside convenience, but I'll get to them in a moment. Reactions from people who I inform of my reliance on frozen meals are mixed; understandably so.

The proof is in the pudding though. I have saved a small fortune, maintained my weight and not wasted any food. Microwave meals tick a number of boxes for me, but one thing I do not do is draw any parallels between frozen dinners and relationships. Why would I? Why would I indeed?

  1. Microwave meals are cheap. If you want to save money, you could easily get away with only spending around $30 for a week of dinners. Eat only frozen dinners with your partner, justifying your choice with parsimony, and you are barking up the wrong tree.
  2. Frozen dinners are convenient. If you are consistently, or periodically time poor, these meals are life savers. In 5-8 minutes with nothing more than a few pokes of a fork through the plastic, you can have a meal. Be so busy that you are a.squeezing in time to be with your partner around your other activities or b. assuming they will accept being an afterthought, or c. playing the "quality time' over 'quantity time' card, and you have the wrong end of the stick.
  3. Microwave dinners are tasty. They come in a huge variety of cuisines with plenty of pasta and rice dishes as well as vegetarian offerings. I've eaten a few duds, but by and large they taste good. However, I've never had a "proper' meal and wished I was having a 'nuked dinner' instead. There's a big difference between an okay relationship and a good one. If you don't know the difference, let me give you a phone number to ring for help. Mediocre is not an acceptable adjective when applied to relationships.
A good relationship is expensive. It will cost money and time, and if you want it to stay good, then sacrifice is required. Love requires the exertion of your will and the execution of your selfishness. It takes effort. A good relationship should be consistently good, at the very least. It doesn't always have to be great, but it should have plenty of great moments. If you're in a relationship which has more lowlights than highlights you're in trouble. 

If your relationship feels like a microwave dinner, do something about it. Fix it. In other words, be the solution. If you can't fix it because the other person doesn't want to, then get out. Go to a restaurant and buy a real meal, or go to the supermarket and buy fresh ingredients to cook up something special. Ditch the frozen dinner relationship. You're better than that.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Dog's Eye: Gym Gaffs

Gyms are like different countries which many people choose never to visit. However, I have a passport and a permanent visa so I'm a regular visitor. I almost belong to the gym sub-culture. I say almost because I'm a Square Peg.

Here's a list of my pet peeves at the gym. I'm sure I'm not the only one bothered by them, but overall these things seem to be generally accepted as normal in the gym sub-culture.

1. The music. Selected by a handful of gym folk, it is a nice blend of jungle music (dance and hip hop), and...more jungle music. I need a metal and rock soundtrack. I could chose the music and share it with everyone else, except for the fact none of the songs I like are available on the "jukebox". My iPod shuffle saves me.

2. The dropping of weights. If people can't put the weight down, then I'd suggest it's too heavy. I'm sure this is not attention seeking behaviour but it does attract attention.

3.Water bottles. It is not far to walk to the bubbler for a drink between sets or exercises, but for many people it is apparently too far. Irony alert.

4. Sitting on equipment but not actually using it. I reckon it's possible to leave your phone in your bag for an hour. It's also possible to have a conversation with your friends whilst not sitting on a particular machine.

5. Excessive grunting. I know it's hard work and it's painful, but some gym folk are Maria Sharapovas. Not seeking attention, but getting it.

6. Racking weights. There are signs everywhere, but it's evidently too hard to put away the weights they use when they've finished.

7. The floor is better than the storage cubes. There are empty spaces for bags to be stowed off the floor, but it's a bit difficult to lift the bag and place it so people just dump them on the floor.

8. Share your conversations with everyone. People who talk really loudly; thus ensuring the whole gym can hear every word.

Two final thoughts: I wonder how many other people even notice these things, and secondly I wonder how many people have to fight to overcome the self consciousness I still feel when I'm working out. Maybe, it's just me.