Monday, September 22, 2008

I Listen to Too Much TV

I wrote this on February 18, 2010, and used a blank draft instead of opening a new post. Result: this post ends up with a 2008 date on it, tucked away where it is unlikely to be found. I am therefore copying it and reposting it (minutes, rather than years, after writing it).

Having tinnitis, I listen to too much television. I sleep with it on. I compute with it on. I'm selective about the shows to which I tune in but unfortunately it is not within my power to be selective regarding to which advertisements I am exposed. Therefore I find myself in various stages of mental, emotional and even audial irritation.

Now, Billy Mays is dead, and dead younger than one wants to be dead, and far be it for me to wish someone dead, but since he is dead, couldn't he stop shouting in my ear? And now we have Anthony Sullivan, the purpose of whose existence I have not yet fathomed, trying to be Billy Mays, having reshot a Mays ad for some gadget that lets you play your phone calls over your car radio (not a bad idea but, apart from not being a driver, I would never purchase anything touted that obnoxiously; it only encourages the obnoxious to continue their obnoxiousness) almost verbatim, and in a somewhat Maysian pitch. Sullivan is annoying enough just being himself; trying to be Mays too is toeing the human pain threshhold.

Then there is the creep who thinks if he never takes a breath we won't notice he's talking nonsense; his product, some chopper slicer thingie, may or may not be the eighth wonder of the world, but I can't stand his patter, and someone over at the company that distributes the product agreed with the advertising department or ad agency that it would be a good idea to put this annoyance on the air. My only defense is to refrain from purchasing something I might otherwise actually want.

KMart has jumped onto the screechwagon with a series of ads narrated by a woman with a painfully shrill voice (and how dare she wax so chipper about disturbing my rest!) Light and Fit, on the other hand, slurps at me. I always had to look away during their old commercial: the one in which a slender young blonde woman dispatches some yoghurt, right in the supermarket, with such verve that the sides of the small plastic container collapse inward; she then glances furtively around to see if anyone has witnessed her uncouthness. Now it's worse; in the new ad she is absolutely disgusting, licking the insides of the container, swishing her finger around in it, making the kinds of noises that would get some small children slapped at the table (okay, others would be gently admonished) and being something of a sow. My tum's been rough lately anyway; this ad turns it.

There's more -- oh so much more -- but you probably already know what they are, even if you don't always remember the name of the product (and let this be a lesson to you, o gurus of spin) and I need to sleep now. I just hope the late Billy Mays doesn't wake me up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ramblings About 89 Snippets of Important Information

There (yes, its name is "There" and its address is is the virtual world in which I hang out. I have tons to say about There but today I have a specific agenda.

In addition to the world itself (which is immense) there are supplementary features which can be accessed from out-of world; these include, but are not limited to, Therecare and other customer care features, and a plethora of Thereian forum folders which can be accessed not only from out-of-world but during There's brief maintenance period (3:30 to 5:00 AM Pacific, except for when the world doesn't quite come back on time, or when it comes back early, or when it doesn't come back at all until late afternoon due to an update). Forum topics include, among MANY others, suggestions for staff, developers and other Thereians. Sometimes people post quite useful suggestions which are then implemented by the powers that be and turn up as improvements to the world. Sometimes, on the other hand, people post the most godawful crap.

In response to what this humble rambling blogger considers the latter form of post, in which an otherwise probably truly lovely person innocently suggested putting up SIGNS to tell newbies to turn on their forcefields (and then how about a sign to tell newbies to read the signs?) I posted what started out as a sarcastic list of advisory tidbits to be posted on signs Therewide for the benefit of newbies (and to the detriment of anyone who actually enjoys the scenery) and ended up being a semi-serious bit of instructional material.

Some of it will make no sense whatsoever to a non-Thereian. Some of it will be applicable to your life even if you have never been visually represented by a cartoon.

Here it is:

1. If you are being summoned, you do not HAVE to go!

2. Put your force field on. Otherwise, be afraid. Be very afraid.

3. Warning, spades game in progress. Do not bid 13.

4. Please do not play your radio through your microphone. People with acute hearing may wish to preserve it.

5. Explore your toolbar. It is full of interesting information, such as where you are (sometimes), what you possess and a means to turn your force field on and off.

6. Do not ask total strangers to be your There mom or dad. They might be axe murderers. They probably aren't but how do you KNOW? Get to know someone first. At least find out if they are at least six months older than you are.

7. Adding everyone whose nametag you see in the distance to your buddy list does NOT increase your social skill and DOES make you look rather desperate. If for some reason you really need to buddy someone, at least say HI first. Then it doesn't seem so tawdry.

8. Please do not drive up to strangers and demand that they get into your buggy (whether it is borrowed or not). They might actually be busy, even if they don't LOOK busy.

9. Pllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz isn't a word.

10. WUT? isn't a word.

11. If you've been banned from a zone, running as fast as you can into it will not get you unbanned. It will (did I say this already?) make you look desperate.

12. If an event has a scheduled preparation time, only the event host can get into the zone or lot or whatever during that prep time. Saying "Pllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz let me in right now Pllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" will not enable the host to allow you in; only canceling the event will allow you entry and why would the host want to do that?

13. Clothing can't be lent so don't ask people to lend you clothing.

14. Don't beg. Really. Just don't. Even if you don't say "Pllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" it's still begging to ask strangers for stuff. Someone you met two minutes ago is still a stranger.

15. Run around in your There-given undies if you wish but be aware it engenders no respect whatsoever.

16. There are real live people behind these avies, just like (we assume) there is one behind yours. Please do not behave toward them in a manner less considerate than you would assume if you were face to face.

17. It is rude in real life to go up to strangers and ask them how much money they have. It is not less rude to do it here.

18. People may charge any amount they want to for anything they want to in auctions. Do your research. Buyer beware. Caveat emptor. Veni vidi vici. Rikki Tikki Tavi.

19. If you summon people without first asking them if they wish to be summoned, you will find yourself on a surprising number of ignore lists.

20. If you are not receiving the IMs you were expecting, check to see what color the little hand in the lower righthand corner of your screen is. If it's not green, you will not be reached.

21. If you are going to buy, sell or trade with an individual, use the TRADE feature, not GIVE. Some people may try to "trade" you an item they don't actually own. If they cannot put it in the trade box, other than for technical reasons, they don't own it and you will be ripped off if you give them something in exchange for it (its rightful owner will retrieve it and you'll be left emptyhanded).

22. No one can give, lend, trade, sell, buy or receive to or from non-Premium members, so don't ASK.

23. How to put money in the trade box: Go to your balance and hover or click; a menu will come up. The menu includes GIVE. Do not choose that. It also includes TRADE. Choose that. Proceed per directions.

24. If you can't type the amount (or anything else) in the line, your Bedicam is messing up your game. Log out and back in, and turn off your Bedicam.

25. To sidestep, press shift and while holding it down, use the right or left arrow key.

26. Do not schedule an eight-hour event in someone else's funzone. Even if they don't explicitly object, it's kind of greedy. In your own zone, do what you like!

27. Do not drop your documents in someone else's place without permission.

28. "It's only a game" is a surprisingly lame excuse for misbehaving.

29. "It wasn't me, my sister/brother/cousin/neighbor/daughter/son/dog/teacher/total stranger/ was using my account and (insert misbehavior here). Be responsible for your account.

30. Knee-high boots look funny with raves and not ha-ha funny, either.

31. When you win a bidding auction, you have a high chance of being overcharged. You should check your transaction history against the closed auction listing page for each item. The overage will usually range from 25t to 125t but it adds up. Be sure to tell FUZE the auction number, the amount of the winning bid, the amount you were actually charged and (do the math for them!) the difference; be sure to include the total refund you are requesting. They will refund the overage but only if you ASK.

32. It seems some people have had such trouble logging their Coke avie in through the Coca Cola site that they have abandoned said avies, often with deep regret. Did you know you can log a Coke avie in through the normal There log-in screen? You'll still get the cramped forums, the different There Central (it's not called that, is it?), the advanced auction page will let you search by bidder, and by price, date and category, and the rather vibrant color scheme will remind you you're a Coke avie, but inworld function will be normal (if you call this NORMAL!)

33. You do not have to be in the physical proximity of a document to read it. Any document that has not had the "Do not include in Library" box checked can be found by searching the library. You do this just as you search auctions, only change the drop-down menu to read LIBRARY instead of AUCTIONS.

34. To see who (if anyone) bid on and/or won an auction item, including bid auctions and BUY NOWs, change the word "view" in the URL to "bidhistory." Just because people list an item for a million tbux doesn't mean that item has ever been sold for that price.

35. To report a problem with an inventory item, you need to tell There the doid number. You can get this with the ABOUT command in the item's menu. Used to be you had to then go to PROPERTIES but now you can see the URL right in the browser window. The number at the end of the URL is the doid number. Even an error message will give you that doid number but be sure, then, to also paste the error message for them.

36. You may produce the illusion of a fart by doing a handstand and quickly burping.

37. If you are searching for an item or person, remember that There will not search anything with fewer than three characters in it, and seems to have an upper limit as well. Try the first eight characters.

38. People, group and sometimes places search will often come up blank the first time. Refresh the page until results pop in.

39. To compare prices on an item you wish to buy, use TRY if it's not already in your possession, and then click the ABOUT menu item. If anyone is selling the item, there will be links, including to the shop if it's a shop item. Refresh that page a couple times too; sometimes the links don't show up right away.

40. If you see green shades on someone, talking to them is probably useless, as they are almost certainly AFK.

41. Being a cohost at an event by virtue of being in the club assigned cohosting credit doesn't mean you may change the layout around without permission.

42. Telling someone you own a house or a hood that you don't actually own is foolish. Nine times out of ten you are telling the actual owner, who isn't likely to believe you.

43. There is no There police force. If you say you're a There policeman, no one believes you but the greenest noob, and shame on you for fooling a noob.

44. "How do we get money on There?" The first thing we do is BUY it. If we then spend it submitting designs that sell well, or buying low and selling high (not not unfairly high!) then those are ways of increasing your balance, but FIRST you BUY it. It takes money to make money.

45. No, I do not want to hire you.

46. If you are under 13, simply not mentioning it or actively lying about it will not be enough to make people think you're not underage. Acting more mature than a drooling infant might help.

47. There sets rent; individuals do not set rent. If you drop a lot, There will take the same amount from your balance, immediately, according to the size of the lot, regardless of which neighborhood you're in, and will then take that amount out every 30 days. There will tick the minutes off your paz at the same rate, also according to size and type, no matter what island you drop it on. By all means compare neighborhoods and other regions to see where you want to live, but it's useless to go about asking what the rent is; the hood owners do not control that. Some may offer you refunds or perqs; I am sure they will volunteer any such information.

48. Lots do not get time added to them as pazzes do, and can only be put out in neighborhoods (just as pazzes canNOT be put out in hoods). Do not mistake one for the other, and do not be fooled if someone tries to sell you a lot with "more time" on it. All lots in auction (and shop) are equal in value to all other lots of the same size. Pazzes, on the other hand, can have fluctuating value according to how much time is on them. Paz auctions now automatically tell how much (if any) time is left. This information is in small print in the upper lefthand portion of the listing.

49. People who are not using Voice for whatever reason are not necessarily non-Premium so please do not make such assumptions.

50. Yes your dog (borrowed or otherwise) is cute. It's not cute EVERYWHERE. Be considerate.

51. Ten bucks for life isn't a bad deal. Become a premium member!

52. Look for blue circles with little orangey yellow arrows in them. They are action tags. They will let you sit, or view a document, or perform any number of actions.

53. Don't give your password to anyone, not even your mother. Don't make an easy-to-guess password. Your birthday is a lousy password.

54. Drama is fascinating on stage and screen. Leave it there. Drama sucks here.

55. When you click on a link, in a document, to teleport to a place, you will most likely not teleport right away, but be taken to the information page for the place. Find the teeny tiny little VISIT button on that page to be teleported. If the link is to an event page instead of a place page, click on GO THERE NOW, which is less teeny tiny. Or if the event has not begun yet, click SIGN UP and then you will be summoned at the right time.

56. Super Bunnies are correctly called Super Bunny Shoes - Men and Super Bunny Shoes - Women, and the designer is There. Their category is Recent Releases, which is stupid but that's how it is. If someone is listing, or trying otherwise to sell you, an item that is supposedly a pair of Super Bunnies, and the designer is not There, or it is called something other than Super Bunny Shoes, or is found in the men's or women's clothing category, that person is attempting to dupe you.

57. Do not sit down to a card game knowing you be unable to stay for the whole game without at least asking the other players if that's okay. No one likes to be left high and dry.

58. You cannot give a copy of a document that is not in gear using GIVE A COPY but there is a trick: use LEND instead and it will not lend the original, but instead will give a copy. Don't ask me why. It just does. Thus you do not have to retrieve a document in order to give a copy of it to someone.

59. To look at a chat log in progress, go to PEOPLE on your toolbar and choose SHOW CHAT HISTORY. You cannot look at it, or attach it to mail or a Fuze report, until you have logged off, because the chat history is continuous. IMs on the other hand can be seen outside There or attached as soon as the IM in question is closed. To report abuse to There, using an attached chat log, go to GET HELP on your toolbar and choose LIVE HELP. Scroll down the LIVE HELP page to the very bottom and choose CUSTOMER SUPPORT (tiny little letters). On the next page choose ASK A QUESTION. Choose the category and subcategory. Write your complains as clearly and unemotionally as possible. Incomprehensibly, t\TOSable language is not permitted in the report, so if you want to say someone called you a certain name, you can't say the name. You can say you were compared to a female dog,or accused or making love to a parental unit, or declared to be someone who mistakes a private part for an ice cream cone, but you can't say the offensive words for any of that.. There will find your chat log directory for you so you will not have to scroll around, but in case you want to open it first in an outside browser to make sure it's the right one, you can find it in There (be it in Program Files, which I eschew, or not, which I prefer)\ThereClient\chatlogs. IM chatlogs will be listed alphabetically under the name of the person with whom you were IM-ing. Chat history chatlogs will be called chatlog followed by a date and time and a lot of other numbers. (Keep in mind these are temporary files and they will poof in a few days, so don't dilly dally; make that report ASAP!) A chat history chatlog will contain everything that was ever said within a certain range of your avie for the entire time you were inworld, so you may wish to say in the body of your complaint the name of the person you are reporting and where in the chatlog that person appears (halfway down, for example).

60. If you are suckered into teleporting into a place where your force field is removed without your consent and you find yourself being paintballed mercilessly or run over by vehicles that send you flying hither and yon, you will not be able to turn your force field back on yet, but all you have to do is go to PLACES and choose UNDO TELEPORT to be whisked back to whence you came. You can, alternatively teleport to one of your favorite places. The best move, of course, is not to get suckered to begin with.

61. If you find yourself in a trap, teleport out.

62. If you're stuck somewhere but it's not a trap, sidestep out. Sidestepping is also good for those little elevations; why jump when you can delicately, daintily sidestep?

63. Using TRY and then BUY in auctions is tricky. Honest it is. Allow me to explain. When you purchase an auction item it can take up to ten minutes (and I've seen it take longer) for the transaction to be completed. Until it is completed, you do not receive your item and you do not lose your money. Then, simultaneously, the item appears and its purchase price goes byebye. HOWEVER, if you have used TRY, the item you are trying vanishes in FIVE minutes. I have seen countless newbies, and even oldbies, try something on, decide to buy it, and then watch the item disappear after five minutes... and think something happened to their purchase. That wasn't your purchase. That was an identical item you TRIED. Your purchase may still have five minutes to be completed. What the befuddled buyer tends to do next is say oh well, it didn't work, and look, the auction is closed, something happened. I will just go buy it elsewhere. So s/he goes to another auction, or to the shop, and purchases the identical item. If s/hepurchases it from the shop, ther isn't that ten-minute delay. The buyer is out the money immediately, and gains the item immediately. Then FOUR minutes later, the original purchase goes through... and fails, because now the buyer doesn't have enough money to complete the original purchase. The auction has ended without sale for the seller, who is now frustrated at having to relist the item, and the buyer has spent more, because the original auction price hopefully was cheaper than the shop price. WHAT TO DO: WAIT! WAIT! It's COMING! Don't go assuming because your TRY item vanished you're not getting what you bought. Wait ten minutes. Don't make the seller miserable by spoiling his or her auction and letting him or her know s/he ALMOST made a sale.

64. When you shop fast, your balance doesn't keep up with you; there is the previously mentioned ten-minute delay. You may find yourself messing up a couple of auctions by not keeping good track of what you're spending. It happens to everyone (even ME!) once in a while but we should all be careful.

65. If you receive a Theremail saying you didn't have enough money for an auction you "bid" on (bought is more like it), contact the seller and offer to buy the item privately. It's only fair. If you're the seller, try to contact the buyer, but don't hold your breath. I have almost never received an answer. If you're the buyer, and the seller contacts you, ANSWER! Clicking CONFIRM is a CONTRACT. Even if you messed up and bought the same item elsewhere, you should keep your promise and buy from the seller.

66. If your auction ended due to technical difficulties (or a buyer who didn't have sufficient funds for any of the reasons above) and now you're in a position to trade or relist, you may find the menu items you need dimmed and unavailable. This is because the abrupt, unsuccessful end of the auction "broke" the item. You can usually fix it by putting it in a directory you don't mind sorting alphabetically, and clicking SORT for that directory. If that doesn't fix the item, relog. If THAT doesn't fix it, report it to FUZE (and remember that doid number). Be clear about what you want fixed or your reply will be "what do you mean broken?" If you have to FUZE it expect it to be fixed in a day or so unless it's a weekend, in which case it may take longer.

67. If your profile suddenly looks weird, for example not showing your clubs, or showing a blue funpass, or giving nonsense letters instead of your membership birthdate, change your preference from "Everyone" to "Buddies Only" (or vice versa) and save, and then change it back. This will fix the problem unless it's an avman server acting up (or down).

68. If you are in an event that is ending and you get an invitation to the next event in the same location, do not click ACCEPT; you will be teleported to the entrance. Instead click LATER. You should not be bothered again and you'll be permitted to remain unless there are certain requirements for the new event (e.g., it's invitation only, or has a fee).

69. If you are on someone else's property and take out a document, vehicle, dog or other non-gear toy (which you shouldn't do without permission anyway), and the owner, host or cohost clicks REMOVE FOREIGN OBJECTS, your items will vanish from sight, but they have gone safely back into your inventory. If the objects you have taken out do not belong to you, though, they will go back to their owners, not to you. Be careful what you drop where.

70. Changing your clothes incessantly in company, practicing your emotes while someone is trying to have a conversation with you, and walking around and around pushing people aside are not illegal activities but they are annoying, and you may find yourself ignored. Incessant clothes-changing can actually cause lag. Nobody likes lag and if you cause lag, nobody will like you either.

71. Trying to skill in socializing by using a macro or typing a stream of nonsense characters is annoying and useless. Why not have (gasp) a conversation instead? You get no skill, by the way, from talking to yourself. Socializing skill comes from typing while in a chat group (a vehicle that seats more than one counts) with at least one other person.

72. If someone has you on ignore, that person cannot see what you type, so do not follow him or her around complaining that s/he has you on ignore. It just confirms his or her opinion of you.

73. If you earn a giftie by leveling in a skill, and you don't want the giftie, please be aware that you can get a paltry 50t if you return the item within ten minutes of its being bestowed upon you, only 25t if you return it within three days of bestowal, 13t if it's under a week and 2t thereafter. The amounts may be different for items you purchased, or were given by an individual, but at no point do you ever get a significant amount of money and sometimes you get zip.

74. If you click the ABOUT on an item and it says BUY ONE, that means it is a There item as opposed to one designed by a Thereian. Clicking BUY ONE will not obligate you to buy one, so go ahead and click to see what the item costs in the shop. If the page that comes up gives you a tiny amount, such as 1t, and does not offer you a chance to buy the item, that means it is no longer available in the shop. It does NOT mean the value of the item is 1t or even that it ever was available for that price.

75. You have a right to think my avie is fat. I have a right to think your avie is anorexic. It would be rude for either of us to mention it to the other.

76. If you experience or witness someone else's misbehavior and don't report it, the misbehavor will victimize someone else. Do not mistake your being annoyed by someone else's opinion for that person's being in violation of Terms of Service or some ethical code. A good rule of thumb is that if the person is interfering with your enjoyment of There by stopping you from freely doing what you want, apart from what you may not, that is reportable. If the person is interfering with your enjoyment by existing, that's YOUR problem.

77. You can turn the water and weather on (default) and off in THERE -- CUSTOMIZE -- WORLD. Some say this cuts down lag. I doubt it.

78. You can choose to accept tbux from anyone who happens to send them without confirmation, or to require your confirmation, in THERE-CUSTOMIZE -- WORLD. The advantage of keeping the default on is that you don't have to be inworld to accept money, even from one of your other avies. The advantage of requiring confirmation is that if you like to keep track of what you get from whom without opening your transaction history, which sometimes doesn't work (it HAS been better lately),
you can be aware of each gift or payment.

79. The more apostrophes you use with the emote "yay," the more excited your avie will be. You can go up to six. Twirl!

80. Emotes require apostrophes. Dog commands do not. Why? I have no idea!

81. When you purchase a neighborhood lot in auctions, more often than not the lot is broken; it has no ABOUT, it can't be taken out, it shows as not in gear or as being lent to someone, usually the seller but sometimes the person from whom the seller acquired it. If it's showing as not in gear, you will have to report it to Fuze and they will replace it. However, if it is showing as being lent to someone, you may try to contact that person and ask him or her to LEND you your own lot. Yes, it is showing in your inventory as lent to him or her, and it's showing in his or her inventory as belonging to (or lent to, I forget which) you! A "lend" will complete the transaction and fix the broken item. On rare occasions it has to be attempted twice, but almost always this fix works the first time.

82. The drop trick: you're not supposed to do this. It's a godsend. Go ahead and do it. The drop trick is used for two purposes: fitting a large object into a small space, and getting an extra drop.

To put a large object into a small space: take out the smallest unused item you have. Items have various center points and with a very small object there is not mujch difference between its center point and all other points. You care about this because the large object is going to share its center point with the smaller one.

NOTE: the center point might not be in the center! Decks sometimes are grabbed by an edge and sometimes by their center; I am referring to the grabbing point. wherever it may happen to be. Now that you have taken the object out, place it where you want the center point of the large object to be. Now pick it up again and while holding it, take out the large object. You will now find PUT BACK on the large object's menu. Use is. Put away the small object. The larger one remains.

SECOND NOTE: You will only be able to decorate only those portions of the larger object that are in a paz, lot or zone in which you have decorating privileges, and in which you have available drops of course. For example, if you have two pazzes next to each other and you drop a house in one paz so that it overlaps the other paz too, and you have drops in both places, you may decorate the house in both pazzes. The house will only count as a drop in the paz in which you used the drop trick.

To use the drop trick to gain an extra drop, use the same method, with the additional care taken: Use the drop trick LAST, and instead of using your smallest item, which you will remove after the trick, you're using an item you wish to keep in your decor, so it won't necessarily be small at all. The first item's center point now becomes very important. Bars, for example have their center points centered not only horizontally but vertically, so if you try to use the drop trick with a bar and a carpet, either the carpet will float in the air or the bar will sink into the floor. You may be creative, but the easiest way to get that extra drop is to save a rug for last, and center it under a seating group using the drop trick. (Or put a one-drop circle of flowers around a thin tree, or... you get t he idea! If you want to use a bird as the last drop, find something that has a vertical center point so the bird can hover in mid-air!) It doesn't matter which item comes first except in that there is a time limit, so if you're using There's THIS PLACE -- GEAR instead of, say, bboy's MY GEAR, you will want to use the most difficult item to collect, alphabetically, first, so you can quickly grab the second item from the beginning or end of the alphabet (since scrolling through a large directory takes time).

THIRD NOTE: Once you have your extra drop, if you want to change anything, first remove that extra drop or whatever you try to move will just vanish back into gear. Put the last drop back again when you're done.

83. If you are lagged and can see a sit circle, sit, even if you don't want to. You'll load faster.

84. If your gear isn't loading, give your alt avie or a friend one tbuck. (You can do this even if your balance isn't showing, in fact, this will make it show.) Unless you're just in dire need of a relog, this little act of generosity will hasten the loading processs.

85. The only people who ask everyone they meet, as a matter of course (as opposed to in reaction to some display of immaturity) how old s/he is are the people who are seriously lacking in the age department. In addition, asking everyone you meet what grade s/he's in presumes, incorrectly, that everyone in this wonderful virtual universe is a school child

86. When someone else has possession of a document (it happens!), dog, ball, weapon or vehicle of yours, you can see who has it by virtue of a small, hard-to-read, italicized legend -- the person's name -- after the name of the item. Once you have retrieved your item, there is no record whatsoever of who had your item. It doesn't show up in your transaction history, or any kind of log. If this person had your item without your permission, write the person's name down BEFORE you retrieve the item! You will have no chance to do so afterwards.

87. You need to be inworld to list for auction items you did not design. You may list items you DID design in an outside browser by starting with There Central, going to the Developers page and proceeding from there. You may SHOP out of world in your outside browser as well. If you are in your browser and inworld as well, you may click the IM button next to someone's name or in someone's profile, in your browser, and the IM window will pop up INworld. You may also use TRY that way. You may even teleport that way! You may send Theremail froman outside browser whether or not you are inworld. There is no way to summon anyone from an outside browser. NONE of the above works during There's downtime. During downtime all you can do is log into forums and qvetch about it. NOTE: If you have more than one avatar, you may log into the browser in one name and inworld in another, but then such things as IM, TRY and teleporting will be ineffective.

88. If you need a url, or the doid therefrom, for example, and for some reason you get a page that does not show the url across the top, right mouse click the page and from the resulting menu choose PROPERTIES. The URL is there and can be copied. Likewise if the REFRESH button disappears from the top of a page, you can right mouse click to get that command as well. Right mouse click is a GOOD thing. But if you're not on a page when you use it, you'll just jump. If you're wearing your super bunnies, you may jump too far!

89. Play nice!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ramblings About TV Commercials

So many targets, so little bandwidth!

Fortunately, these are RANDOM ramblings, so without stopping to justify my choices, I tuck right in.

Today's Topic: ExtenZe Male Enhancement!

No, I'm not offended by the topic. I'm offended by the dorky dishonesty of the ad. Oh, I don't mean I believe the product doesn't do what it claims to do. And speaking of disclaimers, there is one, in teeny tiny print, for a teeny tiny period of time, reminding those of us who couldn't figure it out that the enhancement is only effective as long as the enhancee continues to consume the product. You'd almost think they didn't want you to read that. (On the website is a much cleverer little ad, presumably containing the same disclaimer, but in print so small it could, for all the reader knows, be saying "Nyah nyah nyah NYAH nyah, you are insecure about your weewee!" At least the website uses the word "penis" [in print]; like the TV ad, the voiceover is still stuck with "that certain part of a man's body.")

The TV ad features two female spokespersons, neither claiming any expertise in male enhancement beyond whatever goes along with their (grasping here for an accurate description without emotional weight) slutty (okay, I failed) appearance; Doctor Daniel S. Stein, who says he has PERSONALLY "researched" this product; a pair of actors portraying a couple shyly eager to check out the product's benefits; and an interviewer presumably stopping couples on the street to ask them how they liked the product.

Let's start with the commercial's irritating coyness. First we get direct appeals from the spokeswomen and the doctor. The dark-haired spokeswoman (the other is blonde)
is going to lose an eyelash if she keeps batting hers that way whenever she says "certain part." Even the doctor uses the phrase, although I don't recall his level of eyelash battage. Then we get the indirect appeal of the little drama. The young wife hears "male enhancement" and naively says, "Oh, you mean like for muscles?" (I may be paraphrasing; I am not by the TV.) "No," corrects the husband, adding meaningfuly, "Male ENHANCEMENT."

There's nothing wrong with the little drama but it's baffling after the direct appeal, and then the commercial switches gears again and takes us to the street. This part is more than baffling; it's ludicrous! If someone were giving away a product that could be consumed or otherwise used on the spot, such as chocolate, popcorn or hand lotion, a man-on-the-street interview would make sense. Likewise it makes sense if you're asking people's opinions of subjects that should be common knowledge, such as election affairs, TV shows or celebrities. But a male enhancement product? Are we to assume every man uses one, and a random sampling of pedestrians on an urban street will produce even a handful of men who not only use such a thing but wish to speak spontaneously to millions of viewers about it?

The product itself targets the sexually insecure; the advertisers seem insecure themselves, not willing to commit to one style of communication, and not willing, either, to commit to a straightforward (or humorous, if they chose -- there are some cute moments in the website video) presentation. This insecurity does not increase the viewers' confidence in the ad or, by (guffaw) extension, the product.

Well, it's not my concern, I suppose. I just hate to see less keenly observant folks have their legs (or whatever) pulled.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ramblings About Language

My first language is English; it's the first of several and the only one in which I am fluent. I speak Japanese like an incredibly talented infant, and French almost as well.

(I speak better Japanese, but possibly understand it less well, than this child.)

I can mispronounce certain Yiddish words and phrases more or less the way my American-born parents did; as children of immigrants, wanting to fit in and be as-American-as-thee, they shunned that rich and brilliant tongue and lived to regret it.

There are a few other languages in which I know enough words and/or phrases to understand, or, even better, make myself understood, in a pinch. I'm adventurous enough to get myself into a few pinches now and again. But it's English I know and English I love the best. Since I live in my native land, the United States of America, I find myself more often in a flinch than in a pinch.

Sometimes I flinch at the widespread abuse of the language I love; other times I flinch at a perfectly legitimate word or phrase that nonetheless, for one reason or another, rankles. An example of the latter is the use of the word "hysterical." It's in the dictionary; it's an adjective. It's generally used properly. However, the implication of the word (used to describe a state of panic) is that the person it describes is panicking because she is female, or panicking because he is feminine; the "hyster" in question is a womb. I think we should say a person who has reached a certain level of panic is testerical. That at least evens the genderic playing field.

(A real bitch)

I prefer not to call my enemies, of either sex, bitches. I live with a perfectly lovely female Sheltie (named Sarah, if you must know) and would not insult her with such comparisons. I have no standard substitution, though; I name my enemies on a case-by-case basis. (One is "toxic waste.")

Some feral peeves:

1. "Just between you and I." "I" is not an object, but a subject. Would you say "give it to I"?

(The translation is the transgressor.)

2. "That was so fun!" SUCH fun, folks, or so MUCH fun! "Fun" is a noun and is described by an adjective, not an adverb.

(Lip-syncing peeves me as well, but sometimes the artist doesn't actually have a choice... in Italy, anyway.)

3. "I could not help but do it." That means the opposite of what the user thinks it means, and yet is not used sarcastically, as in "I could care less!" (which generally indicates the user could NOT care less). "I could not help doing it" means the user was compelled. Therefore "I could not help BUT do it" means the user was NOT compelled, except possibly compelled NOT to do "it."

(The title is incorrect. I actually find anime pretty annoying, come to think of it.)

4. "I feel badly." Snobby! If you feel badly that means your tactile sense or your emotional palette is impaired. You feel bad. My fiancé smells badly; his olfactory facility is diminished. (He can't tell when dinner is burning!) If he neglects to bathe, he also smells bad.

Some guilty pleasures:

1. "Ain't." I know it ain't a real world; I ain't concerned about it. I use it for emphasis, and only to people who know I know better.

2. "Whatever." I use it to be deliberately dismissive; how rude!

3. "(expletive deleted)." I can stop any time I want. Honest.

(Do not play the above if you prefer your expletives deleted.)

Having exposed my linguistic flaws so publically, I am, quite suddenly, abashed, and no longer wish to pick on other speakers.

Oh wait. Yes, I do!

That relaxation of my linguistic ethics was only a tongue-fart. I beg your pardon.

Monday, July 28, 2008


"Now, I have asked myself, what on earth could this thing [music] be for -- why are so many people doing this? I've made up several theories.... One is a cynical theory and that is that music is very much indeed like language but doesn't mean anything and so it gives you a feeling of thinking. It uses up parts of your brain that normally are understanding stuff, but without the unpleasant consequences of understanding. So music is relaxing in the sense that it exercises the part of the brain that has a drive to think by thinking about things that are meaningless.... The cynicism is saying that thinking is actually unpleasant and so people like this thing going on that relieves it." -- Marvin Minsky in "Computer Music Journal"

Marvin Minsky

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Steamtalks
Easy listening music is difficult for me to take. Its purpose I think is to remind the listener of music but not actually to require of him/her what music generally requires: attention and recognition. (Here's a rule of thumb: if you recognize the artist, it's not easy listening music.) The interactive nature of music is what appeals to me. I don't want to be reminded of it; I want to be involved in it. For this reason, pornography is also a bore. What, after all, is more interactive than sex? (Well, okay: music.) If the only purpose of a photo or a film or a piece of writing is to remind me of sex, it is of no interest to me; I'd rather do it than contemplate it. Still, it's of great interest to a great many people, because it's safely uninvolving. Again, its appeal to many is its means of losing me altogether.

I find Minsky's theory (one of his many, I remind you) unfactual but true. That is, I don't believe that music is meaningless either for its creators or for its listeners, since it is a form of communication among them, and also because (I feel) it somehow stimulates the communication of the individual with him/herself. However, Minsky's theory seems to explain my reaction to easy listening music, as well as to pornography. These things relieve their participants of, well, participation, while exercising those parts of their psyches that have a drive to communicate in the way both music and sex communicate. In either case, it may simply be that despite the urge for expression, the would-be expressor has nothing to say!

copyright Wikimedia Commons/IntroSpection
On the Internet I have found, among other things, photographs of penises. I am sure the model penises are attached to guys, but the pictures don't show to whom. The people who enjoy looking at seemingly disembodied penises don't care to whom they are attached. They are not parts of people but independent objects. They are not even parts of idols; Typ, Atyp and Ob are all missing. I won't speculate about the uses the pictures' admirers find for them, although they must be fantastical, as pictures are, after all, only pictures, unless of course they function as icons. Penises, however, are NOT only penises. Those which are not attached to people are useless; they have no independent lives. Neither have those which ARE attached to people, despite all the old jokes. (Is a penis an extension of its man or is a man an extension of his penis? Are those of you becoming excited by reading the word "penis" imagining a specific person who happens to possess one?) As Maria Muldaur and her predecessors sang, "It ain't the meat, it's the mo-tion.... It ain't the wave it's the o-cean...."

The glorification of the general blurs the individual into nothing more than a part of the body politic. Maybe this is why Buddhism never impressed me; I don't fancy being God's elbow (and to be fair to those of you who believe God is within us, I don't fancy God's being my elbow either). The glorification of the part degrades the individual from which it is extracted and who is, after all, not separate from the part. Zoom in, zoom out. Perspective is all.

nice guy, not for me

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Tsui
Are we still talking about love? Do we have a definition yet? (Did we really expect one? Ask your teddy bear.) Oh dear, we've rambled. I'll admit we did so by design. However, by way of rambling back, I leave you with another short(er) excerpt from Tzaddik:


Once upon a time there was a monster. This monster's name was Love. In this monster's name people enslaved one another, caused one another unspeakable (and sometimes very satisfying) anguish, did one another irreparable and often fatal harm, and occasionally, not without reserve (on the part of the participants and of this chronicler) made each other very, very happy.

[Japanese] Emperor Gozu (posthumously deified as Susanoo-no-Mikoto) kills a dragon to save Princess Inada. Artist: Utagawa Kuniteru.

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain


"He had recognized a quality in her of which no one else among her companions... was in the least aware. The recognition laid special responsibilities on him for were we not all ultimately charged to live not according to general rules but by our own specific recognition of one another's quality? However, having the courage of one's recognitions was a lesson only slowly and painfully to be learnt...." -- Laurens van der Post, The Seed and the Sower

Atyp's mistake, in which Typ indulges with less dire consequences, is in failing to recognize Ob as an individual. He appears to recognize her as one; he appears to distinguish her from all others -- to render her the most individual individual in his world. In fact, though, he mistakes the collecting of details for their amalgamation into a real person. Ob is, for Atyp, Atyp himself, projected outward. Atyp merely has chosen which collection of details (including physical features and emotional output) suits him, and he may well translate these details into a picture or definition that has nothing to do with the real Ob. If she deviates a bit from the picture or definition, Atyp either won't see it or will make it fit. On his Procrustean bed, the teddy bear's image is stretched or chopped. If Ob dares to deviate beyond the latitude Atyp can offer, Atyp may suffer the equivalent of a broken heart. This may manifest itself quietly or Atyp may feel the need to express it, in which case the bear and not only the image may find itself stretched or chopped.

copyright Wikimedia Commons/MatthiasKabel
Public figures, particularly those in the arts, whose work includes higher emotional output than, say, that of a waitress, are particularly subject to the obsessive attentions of strangers, and often are considered to have, by their choice of profession, invited these attentions, or at least to have consented, by invisible contract, to tolerate them. "S/he should've thought of that before s/he became a star," say folks whose idea of what might be an actor's, writer's, painter's or musician's motivations for working, and for seeking publicity for themselves and the work (and sometimes there is only a very difficult to make distinction between the work and the artist). These folks seem also to have forgotten that not only strangers are victims of objectification and its consequences, and not only stars. Waitresses, too, can find themselves thus objectified, as can persons of any profession and either gender. They can remain untouched by the objectification, or be annoyed by it, or have their lives changed. They can have their lives ended.

In The Tzaddik of Tsurumai, my novel in progress (a polite way to say "novel I haven't got around to finishing yet") an actor is assassinated by a "fan." (I hope you have all been admiring my restraint in not pointing out that "fan" is short for "fanatic"; I hope you're not too disappointed that I finally broke down and pointed it out, since I feel this is an appropriate point at which to do so.) One short chapter, narrated by the slain actor's father, a Polish immigrant, now follows:



I have heard Christians say "Jesus died for our sins." What a funny idea! I think actors do that: die for us, if not for our sins. I am not referring to the real death of my son, Dashiell, but to the deaths actors die on behalf of their characters. We are all afraid of death but we are all drawn to it, too, and are curious, and want to know what it would be like to die, but then to live and remember what it was like, and maybe be reassured.

I have heard that to stimulate and feed this kind of curiosity encourages real-life violence. I do not believe such a thing. Ancient Greek tragedy did not, as far as I know, increase the murder rate in ancient Greek civilization. True, there were no mass media as we know it (but this is a Greek word, is it not?) but our world population is larger now; there are more masses. And furthermore, I wonder, is it believed that the deciding factor is numbers? Frequency? Distance? Is inviting death into your home less safe than going out for it? I wonder, too: if Leopold and Loeb had stayed home to watch something awful on television, would Bobby Franks have grown up and had grandchildren?

But this is not what I wish to tell you. I wish to tell you that actors do not only die for us but also perform for us great heroic deeds as well as murder, and feel for us great emotions that perhaps we are too tired or distracted to feel for ourselves, and be for us people whom we would love to be, die to be, perform great heroic acts to be, but are too tired or distracted or poor or persecuted or lazy or in the wrong place at the wrong time to be. I mean good actors, of course. So then if everyone disagrees about who is and who is not a good actor, is the actor's value to society diminished? I like to read crime novels, not only American ones, and I would like to recommend to you the novels of an expatriated Englishman -- oh, how I think the word Englishman fails to suit him somehow, although all it means is a man born in England -- Nicolas Freeling, whose characters are in their way actors, or at least perform the function, for us, of actors; Freeling reminds us, though I misquote, that bad taste should not be confused with crime.

But, you remind me, my son was literally killed, and literally because of television. Not because of violence on television but because he himself was on television. So television is not dangerous to the general population -- only to actors!

Oh, this is not at all what I wish to say. I mean that people, ordinary people who did not know Dashiell, felt that they knew him, and had opinions about him, loved him and hated him, had expectations of him, and one of them felt so strongly about this that he killed him. Yes, it was a boy, a young man, barely twenty, a fan in the sense of a fanatic, who says now that he is sorry but he could not bear to see such a good man -- a good man! How would he know? -- become so evil. Dashiell had played the villain in a television movie. The orange didn't come up the straw, the cigarettes didn't dance. We saw Jack Ruby commit murder before our eyes, we watched David Frost interview Charles Manson, Los Angeles collapsed in upon itself, first spiritually and then physically, never mind Hitler, never mind Stalin, never mind the Khmer Rouge, we have seen everything there is to see: how can we be so naive?

It is very odd, but in the fifties, when I was first married, there was a big scare about communism, I mean Communism, and a handful, less than a handful, really, of fanatical men decided to control which actors worked and which ones did not. I am not speaking of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which did concern itself with this but also with a much wider range of "activities," mostly imagined; I am speaking of private individuals who appointed themselves the guardians of radio, film and television, and in fact blackmailed the entire industry into hiring only those actors these guardians deemed safe for American consumption. This is bad enough, the blackmail of the blacklist, but there was something else very curious about it, and that is that in retrospect we can see that only bad actors were sanctioned and almost anyone with a scrap of talent was banned. Why should this be? The answer is simple: bad actors say lines and purvey ideas only through words, assuming we are not too bored to be reached, and good actors transmit emotions and make us feel, and feeling the truth is dangerous. Adlai tells me that the Japanese once called actors "riverbed bandits." Shakespeare, who was himself an actor, made asses of them. The only kind of person portrayed by Hollywood writers as worse than the actor is the Hollywood writer (self-hatred is a powerful evil). Yes, there is another amazing thing the Christians say: "And the truth shall set you free." Don't you see that it was not in the interest of the tyrants of the blacklist or of any other tyrants that we should be free? And don't you see now that this is what actors do, and why they are scorned and idolized and feared and loved??

a riverbed bandit?

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Kuniyoshi Utagawa (public domain)
Everyone is objectified to an extent, and objectifies right back. Learning to recognize individuals is a process, and each time we encounter a new person, that person is for us at least partly an object until we begin to recognize his or her individuality. The serious problem begins when the learning-to-recognize process fails to begin. Observation alone is not enough of a catalyst, although it is necessary. Empathy too is needed. Perspective doesn't hurt.

Unfortunately, all of that requires involvement, and that is, to many, a pain in the ass.


Das Flötenkonzert by Carl Spitzeg: Couples in Love

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain

"In real love you want the other person's good. In romantic love you want the other person." -- Margaret Anderson

Let's ramble back now from the kitchen to the bedroom -- in particular, the closet door. Let's create a context for the relationship, real or imagined, for which the picture is an icon.

What exactly is the relationship between that fan -- we'll call him Mr. Typical Fan -- and that idol (whom we'll call Ms. Object O. Desire)? Ob doesn't know Typ from a hole in the wall, though he buys all of her records, has been to a few concerts and once even blurted out "I'm your biggest fan" while she scrawled her name across an eight-by-ten for him. (That's it, framed, on the dresser; the one on the door's from a magazine.) Her music reaches right out of the CD player and touches Typ, personally. Her breasts point out of the photo only for him. Ob knows this happens on a grand scale but can't produce a mental image of Typ. Typ too knows it happens on a grand scale, but somehow he also knows he's different. He might know other fans, with whom he gathers to discuss such various topics as Ob's voice, Ob's career, Ob's tour dates, Ob's body, Ob's private life, Ob's face, Ob's body, Ob's assets and charms relative to the assets and charms of her peers, Ob's body, Ob's band and Ob's body. Typ says "I love her" and his love is half hyperbole and half something else.

Typ probably doesn't do all of the above. More likely he does only some, and possibly he does none. He might also mix and match from among the following:

He indulges in sexual fantasies concerning Ob.

He uses her picture and/or his fantasies as an onanistic aid.

He tapes her every television and radio appearance.

He writes her one or more fan letters.

He collects products which represent or refer to her.

He hangs out in places where she has been seen.

He collects information about her.

He worries about the veracity and the meaning of the information he collects.

He shares his collected information with others without regard for its veracity and without regard for its possible effect on others, including on Ob.

He feels personally affected by events in her public and private life, experiencing strong positive or negative emotions as a result.

He feels the need to communicate to her his positive or negative emotions regarding her public and private life.

He expresses his love for her and expects a reciprocal expression.

He threatens the safety of Ob and/or of persons associated with her.

He attempts to harm her.
We're still talking about love here, right?

normal fans

copyright Wikimedia Commons/SV Erlenbach
Apart from the fact that maybe now Typ should change his name to Atyp, what's wrong with this picture? Okay, it's not nice to hurt people, and we should be ashamed of ourselves for talking about masturbation, but look closely at what all of the above elements, innocent and less innocent alike, have in common. There's something odd about the above description of the relationship, and the odd thing about it is that only one party in the relationship is aware of (or if aware, acknowledges) the relationship. In her own life, Ob is a subject, and in any relationship its participants alternate between roles, but for Atyp, Ob is both all-important and nonexistent. Atyp does the thinking and feeling for both of them. When Atyp says "I love you" he means "I created you and you're not only mine, you're me."

Atyp is the guy who sleeps with the teddy bear in the shop window -- but only in his dreams. (Unfortunately, to a large or small extent, he believes in his dreams.) If he attempts to touch the bear, glass gets broken, alarms go off and Atyp gets to sleep on a bunk in a shop window of his own. It's anybody's guess whether the bear survives the adventure.

copyright Wikimedia Commons/MatthiasKabel


In Bernard Pomerance's play, "The Elephant Man," Merrick complains that Romeo did not love Juliet because he didn't call a doctor and try to save her; he declares, "If I had been Romeo, we would have got away."

"But then there would be no play, Mr. Merrick," responds the actress, Mrs. Kendall.

"If he did not love her," asks Merrick, "why should there be a play?"

Joseph Merrick, AKA "The Elephant Man"

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Jack1956 (public domain)

One could ask as well, "If you don't know who your partner is, why should there be a marriage?" This brings us to another question, of course: "If you didn't know who your partner was, who did you think s/he was?" The "what" is not impertinent. Almost no one in modern Western culture consciously thinks of another person as a nonsentient being, or object, or thing, but the idea is not unprecedented. We cannot, for example, believe that half of what is now know as the United States is descended from purely evil persons. Yet that half, once known as the Confederate States of America, once kept slaves and maintained a slavery-based economy (as the Sudan and Mauritania do even now). It would be impossible for an entire nation (as it considered itself) of people to keep human beings as slaves unless it were a nation of evil persons, or unless they did not view the other persons as human.

Illustration from 1907 edition of "Review of Reviews for Australiasia": The human being as object is not a new concept.

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain

It is easy to justify almost any treatment of nonsentient objects. Why not? They can't feel anything, after all! There are precious objects in the world, many of them classified as "art"; someone who took a chainsaw to a Stradivarius would be considered insane, and the defilement of a Modigliani or a Van Gogh would evoke more horror and disgust than mere property loss would warrant. Perhaps the pain we experience when a book is burned comes less from the destruction of the physical book (apart from our consideration of how many like it might remain in the universe) than from the unshakable feeling that the author exists somehow inside the pages of the book, just as we feel the painter's presence in the painting. Still, things are, after all, only things, and we give lip service, at least, to the concept of valuing human life over lifeless objects. We recoil in horror when we read in the newspaper of the man who got killed for the dollar and change in his pocket. It puzzles me somewhat that we recoil less and less as the dollar amount increases, but no matter. The point is that we purport to know the difference between a person and a thing, and we purport to care.

Where it all gets murky is when lines get drawn. Is a tree a lifeless object? We all know it is not, and we also have heard in recent years that plants scream, that they feel -- but let's face it: those who become vegetarians in order to avoid hurting animals (there are others who have other reasons) do not anguish over the emotional condition of their broccoli. Some who would not poison a rat still might swat a fly. Some who would go out of their way to avoid kicking a dog might shoot a rattlesnake in the head, not only in self-defense but perhaps in simple fear. Is it beyond our capacity to imagine a man who would not raise his voice to a white child who'd been naughty but would have no compunctions against hanging a black man who had wandered into the wrong part of town, or a woman who would volunteer to bring food to needy but would scream at some homeless guy who was raiding her trash can for scraps.

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Shayan Sanyal

This is only possible if we accept that we are exempt from considering the individuality of some living creatures. All of us accept this to some extent. I personally rejoice at the death of a cockroach, and if that cockroach loved its family, too damned bad. If I truly believed that cockroach had a family, that it knew it had a family, that is, and loved it, I would not rejoice at its death. How could I? The plain truth is, I don't believe it. I don't recognize a cockroach as an individual (oh look, there goes WIlbur! Get him!) because it doesn't fit any of the usual human criteria for individuality (cats do; dogs do; rats do; cockroaches don't; I've drawn a line; I'm a species bigot) and I don't value its life. Sue me.


copyright Wikimedia Commons/Wm Jas

(Where do you draw your line? Would you step in front of a speeding car to avoid squooshing an ant? Would you run in front of that same car to save a child's life? What if it was your child?)

Violence is something most of us abhor but objectification, or the act of viewing someone as an object, is not usually about violence; it just makes violence easier. It's easy to squoosh a bug. It's easy to deprive a group of people of basic human dignity, to say nothing of what is needed for subsistence, if you believe that the group is lower than you on the food chain. The operative word here, though, is not, as you might think, "lower"; it's "group." The problem lies not in someone's feeling superior. All humans are not equal. Some are smarter, kinder, nimbler, more talented in various skills, more physically attractive to a larger number of admirers, more generous, more sensitive and/or more industrious than others.

The problem lies in viewing a group of people only as that group, and not as a collection of individuals -- individuals who have something important in common, but individuals nonetheless.

I personally belong to a number of groups and am seen at different times predominantly as a member of one or another of those groups. How I see myself depends largely on context. Here are some of the things I am, off the top of my head and in no particular order: Jew, woman, middle-aged person, baby boomer, redhead, fat person, bespectacled person, leaper, Whovian, writer, "lupique" (pardon my French), singer (hey, I didn't say I was any good!), retired teacher, fianceé, daughter, sister, aunt, orphan, herring-eater, genius (I don't put much stock in those numbers but it would be dishonest of me to leave that off this list, as I have been and am judged by it), nullifidean, ailurophile, tenant, former ex-patriot (that sounds like a double negative but it's not), former homeless person.... there is, of course, more. Some of the items on the list were not always true (I was born a blonde girl, not a red-headed woman; I was a skinny child; there was a time when I had not yet ever lived outside of the United States; I believed in a personal god when I was 15 years old) and there are some that may not be true in the future (I hope to reside in my own home one day and not be a tenant; I may -- but probably won't -- lose my taste for herring; with luck I will outgrow being middle-aged and advance to "elderly"; a time will come when "engaged" gives way to "married").

Now, if I were to be identified by one, or perhaps two, of the above labels, all of which are true but none of which is the complete picture, most people would be able to come up with an image of me based on some stereotype which might or might not apply. The more labels I gather and present, though, the clearer the picture that emerges of me as an individual, and their ability to stereotype me most likely would be impaired; they would not be able to help viewing me as an individual. However, anyone who had a strong prejudice for or against one of those labels, or even a strange association that could not be called "for" or "against," might have a hard time viewing me as an individual even in the face of the most overwhelming evidence. Depending on which labels were involved, we would consider that person stubborn, or bigoted, or perhaps wise! In fact s/he probably has been brainwashed.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Holy Grail; this lovely redhead is not me, and shares few, if any, of my other labels (if she is holding what she or the artist believe to be the Holy Grail, for example, she certainly isn't Jewish; if she is a damsel she is single although she might be engaged; she isn't American; neither "Quantum Leap" nor "Doctor Who" existed during her lifetime.)

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain

There are people who believe that Jews run the world while gladly accepting me and my poverty as a notable exception; they cannot be shaken in that belief. There are people who believe that geniuses are egotistical, devious or prone to be lazy (things must be so "easy" for us -- ha!); one of my high school teachers gave me back a paper with a "B" on it, saying, "This is the best paper in the class but I know you can do better." As it happens I had done my best. There are those who believe that fat people have no self-control, or that we are jolly, or that we prefer to be called "persons of size." (Some of us are! Some of us do! It's an individual matter. I prefer to be called "Gail.") Some believe that women belong in the kitchen. (Some women do. Need I mention that some don't?)

a woman's place?

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Joel Dorman Steel and Esther Baker Steele, A Brief History of the United States, 1885 (public domain)


"All happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love." -- Baruch Spinoza

Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677)

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain
Define love.

I'd be willing to bet each of you can come up with a dandy definition and not only not agree with one another but not be able to stick to your own definition for long. There are too many kinds of love.

Is the love a mother has for a child the same as the love between best friends? Is it even the same as the love a child has for its mother? Does the love it has for its teddy bear count too? Does an historian's love for history, or a miser's love of money? How about my love for my cats, or my best friend's love for his dogs? Is the love that dazzles young lovers the same as what sustains them when they are in their seventies? If they are all different, are they still all love?

Pepohoan Mother and Child, John Thomson, The Straits of Malacca, Indo-China and China or Ten years' travels, adventures and residence abroad London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Searle. 1875. p.224

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain
Let's eliminate "being in love" for the moment, which implies a kind of exclusivity of emotion and even commitment, and only consider love itself. There is no love itself; we cannot consider it independently of its subject and its object. Without someone to do the loving and someone or something to receive the love, love has no definition at all. It's not a thing; you can't pick it up and throw it, or drive home in it.

We use the word a lot in hyperbole. "Oh, I love pizza! I love to swim!" That's okay; everyone understands hyperbole; no one misunderstands you to mean that you want to marry, suckle or even devote a fair portion of your life to pizza. (Mind, there are those who do, and those people are considered to be ill.) We say it about performers too, and not only regarding love: "I hate him!" can simply mean you don't care to watch his films. "I love her!" could mean you find yourself whistling along with all of her tunes; you might even have her picture taped to your closet door. In neither case does the subject have any personal relationship with the object; the child sleeps with its bear but most of us have never met our favorite performers, or if we have, it was a brief, impersonal encounter. Sometimes, though, we manage to confuse ourselves with words. We begin to believe our own hyperbole. Thus begins obsession.

I have met men who say they love women. This, to me, is as dubious as a claim to be in love with pizza. Of course, these men could be speaking of their sexual preference for women, usually as opposed to men, and/or their fondness for the company of women, sometimes in addition to the company of men, children and members of other species. However, it generally turns out that men who claim to love women -- and the fact that they claim to love them as a group is telling -- have no individual woman in mind. They quite often have various parts of an individual woman in mind, but no whole individual woman.

a whole, individual spinach pizza, worthy to be the object of love

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Nova
These men do not speak in hyperbole. Although the similarity of this sort of love to a love for, say, pizza is chillingly close, they have no awareness or intention of hyperbolizing.

Why should I pick on men? After all, I have spoken to too many women who have expressed an eagerness to be married. "To whom?" I always ask, and they look at me as if I have asked them to multiply 3,492,234 by the square root of 45,730,221 off the top of their heads. To whom doesn't matter. Well, it matters -- he has to be "nice," or "rich," or "handsome," or "tall" -- but it doesn't matter that they have no one specific in mind; what matters is that they crave the married condition; with whom to share it is a variable to be filled in later. That marriage is considered to be a condition rather than a relationship is what I find problematic. Anyway, I'll tell you why I am, at least for a short while more, picking on men: it's because men are traditionally in charge of keeping both attitudes alive.

Let's go back, then, to the men who love women. You'll find breast men and leg men, butt men and even the romantic eye men. A good whole-woman man is hard to find, and when you find him I have no doubt you'll also find that his idea of loving a whole woman is loving the sum of her parts. There is no individual, integrated woman in his fantasy. She is a combination of qualities.

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Matthew Bowden
Of course we all tend to idealize: children dream of the ideal parent long before they begin to seek partners, and a mother wonders what the little mite in her womb will grow up to be. Alas, the little mite, once born, might remain an idealized object of its parents' plans for it. They might or might not ever love it for itself. First comes recognition of the individual; without that, there is only objectification. (Ever ask your teddy bear who it really is?)

Who is this bear?

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Matthew Bowden
Marriages can fall out that way too. One spouse discovers that s/he has no idea who the other spouse is. The whole deal was concluded, from daydreaming to first meeting to courtship to the birth of the first couple dozen kids, without any attempt to recognize the individual hidden within the illusion of the ideal. "I don't know who you are anymore!" cries the frustrated partner. "You never did," comes the sad, accurate reply.

Ramblings About Actors and Acting -- EXPRESSION OF THE WHOLE SOUL

prostitute in the Middle Ages; how my father tended to view actors

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain

Although my father maintained that all actors were prostitutes, he still came to see every play I did in school (he couldn't come to the ones in L.A.) Perhaps he trusted me more than he trusted other actors, although I, like they, shamelessly gave away my emotions, bared them for all to see. What impelled me to expose myself like that, while also hiding behind my own face, the mask I wore, as the fictional Guy Burgess (yes, there was a real one) put it, only to be who I was?

(Motivations may be plentiful job is twofold: to be who s/he must be and to be in the situation [emotions count as a situation] in which s/he must be. That is all. convince him-/herself of that in order to convince us, and all is well.)

Whether they are intensely private people or gregarious, actors must have a need to share their beings. (I recognize in myself a need to share who I am, a need to be understood and known.) True, their job entails being other beings, but the fabric from which they create those other beings is... their selves. It's all they have, finally. Oh yes, and a little makeup, sometimes some prosthetics, costumes, props, and lines written by other people, not to mention whatever was created all around them by others, from sets to interplay with other actors to feedback from audiences, and the direction they receive which comes from others, but the lowdown is they use themselves to create these others.

Costume for actor Frédérick Lemaître in "Paris le bohémien" by Joseph Bouchardy, Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, Paris, April 18, 1842

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain
Why this need to share themselves? (Why does this not extend to a need to share details of their private lives? Ah, this is a whole other issue!) We call it expressing ourselves, but as much as a painting is an expression of an individual, the painter smears paint on the canvas, not literally his or her guts! This is not to downplay the personal nature of other arts; I put a lot of myself into my writing and showing it to others is showing others my soul. It's not showing them my whole soul all at once; I can send it out without following it, whereas Bakula, for example, can't send himself out without following. He has to be there. He has to be that. I have to be here, writing, but no one sees the physical me, whereas even if Bakula doesn't have to be there in the movie theatre with us, he sends himself out there. It does make a difference.

Even if an actor is shy, then, must s/he be something of an exhibitionist? More likely it's a cry to be known. If so, it's also a cry to know, because an actor gets to meet his or her creation, and understand and get inside that person, and get that person inside him/herself! So many actors have said they began to act to escape reality but I think many do it (even the same ones who are escaping) to find a reality, even more, to make a reality. They run to as well as from.

Don't we all, in our way?

Källunge kyrka auf Gotland. Hauptportal: Eidesleistung; two people sharing (as this author sees it) in their everyday lives

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Wolfgang Sauber

Ramblings About Actors and Acting -- MIND AND BODY, BODY AND SOUL

The actor Henry Samary, painted by Henri de Toulouse-:autrec, 1889, said painting hanging in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain

Acting is physical. I know I already said that, or at least that emotion is physical but I mean something different this time. There are five actors I can think of offhand who consistently and with absolute integrity "live in their bodies" and I am on shaky ground here trying to explain, even to myself, what I mean by that, especially since although I believe that this physicality is vital to acting, I am not putting these folks forth as the best five actors in the world or anything of the sort. The world is too big and the one percent of its working actors who are superb amount to a great many actors indeed! Still, I do not hesitate to present these five actors as special in the way I am about to describe: they are Alan Bates*, Martin Shaw, Gary Cole, Glenda Jackson and Scott Bakula. I repeat that there are many fine actors about, some of whom have qualities that shine above those of the gang just mentioned, but what I see among other things in these five is that they are so intensely physically present during a role. They don't just say lines, they don't just feel emotions, and they don't just run and/or jump and/or climb and/or fall and/or take off their clothes (and I think Bates takes his clothes off more, and takes off more clothes, than Bakula!) They don't even just use their whole bodies to express themselves, although that's part of what I mean.

I saw Bates in a pretty bad movie once, one of two bad movies he did in the late sixties/early seventies, one called "Very Like a Whale," which is a reference to Hamlet, and the other called "Impossible Object." There is a scene in one of these two bad films (I can't remember which one) in which he is sitting in a chair. That's it. Nothing else about the scene is in any way memorable, at least to me -- just that he was sitting in a chair. Exciting, huh? -- but I remember his hands. They weren't doing anything. He wasn't shaking them or gripping anything with them, clenching them, moving them or in any way calling attention to them. There certainly was no closeup of his hands in that scene. Yet there was turmoil in his heart and I knew everything he was feeling by looking at his hands.

detail of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa; her smile is mysterious; what do her hands reveal?

copyright Wikimedia/public domain

Most of my friends are by now tired of my harping on a particular scene in an inferior but pleasant "Quantum Leap" episode, "Animal Frat." Sam is in the library, trying to persuade Elizabeth to give him another chance, when Duck comes to her "rescue." He and Sam struggle briefly, and he accuses Sam of not caring about ending the war in Vietnam. Sam backs Duck into some shelving and books tumble down onto their heads; this and perhaps Sam's recollection of why he is there effectively stop the fight, and Sam walks away. Suddenly he turns back and, barely containing himself, tells Duck that he lost a brother in Vietnam (this episode precedes the "Leaps Home," in which Sam reverses his brother's fate). As he turns again to leave, Duck shouts out that maybe Sam didn't care enough about his brother. Sam stops but does not turn. We can see everything he's feeling in his back, just as Bates' hands told all. Most likely Bates didn't sit there and think, I am now going to do something with my hands. He probably wasn't even aware of what he was doing with his hands, although he might have been; what an actor intellectualizes and what s/he does intuitively is his or her own business, as long as it works. Bakula surely wasn't thinking, now I'm going to do something with my back. No: he was feeling that pain all over and it came out of his back the way Soon-Teck Oh's death came out of his stomach.

The 1968 Oscar-winning Ken Russell film "Women in Love" has so many scenes in which Bates' physicality is an integral part of his expression of the character as well as of the moment that it is hardly worth picking one or another to describe, but in the same film, Glenda Jackson's dance for the bulls and subsequent taunting of Oliver Reed is astounding. She, like the four gentlemen I mentioned, is so physically present. When she is there, all of her is there.

two actors wearing a costume, 1870s

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Fratelli D'Alessandri

*Alas, the world has lost Bates since I first wrote this article.

Ramblings About Actors and Acting -- SENDING LOVE

Actress demonstrating initial reactions of fear andpanic

copyright Wikimedia Commons/bantosh

Most actors study something called sense memory. This means reproducing in ourselves an emotion we once felt by remembering whatever produced that emotion in us. This sounds difficult; it is.

First of all, those who first try this are tempted to remember the emotion itself. This is rough because emotions are abstract, not concrete, although they produce in us physical reactions which are concrete. How do you remember "love" or "fear"? Sense memory therefore involves a certain amount of trust, both of our own ability to feel the emotion as a result of having the memory, and of our audience's ability to perceive what we are feeling even though we do not try to "pretend" to have those feelings. If we do not trust the audience, we will indicate. If we do not trust ourselves, we will indicate.

If, however, we allow ourselves to remember what our five senses perceived at the time we felt the original emotion, those memories will bring the emotion back to us. If, for example, you are seeking to reproduce fear, remembering a fearful time in a vague way may not be enough. Remembering what we saw, heard, touched, tasted and smelled at that time will bring the emotion to us, and this is where the second problem with sense memory comes into play: no one enjoys feeling fear! If we are not willing to reexperience the negative emotions as well as the positive ones, perhaps acting is not what we should be pursuing.

As for trusting the audience to know what's going on, we would not be wrong to do so, because emotion does not only produce physical reactions in the person feeling it; it is transmissible and produces similar reactions in witnesses.

Elaine Funk taught us to call up emotions two ways: one was purely physical and the other used imagery, often but not always drawn from memory, but became physical. (Emotion, good or bad, is physically stressful.) The imagery we used to call up an emotion was up to us, and depended on what emotion we were after, but it had to be concrete. However, the point finally was not just to call up an emotion but to transmit it. We spent a lot of time and energy transmitting emotions to each other.

Mrs. Funk could knock a person backwards, from a distance, by contracting certain stomach muscles. (I could too and think I still can, but I never do.) She could also attract you to her with different stomach muscle movements. It wasn't hypnosis or magic. It was simply the fact that we are drawn or repelled by the emotions of others -- have you never walked into a room and found the tension in it palpable, even before you noticed the expression on anyone's face? Have you never sat quietly with your husband, wife, lover, friend, not even looking at him or her, but feeling the love s/he has for you and that you have for him/her? This isn't fancy; it's real! To an actor it's a major resource.

We learned to call up sense memories and other imagery and use it to create within ourselves the physical sensations attached to the appropriate emotions, and we learned to tell what those sensations were and how to create them even without the imagery (hey, I can't wiggle my ears but some people can!)


copyright Wikimedia Commons/steenslag

an involved audience

copyright www.sxc,hu/leocub

(After a performance of Lanford Wilson's "Serenading Louie," in which Big Bob had to sit quietly for several minutes, facing the audience, and slowly begin to weep, we asked him what imagery he had used to call up the tears. He told us he was remembering how, when he was a child, his bicycle had been stolen.)

One day Amy's younger brother, Jeb, decided to try something. We were all sitting, as was our custom, in a circle, on the stage, transmitting (we just said "sending") love -- something I was very good at. Ironically, considering that one of my chronic ailments is lupus, which involves an oversensitivity to sunlight, I always sent the sun! I just took the nice, warm sun and put it in my stomach and there it grew and grew and spread all over my body and rayed out to everyone else, and I would find everyone in the circle leaning in toward me, which meant I was sending very strongly. (Later I was able to begin with the warmth in my stomach by controlling the appropriate muscles there, but the results were always much better when I called upon the imagery.) Jeb decided, without telling anyone, to send hate.

We were very disturbed by this. We couldn't have known what Jeb was doing by looking at him because our eyes were closed, but we felt something wrong and one by one opened our eyes to see where the wrongness was coming from. It was Jeb, and he was cramping up and curling into a ball and hiding inside himself and he wouldn't come out. We kept telling him to stop, that he didn't have to do this, but I guess he did; I guess he had to know. He felt pretty sick afterwards. Anger does feed on itself, and although they say revenge is the best medicine, anger really isn't. Jeb was making himself sick, in a relatively safe environment after all (because we refused to return the hatred he was sending out and instead kept sending him love until he had to stop) as a kind of experiment. He never repeated it.

body language


When Bakula is strapped to that bed, Nolan is feeling all that pain, but Bakula has to feel it too in order to transmit it to us. He has to make himself sick, and everyone around him can feel it too, which means the crew must be feeling pretty uncomfortable watching him even from a distance. Acting can be playing but think of all the fear Bakula had to call upon, voluntarily, to play Nolan, or to portray Sam in many episodes of "Quantum Leap," most particularly "Shock Theatre" and "Dreams." Ted Levine may not really have smacked Gary in the face with a shotgun (in a harrowing episode of "Midnight Caller"), but Cole had to feel it, and its aftermath, nonetheless; when Tina died in Jack's arms, it was Cole who had to experience Jack's grief; those were not onion tears, I assure you. Martin Shaw took his lumps, physically and emotionally, in "The Professionals"; in the British TV film "Ladder of Swords," witness his mixed dread and resentment in any of his scenes with Bob Peck.

I was fortunate enough to see two performances, by the East-West Players (another small repertory theatre company, this one in Los Angeles), of the Stephen Sondheim musical "Pacific Overtures." In one performance the male lead was played by the wonderful, underrated and underused (often misused) actor Soon-Teck Oh, who in the other performance played the male lead's wife. As the male lead, Oh was killed; he fell to the ground (the stage, which was not far from any seat in the house; I happened to be right up against it), rolled, and died. As he rolled, the ray of emotion he was sending cut right through me. It was coming from his stomach. I felt his death; I nearly leapt out of my seat.

When at the end of "The Deer Hunter," Christopher Walken put the gun to his head, smiled and shot himself to death that first time we saw it, Erik jumped in his seat; it was not the noise of the gun; he wasn't startled; he wasn't even surprised (we knew it could happen! -- and we had heard louder noises before in the film). He was hit with the sudden absence of the human being who had just been there, and the pain of the one who still remained. That wasn't an intellectual reaction; there was no time for an intellectual reaction. Something had been transmitted.

I have felt what these actors feel, and if I were to work as an actor I know I would have to commit myself to the extent of being willing to feel pain, angst, grief, rage and all manner of extreme unpleasantness when necessary, because otherwise I couldn't be satisfied with my work. I don't think Stockwell could be satisfied with his work either unless he gave of himself like that, and at the same time I don't see his being willing to cross a certain line; that is why I don't think Stockwell would ever take a part like that of Nolan or even Sam (age and the ridiculous concept of type aside); he would take parts he could bear to take. Therefore it is actually Stckwell's integrity which keeps him away from roles that Bakula would accept. (I imagine that Stockwell has enough credibility and respect in Hollywood that he is offered a variety of roles; indeed he has played a variety, some of them fairly challenging.) The pain in "M.I.A." must have been real enough and he did that beautifully, so he was willing to go that far. I don't think a lesser actor would have been willing or able to do so.

drama masks