How I Gave Up Watching The News And Became A Blogger

My parents are 24 hour news junkies.  Have been ever since we got our first cable tv subscription back in the late 1980s.  Memories of my pre teen years involve seeing the Berlin Wall come down, the First Gulf War updates every evening, and the fall of the Soviet Union.  It didn’t become apparent how ridiculous the idea of paying attention to every little thing that came across CNN (or Constantly Negative News as I think of it now) until the O.J. Simpson trial and the President Clinton impeachment hearings during my teen years.  I saw grown adults give up their lunch hours and heard teachers spend entire class periods rehashing everything that was covered in these news programs.  I paid more attention to the Columbine shootings in April 1999 because the killers were my age and I had friends who were as much outcasts as those guys.  But even that was depressing as it wasn’t like my elders already thought kids and young adults were worthless and bad news.

I finally started to free myself of the drug of 24 hour news in the months after 9/11.  I just got tired of seeing the death and devastation replayed all the time.  I was only starting my mental illness treatment at the time, so I was still mentally fragile in the first place.  To replace my usual news watching, I started reading.  I read many of the classics of literature, some philosophy, much history, quite a bit of economics, and many of the greats of poetry.  I didn’t believe in reading summaries or commentaries because I figured I could understand the masters just fine by myself.  I came to believe that some of the ‘experts’ of academia and culture were often way off when I saw a speaker on C-Span and I could have refuted many of his arguments.  I thought to myself ‘I know as much as this guy speaking and he has an audience.’  Shortly afterward I started putting my thoughts into writing.  This was in 2003 to 2004, so right before blogging and youtube really took off.

After a couple years of writing poems and journals, I sat out to write a novel.  It was loosely based on my experiences at a Christian college and some of the people I knew during those years.  I wrote a novel (and thus crossed off one of the items on my ‘bucket list’).  It was during this time I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about how many of the myths of mental illness are not true.  I was published as a guest columnist and got some positive response to that essay.  After that I wrote a series of essays concerning my life with a mental illness.  I decided to self publish these and actually sold a few dozen copies.  I self published my novel and some poetry too.  My novel wasn’t very good and neither was the second novel I wrote.  Now I know I can’t do good fiction.  Which is reasonable as I really don’t like reading fiction.  That’s why I concentrate on blogging now.

With the fact I spend much of my time online researching for this blog (and to satisfy my mental curiosity), I do pick up on a lot of what goes on in the world.  Needless to say I pick up on lots of negative news as a byproduct of researching.  But, unlike my parents and most of my friends, I do not agonize over the news.  Case in point, the upcoming elections here in the United States.  There isn’t anything I can’t learn about any of the candidates or major issues I couldn’t learn in a few hours of intense internet research.  I do not need to hear everything said at every speech and rally for a year and a half.  All of that is window dressing and background noise.  I do not need to know every detail about every mass shooting and terrorist attack.  If all I did was listen to bad news, I would have given up hope a long time ago.  Your odds of dying from the flu, or a workplace accident, or heart disease are much higher than dying in a terrorist attack or a plane crash.

I know humans are naturally drawn to bad news because it was a good survival strategy when we were still living in caves during the Ice Ages.  If you missed bad news then, you wound up eaten by a saber tooth cat and you were out of the gene pool. Those old habits are tough to break.  Our species grew up when most of what effecting us was within a day’s walk.  If there was an earthquake or volcanic eruption on the other side of the world, you never knew it.  Now we know every calamity that happens anywhere within moments.  And we respond to it like our caveman ancestors responding to an immediate threat.  That is probably the major source of our present day anxiety.

I try to explain to people the good things going on and I don’t get much of a response.  I also tell them that agonizing and worrying about murder and mayhem not in their hometowns are making them miserable and they can’t do anything about it.  Most people look at me like I’m an idiot for telling them to stop agonizing over the news. I used to love 24 hour news and doom as much as anyone.  But when I stopped to see why most of these dire predictions never came true or were more manageable than previously thought, that’s when I came to realize that most of what we hear in our media is heavily distorted.  It may all be true, but it isn’t the entire truth.  Yes there are mass shootings.  But there are also space probes exploring strange worlds in our solar system.  Yes there is political corruption.  But there is also lots of good works being done by common people everyday.  To quote the classic movie ‘Network’ , “Television is the illusion.  You people are the real thing.”  Once I began to see the illusion for only part of the story, I changed my focus on what was going on bad news wise and started focusing on what was going right.  The best changes in history have always started with small groups of committed individuals who had visions and acted on those visions.  I am trying to debunk many of the myths of mental illness and stir in people more empathy and compassion for the problems of the mentally ill with this blog.  It probably won’t change the world or even make me a dollar of revenue.  But I am just one of many.  I will speak to whomever I can get to listen.  And I will not wallow in sorrow because the news told me there was another mass shooting or my political leaders are corrupt lawbreakers.

Random Ramblings on Hollywood Movies

I’m going to go off tangent for this post and write on some random thoughts I have had over the last few years.  I’ll try to keep this more light hearted than some of my previous posts.

Why are space aliens in the movies usually such jerks?  The aliens from ‘Independence Day’, the foes of Sigourney Weaver from ‘Alien’, the large bugs from those campy ‘Starship Troopers’ movies (I actually liked that movie as I had a thing for Denise Richards in high school), the ‘Predator’ series, and the Empire from Star Wars are key examples.  Even Star Trek got in on less than pleasant aliens with the war loving Klingons and anal retentive Vulcans (though I absolutely loved Mr. Spock as the perfect compliment to Captain Kirk).  Only occasionally are there cool aliens featured in Hollywood like Superman, E.T., Yoda, and the Avatar aliens. And that’s about it, besides the trippy aliens from ‘2001.’ You would think any species that is advanced enough to master deep space travel would have abandoned their violent and animalist natures centuries before they set out to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before.’

Why are most movies about the future dystopic?  Most movies about the future are like the Terminator series, the Matrix trilogy, Equilibrium, Gattaca, Brave New World, etc.  Even H.G. Wells presented a real lousy future in ‘The Time Machine’ clear back in the late 1800s.  Can anyone show me any movies about the future where the future isn’t hellish?  I can think only of Star Trek and it’s various spinoffs and Futurama.  But even Futurama features immoral crackpot scientists and alcoholic robots who want to “kill all humans.” Seriously Hollywood, come up with some futuristic movies where the future doesn’t suck.

Why is it rich people or large corporations are always villains in Hollywood movies?  Who decided that having money makes you evil and being poor is virtuous?  Yeah I get that the Bible said “It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven.”  But the Bible, like many ancient works, is full of metaphors.  That’s how people get ideas across.  I use raging torrents of metaphors all the time.  If there were no metaphors there would be no music, no poetry, no religion, no philosophy, no literature, and no culture.  But I have known enough poor people, enough rich people, and enough middle class people to know that having money, or not, does not make or break your character.  All social economic classes have their share of jerks, saints, sinners, humanitarians, cranks, heroes, and losers.  Why are companies dumping toxic waste into rivers and supposedly holding back future technologies getting award winning documentaries made about their evils and the companies that develops life saving medicines and better yielding crops get maybe a thirty minute snippet on the Discovery Channel?  Seriously, where is the good news from big business version of Michael Moore?

Why does Hollywood feel compelled to roll out remakes of movies from the 1980s that usually weren’t that good to begin with? How many sequels do we really need?  I’m just waiting for the suits at the studios to roll out remakes of ‘The Princess Bride’, ‘The Breakfast Club’, and ‘Platoon.’ I heard a few days ago they are doing another Indiana Jones’ movie.  Harrison Ford has got to be in his seventies by now.  How much treasure can his tired old bones carry? Once again Hollywood, you’re running out of good ideas.  Maybe you should just let movie goers submit suggestions at the theaters or your Facebook pages.  Really, how many remakes of campy 1980s movies are we going to get subjected to before movie goers revolt in mass and just subscribe to Netflix or Hulu?

I have to admit I haven’t been to the movies in almost two years.  Most of the movie watching I do is on my computer with Netflix or Youtube.  I haven’t gone back because it just seems too much hassle to fight traffic, pay for a ticket, buy overpriced sodas and treats only to watch the same worn out story line over and over while the kid sitting behind me kicks the back of my chair as someone’s cell phone rings every five minutes.  Maybe I’m getting picky in my old age and not being hip or keeping up with the young people.  But I wasn’t hip even as a young person.  I love watching movies, don’t get me wrong.  I just love watching them at home.  In movie theaters they get kind of picky about people eating pizza and hot wings while having a beer during the show.  But I love the freedom of being able to watch movies at home.  Long live the Internet.