Writing in The Stage, Mark Shenton gave this example of audience behavior in the theater:
"An audience member at Sunny Afternoon last week told the London Evening Standard how he was "left fuming" when an usher asked him to stop humming along to the show. He genuinely couldn't believe why he was creating a disturbance: "I just find it so bizarre to explain why I was singing at a musical. You pay a lot of money... All I remember is my foot tapping along to the music and humming along. Suddenly I was told, ‘Can you quieten down?’ If it was a drama then yes but if it’s a musical you expect to be allowed to sing along to some of the songs that you remember from your youth.”
I share this man's outrage--when I was at the ballet some of the people sitting near me had the temerity to take exception when I did an interpretive dance in my seat.
Shenton also relates stories of people in the audience texting, taking photos, and even taking calls during performances.
That's in addition to the older custom of people chatting away during performances, as though they were sitting on their sofa at home. One time when I turned around and asked the people behind me to quiet down, one of them gasped, "How rude!"
Still, that was a mild response compared to one time when a friend and I politely asked a group of people at a movie in Los Angeles to be quiet. They said they'd see us in the parking lot after the movie. It was only when one of the more brightly-lit scenes illuminated the audience that we realized they were gang members. We left early.
I think we need to wire theater seats and give talkers and texters and hummers a few thousand volts. There could be some fatalities, but it would be worth it.
"Meaningless quotes are nature's way of telling you to think for yourself." - Anonymous (all right, it was me)
Spring.org.uk cited a study of quotes, featuring these from Deepak Chopra:
"Imagination is inside exponential space time events."
"Nature is a self-regulating ecosystem of awareness."
Chopra has 2.5 million followers on Twitter. A late friend of mine was approached to teach at Chopra's institute and met with him, but came away with the impression that Chopra's main goal was generating revenue. Of course that was only his opinion, I don't have any personal experience with Chopra. He's written more than 20 New York Times best-sellers, so obviously he's impressing a lot of people.
As the Spring article says, vagueness often disguises a lack of meaning. It seems to work even better if it's accompanied by a photo of someone climbing a mountain or crossing a finish line.
Do It Yourself Meaningless Quotes
You can come up with meaningless quotes yourself. Mix one from column A, one from Column B, and one from column C:
can be defined as
what you do every day
what nature reveals
what the angels whisper
what you already know
Add a picture of the earth in space or a child looking at a flower and you're all set!
Please feel free to share this post with people who email you meaningless quotes.
A report on Cnet news says that an artificial intelligence program called Sheherazade is able to create interactive choose-your-own adventure fiction.
It's not quite ready to kick us out of our chairs yet. According to a paper published by the program's creators, "At this point, human-authored narrative still remains the most cost-effective means of generating an interactive narrative experience."
Sure, because cost-effectiveness is how to judge fiction. Actually, given how little most writers earn, it's hard to imagine anything being more cost-effective.
Still, we can't be complacent. Here's how the paper sees the future:
"Open interactive narrative shows promise in reducing authorial burden in the near future."
Authorial burden? I didn't even realize that writing was a burden...
It goes on, "Sheherazade-IF and the lessons we learned in creating and evaluating it serve as a first step in creating human-quality interactive narrative with almost no human authoring required."
What will we writers do with all that free time once AI has freed us from the heavy lifting involved in making up stories? Perhaps join a conspiracy to destroy the robots?
Here's a word I hope doesn't catch on, as used in Entrepreneur magazine:
"When new hires are onboarded at iCracked..."
When they're fired, are they made to walk the plank?
Written by Joan Acocela in The New Yorker in a review of Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games
"There is a certain kind of theatrical spectacle at loose today--think Cirque du Soleil or the Olympics opening ceremony--that unites such things as videos of white stallions, great belches of flame, and what look to be projections of H-bomb tests with squads of women who appear to hail from cosmetics ads. To judge from the song lyrics, all the people involved have a 'dream,' and it eventually comes true, for optimism is as central as hyperbole to this genre."
ONLINE SECURITY TIP
A lot of sites use "What was the name of your first pet?" as a security question. The problem is that we tend to be pretty unimaginative in naming our first pets, so it's not hard for hackers to get a match if they run a list of typical pet names. I've forgotten where I've read this tip, but the suggestion was to make your answer the name of your favorite author instead. The odds are small that hackers will have Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut or Margaret Atwood on their list of pet names.
LEAST COMPELLING CONTEST PRIZE OF THE MONTH
"Win a fact-finding forest trip to a European paper mill" ...(but if this does excite you, go to www.twosides.info/competition).
OPRAH IN THE SLAMMER!?
Click bait: Links that say something like, "Ten celebrities who have criminal records!" and show a picture of (for instance) Oprah Winfrey. Really? Oprah has a criminal record? Well, no (at least as far as I know). When you click, you'll see ten celebrities who have criminal records, but the person pictured won't be one of them.
BE POPULAR, PAINT YOUR HEAD BLUE!
In the crazy statistics department: "According to one study, 85% of shoppers say color is the primary reason they buy a product." I'm sure there are some contexts in which that's true (maybe socks?) but as a generic statement it's ridiculous. By the way, apparently blue is the most popular color.
FAREWELL, BIG AND PUMPED SYLVESTER?
And in the totally false category, I spotted a link that said, "Good-bye Sylvester Stallone." He died? Nope, the article says the producers of the "Expendables" series have asked him not to appear in future installments because obviously he is using too many illegal steroids. That's not true, either (at least the part about him being asked to exit the series--he started it and he is one of the producers). The site is shilling some kind of supplement that supposedly legally increases your natural human growth hormone.
I've just spotted another link that says "Judi Dench is gone," with the subhead "We bid farewell to Dame Judi." I refuse to open it but am happy to report that Dame Judi is still with us.
It's not just "buyer beware" but "reader beware"...and also advertiser beware and reviewer beware...
HEY, THAT ROBOT IS DRIVING A CHRYSLER!
Advertisers who think they are buying eyeballs often actually are getting robots. A Bloomberg Business report gave the example of a Chrysler ad on a site for a food and travel lifestyle magazine. Only two percent of their ads were seen by humans. Bloomberg writes: "Fake traffic has become a commodity. There's malware for generating it and brokers who sell it."
POST A BAD REVIEW? YOU'LL PAY!
Meanwhile, some companies are trying to force customers not to post negative reviews about their products. Techdirt.com reports that The US Federal Trade Commission is suing Roca Labs, makers of weight-loss products, for violating federal law by warning buyers that by purchasing their products they agreed not to write negative reviews --and to pay hefty fines if they do so.
Yep, Roca Labs said if you posted a negative review--even one that's honest and non-defamatory--you'd have to pay $100,000 in damages! Hmm, what were they so worried about?
Roca Labs apparently did go ahead and sue some people who complained, but dropped the lawsuits.
The FTC also alleges that Roca Labs didn't reveal that it paid users to post positive reviews.
What do they make, anyway? A "non-surgical gastric bypass"--red gunk (industrial food thickeners mainly, apparently) that "dramatically limits your stomach capacity" (because it's full of red gunk). They also have "Anti-Cravings" that, according to their site, "empowers you to easily overcome cravings for snacks" and a reinforcement red pill which the site says is "magic." Well, that last part sounds pretty honest. When somebody tries to sell you magic, you kind of know what to expect.
The FTC stated, "Unfortunately for consumers, Defendants are simply selling common, dietary fibers with exaggerated claims at a grossly inflated cost. Their weight-loss claims lack any scientific basis, and are often flat-out false."
Interestingly, when I checked the website it said "Roca Labs' site is undergoing improvements for the next few days and new customers cannot be accepted." I wonder whether deleting the requirement not to post negative reviews is part of the improvement.
PS: By reading this post, you agree not to leave any negative comments, or else you have to buy me one of those big new iPads.
It's always interesting to me how much writers and artists have in common. In the video below, animator Gil Keane ("The Little Mermaid," "Tarzan," Beauty and the Beast") draws characters in space using a virtual reality headset and talks about what art represents: freedom. Here are a few quotes:
'When you draw, you're expressing something that's real, visceral."
"By making a line, it's sort of a seismograph of your soul."
"When I animate, there's a frustration I have, wishing that the flatness of the paper would go away and I could actually dive in."
"I would draw not to do a drawing but so I could step in and live in that world."
I wonder what new options virtual reality will open up not only for artists, but also for writers.
(if the video is not visible below, please use this link: https://vimeo.com/138790270
Somebody has come up with the word "phubbing," meaning using or being distracted by your cellphone while in the company of their relationship partners.
It comes out of a study at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business which concluded, not too surprisingly, "...When someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction. Those "in turn led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression."
The depressing behaviour:
* placing your phone where you can see it when you're with someone else
* keeping your phone in your hand when talking to someone else
* glancing at your phone while talking to someone else
* checking your phone when there is a lull in the conversation
In the study, 46% of respondents reported being phubbed by their partner.
Of course you don't do this, but do you know anybody who does? Why not forward this post to them as a gentle hint? Or maybe the cartoon that's in the next post.
Science Daily reports: "Texting while walking and being cognitively distracted may significantly affect the way a person walks, resulting in a more cautious gait, according to a study published July 29, 2015, in the open-access Journal PLOS ONE led by Dr. Conrad Earnest of Texas A&M University and colleagues from the University of Bath, UK."
Uh, yep. You could have sent that research money to me or anybody else who has ever walked down a busy street. My problem is that people who walk and text don't make their gait cautious enough. I regularly have to dodge them, although it's tempting to stick out an elbow and wait.
That journal seems to be determined to report walking and texting around the world. Last year they reported: "Texting on your phone while walking alters posture and balance according to a study in PLOS ONE on January 22, 2014 by Siobhan Schabrun and colleagues from the University of Queensland."
Last but not least, a study at the University of Buffalo reports, "Texting and walking is a known danger, but an emergency doctor says distracted walking results in more injuries per mile than distracted driving. Consequences include bumping into walls, falling down stairs, tripping over clutter, and stepping into traffic. The issue is so common that in London bumpers were placed onto light posts along a frequented avenue to prevent people slamming into them."
There's the answer for us non-texting pedestrians: wear bumpers!
Want to increase your happiness? Are there any strategies that have been shown to work--not just anecdotally, but scientifically?
Yes, and I'm finding them in an excellent book, :59 seconds, written by Richard Wiseman. It's named that because at the end of each chapter he gives you tips for things you can accomplish in about a minute.
First, what doesn't work:
In a New York Times article about how emails are getting shorter, Teddy Wayne quotes John Freeman (author of "The Tyranny of E-Mail"). Freeman says that even people who don't work in film "know what the 'L.A. no' is: that silence is a reply."
In other words, no reply is the new "no."
That's been the case for a while with publishers and agents. Their websites usually say if you don't hear back, assume they're not interested. The more considerate ones give you a time frame: if you haven't heard back from us within six weeks," for instance.
I suppose in some ways this is no worse than getting the stock rejections they used to send out: "Thank you for thinking of us but your material doesn't meet our present needs. We wish you success placing it elsewhere." It feels worse, though. No matter how insincere that wish that may have been, there was something very civilized about it.
It's one of the many niceties that have been sacrificed in the interests of speed and convenience and cost-cutting. It goes along with another thing Freeman points out: "People are becoming more reactive, and within that context, the concentration required to write a longer, thoughtful email isn't around."
Wayne writes, "Now, hunger to hear from others can often be sated by bite- and byte-size portions of a thousand different petit fours from acquaintances' status updates, rather than an email's intimate candlelit dinner for two."
Not that long ago (although eons in internet time), people were lamenting that emails had replaced the thoughtful, sometimes handwritten, letters we used to receive.
Now the nostalgia is for long emails.
I hear that emails in general are in decline, replaced more and more by texts.
It's only a matter of time before all messages will just be emojis, to which my response is :(
If I don't hear from you, I'll assume you agree. I call that The London Yes.
Here are some actual newspaper headlines recently featured on the Odd Stuff Magazine site:
"Bugs flying around with wings are flying bugs"
"Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25"
"Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons"
"Student excited dad got head job"
"Missippi's literacy program shows improvement"
"Homicide victims rarely talk to police"
and my favorite...
"One-armed man applauds the kindness of strangers"