Getting your Phil 1/23/18

It seems like I'm being inundated with Phil Rosenthal recently. Everywhere I turn is Phil Rosenthal. Of course that may heavily depend on where I turn. So, despite his omnipresence in my world, I wouldn't be surprised if someone else had never even heard of Phil Rosenthal.

Phil Rosenthal helped create and produce and write a little show called, "Everybody Loves Raymond." That show did...alright. Phil's a funny guy and partially based "Everybody Loves Raymond" on his life and his parents. After the show's success satiated one hunger for Phil, he moved on to another hunger - his love of food. He hosted a food travel show, originally airing on PBS, called, "I'll Have What Phil's Having." The show was a wild success, at least with me. But obviously it was a little successful with some other people too because it led Netflix to secure him to host a food travel show called, "Somebody Feed Phil." The show's 1st season recently released and Phil has been in the process of promoting it (hence the aforementioned omnipresence). - I'll have what Phil's having IMDB - Somebody Feed Phil IMDB

None of that is my focus though. My focus is on a documentary Phil made that detailed bringing his sitcom, "Everybody Loves Raymond," to Russia. The documentary is called, "Exporting Raymond." Many of the same tools of storytelling Phil utilized in "Exporting Raymond" were also employed later in his food series. And the overall message is also the same: That traveling and expanding your world and meeting other people and learning about other lives is often worthwhile. He maintains that food culture provides a good route to the larger culture. So, his thesis is that wherever you go the people are just that, people. And all people eat. Eating often plays a special role (in a good way) in a person's life and their culture. So a good way to reach people is through their food. 

Any of Phil's outputs: "Exporting Raymond," "I'll Have What Phil's Having," or "Somebody Feed Phil," provide entertaining illustrations of a smiling Phil out of water, or more accurately a smiling Phil in a different pond. But, no matter where you find Phil, or Phil finds Phil, Phil knows the best way to get his bearings always starts in the stomach. - Exporting Raymond IMDB

Theatre Thursday 4/21/16

We, as a society, are quickly descending down a hole of streaming content. In some ways the eager gorging makes sense. For the most part, past show times and content were dictated to us. Options dramatically increased as cable networks and premium channels grew out of network TV. Compared to now, where entire seasons drop all at once, we still had fairly limited choices. Now, in our brave new world, only self-control stands between us and the hefty stream of material at our finger tips. Turns out that human beings aren’t necessarily that great at self-control.

Binge watching or bingeing integrates a term that already implies excess. We reflexively derisively refer to it, recognizing the negative potential that so much so quickly entails. The problem isn’t necessarily in the provider. It’s amazing and wonderful that so much high quality content can arrive all at once. The problem lies in the viewer’s self-discipline. We determine, for better or worse, our own fate.

For certain shows I really miss the longer opportunity to digest material. I liked reading well-thought out material and hearing well formulated opinions.

I’m basing most of my opinions on experiences with moderate to heavy use of Netflix, very light use of Amazon Prime, and living American life. Based on those experiences I would suggest, surprise surprise to those who know me, adopting a middle ground. “Everything in moderation, even moderation - Oscar Wilde (I think).”

I believe a season should only drop 1/2 at a time. In essence it would just end up createng two shorter seasons in one, but with the opportunity for season long story arcs to span the length. This approach could even potentially start only in the second season once response is established and gauged. In my view this method would allow both the service to advertise more while also allowing the viewer a little more time to digest. I know the era of the full single episode recaps no longer exists but this way, partial season recaps could issue along with an additional opportunity for speculation. Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu could advertise season 2.5 or 3.5 while also allowing additonal time for the audience to really chew on the material. 

I know, for me specifically, I benefit greatly from an extended chance to rehash material. Part of the benefit to everyone involved is making it more memorable - which I would assume platforms would want (?). In fact, there have even been whole movies that escaped my memory partially because they were never reiterated to me. A mediocre movie may contribute to my lack of recollection as well as no reiteration but the risk of non-success should have factored in well before the reiteration stage. In fact none of the potential negatives that already exist with the production of content really change much. The only thing that really changes is that the opportunity for discussion and advertising and marketing increases with some additional paticience from the audience. 

In reality, a person would have a difficult time viewing an entire season of something in one sitting (and while I know they do, I don’t really want to encourage it). It’s called bingeing for a reason and just as I don't see excessive consumption of drugs as a plus I don’t see excessive consumption of media content as a plus either.

I think the way I propose providing content still allows for large intake but the intake is slightly regulated by circumstance. And that regulation allows for the content to play a more prevelant role in life. Additionally, each episode takes on more importance and must therefore be better because it comprises a larger proportion of the segment from which it came. Self-discipline it seems doesn’t have too much of a downside.

Unfortunately, what I suggest will never happen. Something being “bad for people” won’t necessarily discourage anyone. If one platform decides to limit content a competitor will release all at once and consumers, thinking that bigger must be better, more is always preferable to less, won’t take the time to consider the nuances. In the American fashion, they will simmply choose to have more sooner and the marketplace will eliminate the more deliberate option. Of course, in the same way, any one addicted to a drug is going to choose more of that drug over health. It’s the same here.

In the end providers just listen to the viewers. If the viewers signify a desire for a more thoughtful delivery then maybe the providers won’t feel obligated to quickly spew it all out at once.

Theatre Thursday 4/7/16

Theatre Thursday 4/7/16

April 7, 2016 in Theatre Thursday

A few weeks ago I went to the dentist. The presumed fairly mundane task escalated in my mind to high philosophical conundrums flowing from comic book based TV. As the technician cleaned my teeth he inquired whether I had watched the most recent season of Daredevil on Netflix. I had not seen most, yet. I had started it but not progressed deeply. Tastefully consuming rather than excessively binging. As I lay back in the chair, sharp metal tools in my mouth, he went on to express his understanding and eventual support for the Punisher’s character. Learning the story of the Punisher helped persuade him. Given the situation, I lacked the ability to express any type of question. Nodding and gargled mumbling amounted to the extent of my response.

There’s a scene in Season 2 of Daredevil between Daredevil and the Punisher where they discuss and defend their own philosophies, with Daredevil chained to a brick chimney. It’s not the typical setting for an ethical debate or any debate at all. I don’t think I’m spoiling too much by the revelation. The gist of it is already in the trailer. But you don’t really need to have Netflix or even watch the show to understand.

The Punisher kills. Often gruesomely. Mercilessly. Coldly. Almost mechanically. Yet as you learn his back story he’s almost sympathetic. He only kills the “deserving.”

Alternatively, Daredevil refuses to kill. While he internally battles the decision he ultimately sees even the tiniest possibility of redemption in almost everyone. His mantra involves letting the legal system mete out the appropriate punishment.

Undeniably, one person choosing to “punish” evil doers, especially someone so good at it, appeals. But, bestowing such ultimate power on any one person also implies almost infallibility. What if they punish with death and are wrong? Whoops? It’s difficult for a corpse to respond to, “my bad.”

So, while in theory a punisher inflicting death on the “bad” sounds great, in reality it necessitates a tremendous level of faith in one person that I certainly don’t possess. To me it also means zero possibility of redemption (unless the redeemable should also suffer death but that’s a different debate). I don’t find absolutes very appealing.

Take another example from popular culture, Darth Vader (or I guess it would be Anikan Skywalker) saved his son, Luke, from death in Return of the Jedi. I realize that it’s both fictional and mostly unexamined in the film, but Darth Vader was one bad dude. And the point of examining fictional scenarios, like Return of the Jedi or Daredevil, is that they aid in examining and settling real life (IRL) points of view.

I’m NOT saying not to punish bad people. What I am saying is stop them, stop their bad actions, and let society determine the appropriate punishment rather than one individual. Also, killing implies zero positive potential in a person (again if you care about redeem-ability at all). Having been a living person I understand how one moment can differ from the next. Sure it’s fine for society to respond to an action, I’m just saying that a response short of death allows more for fallibility, a common and overwhelmingly present characteristic in all human people.

The dental technician even stated how his opinion of the Punisher changed after learning more. But, applying the Punisher’s mentality would not afford him the opportunity to learn more. As so eloquently put by a former POTUS, the decision is up to the “decider.” Here the decision is life or death. Immediately, in the squeeze of a trigger, life or death. No chance or opportunity to learn about the past or the reasoning. The Punisher’s backstory holds no water.

As a human person, one who believes in at least the possibility of personal evolution and change, I think that I share Daredevil’s perspective in the debate.

Taco Tuesday 4/5/16

Taco Tuesday 4/5/16

April 5, 2016 in Taco Tuesday

Music didn’t suddenly disappear from existence on Monday. But I kind of did. I was traveling, but fear not! Musical Mondays will return very soon. Probably as soon as next week. In the interim, time continues its forward march. And, to form, today is already Taco Tuesday. Yum. 

Awhile ago, on the FBook, I shared a link to an episode of the “Chef’s Table” on Netflix. The episode centered around the chef, Dan Barber. Dan Barber, to me, is the restauranteur equivalent of Michael Pollan. 

As I established earlier, I really like Michael Pollan. In case you missed it, I recommend watching any or all of “Cooked” on Netflix (A four episode documentary, 1 hr an episode). Even more I recommend reading “Cooked,” the book by the same name goes much more in depth. Mr. Pollan authored a number of other books, including “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which I think all schools should teach and all earthlings in general should read.

So, if you find Michael Pollan even slightly as interesting, as I do, then I feel like Dan Barber puts some similar thoughts into practice in his restaurants. 

Dan Barber puts a lot of emphasis on the idea of responsibility. Now I hate when the ideas of responsibility and kindness are conflated. Your kind acts are not “responsible” acts, they are nice acts. But, in a way, I guess they are responsible too.

Shoot. I just used a thought about what Dan Barber does to sink my own concept of responsibility. See, it’s easy to extend responsibility only to your immediate actions. In fact, I think you should at the least do that. However, you're a person, I’m a person, we’re all people. So even if we’ve never met, if you believe that your actions have even minor consequences, a “butterfly effect,” then every person alive, or still to live, will receive some effect from what you do. 

In Dan Barber’s terminology, your actions deposit or withdraw from a collective bank. The account does not belong to just you, it belongs to each person alive. Dan Barber believes that crop rotation equals depositing in the bank. People eat lots of wheat. Farm land needs crop rotation in order to replenish minerals and grow wheat. Otherwise the farm suffers significant soil depletion. By creating a demand for the necessary crops for rotation one human encourages a farmer to rotate crops. That rotation equals the best wheat for all people. With a little longer, big picture view, it’s responsible to everyone, including yourself, to rotate crops. So it’s good selfish to be responsible. I suggest being good selfish and learning about Dan Barber.


Taco Tuesday 3/29/16

Taco Tuesday 3/29/16

March 29, 2016 in Taco Tuesday

My credo when it comes to eating reflects the influence of Michael Pollan. He’s an author and liver of life, a renaissance man after my own heart. He’s written a number of books that I hold dear (including Omnivore's Dilemma) and currently produces a 4 episode documentary series on Netflix called, “Cooked,” named after his book also titled, oddly enough, “Cooked.” 

Mr. Pollan, probably Michael or Mike to his friends, encourages any person to eat whatever they want. Really. That’s the diet. Anything at all. The only catch to the recipe of abundance is that whatever you do eat, the sky being the limit, make it yourself. From scratch. Suddenly your unadulterated fantasies, untamed by your own skill quickly shrink to a more manageable size constrained significantly by reality. Maybe those brownies or that pie will be a very occasional treat instead of an every night occurrence.

Sure, that probably means less fun overall. But it also means that you’ll gain knowledge and become more skilled and become less dependent and possibly become more resilient and generally just become better. In the end it helps to turn food back into more of what it originally existed as, a means of survival, and less the mindless and meaningless binge it has become.