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From obsession to mad obsession

The self-imposed news embargo has been good for me in many ways.  It’s a nice balance. I still listen to the news during my daily commute – a little NPR is always good for the soul. 🙂  And I read the occasional news article – usually the NY Times.  But that’s where it begins and ends.

The news embargo is really all about TV and the endless 24×7 news cycle.  Sure, I like a little bit of Rachel Maddow now and a little bit of Anderson Cooper then but all of it has come to a screeching halt for me, by choice.  That’s  because a little bit of something good does not make up for a whole lot of endless talk on the crappy state of politics today.  And whoever wants to hear this ill-equipped President talk??!  Pardon me while I hold my nose in disgust.

This is a sampler of some of today’s news that I happily missed out on as it was being regurgitated on TV.  Did I say “happily”?  I meant it!

Sampler of News I Missed Out On - CNNInstead, I’ve switched my loyalties and am now getting more deeply immersed into streaming web content – of the fictional kind.  Turns out, I was really out-of-date and had years worth of catching-up on this content.  And it’s been a wonderful ride playing catch up!

What I’ve found so far is that it’s going to be hard to top Mad Men.  But then I got to Downton Abbey.  [It’s still hard to top bad boy Don Draper…].  And waiting in the wings to be watched, what else but The West Wing?  What a great substitute for reality that show will be…

Watching such well-produced shows, whenever I want to and for as long as I want to has been amazing and satisfying.  But it’s also easy to get addicted.  So, I have been forced to impose time limits on myself – no more than an hour a day. A couple of weeks ago, I had to travel across the world and when jet lag hit me in the middle of the night, guess what I resorted to?  I broke all my rules and limits.  But that was truly the exception.

And then when a really good series ends, one has to pause and celebrate it while also (literally) mourning the end of it.  It was much too sad to see Mad Men come to an end with such finality.  I felt like I had lost a limb for a couple of days there.   I am about to be at the midpoint of Downton Abbey (six seasons in all) and I am already projecting the loss of having watched it all.  It’s a good thing that there’s a movie coming out this Summer to help us lost souls.

All good things must come to an end and the end of each of these series often feels like the end of a fantastic journey.   Sadly,  the end also arrives sooner than expected or desired. It’s both compelling and entertaining to watch the drama of these fictional characters play out.  It’s certainly easier to bear than the drama created by the non-fictional characters of our time (which often eclipses theirs).  That’s what happens when you get a reality show “leader” to run your country…more ridiculous twits and twats.

One day when we have reestablished the norms of decency, civility, dignity and humanity into the highest office of this country (I can dream, can’t I?),  I will likely return to watching the daily news and opinions.  Until then, I will savor fiction in the form of this persuasive new age of storytelling with the most interesting and intriguing characters I have witnessed in a long time – on demand, as and when I wish it.  Can’t beat that.

Streaming Series SamplerHa! Just look at this sampler of glorious stories (and that’s without Game of Thrones). There’s no comparison on what option to spend your precious hour a day on, is there?  It’s altogether a different feeling when you see fictional characters develop and act out their parts, good and bad.  I’m all for focusing on their compelling stories instead – especially when talking about the bad characters. So much easier to tolerate when you know that it’s all fiction!

In today’s climate and with time being at such a premium,  I find that fiction easily trumps reality.

It’s a mad, mad, mad world

While I was disconnected to writing for way too long, in that interim, two unbelievable examples of the human species became power centers, one on either side of the world.  Can you say narcissist?  And that’s not even the worst of it.  That’s me being kind for a change. Sadly but inevitably, the worlds around these all-powerful leaders shifted and morphed as well. Transient change, one hopes. Hope is a beautiful thing even if it does tend to trick your mind sometimes.

It was so dispiriting to watch and experience these worlds to the point that a few weeks ago, I decided I had enough disgust to last a lifetime (mostly in the Western hemisphere). I needed a timeout – a self-imposed news embargo, from the interminable news cycles that were spinning out of control. I found that giving up my news addiction was an unexpectedly easy habit to form. That’s saying something for a (recovering) news junkie. There was no more devouring of news of any kind except for my daily ten minutes of skimming the headlines of The Times.  Especially no more TV news channels, the kind with talking heads, 24 x 7. And amazingly, nothing drastic happened.  My life continued. And, if anything, I gained back a modicum of peace of mind and a better quality of life. 

So then I began to have this gap hour every evening where I suddenly had the freedom to explore my options. I could read I suppose but I already had other reading stints during my day and night. I could spend more time checking out stuff on my smartphone, but I am smart enough to know that it was only making an idiot out of me.

Switch instead to binge worthy streaming content and a whole new world opened up.  Depending on the show, it was some combination of messy, real, fantastical, down-to-earth, historical, contemporary, futuristic, melodramatic, creepy, funny, sad, mad and more.  Pure delightful, sometimes disturbing, concoctions that had to be forcefully (if not always successfully) controlled from becoming binge consumption to bite sized entertainment.  After too many hours of working, I had found a safe haven of fiction that kept me away from the real news of the day helping to restore my sanity and relax my mind at the same time, even if only for an hour each evening.

And that’s how I finally got around to watching one of the olden goldies of Mad_Men_Logoepisodic content – the brilliantly produced, Mad Men series. It goes back a long time,  all the way to 2007 when the series first aired. That’s ancient for this kind of popular content and I was only now getting to see what all that excitement had been about.

No, not dreamy Jon Hamm.  Although, that one is incredibly….talented!  😉   The Elisabeth_Moss_and_Jon_Hamm_of_Mad_Men_-_5054230830entire show (and I’m only done with the first season) is so very well done.  And as I savored each moment of each episode, rationing myself to one a day, I realized something obvious that was also rather profound.

We have come a long way.  Baby.

Mad Men is set in the world of advertising of Madison Avenue, circa 1960.  To give an idea, here’s a description of Episode 1 of Season 1: New York City, 1960s. In the ego-driven Golden Age of advertising, everyone is selling something and nothing is what it seems.

This show pulls you in right from that beginning and doesn’t want to let you go.  

On the one hand, I was thoroughly delighting in the engrossing drama and entertaining art of it all. And on the other, I watched in horror the deplorable behavior of men and the abuse that women of those times were putting up with it. In the series, I watched the incessant smoking, the three martini “business” lunches, the business men, the advertising executives (all men), the power brokers (all men), the creative directors (all men), the copywriters (men again), the secretaries and typists (all women) and the amazingly, deeply unequal relationship between the sexes, both at home and work.  Blatant abuse of women by men, and the acceptance of the abuse by the women was the normal.   This was 1960…not that far back in the scheme of things.  Truly. Unbelievable. 

And that’s when it struck me…as bad and broken as things seem in today’s world with today’s gross headlines, there is still reason to hope and reason to be grateful about real progress.  For instance, even in the short time that the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have been around, more powerful men and influential industry luminaries than we ever saw in that series have lost their careers and reputations as their depraved behavior was exposed.  Our tolerance level for this bad behavior is at an all time low and continues to decrease.  As of October 2018, 201 powerful men had been brought down by the movement, and more than half their replacements were women.   And in the 2018 midterm elections, there were a record 36 new women voted into Congress.  This would have been unheard of in the mad world of the ’60s.  Secretaries and typists only? Ha.

We have come a long way, baby.  Indeed we have. 

So, if you feel like me about the sad current state of things, don’t let a couple of temporarily powerful, odious, divisive leaders (parading as human) come in the way of all that has been accomplished by the good. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to watch the nightly news yet.  But when all is said and done, good trumps evil over time.

Wait for it.

 

 

Picture Credits:

Angela Natividad [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

RibaX [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

 

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