Soap Dope

Some shocking news came out of Hollywood yesterday:  the entire cast of the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives were released from their contracts, and the show is going on an “indefinite hiatus.”  Things are not looking good for fans who avidly follow the comings and goings of people in the mythical town of Salem, located somewhere in the Midwest.

daysBut that’s the problem:  are there really any DOOL fans out there?  In fact, it’s a fair question to ask what was more shocking:  the producers’ decision to give the entire cast of the show the old heave-ho, or the fact that Days of Our Lives, which debuted on broadcast TV in 1965, when Lyndon Johnson was President, was still on the air 54 years later during the Trump administration.  I, for one, had no idea that, in this day and age, daytime soap operas have been carrying on to tantalize the homebound with sordid stories and dramatic pauses and egregious overacting.

There was a time, during the heyday of soaps in the ’60s and ’70s, when a kid coming home from school was likely to find his or her Mom seated in front of the TV, watching Days of Our Lives or All My Children or Guiding Light or General Hospital, waiting for the day’s routine episode-ending cliffhanger that would entice them to tune in the next day to see what happened. Soaps dominated the afternoon TV screen, and were so popular that odd efforts like Dark Shadows — which combined soap operas storylines and horror characters, with the star being a vampire — were popular for a time.  It was all pretty irritating for a kid who just wanted to come home, get control of the Philco, and watch a Three Stooges rerun on channel 43.

Soap operas seem absurdly out of touch with the modern TV world, where reality shows and talk shows and other shows can regularly deal explicitly with the cheating, scandals, and tragedies that were the grist of the mill for daytime soaps.  And, of course, the dramatic shows that are available on HBO, Netflix, Amazon, and many other content outlets are a lot more direct and graphic and ground-breaking in their treatment of murder, rape, and other shocking and controversial topics.  Soap operas seem pretty staid and conventional and old-fashioned by comparison.

TV is an ever-changing medium, and the trends are moving decidedly away from ongoing shows that plumb the depths of the ever-intertwined lives of a few families in a Midwestern town.  In fact, to paraphrase the familiar introduction to DOOL, you might say that, for the soap opera genre, the sands in the hourglass have just about run out.

Thank You, Veterans

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On this Veterans Day, a heartfelt thank you to all of the veterans, and all of those who are currently in active service.  You have willingly shouldered immense burdens, and our country and its citizens owe you more than we can possibly express.

Two-Step Voting

Our election on Tuesday involved a very limited ballot; we voted for Mayor (where the incumbent was running unopposed, which tells you something about the low-key politics in Columbus), City Council seats, a few judges, and a tax levy.  Not surprisingly, turnout was low — which made it a good election to roll out a new, two-step voting system.

3002712465_fa843110d0_zAs an old codger who cut his voting teeth on old metal machines where you moved a bar in one direction to close the curtain, depressed levers to expose a mark next to the candidate of your choice, and then moved the bar back to register your vote with a thunk and open the curtains again, I’m used to changes in the voting process.  I’ve probably voted using about 10 different systems over the years.

The new process involves multiple steps.  After first going to the registration people, showing your driver’s license and signing in, you get a piece of paper that you then present to one of the voting volunteers.  They lead you to a machine, explain the new process, and scan you in.  After you vote on the machine, a paper ballot is printed out, and you walk over to a different area to deposit your completed ballot into a secure box.  The last step is new.  Apparently the new system was introduced to enhance voting security and also to better comply with federal law on accommodating people with disabilities.

The new process worked just fine . . . in an election where the turnout was low and there were no lines to speak of.  But I wonder what it will be like in 2020, where there is likely to be a huge, perhaps even historic, turnout — which is probably one of the few things people at every point on the political spectrum can agree on.  There will be a line to get to the registration table, and then a line to wait for a voting official to walk you to a machine and scan you in, and then presumably wait, again, to deposit your ballot into the secure box.

It’s probably going to be a zoo, which makes me wonder whether I should just plan on doing early voting when the 2020 election rolls around.  It probably would be less of a hassle, but I’m resisting that because I like gathering with my fellow citizens, waiting patiently and solemnly and thinking about what I’m doing, and then exercising my franchise and getting my voting sticker.  It makes me feel good about myself and my country, and I’m not sure that I’m ready to give up that uplifting, shared experience.  At the same time, I’m not sure I’m ready for a three-hour wait in an election where passions will be running at their highest, either.

Mouthers Versus Talkers

On this morning’s walk, I passed a couple walking in the opposite direction on Third Street. We made eye contact and I greeted them with a cheerful “Good morning!” In response, the female member of the couple mouthed “hello,” without actually making an audible sound, and then they walked by.

Frankly, this encounter irritated me.

I’ve noticed a lot more of rampant mouthing behavior lately, and I don’t know why. Obviously, mouthing a greeting is acceptable if, for example, you see a friend sitting down the church pew at a funeral service, or in some other quiet, somber place where an audible statement would be inappropriate.  Or if you don’t want your six-year-old to know that you and your spouse are considering heading off to Chuck E. Cheese’s.  But now mouthing has moved out of the church and funeral parlor to everyday encounters on public streets, where an oral communication is perfectly fine — indeed, expected, polite behavior.

What’s caused the mouthing boom? Do people just think they’re being sophisticated, or is it because they can’t condescend to give a verbal greeting to a member of the unwashed masses? Either way, I think it’s rude, and it kind of ticks me off.

Reviving The RCYB

When I was a student at the Ohio State University in the late ’70s, one of the many political groups on campus was the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade.  You would see them out on the Oval, advocating for their communist causes and trying to recruit new members.  There weren’t many takers for what they were selling.

Apparently that view has changed.

communism-topic-gettyimages-89856241According to a recent survey, millennials — defined as those between ages 23 and 38 — look far more favorably on communism and socialism than older generations.  The results of the poll indicate that an astonishing 36 percent of millennials approve of communism, and 70 percent responded that they are extremely likely or somewhat likely to vote for a socialist in the upcoming election.  In addition, about half of millennials and members of Generation Z — those between ages 16 and 22 — have a somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable view of capitalism.  It’s not surprising, then, that 22 percent of millennials believe “society would be better if all private property was abolished,” and that 45 percent of Generation Z members and millennials believe that “all higher education should be free.”

The results of the poll, which was conducted by YouGov and released by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, are pretty amazing — until you consider the life experiences of the various generations.  When I was in college the Cold War was in full swing, the Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was exposing the horrors of the gulags, and the world was only a decade away from the death of countless people in China’s “Cultural Revolution.”  It wasn’t difficult to form a negative view of communism.  Millennials and Generation Zers, on the other hand, grew up in a post-Soviet world where China is largely viewed as a producer of electronic gear and its repressive tendencies, whether in Hong Kong or in its treatment of ethnic minorities, are often ignored or overlooked.  How much have millennials and Generation Z been taught about the true nature of communism and its bloody history?

What will this embrace of communist and socialist ideology among young people mean for the upcoming Democratic primaries, where some candidates are advocating for policies that are openly described as socialist?  It all depends on whether those millennials and Generation Zers who want free college will register and cast their vote in a free and open election — which, incidentally, doesn’t happen in communist countries.  But then, millennials and Generation Zers may not be aware of that.

Harriet

Yesterday we had to decide which one-word, proper noun Hollywood movie we would go to see with friends.  It was a tough call, but ultimately we decided on Harriet over Judy and Joker.

hero_harriet-movie-review-2019Harriet tells the story of Harriet Tubman, the legendary woman who escaped slavery and then devoted her life, and risked her own personal freedom, to help other slaves — ultimately, dozens of them — make their way to liberty via the Underground Railroad.  Harriet Tubman is an American historical figure whose courage and fortitude should always be remembered, and her story is well worth telling.  Harriet does an excellent job of capturing the brutality and inhumanity of the slave-holding system in the Old South, and stage actress Cynthia Erivo gives a brilliant portrayal of the brave, stubborn woman who shed her slave name of “Minty” and blazed her own trail in a crusade for freedom.

Of course, movies can be expected to add their little story-telling flourishes to actual history, and Harriet has its share of familiar Hollywood plot devices.  (You can read about some of the liberties taken with the actual historical record here.)  But the movie doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of slavery, nor does it give short shrift to Harriet Tubman’s intense religious faith and belief that the seizures she experienced were communications from the Almighty.  In fact, you would be hard pressed to identify other recent Hollywood fare where Christian beliefs played such a central role in the  story.

Harriet is well worth seeing — and hopefully, it causes young people who might not be familiar with the life and work of Harriet Tubman to learn more about an extraordinary woman who did extraordinary things.

All The News You Need To Know

Our local newspaper in Stonington is the Island Ad-Vantages, covering all of Deer Isle and Little Deer Idle. It is printed once a week and provides all the news you need to know — and some conversation fodder, besides.

We all try to follow national and international news — to the extent our blood pressure can stand it, at least — but the news we really care about is local. Up here, that means reporting on tourism, the lobster and fishing business, development activities, and coming events. I want to know whether the local businesses and restaurants did a good trade and will be here next summer, and I’m glad to read that they did. I’m happy to learn that a food truck stationed in Deer Isle will be back, but that local labor shortage is a concern. Hey, if you are looking for a job, come to Stonington next spring! Every business is looking for help.

What’s playing at the Opera House over the next few days? Are there any good yard sales this weekend? And the local police blotter and short reports on local closed court cases are always a fruitful source of discussion topics. The latest edition of IA-V reports, for example, that one man from the area was fined $150 for “molesting silver herring gear.” What do you suppose he was doing?

A really good local newspaper, like Island Ad-Vantages, tells you a lot about your community.