Sunday, 19 October 2008

Show(s) must go on

While treated to about three hours of TV per day during Ceausescu's 'Golden Era', it is not an exaggeration to say that we were fascinated by the occasional documentary series like Carl Sagan's Cosmos, or the history & wildlife documentaries chopped into 10-minute chunks in a programme that ran for decades under the name of Teleenciclopedia.

It is fascinating, but in a much more disturbing and depressing way, how the documentary series and science popularising films have changed.

Everything is a show now. After all, kids have attention span of 20 seconds, thanks to what MTV started as visual language and by now it's become so much the norm that it has been proven to radically alter how we see & perceive things. Or, how we expect to be shown things.

Gone are the films that could be exciting, poetic, informative and factual at the same time. Apart from the occasional 'blips' committed by some teams in some TV networks or independent channels, everything has turned into a show.

Examples, depressing, devoid of meaning, futile and 'entertaining' examples are countless.

I watched a series on the Egyptian pyramids, this conveyed 1% actual information, the rest was something in the ghastly genre of 'docu-drama'. In other words, 99% of content filmed with considerable budget, made-up characters and made-up dialogues, all of these having zero content that would be somehow linked to historical or archaeological facts, it was plain and simple (but very visually entertaining) filler material.

There were series about Beethoven's last years - again, a costume docu-drama with dialogues and situations that were first of all completely speculative, second of all absolutely disconnected from any actual facts.

Wildlife documentaries? Oh come on. Apart from the occasional gems, vast majority of TV offering is some idiot running around, catching or getting close to catching some animal (usually dangerous ones, others are just not entertaining, are they?), then talking and talking with zero information about the animal or its habitat, then eventually releasing it back into the wild.

'Survival' shows are as abundant as air. Again, would defy anyone to show one such 'documentary' that tells one something tangible about the environment it presents. It seems to, but the informational content is virtually zero under a closer scrutiny.

Celebrities go to jungles. And deserts. And icy wastelands. And talk a lot about nothing. Gosh, it's cold says the well-known English actor sent to Siberia. Really? Wow. I just learnt something: XY showbiz celebrity feels cold in Siberia. Hurray.

Space exploration is presented with futile and utterly non-informative dramatisations (?) via made-up dialogue - you know you're in trouble, and your heart sinks, when you see the subtitle: 'based upon real events'. Oh dear, it is 99% made-up entertainment, 1% grains of facts just to connect it all to something real.

Yes, one is nostalgic. I can't forget the series and documentaries that used to knock our socks off by being, yes, entertaining and informative and ... well, simply thrilling and fascinating all at the same time.

Then again, expecting in today's world, today's education standards & levels, today's attention span and interests something similar to those films is, well, utopia.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


There are anti-heroes. Anti-depressants. Anti-Christ giving many 3rd rate ideas to 5th rate horror movie creators.

Well, there is also the world of the anti-Per Gynt. I truly wonder what Ibsen would have thought of our current identity seeking desperation. Per Gynt was an anti-hero, but was pondering on his own identity.

We are quite different, we are the anti-Per Gynts. Not that we are heroes, no - we are just people that instead of seeking our own identity, we deeply wish to be someone else - every minute of every day.

Nobody copies indiscriminately (which always means the bad parts bubble to the surface somehow) the 'West' as much as former communist block countries do. Everything that is truly crap in the 'western' societies, gets imported with huge speed.

Nobody copies the US indiscriminately as desperately as the UK.

We nowadays wish to adopt others' customs and let our own die out - or, at best, we treat our own as museum pieces which is a milder, but agonising form of death for folklore, customs, old habits.

Isn't it wonderfully symbolic and with philosophical connotations, that a recent survey in the UK has shown that regional dialects are dying out while foreign silly 'imports' are flourishing?

People covered in the survey used Spanish and other catchphrases very easily and instinctively, but had no idea what some regional (not truly obscure, no) words meant.

Looking at the abundance of plastic surgery adverts (it is a simply consumer item nowadays, advertised on posters even in the underground stations), one could say it shows our fascination with appearing younger, more beautiful, whatever. It also means: we want to look like something, somebody, else. Another person. He/she may be an improvement of one's self but eminently, one changes into someone else.

We nowadays always imitate someone else, at personal, micro- and macro-social level. With immense greed, acquire traits that are as unnatural as bionic implants, with the only difference that latter are driven by a need to replace something that was organically ours and we lost it.

Maybe we are losing those things. In vocabulary, both in my former and my current home land, it certainly does look like that - there is a difference between neologisms and this forced, unnatural, pompously silly and ridiculously pompous adoption of intricate foreign expressions.

There are more visible effects, too of our search of other identities. Of trying to find ourselves in things and people and traits that are elsewhere, outside us, out there.

Per Gynt was in constant conflict with a society that expected him to conform, to be restrained, constrained.

We are interestingly, constraining ourselves more and more to greedily adopted alien conventions in a world that allows us a remarkable freedom to be anybody.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Sound of silence

Well, one can always rely on British media to compensate for the ineptitudes and downright enraging absurdities reported by Romanian media.

Today is a historic day: we have seen a thought about a genuine nation-wide initiative on public libraries hit the press. The initiative is related to silence - in libraries. Or rather, abolishing the 'Keep quiet' rule.

It is said that libraries are in difficulty (yes, they are) and that this would help- because more people would come, buy coffee from the bar, sit down, chat over and around that coffee, and I may add, drive everybody nuts around them - if we assume that the average British person with its usual total lack of respect for anything and anybody around him/her will be having 'vivid' loud conversations.

Recently I could not read one single line without jumping up, literally, at the sounds of shrill stupidity blasted at 110 decibels by a bunch of 'ladies' and 'gentlemen' in the, yes, quiet carriage of my Waterloo-bound train. Well, it did feel & certainly sound as if I were in the middle of the battle of Waterloo.

Now it made me think a bit.

Yes, libraries are in trouble but it's a problem with general ignorance, decay of reading among young people (just look at the stats of 16-25 year old age range, it's scary and that is scary while there was an actual upsurge in reading thanks to blurb like Harry Potter... so the underlying trend is even worse). Many organisational and funding issues contribute to large extent.

Now... we solve that by allowing the one quiet and civilised haven (well, one of the very few we have left) to become a circus. Because, rest assured, and if you listened to the average content, volume of so-called 'conversations' carried out by your average Brit in a cafe or bar or pub, you will NOT be able to hear your own thoughts.

The fact that we seem to want to solve the many genuine problems libraries face by such stupid measure is one thing.

On the other hand, it is remarkable... that wherever there is still a bastion of self-discipline, civilised behaviour in our societies, we quickly eradicate them and replace them with a... circus.

Even currently, in the 'old-fashioned' libraries, one can catch some 'youth' peeling oranges above an 18th century manuscript, and, like in my friend's case, someone pointing out the 'no food or drink allowed' sign can receive a lot of abuse. The particular person pointed out to my library administrator friend that he has 'rights' and can do whatever he wants because he pays the fee.

This being the 'civilisation' level, one wonders what will libraries turn into when EVEN the rule about shutting our mouths will go...

Will it help libraries? probably yes, attendances will go up. They will turn into loud cafe-like, pub-like environments and to actually sit and have a read will become impossible.

Following same logic, we could solve all the multi-faceted problems of our every institution by introducing total anarchy.

Schools, too will be helped if we tell kids to do anything they want to the school and the teachers... oh wait, they are doing that already...

Thursday, 9 October 2008


Well, one place is definitely stress-free amongst all the financial carnage and just 'business as usual' nightmares that the particular country is fighting with.

Yep, the place of true serenity is the Romanian Parliament... today, once again, not one of the senators have turned up for work. There were 7 different committees that had to get together today and vote on several legislations.

Interesting though, that they do turn up immediately and have voted, do vote, will vote on important issues like their own salary increase (after all, most of them are poor people, as the clinically insane Corneliu Vadim Tudor recently said), or passing immediately anti-democratic and even anti-constitutional laws and measures that, for example, ban the activity of certain committees that uncover unimaginable corruption.

The liberal democrats have put forward recently a legislation proposal that means MPs don't have to declare their wealth until after the coming elections - this in the name of objectivity, because in their opinion the voters may be affected by the news about what wealth have the dear candidates for Parliament amassed.

I am sure this is one of the proposals that will, as in the past, have immediate interest and senators will turn up in their numbers to vote.