Sunday, March 27, 2022

Streaming: the death of movies?

I guess that by posting tonight, I'm competing with the Academy Awards. So I might as well talk about the thing everybody's going to be talking about anyway. No, not Will Smith smacking Chris Rock for dissing his wife. I mean movies in general.

A Facebook friend posted earlier today that he hadn't seen any of this year's ten Best Picture nominees because he has trouble hearing these days, so he waits for them to come to the small screen. I couldn't help but wonder where he's been. I've seen six of them -- and I saw them all via one streaming service or another. 

SergeyNivens | Deposit Photos
One thing the pandemic has made easier is seeing first-run movies without having to leave home. At least one of the big film studios decided, while everything was shut down, to release their movies via streaming in lieu of opening in theaters. Then movies were released simultaneously to theaters and a streaming service, a practice that seems to be hanging on. I'm sure the theaters would like the studios to walk that back, now that folks can get out and see a movie again; it hurts their bottom line when moviegoers stay home. But I think it's going to be tough to put that djinn back in the bottle, especially now that a movie produced by a streaming service -- "CODA", produced by Apple TV -- has won the Academy Award for Best Picture (beating out "The Power of the Dog", which I was rooting for, but I digress).

Writing in the New York Times earlier this week, Ross Douthat claimed that the Oscars are losing relevance because the movies they're meant to honor are slowly disappearing: "The ideal Oscar nominee is a high-middlebrow movie, aspiring to real artistry and sometimes achieving it, that’s made to be watched on the big screen, with famous stars, vivid cinematography and a memorable score. It’s neither a difficult film for the art-house crowd nor a comic-book blockbuster but a film for the largest possible audience of serious adults..." His emphasis is on the big screen experience. He laments that almost nobody went to see the nominees in theaters this year; "Spider Man: No Way Home" (which, by the way, I also saw via streaming) has earned four times the U.S. box-office take of all ten nominees combined.

Douthat goes on to suggest, among other things, that fans of Seeing Serious Cinema at the Cinema recognize that the art form needs their patronage, in the same way that fans of opera and ballet support those arts -- that is, classic movies should be shown in theaters more often, and students should be encouraged to study classic films the same way they study classic literature (never mind that they already do; "film studies" classes have been around for at least a couple of decades).

I think maybe Douthat is missing the point. The biggest reason people stopped going to the movies -- aside from the pandemic -- is that the experience has gone downhill. A moviegoer shells out big money for the ticket and bigger money for a snack, and is then surrounded by others who might chat through the show. And if your million-ounce soda goes through your system too fast, you can't hit the pause button while you go to the restroom. And then there's the lack of closed-captioning mentioned by my Facebook friend. Operas have gone to seat-back closed captions; if movie theaters want to lure older adults back, maybe they should do the same.

Or maybe we should just bow to the inevitable. I used to love going to the movies. When my kids were in high school, we had a tradition of attending midnight openings for movies like "Lord of the Rings" and the Harry Potter flicks. (The rule was they had to go to school the next day.) But ticket prices are in the stratosphere now, and the big screen experience truly isn't that much more engaging than watching a film at home.

Then again, I'm reminded that radio was supposed to be dead long since; way back in the '50s, TV was going to kill it off, or so everybody said. And yet radio, in one form or another, has stayed with us. I expect the movie business, too, will be with us for many years to come.


I'm taking another break next weekend. See you back here Sunday, April 10th.


These moments of cinematic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Springing forward with intentions of justice.

Yurumi | Deposit Photos
Happy spring! The vernal equinox occurred at 9:33 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time today. It was at 11:33 a.m for those of you on the East Coast, and, uh, 4:33 p.m. for -- no, wait, I'm wrong. It happened at 3:33 p.m. in Western Europe; y'all don't switch to Daylight Time 'til next Sunday.

This business of springing forward and falling back seems to be getting more unpopular every year. The U.S. Senate actually passed a bill last week -- the Senate! passed a bill! -- to keep Daylight Time all year round. It turns out that the vote was a parliamentary maneuver engineered by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Kyrsten Sinema (D in name only-Arizona), and that nobody objected because they had more important things on their minds -- like, for instance, Ukraine. Regardless, it now goes to the House of Representatives, where it may not even make it to the floor for a vote. 

The sudden nod to year-round Daylight Time was met with the usual grumbling about how, if we're going to stop messing with the clocks, it would be smarter to stick with Standard Time because reasons. Most of the arguments seem to center around little kids waiting for buses in the dark on winter mornings. (I saw one guy in a comment section who seemed aghast that kids in Alaska would lose more morning daylight. Apparently he was unaware that Alaskan kids already go to school in the dark -- and come home in the dark, too.)

Anyway, here's the point I'm ambling toward: As today is the spring equinox, it's also Ostara for many Pagans. I've blogged a few times about the Pagan observance of the holiday, but I don't know whether I've ever explained my own practice (other than to say it looks a lot like Easter but without the guy on the cross).

This year, I attended an online ritual conducted by the CUUPS chapter in Albuquerque. Our magical working was to set intentions for the next few months. We wrote our intentions on a piece of paper, made it into the shape of a kite, decorated it, and wafted it through the air. It was fun. I have my kite pinned to the corkboard above my desk. 

But one thing I've learned about intentions is that they're easy to set and forget. For a magical working to take, you need to do more than just write down your goal; you need to do what you can to manifest that goal in the physical world, as well. And even then, sometimes it doesn't work. Magic doesn't make a thing 100 percent certain -- it only increases the odds that it will happen. But the nudge can tip the odds in your favor, particularly if you follow up with action in the physical world.

Lynne Cantwell 2022
So just to reinforce my intentions, I colored some eggs this morning and marked some of them with symbols to represent what I hope to do. While I went through the process, I mentally reviewed my plans for getting each one done. 

I took special care with one egg -- the one at the right side of the front row. It's blue on top and yellow on bottom, and my intention for that one is this: justice for Ukraine.

Why justice and not peace? I think we're beyond that now. Vladimir Putin is a madman who invaded Ukraine unprovoked. I don't think he has any intention of agreeing to the sort of compromise that would be necessary for true, lasting peace. Ukraine needs for the Russian troops to leave, yes, but Russia also needs to be made to understand that it cannot invade another country again. Ever. 

And once the Russian troops have gone home, Ukraine will need to be rebuilt. 

So: justice first, and soon. Then we can all work for peace.

These moments of bloggy intentions have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, March 13, 2022

How things have changed -- and not all for the better.

 Yesterday, Facebook provided me with this memory: 

My comment when I shared it: "Narrator voice: She never went back..." 

In other words, it's two years to the day since I last worked in an office building full-time.

A lot has changed since then -- and yet, a lot hasn't changed. We're still dealing with the virus, although now we have tools to battle it: vaccines to prevent it and medications that have been proven to make breakthrough cases less severe (unlike the quack "cures" that have been promoted in certain quarters -- worming treatment for horses? Seriously?). We also know more now about how the virus doesn't spread. For one thing, it doesn't live long enough on surfaces to do much damage. (Hint: You can quit wiping down your groceries with disinfectant, if you're even still doing that.) Transmission, we know now, is typically airborne, which means good ventilation is key -- and yes, masks work.

Something else that hasn't changed: The pandemic is still being politicized. Probably the most recent incident is the "people's convoy" making a daily nuisance of itself around the Capital Beltway in Washington, DC. They're supposedly protesting mask mandates -- which, by the way, have been rolled back in virtually every state now that omicron's on the wane. The protest was doomed to fail from the start anyway; the organizers hoped to block several lanes and slow traffic to 45 miles per hour. Little did they know that you're lucky to get up to 45 miles per hour on the Beltway on a weekday. Now, after several days of driving around DC, some of the participants are getting frustrated by regular drivers giving them the finger and cutting them off. I have a suggestion for them: Go home. The Beltway always wins.

On a serious note, we have a new thing to worry about: Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and whether Russian President Putin is crazy enough to, say, fire off any nuclear weapons. The West, led by US President Biden, has avoided direct intervention to keep from giving Putin an excuse to push the button. But human rights advocate and former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov tweeted a chilling comment the other day: 

It's starting to feel like World War III is coming, whether we want it to or not. In fact, it may already have begun.


These moments of bloggy reflection have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed! And have a sunflower or ten thousand.  

Sunday, March 6, 2022

How Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, got its name.

I fully intended to bring you some dramatic photos from my vacation last week. But then I got to my hotel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and couldn't muster the energy to complete the itinerary I'd planned. So instead, I give you a couple of middling photos. Here's one: 

Lynne Cantwell | 2020

In case my less-than-stellar photography skills have made the sign hard to read: this is the entrance to Ralph Edwards Park. 

Why does the town have such an unusual name? And why did the city fathers name this park after a game show host? Well, thereby hangs a tale.

You see, the town was originally named Hot Springs, thanks to its location along the Rio Grande (yes, that Rio Grande; no, it's not near the Mexican border) where thermal springs first popped up more than 50 million years ago. The water comes out of the ground at about 115 degrees Farenheit and it smells just fine -- no icky sulfur smell. Native Americans were the first to visit the springs, as far as anybody knows; when white folks began working the gold and silver mines nearby in the 1800s, they enjoyed the warm waters, too. As automobiles became a thing, the city began to capitalize on its so-called healing waters to bring in tourists.

Fast-forward to 1949, when the radio game show Truth or Consequences began planning for its tenth anniversary on the air. The powers-that-be hit on the idea of a contest: if a town somewhere in the United States would agree to change its name to Truth or Consequences, they'd send host Ralph Edwards there to do the anniversary show. The city fathers in Hot Springs decided to go for it, and the residents agreed in a special election in March 1950. The day after the election -- April 1, 1950 -- Edwards and his wife came to town to do the show. It got the newly-named T or C loads of publicity -- although some folks thought the whole thing might have been an April Fool's joke. 

Edwards seemed to like it there; he came back every year until the late 1990s for the city's annual Fiesta, often bringing Hollywood stars with him. The grateful town named that park after him.

Ralph Edwards is gone now; he died in 2005. But the hot springs are still there, along with hotels,  restaurants, and shops. I stayed for a couple of nights, and yes, I availed myself of the healing waters. 

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
I don't know if my soaks healed anything, but I had a relaxing visit and I intend to go back.


These moments of restful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!