TV Has Never Been This Good

I recently spent three days in a writing seminar and one thing we all agreed upon, is that Television has never been this good. I skipped out of that class with the realization that, while writing feature films will always be my first love, I am really considering a foray into teleplays (as soon as I finish writing my next two screenplays). A-list actors are telling their agents to get them on a TV show! Writers, directors, and crews are creating a domino effect: Better is where everyone in the Entertainment Industry needs to be.

They say, talent begets talent. In the case of the new, improved TV programming, audiences are reaping the benefits in fits of tears and laughter… gathering around water coolers everywhere to discuss last night’s shows.

Now I am not discounting TV’s origin, with such terrific shows as I Love Lucy, Ed Sullivan and I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, or the incomparable Mary Tyler Moore who could turn the world on with her smile.

Cable has revolutionized the medium and what was once “the boob tube” is now, thankfully, filled with quality programs. Now everyone has their favorites, but, to name a few, American Horror Story, Homeland, and Dexter come to mind. After marathon viewing of all of the above, I have now dialed back a decade to view Arrested Development for two reasons; one, the show is darn funny, and two, I need to prepare for the redux of late.

There are literally dozens of excellent shows I can’t wait to watch. Game of Thrones, more than 6 episodes of Breaking Bad… I am sure many of you feel the same. Now, put down the remote and list a few of your favorites!

The Festival of Lights! No Gifts, Please

When I was about six or seven, I suddenly became cognizant of the glaring differences between Christmas and Hanukkah. Before then, I took great joy in spinning the dreidel, happy just to win a few coins or Hanukah Gelt (chocolate wrapped in gold to look like coins).  A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top; each side bearing a Hebrew letter, played during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. I lovedspinning the top and singing, “Oh Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay…”

Wait– (Sounds of a record scratching to an abrupt stop.) There I was, playing with a clay top for a few chocolate coins, which taste like wax, by the way, while my friends were playing Monopoly – with real money; collecting  $200 each time they passed GO while they test drove their new Sting Ray bikes!

Why didn’t Lite Bright let me see the light? Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights is about Maccabee soldiers who fought a battle, I guess in what could have been the dark, and, how there was only enough oil in the Temple’s eternal light to last for one night, but miraculously, it lasted for eight! Christmas is about celebrating the birth of a baby boy who grew up and made his mother proud. Now, maybe if Jesus had become a Maccabee rather than a God, I could have perhaps seen why people would want to compare the two holidays.

Back in the 1970’s, commercialization was still in its infancy. We only had a few channels in which to watch commercials for the latest and greatest toy or gadget. Today, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without an iPad or a trip to Tahiti brought to you by no less than 110 channels and hundreds of websites on which to do your holiday shopping.

So there I was, just a kid who suddenly realized there was a benefit to celebrating Christmas—big ticket items. While my brothers and I each got a small gift each night for the eight days of Hanukkah – what is called a “stocking stuffer” for those who celebrate Christmas, kids in the neighborhood called me over to their house the day after Christmas to show off everything from a Big Wheel, to a new television with a remote and 11 channels, rather than the 5 we got.

We just celebrated the first night of Hanukkah this year with my family. And you know what my niece got? A hand-me-down laptop and Hanukkah Gelt. And guess what? She was thrilled! Not about the Gelt… it still tastes exactly the same: like wax! “Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel…”



Double Dip

Ever since the Wall Street debacle of 2008, we’ve been hearing the phrase, double-dip recession. It appears without warning when we are having our morning cup of Joe, or when we sit down to watch the news after a hard day at the factory. In case you missed it, double-dip recession is peppered throughout GOP campaign speeches… it’s as if the words double dip have been plastered on every banner of every Web site on the WWW.

Now, I believe in early warning systems rather than Chicken Little. But, really..? Where did all that money go..? Is it under the bed? In the dryer? Did you look in the car? Try the third drawer down in the dresser… It seems that billions of dollars have simply disappeared, perhaps never to be found. Or, maybe it’s just been disseminated into dryer lint!?

“Industry insiders fear we are headed for a double dip recession…”

The World English Dictionary defines double dip: “a recession in which a brief recovery in output is followed by another fall, because demand remains low.” The fear mongers’ PR campaign was brilliant. Scare everyday Americans into believing that if the Feds don’t bailout banks “too big to fail”, doom and gloom and chaos would ensue. If you haven’t seen HBO’s stellar, Too Big to Fail, it’s a must-see. This film explains it all for you; how America caved in and sold out. (But really, they had no choice.)

So, Chicken Little was right after all. “The sky is falling!” America went from “The sky’s the limit!” to the sky is falling, dashing hopes of the American Dream for millions. Gone are visions of that white picket fence…

Where are our heroes when we need one? Where are the great leaders and orators of 2011, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, or FDR’s persistent optimism and activism that contributed to a renewal of the national spirit during The Great Depression? It’s time to replace double dip with double doers.

I remember when the words double dip meant it was rude to double dip your chip into the dip. And, frankly, all this talk about dip is making me hungry!

Social Media: Flash From the Past

I have been a Facebook user for some time now, and every time I hit ACCEPT INVITE my entire life flashes before my eyes. Mostly, it’s when people from high school or college want to reconnect. I am suddenly bombarded with a flood of memories. Some , I’ll admit, are filled with gaps. It’s the same experience I get when using my cell phone in a bad reception area. “Can you remember me now?” I never imagined a time when people who passed me in the hall or sat next to me in class would be my “FRIEND” decades later. I had been living my life believing that my circle of friends was about the size of a hula hoop. But today, thanks to the fine folks at Facebook, the circumference of my circle can literally circle the globe!

Have you ever seen a Gray Whale in Your Backyard!?

DAY 1:

I arrive home to find dozens of people standing on the bulkhead looking out into Puget Sound…  I open the door and shout: “Hey, who had a party and didn’t invite me?”  As I run down to the lower deck, I can see that they are all mesmerized by something dark and ominous floating in the water just a few yards offshore…  As I get closer, I realize that it’s a whale and my next thought is: ‘Oh, wow… must be mating.’  “It looks like you guys are watching National Geographic –are there whales mating?”

A neighbor grimly tells me, “No—a whale beached itself and hasn’t breathed for a half hour…”  We watch.  And wait.  A man from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – sits in front of a black case, jotting notes on a clipboard.  More minutes pass… still no breath.  Someone asks how long a whale can go without breathing?  The NOAA man says, “About 45 minutes…”  An hour passes.  The whale appears lifeless…  Its dorsal fin moves but it could be it’s just the tide moving it back and forth.

A NEWS CHOPPER POUNDS OVERHEAD… A frenzy builds as more neighbors trickle thru Bill’s yard.  The local news crews arrive and set up with expert precision, having done this a thousand times before.  There’s Channel 4… Channel 5… Channel 7… Channel 13…  They interview the teenage girl who first saw the whale.  “I saw it and ran home to tell my mom and get my camera!”  Her ponytail flips as she looks from the whale to the camera and back.

Then the NOAA expert huddles the crowd together:  “It’s a Gray whale, female, probably died of malnutrition like the other four we’ve investigated in recent weeks.  We’ll try to tow it away on high tide and perform a necropsy (whale autopsy) but may have to do it here…”

Judy invites me to come to her house and watch the TV coverage.  When we emerge again, the crowd has dissipated and the TV crews—like anxious fishermen eager to hook their lines—are itching to get fresh sound bites.  I tell Judy she should do it, but she replies that she is too shy.  Then someone from KOMO 4 asks me to share my thoughts.  I look around and see that there are only a few of us left so I agree, thinking someone has to say something about the tragic demise of one of the ocean’s most majestic creatures!


The next morning, the tide is out as I take the dog for a walk on the beach—the motionless whale, a mere 100 feet off shore.  It’s as if she showed up in our backyard hoping someone would invite her in and help her!  I stand only a few feet from the whale, closer than I ever have in my entire life and marvel at the fact that I get to see a gray whale up close.  It’s long with a graceful tail, but surprisingly thin for a whale.  I’m suddenly intrigued by her mouth—rows of long white flesh, about two inches wide that look like piano keys.  Dozens of scrapes and scattered white barnacles cover her massive body. 

When I return to the house, there are over a dozen new messages:

“Hi, Serena, this is Joyce… I just wanted to call and tell you that I keep hearing about this Gray Whale on the news.  It must be a big deal….”

“Hey, Wale Lady!  What is going on with you and whale?  This is Uncle Joel.  Give me a call.”

“Hey, it’s Aaron.  I saw you on the news… You should become a local anchorwoman.”

“Hi, Serena, it’s Harry.  I was at work this morning at 6am and someone said, ‘Hey, that girl has the same last name you do!’  I couldn’t believe it was my sister on the news!  Maybe I’ll come over with my gear and check it out.”

“Uncle Joel, here.  I was wondering what the whale was doing…?  Is it tied to the buoy yet?  Hope you’re not on the same line,” he chuckles.

By 11am, yellow CAUTION tape encircles the whale which appears to be about 35 feet long.  Moments later, a group of school children, maybe 10 years old, carefully circle the whale, pausing to stare at its mouth and tail…  I am struck by the thought that it looks like they are on a field trip at the Seattle Aquarium and this was something that the teacher had planned months ago.  In fact, they were kids from a private school—the twins that live down the street told their teacher and they all got to come experience this amazing sight.  When I run down to see the kids, I hear one ten-year old sigh, “It’s so sad, he starved to death.  He didn’t have enough to eat.”


There’s a photo in The Seattle Times of the whale’s stomach contents spread out on a table: plastic bags, bottles, trash…a pair of sweat pants!?  Not only did she not have enough to eat, but she ate human garbage as her last supper!  This has to be a wake-up call: “It’s time to clean up the oceans and stop polluting the planet… We are just as vulnerable as that mighty whale and our demise will surely follow if we don’t stop this cycle of toxic waste.”

As I sip coffee and talk to Uncle Joel on the phone (about the whale, what else?) the doorbell rings.  It’s KOMO news 4—a newscaster and camera woman wait on the path (surely they can see thru the tiny wood slats that I’m in my pajamas?)  They ask if I have anything else to say about the whale.  Panic-stricken, I manage to muster, “So sorry, I really can’t help you right now…”

I was suddenly crippled with embarrassment.  Did hair, makeup and a lack of wardrobe prevent me from giving a 30 second sound bite?  OMG!  Did I just miss an opportunity to save the planet and implore people to “save the whales”?

The next time I look out the window, a 12 ft aluminum boat with the words: RESEARCH on its side bobs—as they work tirelessly to tie the whale to our buoy.… My heart sinks.  I just hope the boat doesn’t sink.

12 NOON: I look out the window to see a vigil—nine kayakers form a circle in the water where the whale took its last breath.  The water, like glass as rain gently falls…

2PM: A flocks of Geese—dozens of graceful birds dance in the sand—in the exact spot where the whale had died.  It is a sight to see as they peck at the sand, scooping up what I think must be… holy whale water.

Now I can honestly say, “I saw a whale in my backyard!”

5th gray whale found dead in NW waters in 10 days | KOMO News – Breaking News, Sports, Traffic and Weather – Seattle, Washington | News

Researchers examining dead whale on West Seattle beach | | Seattle News and Video

Over 40 in a Digital “Texting” World

As a woman in her forties, I have come to the conclusion that in order to communicate in today’s society, I have to break down and learn the “language of texting.” And just when I finally got e-mailing down to a science! Read… hit “Reply,” write something witty, hit “Send”. Want to connect with an old friend or long lost relative? Just shoot them a short and sweet e-mail. Then they send an email back and you are both connected for weeks and months to come! But tread with caution… we all know how e-mails, even when written in complete sentences can be misinterpreted as angry, sarcastic, lambasting or just plain upsetting! But, hey, isn’t that why we use the smiley 🙂  face?

All this time, I thought e-mailing was my saving grace. Now, with the newest form of communication, what I like to call, “techno-texting,” it’s passé to write in complete words or sentences and say what you really mean to say in plain old English. There is actually a generation of people who will not be able to read a book, let alone a newspaper.

Today, everything is abbreviated in Generation Z lingo. Teens everywhere are getting carpel tunnel thumbs from texting on teeny, tiny keyboards. It’s not enough for the medical community to look forward to millions of young people requiring $4,000 hearing aids to combat the loss of hearing due to iPods blasting at enough megahertz to fry ear hairs. No, we have to plan beyond hearing aids, bifocals, hip and knee replacements and set aside vast sums for thumb surgeries to ease pain and create faster, more nimble digits than ever before seen in this galaxy and… beyond!

And don’t worry; this will also include the world of gaming. Did you know that they just named a skin rash after a girl who gripped her Play Station control for over 6 hours a day? Granted, it pales in comparison to the 70 year old Goodyear employee, Lily Ledbetter who just got an equal pay for equal work Act named after her. Oh, and by the way (btw), Lily got to dance with President Obama!

If you look to evolution, future generations could evolve and develop webbed appendages to accommodate rapid fire texting. Abbreviated words used most often will automatically appear on the screen, saving time, thought (and yes, thumbs.)

The digital world has evolved at head spinning speed, creating alerts that are instantly texted to your phone enabling you to be informed anytime, anywhere. Traffic, weather, sports, gossip (Angelina and Brad just adopted their 13th child, coining them as the “baker’s dozen”) could all be transmitted in cyber-hieroglyphics in the future. Maybe the ancient Romans were on to something? Why talk or listen to another human being, when you can just draw a little picture with a few cryptic symbols?

Lol (Laugh out loud), plos (Parent looking over shoulder), c u ltr (See you later), omg (Oh, my God!) ctn (Can’t talk now)… Look at the time I just saved (btw) with these brilliant abbreviations? And you know what else is great? Texting will help the environment by saving reams and reams of paper. The daily newspaper could be reduced to just two pages. Okay, four pages on Sunday, to accommodate the comics. (lol!) People who text could actually be called… Green Thumbs!

I just read in Acura’s Style Magazine that inventors are working on the latest interactive technology called augmented reality (AR) where video games would appear, to the human eye, as virtually real in real time. Gamers might never leave their armchair and might never realize that years are passing them by… And that morning paper? It would be beamed to your kitchen table and hover an inch from the surface. Remember the cartoon, The Jetsons? Well, George Jetson and family were beaming in the future, in a computerized, virtual space craft with robots—envisioned in the 1960’s! Imagine the Jetsons today: “We told you so…” they might spat with superior intelligence.

The best part of the new techno-communication wave is that no one has to interact with another human being, ever! You never have to listen to someone drone on and on about their mundane daily life. “Well, I walked the dog outside in the fresh air, made dinner instead of ordering out, watched The Baby’s Momma Bachelor, blah, blah, blah… Now you can do what you want, when you want.

Occasionally, when you crave human interaction, because, after all, we are only human—you could text a friend to meet you at a movie and sit in the dark with a seat in between you and never utter a word to each other. “Same time, next week?” might be all you can muster.

So, if you happen to be technologically challenged like me, to that I say, “Thumbs up!”