April Fools’ Day

I really don’t like April Fool’s Day.

It’s not (entirely) that I’m a curmudgeony old man who doesn’t like fun.  I do (or I tell myself that when I’m playing two-player video games by myself, just so I can rib my imaginary friend Steve about how badly I beat him).  My problem with AFD is that the execution of a prank is a very delicate thing, one that requires care and forethought and that is something that doesn’t really happen too often.

There seem to be two types of April Fool’s Day jokes: the really mundane and boring jokes that are wastes of time.  These are usually jokes that everybody sees coming and they’re as harmless as they are bland.  This is usually the realm of the cheap joke-store gags like joy buzzers, whoopie cushions, or Rick Rolling.

A lot of the pranks you see online are this way.  Joking posts on Facebook (especially of the psuedo-ironic variety), flagrantly false news reports, and other such phenomena can be fun (I loved CNN reporting on the potential African zombie outbreak half a dozen years ago…back when CNN had actual reporters, but that’s another issue).  The problem with them is that they’re predictable, to the point of becoming disruptive.  It’s gotten to the point that we expect these false reports, so ANY report that comes out today we treat with suspicion.  So every news story needs to be fact-checked and double-cross-examined.  It turns into just a waste of time.

The other, thankfully somewhat less common, prank is more elaborate but also more disruptive and potentially even hurtful.  See, the problem with pranks is that they can cross the line from fooling around into bullying and even being harmful.  A bucket of water over the doorway is fun to some, but it sucks for the person who gets splashed and then has no clean clothes to wear around the office.  What’s worse is if his/her cell phone gets splashed and is ruined.  A ‘harmless prank’ has now just cost this person some (potentially serious) cash.  That’s not funny, nor is it in ‘good fun’.

A prank is largely about lying to people.  And while in the right context and executed the right way, they can be a hysterical experience shared between friends, they are the sorts of things that require forethought and consideration.  Granted, a good prank is about taking somebody down a peg, but just a single peg.  You aren’t trying to humiliate them (or, you shouldn’t be).

And that’s why I don’t like April Fool’s Day.  You’re either wasting everybody’s time, or you bullying somebody.  There are exceptions, sure, that can be fun.  But the rest of the time, it’s a day that’s disruptive at its best and mean-spirited at its worst.

 

On the other hand, all that Easter Candy is on sale…

I love the movies; I hate GOING to the movies

I really like film and television.  I think they’re superb art forms and the occasional ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’ and ‘Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo’ not withstanding, I think they’re some of the best mediums going right now.

While television’s fighting to find its own niche with on-demand viewing versus living viewing, I feel like it’s holding its own.  What isn’t holding its own is the film industry.  Ticket sales continue to be abysmal and films that once seemed like a sure thing have become a gamble.  A great evaluation for this is discussed by one of the preeminent film reviewers, ‘Movie’ Bob Chipman.  Movie Bob asserts that many genres are bombing because of the way the market and audiences have changed.  I think this may potentially be a case of confusing correlation with causation.

Bullet To The Head didn’t appeal to me but the Last Stand did, yet I didn’t go see it in theaters.  Why?  It wasn’t because of a dwindling appreciation for the muscle-bound icons of old or the films that they created; it’s because I wasn’t about to spend $11 to see a two-hour movie one time.

Theaters have become damn-near hostile environments of late.  Ticket prices have skyrocketed and the product returned is pathetic.  The concessions stand is a joke, offering a poor selection of over-priced, underwhelming food stuffs.  And if I’m paying for two people to go see a movie, it’s actually cheaper to just wait until the DVD is released, even if I end up just using the DVD as a coaster after the first viewing.

Worst of all is the hubris of the movie theaters.  I frequent a Regal Cinema (but have had similar experiences at the other chains nearby) and the experience is that of a bombardment of television commercials before the movie, going on for sometimes upwards of fifteen-twenty minutes.  And this is after already having paid $11 (or more) just to sit down.  I paid to watch these commercials which I see all the time on TV.  For free.

But then, the true crux of my frustration, is the invariable ad from the cinema itself insisting that theater-viewing is the best option.  The aforementioned Regal Cinemas run an ad showing various landscape and action sequences on a gradually dwindling screen that shrinks to the size of what seems to be a cell phone screen and then asserts that ‘no movie should be reduced to this’, followed by their slogan ‘Go Big or Go Home’.  At least once, I’ve stood up and walked out.  That kind of arrogance and dismissal of the audience is just intolerable.

The film industry is in a lot of trouble, no doubt, but the biggest problem isn’t the films or the studios; it’s the cinemas.  Their arrogant disregard for their audience, and said audience’s extremely viable alternatives, is frustrating beyond words.  It’s left me waiting almost without exception for the DVD release of a film rather than putting up with the movie theaters.

I like movies.  I love movies.  And I want to support movies.  But I don’t want to support cinemas.  At least not until they give me a reason to think them deserving of my patronage.

Giving Up Power

So by this point, it’s become pretty wide-spread knowledge that the Pope is giving up his seat to retire. A lot of people are making a big deal out of how this hasn’t happened in six hundred years and they aren’t sure how to take this news. There are so many uncertainties surrounding this event. It’s especially worth noting that in the anti-Catholic and anti-deist groups, there’s a lot of vitriol towards the Papacy. And I don’t think it’s deserved in this instance.

As a non-Catholic, I really don’t have much of a horse in this race. And as secularist, I especially don’t ascribe to any metaphysical implications of these events. That being said, I don’t want to denounce the beliefs of others just because I don’t share them. I’m speaking from a purely humanist standpoint, and one who has watched in recent days as the Catholic Church become surrounded by the new of abuses and controversies.

And while a right and a wrong don’t cancel each other out, I think it’s worth noting when an organization does something right. Lord Acton said ‘Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely’ and I think most would agree there’s some very real truth to that sentiment. But it isn’t about the Power of the Papacy; it’s about giving up that power.

A common complaint lodged against politicians of most every persuasion – from school board members to tyrannical dictators – is they do not relinquish power (see complaints against the Supreme Court of the United States for prime examples). Once a person has power, they often never give it up. And in the case of such sweeping power as the Papacy, it has never been given up in over six hundred years.

Until now.

This isn’t a commentary on the policies and practices, actions and dogma, of the Catholic Church. This is simply recognition of a guy doing the nearly-unprecedented: giving up nigh-absolute power.

That’s a really cool thing to see happen.