Archive for the 'Television and Movies' Category
I feel sorry for celebrities. All of that wealth (money), admiration (people liking and respecting you), and influence. What a sad life.
And there is now a new reason to pity (feel bad for the suffering of) celebrities. They’re being “swatted.”
To swat someone is to pull a prank (play a joke) on them by getting emergency services such as the police, ambulance services (emergency vehicle to take you to the hospital), or firefighters to go to someone’s home when there is no emergency, often in the middle of the night or another inconvenient time. Usually, an anonymous (identity not known) caller calls 9-1-1, the emergency services phone number, and reports some type of problem or emergency. When the emergency vehicle arrives at the address, they find no emergency. Not only does this waste (use for no purpose) taxpayer money (money paid by citizens for public services) and tie up (occupy) emergency services, it’s a nuisance to the person they’re trying to “help.”
The term “swatting” is a relatively new one and comes from the acronym (word made from the first letter of a phrase or group of words) SWAT. SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. (Weapons are tools we use to hurt each other, such as guns and bombs, and tactics are actions or strategies we carefully plan and use to defeat the enemy).
A SWAT team is a special group of police officers who operate like a military (army) unit and are called in (summoned; used) for difficult, high-risk, and dangerous operations that regular police are not trained to handle, such as hostage situations (where someone is holding one or more people and not letting them leave, usually threatening them with violence, unless the hostage-takers’ demands are met). The idea behind swatting is to bring a large number of police — or other emergency workers — to a place quickly and to create an emergency-type situation where none really exists.
Swatting is actually against the law, since you can be arrested (taken in by the police) if you report something to the police that isn’t true. However, with the technology of today, swatters use techniques that make it difficult for their reporting to be traced (followed to the source).
Many celebrities have been the victim of swatting, including the singers Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Sean Combs (also known as Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, or just Diddy). Actors Tom Cruise, Miley Cyrus, and Ashton Kutcher have also been victims of swatting.
Too much money, too much admiration, and now swatting. I’m more grateful than ever that I’m not a celebrity.
Does swatting exist where you live? Are there laws against it?
Photo Credit: Members of the 60th Security Police Squadron’s Base Swat Team from Wikipedia
P.S. Thank you for all of the birthday wishes. It “takes the sting out of” (makes it less painful) getting another year older!
There was a game show (a competition on television for money) a few years ago called “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (a fifth grader is a student in grade five, about eleven years old). In the game, adults would try to answer questions taken from the lessons of elementary school (grades one through six) students. If you got an answer wrong, you had to say, “I am not smarter than a 5th grader!”
The game became so popular that other countries (more than 50!) created similar shows, some of which are still on the air (being shown on television).
Today’s post is not about questions for fifth graders, but for those who are about to go to college.
In the U.S., students who want to attend (go to; be a student at) a university usually have to write a short essay about some topic in order to demonstrate that they know how to write well in English. I thought it would be fun to share some of the topics high school seniors (twelfth graders) have to answer when applying to many U.S. colleges.
The following writing prompts (topics for writing an essay, usually for an exam or application) are among the most popular used by American colleges. Read each question and think about what your answer might be:
-Some students have a background or story that is so central (important) to their identity (who they see themselves as) that they believe their application would be incomplete (not finished) without it. If this sounds like (appears to be) you, then please share (tell us) your story.
-Recount (tell us the story of) an incident (event; situation) or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
-Reflect (think about) a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted (caused) you to act (do it)? Would you make that same decision again?
-Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly (completely) content (happy; satisfied). What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful (important; significant) to you?
-Discuss an accomplishment (something you’ve done) or event, formal or informal, that marked (indicated) your transition (change) from childhood (being a child) to adulthood (being an adult) within your culture, community, or family.
See if you can answer one of these questions (in English!), then tell us about how you answered in the comments below.
Photo credit: Student in Kentucky, 1946, Wikipedia PD
In the old days, if you wanted to watch a television show or a movie at home, you turned on your TV. First, there were network channels, which everyone got if they owned a TV. Then came cable television that allowed many more channels to be seen through the TV. Now, more and more people are watching TV shows and movies through their Internet service.
Internet-based content (materials; programs) has exploded (become very big, very popular) in recent years. People who want to watch TV shows and movies can now see them through their Internet services on demand (when they want them) and often weeks, months, or years after their original broadcast (showing on TV) or release (showing in movie theaters). This has become more and more popular now that it’s easier to watch these programs right on our televisions, not just on a computer screen.
The latest trend is for Internet companies to green light (give permission to begin a project) and finance (pay for) original series (programs) that people can pay to watch through their Internet service. Companies like Netflix, a very popular video rental company in the U.S., and Amazon have traditionally been resellers, businesses that took other people’s products and sold them. Now, they are commissioning (giving permission and money to make) original programs.
They have had some early successes. That’s not surprising, especially since these companies are investing (putting money into something with the expectation of earning money) big in Internet shows, with some episodes costing $1 million per episode to produce (make). By comparison, network shows cost about $2 million to produce, but the Internet shows have the look and feel of major productions (high-quality projects).
How do you get your video entertainment? Do you mainly (mostly) watch network channels, cable TV, or Internet-based programs? Has that changed in the past few years?
Photo Credit: Family Watching Television 1958 from Wikipedia
Many actors have changed their appearance dramatically for a role (acting part). Some lose a lot of weight, while others buff up (make their muscles larger). Some wear prosthetics, such as false noses, teeth, and hair. But what if the role calls for (requires) a more fundamental (basic) change than an actor can effect (achieve)? That’s the problem casting directors (people who select actors for parts in TV shows and movies) have when casting for period movies (movies set in the past).
This Sunday, the Academy Awards will be given out to the best films of 2012. Among the films nominated (eligible to win) are Lincoln and Les Miserable. Both films are period movies and call for (require) period authenticity (realness; seeming true), even more authenticity than an audience may have expected just 10 or 20 years ago. With popular TV shows like Mad Men, where the actors and crew work very hard to recreate (create again) the setting, clothes, props (items used in filming), and feel of the 1960′s, audiences have become more savvy (wise and knowledgeable) about finding anachronisms (things that don’t belong in a particular time period).
In the film Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis looks and sounds like our image of President Lincoln. He wore make-up, hair pieces, and period clothing to achieve that look. He even used clothing and make-up to cover up (hide) tattoos (permanent ink writing or drawings under the skin) on his hands and arms. However, there was one thing he could not hide, even with make-up: his pierced ears (holes in his earlobes to wear earrings). Savvy viewers have pointed out that President Lincoln must have been ahead of his time in fashion and knew that pierced ears in men would become popular in the 20th century.
Les Miserable posed (provided) a major challenge to casting directors. The story, based on a Victor Hugo novel, takes place in 19th century France and many scenes involve street urchins (poor young children living on the streets) and waifs (homeless and helpless people, usually girls and young women). With better nutrition (more and better food for the body), dentistry (healthcare for teeth and the mouth), fitness regimens (exercise habits), and even plastic surgery (medical procedures to change the way you look), finding actors who looked starved (thin from hunger) and neglected (not cared for) was difficult. Anne Hathaway, one of the stars of the movie, plays a starving prostitute (person who sells sex for money) in the film. She lost 25 pounds (11 kgs) to play the role, but in one scene, she shakes out her long, shiny, healthy hair that may be more appropriate in a shampoo commercial.
Perhaps audiences have become too savvy, making it more and more difficult to suspend their disbelief (temporarily allow themselves to believe something that isn’t true) in watching movies. To be honest, I seldom notice these small anomalies (things that are unexpected or not quite right) when I watch TV or movies. If the story is good, I’m caught up in (completely involved in) the storytelling and don’t care much about small anomalies.
How about you? Have you noticed anachronisms in the TV shows and movies you’ve watched? Does it bother you?
Photo Credit: Lincoln 2012 Teaser Poster.jpg from Wikipedia
Like many of you, I’ve been watching the Olympic Games. Here in the U.S., the Olympic Games are being broadcasted in real time (while it is happening; not delayed) on several channels and streaming (shown on the Internet while it’s happening) on the TV network’s website. And then each night, there is a recap (summary) of that day’s major events. I’ve only been watching the recaps each night, but have been reading the coverage in the newspaper.
Last Friday, we saw the opening ceremonies (the official start to an event) and, as usual, it was a spectacle (something amazing to see). Then came the parade (public marching to be on display) of the athletes from different countries. With this auspicious (good; indication of success) start, it’s unfortunate that these Olympic Games are marred (spoiled; made not perfect) by scandal (the doing of something wrong that causes the public to have strong negative reaction), which is par for the course (normal) in a sporting event this big. There have been accusations (statements that someone has done something wrong) of doping (taking banned (not allowed) drugs to improve performance) and cheating. Some of the the athletes have been exonerated (shown to have done nothing wrong), while others have filed official protests (statements of disagreement). With the media focusing so much on these scandals, it’s easy to lose sight of (forget) the spirit (true quality or characteristic) of the Olympic Games.
That’s why I like stories like that of U.S. Olympic swimmer — and now gold medal winner — Missy Franklin. Missy is seventeen years old and she did not follow the same path (route) as many Olympic athletes. When she was younger and showed talent for swimming, many people urged her parents to move her from Colorado to a major city where there are better coaches (trainers) and facilities (places to train), but her parents said no. Missy has continued to train with the same swim club that she’s been with for many years, which doesn’t even have its own swimming pool, and she continues to swim as one of many athletes for her high school team. What is more remarkable (surprising; amazing) is that she is still being coached by the same swimming coach she has had since she began swimming when she was seven years old. She also says that she plans to go to college, swimming for the university’s team, rather than to compete professionally, forgoing (not taking advantage of) a lot of possible prize money.
So while I’m watching the Olympic competitions and hearing about the medal counts (total number of prizes each country has won) and the continuing athlete scandals, I try to remember the true spirit of the Olympic Games.
Are you watching the Games? Which sports are you most interested in? Are there any stories of athletes that strike you (impress you) as particularly interesting or inspiring (giving you good, positive feeling)?
The television detective has been a part of TV history nearly from its earliest days. Cops (police officers) and private eyes (private detectives) used to be the most common type of TV detectives, but anyone can be a detective on television: attorneys (lawyers), doctors, and even mystery novelists (book writers). With so many TV detectives, can you pick a favorite?
My favorite American TV detective is perhaps an unusual choice. This detective was most popular in the 1970′s, and I watched most of the shows in reruns (a later showing of the same episode) many years later. He is a cop, but not an obvious choice for a hero (someone who is brave, whose actions help people, and is admired by others). His name is Columbo.
Lieutenant (one of the ranks (levels) in the police force below captain) Columbo is a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. He is not young, not good-looking, and he’s always rumpled (looking messy and wrinkled, like he just got out of bed). But don’t let appearances fool you (trick you). Columbo has the mind of a steel trap (can think quickly, clearly, and intelligently). It is precisely (exactly) because his appearance (the way he looks) and his manner (way he behaves) are so unassuming (modest; humble) that the murderer often underestimates him (believes he is less able, skilled, intelligent, etc., than he is). With persistence (not giving up; continuing to try even when the situation is difficult), Columbo always gets his man — or woman (finds the criminal).
Peter Falk was the actor who played (acted in the role as) Lieutenant Columbo and he died in 2011. He acted in many films and was twice nominated (named as a possible winner) for an Academy Award, but he was best known for his role as Columbo. Columbo was on the air from 1971 to 1978, and then returned occasionally (from time to time) between 1989 and 2003 in TV movies.
Do you watch TV detective shows? Who is your favorite TV detective of all time? What makes him or her such a good detective?
Photo Credit: Peter Falk Columbo from Wikipedia
I often come across desert island questions, asking if we were stranded on (not able to leave) a desert island, or a deserted island, that is uninhabited (with no people, other than me), what would we want to bring along? It’s not too difficult to select our favorite books or movies to accompany (go with) us to our lonely new home, I think.
But what if you were stranded on a desert island and given the chance to have one companion, someone to keep you company (give you friendship or companionship)? This person cannot be a relative or even someone you know personally, such as your spouse (husband/wife), boyfriend/girlfriend, or best friend. It must be a historical figure (someone famous from the past) or a character from books, movies, or TV shows.
Of course, those of you who are practical-minded (thinking of and doing the most useful things) may immediately think of someone like MacGyver, or someone else who is extremely resourceful (able to do a lot with only a little), to help you on the island. This person would certainly be helpful as a companion, so let’s assume he’s already on the island with you.
The question is: If you were picking someone else to be on your desert island, who would you pick?
You might be interested to know that when I asked Jeff this question, first he said he might pick someone like Socrates or Albert Einstein. And then, he thought for a minute and asked me, “Is my wife dead?” so we know where his mind was going…and of course, we don’t blame him (say that he did something wrong)!
I’m still trying to decide. I think I would pick someone who is a great storyteller to help me pass the time.
Who would you pick and why?
Guilty pleasures are things that we enjoy, but that we are embarrassed or ashamed that we like. There can be guilty pleasures in all categories: food, TV shows, music, sports, and more.
In terms of food, one of my guilty pleasures is cake. Other people like ice cream, chocolate, or candy. I like cake–not the fancy kind at fancy bakeries, though I don’t mind those either. I am perfectly happy with a plain white (vanilla) cake with frosting (a layer of sweet icing used to decorate the top and sides of cakes). Chocolate cake is fine, too, but I don’t need fancy fruit, cream, or other fillings (food put inside of other food). My favorite part of birthday parties, mine and other people’s, is having cake. It’s something that I can never turn down (refuse), and I give in to (allow myself to do something I shouldn’t) my cravings (the wanting something very badly) all too often.
In terms of movies, I have a lot of guilty pleasures. My guilty pleasures fall into two categories:
1) movies that I can watch over and over again (no, I won’t admit how many times I’ve seen them), and
2) bad movies that I enjoy.
Movies like “The Fugitive,” “Shawshank Redemption,” and “Roman Holiday” are ones I can watch time and time again (many times). I usually catch them on lazy weekend afternoons, surfing the channels (using the remote control to move quickly through many TV channels).
Then, there are the bad movies. There was a movie I saw on television when I was young called “Sooner or Later” about a teenage girl who falls for a handsome 17-year-old guy. He is (of course!) the leader of a rock band, and she lies to him about her age so he’ll be interested in her. Okay, everything about this movie is cheesy (embarrassingly bad and of poor quality)–the acting, the script, the music, the premise (basic idea). Still, I can’t help enjoying myself when I watch the film now. I’m sure it’s nostalgia (warm feelings for the past), but I’m not joking when I say it’s bad.
All right, now that I’ve confessed (admitted to something I’m not proud of or to something bad I’ve done) some of my guilty pleasures, will you confess some of yours?
Talking about Twilight, the book and the movie, in Tuesday’s blog comments got me thinking about books that have been made into movies. These types of screen adaptations (television or film versions) are so common today, ranging from classics (old, respected books) to modern bestsellers (books that are extremely popular).
Personally, I have a very hard time seeing a screen adaptation after I’ve read a book. In fact, I usually avoid it. There are two main reasons. First, the film version has no choice but to leave out parts of the book because of time constraints (not having enough time) and this, to me, changes the nature or scope (range) of the story. Second, seeing a screen adaptation results in me replacing the images (pictures) I’ve formed in my mind about the book with those on the screen. This is especially troublesome (a problem) when the ways I picture the main characters don’t match those in the film, and the film images replace those I’ve created in my own mind. I can’t resist it. It happens every time, and for me, that’s a sad thing.
This happened with one of my favorite novels, I Claudius, by Robert Graves. This is a historical novel (story about real people in history) about the first Roman emperors (rulers). In the 1970s, the BBC produced a miniseries (show with several parts) based on this novel, which many people had told me was excellent. I finally rented the miniseries, but I couldn’t get the through the first episode. The main character, played by an outstanding British actor, was completely different from how I had imagined him to be, and I couldn’t get past that (forget about it and move on). Now, when I re-read the book, I can only see that actor, not the character I had created in my mind as I read the book the first time. Another of my favorite books, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty, another historical novel, this time about the American west, has also been made into a miniseries. Although this, too, received excellent reviews, I can’t bring myself (convince myself; force myself) to see it. I know that this is my loss, and I’m missing out on some very good films.
Are you like me? Do you also have this problem? Or, can you separate the book and the film, and not be influenced by the other?
I was recently reading a fascinating book called The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton. The books tries to show that much of our sense of art and artistic judgment is influenced by our genetics – that is, something that we are born with - and that this instinct has evolved (slowly changed) over many, many years. I’m not sure if I agree entirely with this argument, but it is an interesting idea.
In one section of the book, Dutton talks about research done by another writer, Christopher Booker, on the kinds of plots (story structures) that are found in the spoken and written stories of almost every language around the world. Booker identifies seven “basic plots” that every story uses in one way or another. Again, I’m not sure if this is true, but you may be interested in them. Many stories may combine different kinds of plots as well:
- Overcoming the Monster – To overcome means to defeat, to win over. A monster is a bad creature (person or animal). This is a story about defeating an evil person or thing.
- Rags to Riches – Rags are dirty pieces of clothing; riches refers to lots of money. This is a common expression in English, to go from “rags to riches,” especially to describe someone who works hard and becomes successful after being poor. This is a story about someone going from being very poor to being very rich.
- Quest – A quest is when you search for something for a long time, usually something very important or very valuable. Typically a quest story has a hero with others that help him in his search, and he must overcome some danger or evil in order to get his prize. The hero gets the prize and a beautiful woman, and they often become King and Queen.
- Voyage and Return – A voyage is a long trip. In this kind of story, the protagonist (main character) leaves “normal experience” and goes into an alien or strange world, then returns after escaping some danger in the new world. (The famous English children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an example of this.)
- Comedy – A rather broad (large) category, this kind of story often has some confusion until the end of the story, when the hero and his lover are united.
- Tragedy – A tragedy is a very sad event or situation. Tragic stories are usually about how someone overreaches (tries to do too much or more than he or she should) and this leads to terrible consequences (results).
- Rebirth – A rebirth is when someone is reborn – born again. This kind of story has the protagonist going through some dramatic change during the story, so that by the end of it he or she is essentially a new character.
Booker later added two more plot types:
- Rebellion – A rebellion is when people try to overthrow (defeat, bring down) their government. George Orwell’s 1984 would be an example of this kind of story.
- Mystery – A mystery involves some crime or unusual event that the protagonist tries to figure out or solve. The protagonist is usually called a detective, and may be a police officer (but not always).
So there you have all the possible plots in the world – at least, according to Mr. Booker!