Posts categorized "Film"

American Addict

"America represents 5% of the world’s population but consumes 50% of the world’s prescription pills and over 80% of the world’s prescription narcotics; this is NOT a coincidence."  This is a quote from the film American Addict.  A narcotic is any drug that affects mood or behavior.  Examples of legal narcotics include Prozac, Ridalin, Valium, or any pain-killer.  Americans turn to these drugs for every problem they have and every discomfort they feel.  In fact, a recent study shows that up to 70% of Americans take prescription drugs.  This has a lot to do with how completely fucked Americans are, both as individuals and as a society.

How can it be that anyone actually believes drugs can solve their problems?  Do we turn to illegal drugs like Heroin or Cocaine with a legitimate expectation that doing so will help us work through problems or "balance our brain chemistry"?  Why do we lie to ourselves that legal narcotics are any different?  The simple answer is that we are foolish enough to trust a health care system that lies to us for profit.  Or maybe it just seems easier to go for the quick fix than to do what it would actually require to solve problems.   

Despite what psychiatrists, physicians, and direct-to-consumer drug advertisements tell us, drugs are not the way to solve problems.  Once upon a time, when a teenager or young college student was dealing with angst, he might try to work through these feelings by reading philosophy or literature.  Maybe he would put on some loud music or go to a party.  If that didn't work, he might actually decide to make some changes!  Maybe he would quit a job, maybe travel, maybe change majors or go into a new profession.  

But people on narcotics end up muting their personalities, confusing their thinking, and lessening the potential of their lives in a desperate attempt to cope.  People on narcotics not only become sick and often die from the habit, they end up living lives that fall short of their full potential.

Everything I am and everything I have become is directly related to my feelings of angst, pain, anxiety, longing, and depression.   When I entered the corporate world after University, I fell into a deep depression.  Rather than taking Prozac, I turned to art and beauty for comfort.  I ended up becoming a huge music fan.  As a result of becoming a music fan, I eventually became a songwriter.  Today, when I pick up a guitar and play something...when I write a song...when I get on a stage...the only antidepressant I need is music.  I know that antidepressants would have kept me from feeling anything strong enough to lead me down this path...this path of becoming

Those years in the gray, corporate cubicle in Seattle were the most depressing of my life.  People close to me suggested that I consider antidepressants (which, of course, any professional would have prescribed).  I sought comfort in truth instead.  This led me down a fascinating path of discovery about how our political and economic system really works.  While these truths initially led me into an even deeper depression, I still somehow found comfort in truth.  I began to realize that I wasn't crazy and I wasn't fucked up.  It is the world that is no longer meant for healthy human beings.  It is the system that is fucked.  In a real and profound way, I started to free myself from so many of the tentacles of this cancerous system in which we live.  This journey would have never happened if I had chosen to numb myself with antidepressants.

The depression I felt during those years was extraordinarily painful, but it was emotion that guided me toward the path I was meant to take.  I chose not to medicate myself in order to cope with the unacceptable; rather, to change the unacceptable by continuing to seek that which was desirable.  In the years that followed, I moved to Europe, wrote books, recorded albums, performed, met amazing people, and spent a lot of time in places I never thought I would see.  I have prospered and, more importantly, I have not been depressed.  Actually, my life of experience has left me extraordinarily happy and satisfied.  No, I'm not happy every day...of course not.  I get sad, depressed, agitated, sick, and exhausted just like everybody else does.  But I know that these are the feelings that will nudge me toward some kind of progress.  When I feel that everything is fucked up, I change everything and make progress.  That's how it is supposed to work!  That's why nature has given us these feelings!  Only a fool or coward would attempt to kill these feelings with drugs.

The only way to solve our problems is to change ourselves and change our lives.  To use drugs in order to cope is to remain stuck in a situation that is not acceptable.  Only when our pain and suffering becomes severe enough do we find the courage and strength to follow our intuition and start down the path of becoming. 

Pharmaceutical companies are powerful players in a cancerous system that wants us stuck as servants to the ugly machine of capitalist destruction.  When we take what they are offering, we do not get better.  Instead, we suffer enormous side-effects just to cope for a few hours (until we take the next pill).  Those pills make us physically sick as they kill our emotions, deaden our instincts, change our natural appetites and drives, and make us do something as crazy as learning to accept the unacceptable.  Not to mention, hundreds of thousands of people die from prescription drug overdoses every year (think Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Marylyn Monroe).  

When it comes to our emotional pain, the truth is that we must reject all medicine and psychiatry completely.  The solutions to our problems are to be found in the brilliance, beauty, and possibility of the world around us.  The solutions are to be found in love, art, intellectualism, and experience!  Happiness is to be found in that which excites us!  So let's flush the pills down the toilette so that we may continue down nature's path of becoming.  

Posted by Mark Manney.

The Consequence of Porn

Both men and women have our own varieties of porn, but the consequences of each are equally destructive.  Men like the kind of porn that, quite honestly, involves themes like fucking two hot Russians.  Women, on the other hand, are turned on by an entirely different kind of porn: the Hollywood “chick flick”. 

Of course I’m using the word “porn” loosely; while, at the same time, am absolutely equating these two “art-forms” (for lack of a better word) as the same damn thing.  Both the sex porn and the chick flick tap deep into our fantasy worlds and have the power to change the way we think.  They ultimately define what we think we want from life and subconsciously guide our most foolish of life decisions.  As discussed in the Abscondo Podcast called "Morality of Consequence", my value system is based on Consequentialism.  In this case, the consequence of porn being our collective inability to form healthy, fulfilling relationships and our tendency to destroy the relationships we do have.

Porn taps straight into fantasy…our wildest fantasies.  The recent Hollywood film starring Sarah Jessica Parker (probably the most famous female porn actress of all) is called “New Year’s Eve”.  I didn’t see this movie, but my wife did last night with her girlfriends.  This is a true chick flick, just like the thousands before it.  I asked her what it was about and she described a scene where the “Mr. Perfect” character turns down two younger women to chase after the older woman who has a child.  No scenario could make the point I’m about to make better than this scene (which I, admittedly, didn’t see and hopefully never will see first-hand). 

The fantasy being presented in any chick flick is that of the unrealistic man – the man who looks perfect, has the right profession, has the right apartment in Manhattan with the right view, and doesn’t rush sex until she’s ready.  His only purpose in the film is to ultimately please the female lead and make her life complete.  This is a guy who has no individual needs other than to chase the female character (who is usually slightly imperfect but that’s ok) to the airport before she leaves forever.  Music builds as he runs through traffic and jumps over cars without harming the perfect bouquet in his hand.  The end of the film is that ultimate moment when he commits to “forever” and all of her problems are solved.

The male porn, of course, is all about sex.  Lots of sex with unrealistically attractive women willing to do things no women would do if trying to satisfy her own sexual desires.  I’ll just simplify and call this “sex with two hot Russians”.  These two different kinds of porn have a deep influence on our relationships even before they begin.

Women are attracted to men to the extent that they are like Mr. Perfect in the chick flick.  Men know this works on women, and so we play the part in order to attract the girl.  But, in truth, men are attracted to women to the extent that she looks as sexy as the porn actress.  Women also know this, and might even look the part (and play the part in bed) in order to catch the man.  If successful, nature runs its course and our couple becomes obsessed with each other and falls in love.  This stage ends with the perfect like-in-the-movies proposal and the storybook wedding.

Now we have two people who are together mainly because a) they watched lots of porn and it had a huge influence on them, and b) they are each good at playing the part…at being what the other thinks they want.  But where is the authenticity in this relationship?  Who exactly are these two people as individuals?  How can they be happy over the long-term if they have just entered into a life in which they cannot be who they truly are?  If she gains weight, isn’t as exciting in bed, and no longer looks like she did when they met at the club…then she’s not living up to his fantasy.  Furthermore, a marriage based on life-long fidelity cannot possibly live up to his fantasy at all.  So what happens?  Many years go by and, despite progressing levels of disillusionment, our perfect couple has a few perfect kids.  But finally, he gives-in to his fantasy and leaves his family for the promise that he might one day actually have that sex with two hot Russians.  Will he have sex with two hot Russians?  Perhaps, if he goes to Amsterdam and pays for two hookers to act out his fantasy for him.  But then, after that…when he meets a real woman who he doesn’t pay…what does this future woman want?  She wants the same thing his wife does: Mr. Perfect in the movie. 

Similarly, after many years tolerating her husband watching football, drinking beer, getting fat, looking at beautiful women walking by, forgetting anniversaries, ignoring her emotional needs, and refusing to go see chick flicks…she also might decide that she’s had enough.  She’s still young, after all, and there must be a guy out there who more closely resembles Mr. Perfect in the movie.  So she might decide to break up the family for no other reason than her naïve and unrealistic hope that she will meet this other guy…this Mr. Perfect in Manhattan who will (if she’s lucky) succeed at temporarily projecting the same fantasy her husband did originally (at first) but who really wants, deep down, to fuck two hot Russians.

The point is that if we get carried away with our porn-fueled fantasies…if we allow porn to shape our expectations, desires, and life decisions…then what we are left with are lots of beautiful but unhappy children asking what daddy did to mommy or what mommy wants from daddy that he can’t give.  All around us we have lots of otherwise intelligent, beautiful, potentially happy and content people going into their 30’s, 40’s, and into the rest of their lives lonely, watching lots of porn, and wondering when they are going to live the life they were promised in the porn.  They won’t.

Our relationships, instead, should be based on perceiving the other person, accepting loved ones for who they truly are, and being honest with each other about who we really are and what we really want.  In short, our love-life should be an expression of our authentic selves.  It should be so deep and unique that it cannot be understood by the outside world.  This kind of love is not “of” the outside world; rather, it exists in a universe that is created, from scratch, by two people.  It should be an exploration of our deepest feelings, needs, and even fantasies.  It should also involve calling-out the other person when they are full of shit.  It should embrace constant growth and change.  In love, we must never mistake the warm, living-and-breathing person who is giving his or her life and entire being to you…we must never confuse that person for the cliché images on the screen.  

Women: there are no perfect men in Manhattan waiting to meet you just so they can exist only to please you.  Men: there will never be two hot Russian friends willingly kissing each other and waiting for you to enter the room.  Let’s make this work in reality.

Posted by Mark Manney.

The Quest to Communicate Ideas Through Art and Logic; poetry vs. prose, indie vs. commercial, authentic vs. kitsch

Now that I've begun expressing myself not just through writing and music, but also by means of audio and video, I've begun to question what it is I'm actually attempting to do through these multiple mediums and why.

Regardless of medium, the goal is always to communicate an idea to the audience...to communicate something I feel is worthy of attention, something interesting or important.  But to do this I use two basic and fundamentally different approaches.  While everything on this blog can be considered a "creative work", not all of it is intended as "art".  So what exactly is the difference between something that can be classified as art and something that is not art?

Depending upon the nature of the subject-matter being communicated to the audience, one approach or the other must be used. This is where I will compare the differences between the nature of logic and reason vs. the that of beauty, passion, or inspiration.  Other than the poetry podcast, the Abscondo Podcast makes no attempt at art.  What Sofia and I attempt to achieve here is to appeal to your sense of logic.  We attempt to present a compelling argument.  We try to communicate an idea through reason.  The podcast format is an effective way of communicating certain kinds of ideas...simple observations, theories, opinions...anything having to do with that which is observable or has a cause and effect.  The same is true with respect to much of my writing.  But there is a limit to this type of expression.  The limit is found when an idea cannot be rationalized, argued, measured, and observed.

This is where art steps in.  Perhaps the most fundamental purpose of art is to communicate about things which fall outside the limits of logic and reason.  I firmly believe, for example, that what is between two people cannot be understood by a third.  This is most clearly visible in the case of love.  It is only possible to successfully explain our feelings of love to the object of our affection him or herself.  But when we try to make a friend, a family member, or an audience understand that love, understand that relationship through mere words (through "prose"), we fail.  We are left with a frustrated sense that nobody understands or, worse yet, our words are misunderstood and twisted into something unrecognizable.  So if we wish to express love to any third party, we must look to art if we have any chance at all of success!

Love, pleasure, beauty, despair, inspiration, hope, these are feelings.  The best way to communicate about feelings is in the language of art.  Imagine the attempt to comfort a brokenhearted friend by saying, "Everyone gets their heart broken now and then, you'll get over it."  It might actually be more helpful for her to listen to a favorite song which was written and performed by a complete stranger.  We watch films, read fiction, look at paintings, and listen to music so that we might understand a feeling a little differently.  We might see someone else' perspective on a feeling or emotion.  In doing so, we might understand our own feelings differently.  We might even change how we feel.  We might at least find comfort in that we are not alone. 

It is also interesting to note that not every film, composition of music, painting, or sculpture is, indeed, art.  A rap song about bitches and bling, a cardboard cut-out at the movie theater, the vast majority of Hollywood films, most best-sellers at the airport book store -- this content is not art in the truest sense.  These are examples of Commercial communication.  The focus on "communicating something about feeling" is not primary.  The "art of the mainstream" is, instead, designed to sell, influences us to shop, and actually prevents us from feeling and thinking in the truest, deepest sense.  This is content, not art. 

Similarly, Commercial news and talk show content is not truly designed to communicate ideas which appeal to logic and reason.  Art is dying.  Logic is dying.  That's because nearly all mainstream, commercial, corporate-sponsored content is nothing more than an advertisement, a sales pitch, and a form of propaganda sponsored by and created by the powerful elite.  It is designed neither to bring us truth, enlightenment, logic, critical thinking, nor is it designed to bring us any closer to beauty, bliss, pleasure, emotional balance, or contentment.  Rather, its purpose is always to merely justify the status quo by convincing all of us to conform to it and to not think or feel outside of it.  Oh, and if we don't like the void we are left in, we are allowed to look to religion (the only other acceptable option).  Bullshit.

What I'm doing, with the help of Sofia, might only be one lonely voice that at times seems a bit strange.  It may not always make sense and I may not always even succeed.  But my audience can at least know that the focus is purely on the idea, always on the feeling, and always aimed at a general quest for purity, freedom, and truth.

Posted by Mark Manney.

Absconding Authority

The topic of this Friday's podcast is fundamental to the idea of seeking an authentic life.  In fact, it isn't possible to achieve a lifestyle that is more authentic unless we are willing to always question and resist authority.

Authoritative power is creeping into our lives in so many obvious forms (government, schools, church), and oftentimes in more disguised forms (corporate media, corporate influence over government).  We explain the belief system known as Anarchy, which is not a desire for chaos and lawlessness; rather, a constant questioning of the legitimacy of authority.

Part of today's show also deals with alternative forms of media (non-commercial media).  For those who are interested, I promised to share a few examples of anti-establishment media:

News:

Democracy Now!

The Real News Network

Music:

KEXP is a good example of commercial-free radio that plays music far more interesting than what you'll hear in the commercial radio.

Film:

Go for independent films, or if you're more interested in documentaries that explain some of these ideas, try: Manufacturing Consent (Noam Chomsky) or any film by Michael Moore.

Books:

As far as non-fiction, try:

"When Corporations Rule the World" by David C. Korten

"Shock Doctrine" or "No Logo" by Naomi Klein

If I were to provide one recommendation for a work of fiction, it would be "The Joke" by Milan Kundera.

Limitless options...where to begin?

Posted by Mark Manney.

The Abscondo Podcast

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The Abscondo Podcast is available for free on  iTunes.  It is also accessible via this direct feed or wherever you normally get podcasts.  You can also receive an email alert whenever a new   episode is available by submitting your email address here:

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The Abscondo Podcast includes conversations between people who are exploring new ideas and seeking truth.  The show is hosted by Mark Manney, an American writer, recording artist, and social comentator who lives in Eastern Europe with his wife Sofia (the show's co-host).  The podcast features interviews with inspiring people, intense conversation, and original music.

Take part in the conversation by leaving us a message at (206) 905-1386.  Write to us at abscondomusic@gmail.com.  We'll respond to your message on the next episode or even invite you onto the show as a guest.

Posted by Mark Manney.

How money and success destroy art

Eddie Vetter of Pearl Jam has said that his music was originally fueled by anger, and that it was challenging for him when that anger went away and was replace by happiness and contentedness.  Even the style of his music, itself, was originally a product of the angst and frustrations of a common life.  What meaning could it possibly have within the context of overwhelming success and riches? 

Did Eddie's success choke his ability to create the kind of meaningful music we knew and loved?  Consider his early song Jeremy in relation to the following lyrics from a recent song, Big Wave:

I scream in affirmation
Of connecting dislocations
And exceeding limitation
By achieving levitation

Got me a big wave, ride me a big wave, got me a big wave.
Got me a big wave, ride me a big wave, got me a big wave

OK that's just embarrassing.  You have to hear the song, set to the angst-ridden sounds of grunge music (a sound, by the way, that he hasn't bothered to evolve so that it might more accurately reflect his daily reality) in order to get the full picture of how badly this song misses the mark.

We see the same thing happen in Rap music all the time.   The art form itself is a reflection of the brutal realities of inner-city life.  Throw some money at it and what starts out as meaningful, anger-fueled and angst-ridden lyrics so quickly turn to boasting of cars and brands. 

Meaningful art has to arise from the life and experience of the artist.  One might expect the successful rocker or rapper to experiment with new, happier or more blissful sounds.  But in the case of both the rapper and the grunge-rocker, their style of music cannot be allowed to change so that it might more accurately reflect their new lives.  To do so would be to risk losing the very foundation of that success...the support of fans who originally loved them for who they once were.

And so it is, with overwhelming success and subsequent riches, art itself becomes inauthentic crap as the artist becomes a salesmen just trying to continue fueling an excessive lifestyle. 

Posted by Mark Manney.

Sicko

I finally watched Michael Moore's film Sicko for the first time.  There can be no dispute that his comparison between the health care systems in the US and in other prosperous countries is accurate. 

I've lived in two countries; one in which the goal of the health care industry is to make money (U.S.), and one in which the goal of the health care sector is to...uh...deliver health care (Slovakia).  It is enough to say that the stories shared in the film, on both ends of the spectrum, do not surprise me at all.  I won't bore anyone with my personal stories.  The issue is so black-and-white that there is no honest moral argument that can be much different from the one made in the film.  What is more interesting is that this situation actually exists and that all of the candidates running for President tell us we need to accept, more-or-less, the status quo.

It occurred to me, watching the film, how deeply fucked the USA is.  How on earth have we been tricked into not just tolerating, but even oftentimes defending a system designed to exploit the ill and dieing?  How are we perfectly alright with a system that refuses treatment to children and allows a distant corporation to approve or disapprove treatment even to those who have played by the rules and paid them large amounts of money for coverage?  How can we leave the spouse of a cancer victim with a bill so large that his overwhelming grief is only made worse with the enslavement to a hospital bill that can never be paid off?  This is very personal to me.  I have family in exactly this situation.

If only Americans knew how life can be they would never tolerate what is.  Yet without time to travel the world, and without a media system that brings the world to them in an honest way, they have no way of knowing.  And even traveling on vacation isn't enough because it doesn't tell us anything about the conditions, beneath the surface, which allow for the beauty we might see on a culture's surface. 

I'll be very clear, Americans have no way of knowing that our lives are shit.  Ours are lives of worry, fear, uncertainty, intimidation, enslavement to debt, and employment instability.  We are scared of our government, while in better countries the government is afraid of the people.

When Michael Moore takes us to the UK, to Canada, and to France, he's not exaggerating.  He's just showing the plain reality.  We say that people come to America to live the "American Dream".  I left America because I knew that I could not live my dream there.  My dream was not of more stuff, but of a life full of experience, pleasure, relationships, enough leisure, and freedom in the truest sense of the word.  Over the past few years I've begun to find all of these things, but it doesn't mean that I no longer care about my country...the one I left behind.  I simply want the best for it, and wish its people had the common sense and courage to demand the best for themselves.

To look at a country's health care system is to look plainly at the country and what it stands for.  We Americans are, indeed, sicko.




Posted by Mark Manney.

Making sense of Borat

Due to the misguiding reviews I read (essentially that the film is offensive and low-brow), I wasn't the first in line to see Borat.  Well, I finally rented the DVD. 

I found the opening scene a bit silly, though many of the Slavic references were accurate.  However, when I finally realized that the character's experience in the USA was filmed in documentary style, I understood the appeal of the film. 

Between my uncontrollable and sometimes uncomfortable laughter, I found the film profound.  Borat brilliantly illustrates the America that I see.  Frankly, the Americans in the film are proud, profoundly idiotic, and completely out-of-touch with reality.  So, how was it that a comedian playing a seemingly semi-retarded foreigner could illustrate this point? His formula was to make them feel superior and then he tapped into their conformist thinking.

The US is an enormous country of self-declared individualists.  Yet, in reality, Americans aren't individualistic at all.  They are obsessed with conforming to the pre-existing variety of off-the-shelf social movements...the New Yorker, Southerner, God-fearing Christian, good Liberal, frat-boy, cowboy, gangsta, whatever.  The reason every American featured on the film appeared foolish, loathsome, or idiotic was that they were incapable of perceiving the character Borat without bias...without stereotype.  Rather than relating to him as one individual to another, they attempted to relate to him as they might think a (New Yorker, Southerner, Liberal...fill in the blank) might relate to a foreigner.  The humor and discomfort is found in the repeated attempts to put Borat into a neat box when, in fact, everything he did was absurdly outside of any box.  The Americans refused to drop their programatic thinking, their political-correctness, and their identity with a social movement, long enough to to perceive the situation as any independent, critically-thinking person might.

The film Borat highlights how ridiculous we look when we fail to conceive of our lives as something unique and authentic...and when we, instead, follow the herd.  It highlights how unthinking and ignorant the herd mentality of conformity is (in every case, not only for those associated with "the wrong movement"). 

This topic is personal to me.  When I lived in Seattle, I defined myself as "a good progressive" or "green activist" who shared all the "proper beliefs" about what "ought to be".  In conversation, I was eager to "make a difference in the world" by turning others on to "my way of thinking" which was "correct".  However, it wasn't really my way of thinking at all...it was predefined and I was acting as a salesman selling a cause.  How did this conception of myself fit with the fact that I made good money as a business person?  It didn't.  How did my socially liberal beliefs coexist with my status as a faithful husband?  They didn't.  How were my trips to the gas station justified within the context of my beliefs in sustainability?  They weren't.  But I had my mind in a twist with many, many arguments and justifications for it all.  Oh, how I would define my identity by my favorite politicians, my tastes in music, my shoes, the books I would read.  Yet none of that was ME!

Today I see myself as more-or-less just a human being trying to be the unique genetic mutation that I am...trying to perceive people and things as they actually are and trying to let my voice speak for itself rather than on behalf of some movement.  There is an emmense difference.

Posted by Mark Manney.

The Beauty Exchange (Ženy Pro Měny)

Ženy Pro Měny (International title "The Beauty Exchange") is a provocative Czech documentary film about the effects that the beauty industry has on women in Prague.  I highly recommend it to anyone, man or woman.  Though none of the ideas are new to most thinking people, it is important to observe the very real human impact that the beauty and fashion industry has on the lives of a few women, representative of all ages. 

At its core, the film seems to be more about Consumerism than Feminism.  When women, influenced by commercial TV and magazines such as Cosmopolitan or Vogue, spend all Saturday morning in a beauty ritual (lotions, nail polish, teeth whitening, hair), then all Saturday afternoon shopping for new clothes which are barely distinguishable from the clothes already lining their closets, what we are witnessing is pure and simple Consumerism.  When these same woman, influenced by much more of the same, purchase diet products, become anorexic, or have breast augmentation surgery, what we are seeing are the absolute sickest extremes of Consumerism.

While such a woman is pursuing some vague notion of beauty, the irony is that she will only appear beautiful to a partner who is every bit as infected with the Consumerist / Materialist mindset as she is.  Maybe he's driving an Audi Convertible, wearing clothes from the same mall she shops at, spending his days plotting how he can buy a home theater system he cannot afford, and flexing his muscles in the mirror while listening to Jay-Z. 

And together, when these two humans-turned-product-of-commercial-culture meet, their conversations will be every bit as interesting as some endless reality TV-Show...occasionally interrupted, just as on such a show, by distracting advertisements.  This happy couple will get married (spending far too much on the wedding), buy a house in the suburbs and two new cars (well before they can afford it), and begin a lifetime of resentment caused by small-minded, petty arguments about money and who can buy what, when.

Still, we are meant to believe that commercial media is harmless.  To argue that advertising is harmless is to argue that it is ineffective.  We know advertising works (sells people products they otherwise wouldn't buy) because corporations continue spending an enormous amount of money on them. 

Advertising is only harmless to the individual who isn't exposed to it.  We're not going to stop advertisers, but we can stop exposing ourselves to advertisements.  I don't smoke, because I understand the physical harm done by the chemicals and components in cigarettes.  Similarly, I don't watch any commercial media because I understand the psychological and health risks cause by the consumption of junk-information.  Whether we are Liberal, Feminist, Progressive, Green, Conservative, Pro-family Values, Christian, Muslim...in fact if we stand for any cause at all, there is one thing we should be able to unite on.  The first thing we need to do is rid ourselves of advertising.

It isn't as hard as one might expect.  Avoiding advertisements is as simple as avoiding commercial media.  It is entirely possible to simply not watch any TV channel, listen to any radio station, or read any newspaper or magazine which contains advertising (yes, I'm even talking about the New York Times...it's rubbish).  What you are left with is a huge variety of independent or not-for-profit sources of content -- blogs, web communities, films, MP3's, podcasts...plenty of content which one finds is much more worthwhile.  I've lived this way for about 3 years now, and what I found after tuning out the commercial media is that nothing is actually lost, only gained.  Only by removing the corporate advertiser's mind-control censorship of our information can we begin to explore authentic ideas and authentic thought.

To expose yourself to commercial content is to turn yourself into a product rather than a human.  To watch a commercial TV show is to become an audience.  You, as the audience, are the product of the TV station, who sells you to advertisers.  You are just one more individual who is allowing yourself to be tricked so that someone else can make a few pennies on you...profoundly disrespecting your humanity and selling bits and pieces of it to the highest bidder for no good reason at all.

Ženy Pro Měny is a brave documentary film created by some intelligent young women in Prague.  It is meant as a message from women to women.  But, to me, it is also a plea to turn against commercialism and, more specifically, advertising.

By the way, an even more compelling documentary, in fact the de facto standard when it comes to understanding media propaganda, is Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky.  Watch these two films and your life will never be drastically improved.

Posted by Mark Manney.

The Decalogue Depression

Kieslowski's “Decalogue”, a set of 10 one-hour films made in Poland in 1987, is unlike any other film experience. It’s not so much a "movie" as a "mini life phase." I've been watching one of the films per night for the past few days. I've never seen a more compelling portrayal of human misery, hopelessness, and desperation. I say the series is a "mini life phase" because of the extent to which it has influenced my mood over the past several days. I guess you could say I've been a little depressed.

It would be easy to say that characters in the Decalogue suffer from clinical depression, but that, of course, misses the point badly. I suspect that to isolate depression as a condition absent the individual's external environment is to oversimplify and fail to understand it. Kieslowski shows us a society in which depression is the norm...in which the characters are unable to escape their shared mood and circumstance.

Incidentally, the rise in depression we've seen in the US certainly has a lot to do with our external environment as well. America has a war on everything…even a war on unhappiness. And what is often overlooked is the genuine and subtle beauty that can be found in the absence of cheeriness and perkiness. I'll continue watching the last 5 in the series because, despite what pop culture teaches us, misery can be embraced by the emotionally and intellectually honest. I don't want to accept the idea that depression is an illness. In fact, I’d rather start a war on cheeriness and perkiness instead.

Posted by Mark Manney.