Monday, April 19, 2010

Insomnia? May I recommend Nova

I've had trouble sleeping most of my life. And when I have fallen asleep it is not always in the most appropriate setting.  I have drifted off while listing to a director give me notes after rehearsal (he didn't notice thanks to one of my fellow actors responding), in mid sentence as I sit at a restaurant eating, while sitting on a toilet and while cooking.  This last one was before I actually turned on the stove but still...dicey.  After I had my heart attack I was told I had to sleep with some consistency or I would..ah what was the word the Cardiologist used...oh yeah...die.

Now with a combination of a prescription and a good book, I can turn my brain off and fall asleep.  But sometimes I need a little more encouragement to bring me to the repose I so desire.  I choose not to turn to more drugs but instead a rather curious way to put myself in sweet slumber. I turn on an episode of Nova.

But how can that be you might ask?  Nova is one of the finest representations of non-fictional or reality television show ever produced anywhere. I unequivocally agree. The subject matter is always informative, timely yet timeless and so beautifully photographed that on a large HD screen it can take your breath away.  The content is presented in a well thought out and meticulous manner with attention to detail and accuracy that is unmatched. The viewer can follow seemingly incomprehensible, complex issues in a way that are accessible to even the most impenetrable among us.  They take you to another world the same way a great book can.  The one thing they don't do is intrude with off the subject commercials during the presentation. And that's when the miraculous happens.  I believe as the show continues uninterrupted, somewhere I find the portal to drift off to dreamland.  

The lack of commercials is the key most certainly.  Did you ever notice that the commercial blocks (especially on FOX!!!!!) are LOUD.  Sometimes much LOUDER and that's saying something if you're watching something like 24. You may dismiss it but its true.  All broadcast entities that have advertisement have the volume turned up to "11" during these breaks.  Any show, no matter what the genre, during the show's content, will have moments of stasis and some quiet however brief.  A 21st century commercial block has a thirtieth of a second between each ad, announcement or promo.  It is this random series of disturbances that I believe keeps me awake.  Even when its recorded and I'm whizzing past these pods of information, it's still a break and  my mind and body are engaged.  How can you sleep when you're blasted with, "ANIMATION DOMINATION!!!!! "

Nothing like that ever happens when I'm watching Nova.  Not even when the subject concerns CERN and its massive particle accelerator.  When watching Nova I am a passive participant and I have only to sit back and do nothing.  I relax and allow myself to be completely absorbed.  Put me in a bed with lots of pillows propping me up and securing my head and the mix is as effective as any prescription non-addicting (yeah right) sedative. If I watch it live it happens around 822pm and I make certain that the TV turns off before the show is over. If I do wake up I'm still embraced in that state of grace which assures a quick and certain return to blissful sleep.

This phenomenon started years ago with the hypnotic voice of George Page on Nature and the late Carl Sagan when he narrated his seminal series Cosmos.  About the third time he would repeat the phrase "Billions and billions of star stuff" I was snoring on the couch before the second "B".  I have never been able to remain conscious for a Nature episode that George Page has narrated.  Even the one on dogs.  

I now record Nova, Nature, Masterpiece Theatre etc. and when I can't sleep I find one of them on my "Do Not Delete" list, hit the play icon and they are my calming voice.  Sometimes they are such great shows I do become fully engaged and don't fall asleep until it's over (I'm finding this happening more and more with Jane Austen presentations [could be the estrogen]) but even then I am as a consequence in a serene state of mind.  My mind is thinking about the great show and it questions and issues and not fretting about all the myriad of things that are swirling in my head as I come to the end of a day. Instead I can drift off with images of the elusive Higgs particle, a skeletal representation of a cheetah and how they are built a certain way that enables them to catch the impala or what's up with Mr. Darcy?  Really?

Maybe it's just me and it won't work for you.  But I thought I would share with you this modality to unconsciousness.  Not only do I sleep but I believe I'm more informed on many subjects that have seemingly no consequence in my life.  But then again, you never know having the knowledge that we now know that 95% of the universe of made up of mostly dark energy and  some dark matter and we don't know what that is exactly nor have we really ever seen it, could help me when I'm doing say... my taxes.  It's nice to know that even the smartest and most learned people don't know things.  

So thank you PBS and viewers like you and me occasionally that bring such high quality shows that challenge my intellect (which is easy to do) and bring rest to this weary soul.  Ah Sleep.  The Sweet Escape (Gwen Stefani not withstanding).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Love is too Weak a Word

Several years ago I became a Lay Speaker with the Methodist Church.  Simply put it means I'm not a Minister but sometimes I act like one in church.  Shortly after I got my certificate which proves you're A Lay Speaker, the Senior Pastor of our Church, graciously allowed me to give a sermon.  It was not a complex subject I decided to preach about.  It was "Love is too Weak A Word".  I felt at the time (pre - George W. Bush's Presidency) that Love was not getting good press. 

For me, when Barack Obama was elected and then inaugurated as President I thought that at last love had triumphed.  Fear which leads to hate and destruction was to busy to notice that "Love Came to Town" and took over.  I will cherish those days as long as I live.  My Mother would have loved it as would've Dad but my Mother would've said that what she was witnessing was a miracle.  

It was a miracle for me as well.  I seen on TV hate (this time taking the form of racism) battling the overpowering forces of love in Selma, Montgomery, "I Have a Dream" and finally the Civil Rights Act.  And for a few years the flood gates broke open and their were anti-war protests, Woodstock, Women's liberation and finally the sexual revolution!  I am so glad I was in my late teens and my early twenties when that happened.  And then just as we got going - Watergate, Reagan, Bush the First and Clinton getting a blow job and lying about it.  I always thought that he should have been more clever with his lie. "Yes I had a blow job in the Oval Office but it was Hillary who gave it to me." No one would've believed that.

So Al Gore loses the election in the Supreme Court and we place a guy who you can have a beer with in the  Presidency.  May I point out here that President Obama can drink a beer as well as he demonstrated IN FRONT of cameras but I digress.  After Bush became President we have had 9/11 and 9/12 (I'll talk about that more in a second), two wars that are STILL going on and now we have the Tea Party.

Where is love in this?  It was there on 9/12.  The world would have done anything to help us heal and grieve.  But we were afraid and we eventually did what we as a human race has done for millennia - we went to war.  I didn't say anything against the invasion of Afghanistan.  I was mad and the enemy was not going to capitulate to a nation that would not fight.  In hindsight, I realized that if we had turned to love and ask the world to help it might have done so.  Perhaps terrorism could be eliminated by eliminating its root cause.  Suffering in poverty.  Pie in the sky?  Idealism to the extreme?  Perhaps.  But I would argue it was not taking of Berlin and that ended World War II in Europe it was the Marshall Plan.  For the first time in human history we restored our enemy.  President Lincoln had the same idea after the Civil War but it ended with his death.  "Charity to all with malice toward none."  Pie in the sky?  Just long overdue.  

I'm not writing this for anyone but myself.  No really.  I don't have a lot of followers.  But every day that I see fear leading to just plain stupidity and that leading to rationalizations that defy logic I am concerned that love is losing the media war.  That love is too weak a word.  

In tennis it means nothing and I find sometimes that is all it means to me.  Nothing.  But it is not nothing!!!  Why do you think there is so much vitriol on the air and on the Internet?  Love is stronger than any force in the Universe including Gravity and Dark Matter and Energy (you can't prove me wrong on those last three) and the only way some people feel they can fight it is to yell and tell lies and put fear in us.  And why?  Because those are all the things that love is not.  Love isn't is fearful, loud or ignorant.  It is patient and kind.  I must live my life in love.

That doesn't mean that I'm not in mortal danger?  No but who isn't?  The fact is that love has literally saved my life. If it wasn't for love I would be dead for more than two years now (long story but true).  Love works through us when we least expect it and when we do let it work through us the world changes. As fast as some would like?  No but we must, like love, be patient and kind.

I know for myself that love needs me to be its voice, its hands and its feet. And so that is why I write about love this day.  Love has given me the courage.  Love is not too weak a word.  I am.