Invasion of the Body Snatchers

It is a fact: I am not a big fan of selfie-taking. I wish to put this disclaimer right out there at the forefront. (See my previous post “On Selfies and Vulnerability.”)

Nonetheless, I recognize that it has become a part of the fabric of our culture today, and I have tried to make my peace with it since it is clearly here to stay.

However, can we please, as a society, draw some lines, people?

Today, after my run at the gym, I was half-naked, air drying, when I noticed a fellow gym member taking a multitudes of selfies in the dressing room.

Now I know that people, for whatever reason, have come to believe that bathrooms are the ideal place for self-taking. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I even took one myself, which I never posted as it just seemed absurd to me.) It is a standard selfie location nowadays.

But, seriously, the dressing room at the gym?

I wondered as I watched her taking photos in front of the mirror – both aiming in to the mirror and also with the camera flipped standing in front of it – which meant that there was the possibility that I, in my half-nakedness, stood a chance of being in the background of aforesaid selfies, either in the reflection of the mirror directly behind her.

I have to say that I immediately felt my privacy had been invaded.

As calmly as possible, I walked over to her after I dressed and said I’d noticed he’d been taking selfies and that I was concerned that I may have inadvertently been in some of the shots topless. I was going to ask her to delete and retake if so, out of courtesy to my right to privacy.

Well, you would have thought I had demanded her phone and then smashed it.

She quickly swiped through the 8 shots she’d taken, none of which I could properly see because she as going so fast, though I did see that the top I’d been holding was in the background of 1 or 2, as it was a very colorful print.

She starting yelling at me then, telling me that she wasn’t taking pictures of me. I said I didn’t think she was taking pictures of me, but I feared my naked torso was in the background, caught accidentally.

She got even louder and angrier, and told me I was crazy. I asked to see the pictures again, she refused and continued to yell at me.

Someone intervened and asked us to stop yelling. She also tried to explain to the lady what I was concerned about, to no avail.

I went down to speak to the manager, who wanted to go find the lady, but while I was waiting to talk to her, the woman left through the side door. (I know this because when we went to look for her, another woman came forward and said she had seen her leave.)

All I really wanted from the manager was perhaps a sign to go up in the dressing room that selfies were not allowed in respect to the privacy of other members.

(Of course, as I asked for this, a part of me wondered if anyone really takes anything a middle-aged white lady says with a grain of salt. It is embarrassing to bring up in a world where so many are fighting for equality, but I will say it: women over 45 are, for the most part, invisible and/or treated like we are crazy much of the time. I am not saying we need a movement like many other much more maligned parts of society; I recognize the advantages and the privilege that my being a white, American, middle-class woman have afforded me. Still. Just saying. But I digress.)

To her credit, she listened and gave my concerns attention.

What I wish to propose here is that we, as a culture, recognize/remember that there are still places where photography is not legally welcome. Even in the Age of the Selfie.

Don’t believe me? While it is legal to take pictures just about anywhere, there is a line drawn. “Basically, anyone can be photographed without their consent except when they have secluded themselves in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as dressing rooms, restrooms, medical facilities, and inside their homes.”*

*Reference below.

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I think that a dressing room is a place where I can reasonably expect privacy, am I right?

Yes, legally I am. I am not just another crazy middle-aged lady ranting, it is illegal.

Now, I know this lady had no desire to take a pic of me. I have no fear that she is now circulating the photos on the Internet! (This has actually been a big thing and prompted Congress to address the issue of privacy by enacting the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004.

According to the West Virginia State Privacy Office website: “The Video Voyeurism Prevention Act prohibits the photographing or videotaping of a naked person without his or her permission in a gym, tanning salon, dressing room or anywhere else where one expects a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Violators can expect fines of up to $100,000 and/or up to a year in prison. This doesn’t necessarily make it illegal for someone to snap your photo without your permission though. For instance, if you’re just walking down the street and someone takes a picture, they’re well within their rights no matter how violated you might feel. If you see someone taking your photo without your permission, it’s your right to ask him or her to stop. Never take photos of people without their permission, and try to be aware of your surroundings.”)

So I do have the right to not be those photos, and I could (and perhaps should) have called the police. Now, not if she had been willing to have a discourse with me. But as she felt no social obligation towards my concerns or privacy whatsoever – perhaps.

After all, we are all living on this big ball together, right? We do have to work together to some degree, don’t we?

How about this: I’ll put up with your self-taking everywhere else if you respect my privacy in restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities and inside my own home. If you just HAVE to get that shot of yourself in one of these places, just make sure that no one else is in your background, okay?

Sound good?

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word prompt: fact

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Roots for a Generation

Inspired by The Daily Prompt: Roots

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, television was a profound presence in our home.

My earliest memories are of hearing the word “Watergate” being discussed on nightly news. I don’t recall images or specifics, but I do remember wandering through the room and the adults being very interested in the TV screen.

I remember loving Romper Room with every fiber of my being, awaiting the day when the hostess would say my name as she held her magic TV mirror up in front of her face at the end of the show, calling out to little viewers in their living rooms as if she could rally see us there. (If you are too young to have any idea of what I am referring to, this is what I am talking about.)

But the biggest television event from my youth (pre-MTV that is) was, hands-down, Roots.

Roots was a 1977 miniseries based on a book written by Alex Haley. It was the story of African teen Kunta Kinte, brought to America to be enslaved, and the generations of his family and eventual emancipation.
A remake was made in 2016, and it once again became a television event. But the impact it had in 1977 can never be repeated. It was a different time.
In 1977, it was pretty huge that network TV was devoting so much time to an African American story. And we didn’t have the internet. Our cultural exposure was limited to television, films, art and books. As a young person, television was pretty much all.
And to my middle class, fairly all-white community, Roots brought to full technicolor glory some of the stories that had only been read about (barely and I am sure very biased-ly) in our history books.
I remember clutching pillows and crying, feeling outrage and shock at the outrageousness of the treatment of Kunta Kinte and his family. My friends and I talked about what we saw on-screen at school the day after the episodes. It opened our little minds up to whole other realities of our history.
According to Wikipedia: Roots received 37 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It also won a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen ratings for the finale, which still holds a record as the third highest rated episode for any type of television series, and the second most watched overall series finale in U.S. television history.
Apparently, the making of the miniseries was quite controversial in that the executives are afraid it would bomb. The Museum of Broadcast Communications recounts the apprehensions that Roots would flop, and how this made ABC prepare the format:

Familiar television actors like American [sic] actor Lorne Greene were chosen for the white, secondary roles, to reassure audiences. The white actors were featured disproportionately in network previews. For the first episode, the writers created a conscience-stricken slave captain (Edward Asner), a figure who did not appear in Haley’s novel but was intended to make white audiences feel better about their historical role in the slave trade. Even the show’s consecutive-night format allegedly resulted from network apprehensions. ABC programming chief Fred Silverman hoped that the unusual schedule would cut his network’s imminent losses—and get Roots off the air before sweeps week.

— Encyclopedia of Television, Museum of Broadcast Communications
 All important to examine today, and I am sure there are wonderful articles that analyze and explore such things much better than I can, but I didn’t know any of that then.
Then it was just a really riveting and important piece of television, one that told the stories of people and of a time in American history about whom I knew very little about up until that point.
I am so grateful for that. Historically accurate or not, it brought into our living room and into our classrooms another way of understanding who we were, where we had come from. It was a powerful use of the medium of television, and it opened up more than a few minds, I hope, to considering more than just what we had been told about America up until that point.
May there be many more “Roots”-inspired works to come. Maybe now more than ever we need such powerful television to be created.
#Roots #television #powerfulstories

New World Order

It’s happening. Slowly but surely, people are being phased out of more and more jobs, replaced by tablets or machines.

I don’t like it. When I was traveling this past summer, I saw it everywhere. The latest? The airport tablet trend. It’s the brainchild of OTG Management, and it is the bane of travel as far as I am concerned.

Airports have always held the promise of connections. Plane connections, yes, but connections of other kinds as well. Conversations at the airport bar or while waiting for your flight and grabbing a coffee, or at the gate, have sparked romances, dalliances, business opportunities. People-watching at airports has inspired films, writers and artists of all kinds because airports hold so many real-life stories unfolding before our eyes. Stories of reunited loved ones, people traveling for funerals, weddings, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.  Airports have been the way station between adventures. A part of the experience of travel. They’ve held the potential for adventure, the unknown, new experiences.

Now, airports are looking more and more like, well, a sea of i-Pad stations. Every restaurant has them in front of every chair on every table. If you are with someone, there are two i-Pads standing upright between you, separating you like the plexiglass at the bank teller. There are still some employees, but your contact with them is minimal. (Yet you still are expected to tip them.)

It is supposed to be more efficient and reduce the travelers’ stress at airports. Every time my husband and I ordered through them, there were errors and it ended up taking twice as long as it should have. Our meals were comp’d twice due to error. I had to take rebel action and un-dock our i-Pads so we could actually be together while we ate. I found it all incredibly annoying. And disturbing, in a Hal-creepy kind of way (the software for the OTG system is named Flo.)

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We’ve had self-service convenience lanes for years now at stores where you can ring yourself up. (I have to admit I do like those when I am in a hurry.) But at least they have installed them in addition to still having people to ring you up.

Even the people who hawk the free daily papers are being replaced by metal iron bins. Somebody figured out you can just leave the stacked papers in the metal bins for people to grab and forego paying whatever small amount they must have paid those people who would try to get you to take one on your morning commute. I am going to miss those people. Some of them were quite inventive. Like the way some of the subway announcers add a personal touch in the way they give out the usual informational announcements. Some of those people create a moment of connection in the subway with their wit or their exceptional voice — fellow commuters look around and catch eyes and smile in a moment of shared appreciation. More and more, those announcements are becoming automated as well. I will miss that, too.

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The opportunities we have to connect with people on a daily basis are becoming less and less as a result of all of this technological advancement and replacement. Interactions between strangers, once commonplace, is lessoning. Sometimes I look around on the streets, and in the buses and subways, and we all look like strange robot-people, plugged into “the source”…our various electronic devices…all looking down into our palms.

Even if you wanted to make a passing remark to someone, they wouldn’t hear you. (Ever try to get off the train, saying “Excuse me!” over and over only to realize that the person you were trying to pass was plugged in and couldn’t hear you?)

I really worry about how this will affect us over time. We’ve begun to notice that young children no longer know how to interact socially. Can it really be that big of a surprise?

It’s as if we all bring the comfort of our living rooms and our offices with us now everywhere we go. We can create our own soundtrack to play as we move through our lives. Sounds cool, right? But when we do that, we miss the actual live music of the actual world around us. Yes, there is a kind of music to the world of daily life around us. We don’t even recognize it anymore.

We now can watch our favorite shows as we move from one place to another. Those in-between times of transition between Point A and Point B used to be opportunities to process what has just occurred, to daydream, or to connect randomly with the world around us. Now it is a way to plug back into what we already know, what we will find at home when we get there. It’s as if we are constantly trying to get back to the state we know best…the state we recognize most. To spend as little time as possible being affected by and living in the actual world as we live in the actual world.

I have a 1.15 hour commute both ways to and from work each day. I often use it as a time to get certain things done. So I get it. I utilize that time, too, using the train as my temporary office. I type, I learn lines, I listen to workshop lessons, audiobooks, read on my Kindle, too.

But I do make a conscious effort to not be plugged in all of the time. I don’t run around the city with my music playing in my ears anymore. I purposefully start up conversations when at a checkout register with the person ringing me up, or the person selling me tea, or the person in line with me at the store. It is amazing how surprised some people are at it. It is not the norm anymore, it is the exception. Before I began to make this effort, I, too, would feel sort of jarred if a stranger tried to have a moment of connection with me out in the world. Sort of annoyed. Like, why are you interrupting my connection with my music or my show or my whatever-I-am-connected-to-at-the-time? Can’t you just leave me alone?

What? Wow. That floored me, when I caught myself feeling that way out in the world. That is when I had to take a hard look at what was happening in the world around me. And at my behavior in it. I had to ask myself what I was doing in the world in the first place.

Are we all here to remain the same as much as possible? To only connect with the known and to stay safely in control of what we are exposed to as we move through the world? Do I really want to try to maintain the world of my home and take it with me as I go out into the world?

Or do I want to go out into the world and be affected by it? Interact with it and communicate with people and allow myself to move through the world and connect to it? Be moved and changed by the interactions I have with real people?

So I started weening myself off of my smartphone. It was tough at first…to go back to just walking down a street without looking down and doing something on my phone felt, well, anxiety-provoking at first. My system was no longer used to the simple, naked action of moving through space with just me and my thoughts and the world around me. But in time, I learned again how to just enjoy the sunlight on my face, or to take in the street scene, to exchange a smile with a passer-by. Have a short exchange with someone on an elevator. Spark up a conversation in a line. There ARE still others out there happy to connect like that. You just won’t even see them unless you are available to it.

Just as I set office hours for myself as a self-employed person, I also now set boundaries for my time on my phone when out in the world. It makes a huge difference in the quality of my day.

I love my smartphone, I really do. But I love people too. I don’t want to forget how to have an exchange with a stranger. Some of the most memorable conversations I have had were in airports with strangers. I wouldn’t be the same without having had them.

#reallife #intheworldandoftheworld