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Lost In Space

It was the middle of February 2020, just before COVID-19 changed everything. My husband, daughter and I were at a luau in Hawaii, celebrating my daughter’s birthday.

Just after the outdoor show began, an hour or so past sunset, somebody at our table pointed to the western horizon. “Look at that!” Flying low in the sky was a series of lights in a straight line. There were maybe 10 or 12 of them. We’d never seen anything like it. Were they birds? Were they shooting stars? Was it the second coming? What the heck??

We asked some of the hotel staff “Have you ever seen this before?” No, they all answered. We watched until the string of lights slowly drifted out of sight.

The next day our astronomer friend, who was also visiting Hawaii at the time, gave us the explanation. Only a few days before, SpaceX had launched 60 Starlink satellites. What we saw were a few of them still following each other in the same orbit. Eventually, they would drift apart and orbit on their own.

When I think of it now, it seemed like a strange omen. We didn’t realize then that this would be our last trip for a very long time.

Just the other day, May 4th, known as “Star Wars Day”, SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites. A string of them were visible in the night sky here on Vancouver Island for a short time.

There are roughly 6000 satellites orbiting around our little blue planet at this time, with more coming. Some of these satellites are not even operational. Space junk.

They float along with lots of other bits and pieces like old bolts, equipment fragments, fuel sludge and paint chips that have been orbiting for years. One of the main concerns is the possibility of collisions with important working satellites.

The International Space Station is constantly adjusting direction in order to avoid this space junk. At a high velocity, even the smallest bit can do great damage.

Environmental issues, it seems, are not just confined within our atmosphere. Believe it or not, there are “space debris experts” out there trying to sound the alarm and to come up with ways to safely remove space junk before something catastrophic happens.

Why, at the very moment of this writing, there is a 10-story, 23-ton piece of rocket about to crash to earth, with no one knowing for sure where it might end up. Alert the “space debris experts.”

It could splash harmlessly into the ocean, but it could also smash into a populated area. Some of it will burn up on re-entry, but not all 23 tons of it.

Back in 1969, I remember watching the blurry image of the first step onto the moon. I was at my best friend Shirley’s house and we watched this incredible event on her black and white TV. “The Eagle has landed.” Looking at the moon that night, I was amazed to think that people were actually up there walking on it.

Now we’ve got NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance roaming the red planet, looking for past signs of life. The technological advances in space exploration have been astounding, and we keep learning more and more, not only about our solar system, but also about our home, the earth.

And, as my astronomer friend would point out, a lot of that technology and research has also benefited us as individuals too.

Oh, oh, watch out!

Phew…

Just figure out a way to get rid of all of that space junk, will ya?

The Boy in the Balloon

Venezia 042 Tez - Brian Eno predicts YouTubeImage by watz via Flickr

Undoubtedly, you have heard all about the “balloon boy” incident by now, where a home-made experimental weather balloon was set adrift supposedly carrying a 6-year-old boy for 80 kilometers as the helicopters and media aircraft followed it, broadcasting live, of course.

People began to suspect that it might be a hoax when Wolf Blitzer of CNN asked the boy a question in an interview with the family, and the boy responded that it was all “for the show”.

And now it has been confirmed that the whole incident was indeed a hoax, and that the family had devised the plan, hoping to get a reality TV series out of it.

Is this what family television has come to?

I could sit here, as I suppose many of you could, and sound off about poor parenting and setting a horrible example for the kids. The fact is that this couple could potentially lose their children because of their idiocy. And maybe they deserve that. But what is even more significant, I think, is what it really reflects about the insanity that been created around reality shows. I’ve mouthed off about reality shows before; who can forget the Jon and Kate Plus 8 mess that ended up with the show being canceled, lawsuits pending, and a nasty divorce in the works? Again, the kids are the ones who are really suffering. And to put your six-year-old boy up to a nation-wide hoax JUST so you can get a reality TV series is almost incomprehensible to me. And desperately stupid.

People have become certifiably nuts about media and fame and money, and in the U.S. this insanity seems even more exaggerated.

YouTube is also contributing to this hysterical drive for attention. People do absolutely outrageous things in order to create a video that may potentially “go viral”. Some of these videos involve hurting people or animals or destroying property; there are beatings, fights, people let their small children drive a vehicle, for pete’s sake. And then they are stupid enough to post these videos on YouTube; do they not realize that the authorities can figure out quite easily who they are and arrest them?

The desire for money and attention has truly become a sickness for so many people. And our kids are growing up with this stuff all around them, so they are almost becoming desensitized to it. It has gone far beyond posting a video of your cat chasing the light from a flashlight, or your little girl learning to ride a bike for the first time.

And where will it go from here? I think the people at YouTube are going to have to start taking more responsibility for what they are, in fact, encouraging. But who is going to hold them accountable? My guess is that majority of the staffers at YouTube are in their 20’s or 30’s. They have not lived long enough to understand long term consequences of anything.

Okay, I’m off the soapbox. I’m not anti-YouTube, I hang out there a lot, but obviously not to watch those kinds of videos. I’m not anti-youth, but I think a lot of them need a kick in the pants. I’m certainly not anti-television, I am in fact a co-owner of a local station. But I’m thinking that the executives at these big media and internet companies are the ones who should be scrutinized. They are only seeing $$, and they should know better. Somebody up there in that fancy office 93 stories above street level should be saying “Hey, wait a minute…”.

I ain’t holding my breath.

 IJ



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End of Summer, End of an Era?

Braun HF 1, Germany, 1959Image via Wikipedia

I am more than half way through my time off and thinking “Holy Cow, I had all this time and how much of my To Do List have I done?” This is exactly what I projected I would do. Maybe the projecting part is what did me in. I am a perpetual victim of my own expectations. Ugh.

Anyway, I am going to forgive myself and let it go. Er, well, I’ll try anyway.

It is nearing the end of summer and I sure don’t like letting summer go. Spring and summer are the months that I feel like I come alive. On the wetcoast (no, that’s not a typo), we live through months of grey and rain which to those who are not used to it, can be very depressing. Well, even those who ARE used to it get pretty grumpy after weeks of misery.

It is also nearing the end of months of wondering what is going to happen to the Little TV Station That Could. 

Some of you will remember that months ago I talked about my husband being laid off from his television job of 29 years. So far, we have survived it. He has picked up some independent production work, and has spent the last month working at a television station in Vancouver just as a fill in. But the station where he used to work is going to permanently shut its doors on August 31st, which to many of us is unbelievable.

There are a group of people at work trying to save it, consisting of employees, former employees and other investors. And there is great hope that somehow it will survive, but even if it does, it’ll be a long, hard road ahead to make it viable.

Television is not what it used to be to most of us who grew up with it. Remember when there was only one TV in the house, it might still have been black and white, and when a certain show came on, the whole family would gather to watch? Most families have more than one TV these days, and nobody is watching…and when they are, it is not together as a family. Many kids growing up now were told by their parents NOT to watch TV, that it’s bad for them. So what have they migrated to? Computers and hand-held game devices. Yeah, much better!

In some ways, I don’t blame people for moving away from television. There is a LOT of crap on TV these days. Much of it is due to some know-it-all TV execs somewhere trying to lure younger people to the set, or to hang on to the “National Enquirer” types. I’m talking about the people who watch reality shows. Cookie cutter television shows abound. Once something succeeds, everybody tries to reinvent it and as a result, you get the same show over and over, but with a different name. You know, reality television has probably driven as many people away from television as it has kept others around. But I’ve already written a blog railing at reality television, so enough of that. 

The one thing that many television stations have lost is the “local” aspect. Once a station gets swallowed up by a big conglomerate (this is also true for radio), these big companies do their best to get rid of anything local about it. The company that my husband worked for tried to ask the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), to allow for LESS local programming, because they didn’t want to pay for it. It’s cheaper to run a bunch of crappy, US-bought shows than to pay local people to write, create and produce local television. But what is the point in having a local television station if there is nothing “local” about it? This is what has driven many people away from watching.

I don’t think that because a company is BIG that it has to be BAD. Unfortunately, however, it becomes easier for a big company to “streamline” certain aspects of its organization to save money, which in turn means job losses due to centralization. Centralization leads to loss of individuality…and let’s face it, people in Winnipeg don’t care what’s happening to people in Victoria unless it’s something REALLY BIG like an earthquake or an invasion of some sort! And vice versa.

Okay, it’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we would rather know more about ourselves than we would about somebody else. And that’s where, in many instances, television has lost out in the last few years.

Except for local news, many TV stations don’t have the budget or the creative minds to develop local programming. And the creative minds who used to have these ideas, have been told to do something else. Although I realize that C.S.I. and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire are far beyond what any small local television station can produce, I do believe that there is a desire by television viewers to see and hear more about themselves and their communities, and not just in a news-type show. And as a result of trying to lure younger people to the TV set, television executives have actually driven many away who were actually DEVOUT television viewers…people of my generation and older. Television was, and is, our habit. Why encourage us to turn it off?

Okay, I don’t really know anything. These are all simply my opinions and I have never run a television station. But I did work at one for eight years, my husband for 29 years, and we might soon become part owners of it. Some might say that television is dying. But they said that television would kill radio, and it didn’t, and I doubt that the internet will kill TV. However, we have to take the best parts of it and create a model that helps it to succeed. And if anyone can do it, we can. 

Winter is coming, and possibly, a LOT of hard work.

Wish us luck!

IJ


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