Cheryl Pappas


Archive for June, 2012

Eating Is Dangerous

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

It’s a bad time to be hungry in America.

First, let me say that it has been a bad time forever to be hungry if you are poor and impoverished anywhere in the world.

Today I am speaking of a different matter: the increasing numbers of toxic foods, and the food danger warnings that assault us every day.

Remember those olden days when we would hear people say, “I think I’ll have a nice piece of fish”?

That used to be known as the choice to eat something in the “healthy” category, rather than going along with the heavy meat and potatoes diet that was pure Americano.

Just think of it. “A nice piece of fish”.

Does such a fish exist anymore?

According to a multitude of health news websites that have my email address (and also apparently my personality “number”), we are warned to avoid all imported farmed fish.

The toxic crowding of fish farmed in China alone, which allegedly accounts for 25% of the fish eaten in America, leads to epidemic fish death, which the surviving fish swim in.

Sounds delicious.

Along with this, the mercury levels of certain fish have to be memorized. This has been true for decades.

Remember Marvin Gaye singing the line, “fish full of mercury”?

Mercy, mercy me.

And now the alarming elevation of Pacific Ocean fish radiation levels, as a result of the Japanese tsunami, headlines the news.

Sushi, anyone?

I don’t know about you, but perusing menus used to be one of my very favorite activities.

Now I search a menu for something that is least likely to kill me.

Or, as a physician acquaintance suggested one night at dinner, “The secret is mixing your poisons”.

How about corn, on or off, the cob? I may be in the minority, but knowing I am eating genetically modified, aka  GMO, vegetables and fruits turns me so off that it shuts down my biological hunger response.

Well, not completely. I am not anorexic, and would never encourage disordered eating.

But I do find myself trapped in a tidal wave of knowledge that makes me wonder.

Is it better to be ignorant and eat toxic foods or is it better to spend a lifetime reading ingredients on packages and asking where meat and fish were born, and what their astrological signs are.

Last Christmas, standing in line at the Santa Monica Whole Foods deli and searching for dinner party recipes without GMO canola oil, a woman next to me smiled wryly at my ingredients investigation.

“Oh”, she said, “I used to eat kale. I am totally off greens and grains now”.

I was curious and asked her what she is eating now and why.

She laughed and said, having spent decades as a vegetarian, she today eats chocolate and sugar exclusively.

She then told me she was diagnosed with something deadly.

She was dying.

Siri, Say It Ain’t So

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Something terrified me during the Tony Awards and I’m not talking about Candace Bergen’s outfit.

I’m also not talking about this Tony Award show’s idiocy in musically cutting off Mike Nichols’ genius onstage; or anyone ever, for any reason, cutting into Mike’s rare appearances when he gifts us with a live line of dialogue.

I could go on and on, but I’m forcing myself to imagine a stoned stagehand pressing the wrong button and I’ll leave it there.

Today my focus is Apple iphone’s commercials during these Awards. I’m talking about the repeated multi-million dollar vignettes starring John Malkovich and introducing iphone’s latest robot girl voice, Siri, who hopes to pose as a human being with whom to carry on relationships and phone conversations.

Siri is not just a voice. She is a virtual woman and a virtual woman with a mission.

So, what’s the problem? you might ask.

Technology and commercials go hand in hand, and it’s all about the smartest, quickest ways to erase ancient nuisances, like real communication, human phone calls, and having to spend actual time with people.

Here’s why I’m bothered.

I believe this is the first commercial to enforce the idea that you can have a relationship with a mechanized voice.

Color me annoyed, bothered, and bewildered.

I am well aware of the disconnection between people today that produces unparalleled depths of rage and depression in our society.

Apple is leaping onto this zeitgeist of human emptiness, shoving it forward, and cashing in.

Siri is Apple’s relationship answer for the lonely American.

In case you missed it, John Malkovich repeatedly appeared in two versions of Siri commercials during the Tonys, seductively hawking the latest iphone innovation.

These languid commercials feature an uber- relaxed Malcovich lounging alone while having an intimate iphone tete a tete with robot girl Siri’s warm, seductive voice.

But wait! It’s much more than that if you closely study the swift cultural replacement of heart and soul and humanity, as I do.

Back to the commercial. Let’s put it this way. We’re listening in on a private call.

Malcovich’s body language and voice is of a person flirting with a robot voice on a phone call with the door closed.

Yes, I know about sex; it’s important; I’m a fan.

And I know that sex sells.

But what exactly are we buying here?

The problem is, Siri is a what, not a whom.

Think blowup sex doll, only this time, imagine a device that is a vocal replacement for relationship, and you’re in the right neighborhood.

It’s no mystery that robot girl has the conversational depth of her older sister, the Stepford Wife.

Got a question? Talk to Siri.

Full disclosure: I am not impressed with Siri.

It’s not just that “she” is a robot, and there are already too many people doing brilliant robot imitations in real life.

Siri is also just not smart or interesting.

Voices are very important to me.

I understand that the robot vocal style is wildly popular today, but not with me.

If I need a weather report, I can get one with less aggravation.

When a friend introduced Siri to me over dinner, the only response she could come up with to a series of basic questions, was a dismissive monotone, “I’ve been wondering that myself”.

Message to Siri: do some homework and get back to me.

Even as your voice aims to personally reassure, that particular answer reveals that you have no answers.

A robot with no answers is probably like a fish without a jet ski, or something like that.

Anyway, you’re not for me. You’re a machine. You can’t help it.

(See how seductive these devices are? I’m talking to a robot).

For those of you dinosaurs who are simply too busy with friendships involving people who have bodies (the remaining 3 or 4 of you) to recognize what I’m talking about, Siri has arrived; she is in the house (literally).

Kiss the screen Facebook page and its virtual “friending” movement a fast bye-bye.

That was so yesterday.

Technology, always in hot pursuit of personal relationship replacement, now presents the virtuosity of virtual friends:

Siri, the voice!

Facebook for Dummies: What Were You Thinking?

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

The headlines about hacking into Facebook are currently spreading like a disease.

Let me assure you literallists that I am not personally calling anyone a “dummy”. At least not in writing.

I am leaping on this momentary window, this wild, exciting breaking news opportunity, where we are focused on Facebook hackers, to ask a basic question.

With the reality of multiple hackings and identity thefts, why are you involved with Facebook in the first place? And why in the world do you continue?

Full disclosure: I am not fond of passing around snapshots of my gorgeous face from the past or the present, and am a fierce control freak about who knows my personal life and business.

It’s also easy to write me off as a Boomer who has a neurotic attachment to what the word “friend” really means. Guilty as charged am I.

At a party this weekend, several people asked how to reach me on Facebook, to which I replied, “I’m only tangentially on Facebook”.

I am sad to report that nearly 70% of those inquiries came from people who thought I was a comedienne who made up fancy words, like “tangentially”.

I know people who proudly and publicly broadcast the exact, (rounded-up), number of their so-called “friends” on Facebook, for the baffling purpose of….?

Well, it can only be that a great majority of people have signed over their lives to having a Facebook-promoted virtual existence.

Please pause here and digest.

In boasting about Facebook numbers, do people really think those “friends” are “friends”?

(Insert here a user-friendly, antique book on friendship).

I do understand that people like to “share” their pictures with others from their long-ago past.

Speaking as someone who studies human behavior, I say that we have an epidemic of phone phobia sweeping across this country, if not the world.

The human voice is considered an obstacle, a dreaded infrequent necessity that there should be pills for. Oh, wait, there are pills for that.

I know this point of view makes me seem ancient, inflexible, and plummets my popularity in the imaginary polls to a fresh low.

Also true is the reality that Facebook is here to stay. That is, until a new genius social media “product” replaces it and sends it into history’s sociological landfill.

What happens to communication then?

Hint: The human voice will not be involved.

While we still use our voices, can’t we talk about how phony, and far away from real, Facebook is? Think about the words “social” and “media”.

Media corrupts and wipes away true “social” every time.

Media inserts persona; replacing, eliminating and running away with any authentic “social” or “self” we may unconsciously want.

In other words, the media is all about creating a fiction of who we are.

“Social media” is nothing more than our own personal public relations tool.

I do believe that people still hunger for real human, and social, connection.

Is it just me? I know we can ask ourselves what Facebook is really about. Think of it as a fun question!

Seeing and knowing is not for the weak of stomach.

In the Facebook tornado, we who look can easily see—duh— what an inferior replacement it is to real human connection.

It is not soothing to see and know Facebook as a wildly popular replacement for real living.

Nor is it a comfort to see how identities are easily stolen through Facebook and other social media sites.

Even more disturbing is how we are volunteering in this way to lose, not just our identities, but our true selves and our connection to being alive.

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