Popular Culture

Visual Aid: Lack of quality TV leads to a longing for something about 'nothing'

02/04/14 by Rennie Detore

Who doesn't love a good television reunion show?
It's always exciting when news breaks that your favorite show or television actors have rekindled friendships and working relationships to the point that your oldie, but goodie, sitcom might have new life, even years after the final episode.
News broke recently that the Seinfeld cast may be in the midst of getting the band back together for some sort of "special" project (guess they can't call it a full blown reunion). Jerry Seinfeld isn't pretending these rumors don't exist and actually affirmatively acknowledged them saying that a reunion is in the works.
Turns out, it was part of a Super Bowl commercial, but that still didn't stop fans of the show from taking that two minute ad and wishing and hoping for something more.
Wonder why?

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Three old friends and co stars who found each other recently are John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, the leading men from the family oriented, formulaic sitcom "Full House." These three buddies have been making the TV rounds thanks to a Super Bowl commercial featuring them, and thus prompted all of the kids, now adults, who grew up loving the "Full House" show clamoring for some sort of reunion by the entire cast.
What's old is new, again? Then again, what did you expect?
Even the smallest inkling that "Full House" might return to television or the "Seinfeld" cast is canoodling once again creates the kind of stir within show business, television specifically, that is sorely missing.
The typical sitcom doesn't exist anymore, unless of course you're watching first run programming from TVLand or enjoy Roseanne or Married With Children reruns. Modern day television has a two fold approach to entertainment: reality or documentary style by design.
The latter category pertains to shows like Modern Family or The Office, where actors talk to the audience to further plot lines of shows and the entire season. That paradigm shift isn't so much what sullied the heart and soul of television as much as it was the influx of laughable reality TV shows that proved talent is totally objective.
Ridding television of canned laughter, equally demure storytelling and a "live" studio audience is one thing, but replacing it talentless actors and inane premises isn't exactly the swap most had in mind.
The initial push toward reality television was fine and felt fresh and original 20 years ago. Today's reality television is terribly watered down, campy and devoid of any realism, despite what the name suggests.
When shows like "Full House" and "Seinfeld" left the airwaves, they were replaced with some good shows but mostly bad television and nothing much for viewers to truly rally behind as a result. The fact that even a glimpse of Jerry Seinfeld talking to Larry David or the "Full House" male trio tagging along with one another creates a stir of epic proportions shouldn't surprise anyone.
Especially if you've spent any time whatsoever watching today's television.



Heart Attack: Certain gifts raise the ire of women on Valentine's Day

02/02/14 by Vanessa Evans

When it comes to Valentine's Day, men have little room for error. Even the slightest misstep in the gift giving department could transform your romantic plans into a rough and rocky road for the days following February 14.

So what exactly shouldn't you buy for women on Valentine's Day? You'll probably be safe with the staples: flowers, jewelry, chocolates, a romantic dinner, stuffed animals or anything else that showcases just how sweet you can be on Valentine's Day.
Once men start veering away from the simple is when they find themselves in serious trouble. They might try to get too cute or overly confident in their buying decisions, and the result isn't exactly the one they were hoping to receive.
Here's are just a few gifts that men should steer clear of, unless of course they don't mind an impromptu dinner alone on Valentine's Day.

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1. Gym Memberships
This one might sound fantastic in theory but on paper that membership card sends all kinds of unwanted signals. Your wife, girlfriend or fiances could easily interpret this gift as you telling her she needs to lose weight. You'll probably plead your case accordingly, and tell her that she's been talking about wanting to join a gym for months. But guys, that isn't your decision to make and something as personal as weight loss shouldn't be your call, especially not on Valentine's Day.
2. Appliances
Nothing says "I Love You" quite like opening up a blender, juicer or vacuum cleaner on Valentine's Day. While your heart is in the right place as far as practicality goes, this isn't the holiday for being prudent. Women want something romantic, and making you a smoothie or cleaning your living room doesn't exactly set the most appealing mood.
3. Gift Certificates
Once again, men are at a crossroads. Your wife tells you how much she wants to go shopping or buy a new wardrobe, so you in turn provide her with a gift that clears a path to do so. You're giving yourself a high five, but she's hardly ready to celebrate this offering. A gift certificate translates into you not wanting to put the time and effort into getting her something that really means something special. A happy medium as far as this idea goes is perhaps surprising her with an impromptu dinner date, followed by you going with her to find those new clothes.
4. Gloves
It's cold outside, but nothing will compare to the chilly reception you'll get if you drop a pair of gloves on the table as your Valentine's Day gift of choice. This might be the most lackluster and boring gift you could possibly drum up for a holiday that is all about romance, love and adoring the person you're with; gloves is something she'd get from her mom or a sibling, but definitely not from you.


5. Sports tickets
If you're going to opt the route of tickets, make it an event that you both can enjoy, perhaps a concert or musicians that won't leave one of you overly disappointed. If your wife or girlfriend watches sports with you on a lazy Sunday afternoon, that doesn't necessarily mean that she either wants to go to a game or would allow tickets to a sporting event to suffice on Valentine's Day. That type of gift resonates more as a "got you this as a surprise" type present, but won't be much of a slam dunk for this holiday.
6. Absolutely nothing
Not much you can say about this gift, since it really isn't much of one to begin with. Forgetting special occasions might work if you've been married for 30 or 40 years, but the leash is much shorter if you're just married or are in a new relationship. Your goal with Valentine's Day as far as the gift goes is to make a good impression and prove to your significant other that you're heart is in the right place, not completely absent from this relationship.



Road Rage: Texting and driving stirs up plenty of controversy, anger and questions

01/21/14 by Rennie Detore

There's a time and place for texting. Behind the wheel of a car is not one of them.
The hotly controversial and highly deplorable act of texting while driving reared its ugly head again when a Florida driver was caught doing just that thanks to a dashboard camera.
The car was weaving uncontrollable between the yellow lines and finally veered off the right side of the road and hit a pole. The driver was cited and honestly admitted to texting while behind the wheel. Plenty of police officers are quick to point out that it's incredibly hard to determine if texting is the root cause behind an accident.
While the candor of the Florida driver is appreciated, the stupidity is magnified.
As far as the video is concerned, you can attach whatever adjective you'd like to after watching this footage: horrendous, scary or absurd.

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But one description tops all others: unnecessary.
The idea that a particular text message is worth putting your life in jeopardy and the lives of others, be it those in the car or other drivers, is remarkably ridiculous. You wouldn't try to type on a laptop while driving or fiddle with your fancy tablet, so what makes a cell phone or texting any different?
The cause for concern permeates especially potently with the younger generation who barely can function without being flanked by their phones. According to Textinganddrivingsafety.com, 82% of kids between the ages of 16-17 have cell phones. That number hardly comes as a great surprise, but when combined with 25% of all motor vehicle accidents are caused due to texting only adds to the dilemma. Even more alarming is the number 3,000; that is the number of teenagers killed by texting and driving each year, which actually usurps kids dying as a result of drinking and driving.
Those numbers, apparently, aren't resonating with the demographic they're trying to reach.
According to that same web site, 72% of kids believe that they "know how" to text and drive, and that they're "confident" that they can do it seamlessly while steering.
With that, the questions begin flooding into the minds of parents, drivers or anyone else concerned by this growing trend that has quickly transformed from worrisome to epidemic in nature.
The most pertinent question that needs posed: How do you stop texting and driving altogether?
The answer is hardly black and white or cut and dry, and some would argue that one concrete response hasn't been decreed.
That doesn't mean, of course, there aren't plenty of strong suggestions that have, at the very least, helped spur some change.
Plenty of worthwhile and well placed ad campaigns have been pieced together to help deter texting and driving, but even the strong sentiment isn't quite surreal enough to drive home the point completely. Listening or watching heartfelt commercials featuring parents of kids who have died tragically while texting pull on plenty of heartstrings, but one has to wonder if those same strings have registered with the brains of the kids they're trying to influence. It's perfectly passable to assume that kids really aren't flustered or outright affected by these saddening stories, given the high percentage of kids who think texting and driving isn't a big deal.
Undoubtedly, parents have received the message and certainly shouldn't be afraid to express honesty and reality to their kids when it comes to the all too real ramifications of texting and driving. Hiding the details of what happens when you text and drive only downplays its true consequences.
It's especially dismaying and disheartening if parents text and drive while they're kids are present, and that action by moms and dads is directly related to their kids adopting that same practice and mentality.
Essentially, if the parents are comfortable texting or using a cell phone while driving, then so are the kids.
Various states have taken a proactive approach to the problem and have issued state wide bans on both talking while driving and especially texting, making both illegal and carrying heavy fines. But even taking aim at wallets is met with a ho hum attitude.
You could argue that instead of trying to topple texting and driving with rhetoric and repercussions in the form of fines, that perhaps infusing technology would be a happy medium for all parties involved.
The fact that not much has moved the proverbial needle in the right direction as far as texting and driving suggests that another game plan might be in order.
Kulveer Taggar is the Chief Executive Officer of tryagent.com. This online application for droid phones and tablets puts an end to the urge to text and drive by essentially transforming your phone into an automatic answering service when you're behind the wheel and receiving texts.
"If someone was to text you, we send out an auto response," Taggar says. "You manually set the application to driving mode and customize what the text message will say, or the app will just activate based on your speed, and the phone can actually tell that you're driving."
In essence, Taggar and company at tryagent.com have afforded even the most ardent driver who texts a way to stay in contact while employing a "hands free" mentality.
For teens, the app is on the cusp of taking on the "lifesaver" tag line. The app fields the incoming text on your teenagers phone and not only can read it aloud but send an automated response that says the person is driving.
Simply put, hands on the wheel, eyes forward and phone no where to be found.
From Taggar's own experience and feedback on the relatively new venture, the app seems to be working as a meeting point between those who don't want to give up their phone and the other segment that is searching for supreme safety behind the wheel.
"We've had people say 'hey, I'm a terrible texter and driver' and installed the app and they stopped texting and driving," Taggar encouragingly states. "It's the other side of the equation that's important; you don't read it and pick the phone up."
Finding the app and installing it on your phone is a start, but Taggar feels more work above and beyond implementation is ahead of us.
"Not picking up the phone while you're driving; that's a lot of peace of mind. People really like the app, and once it is part of your routine, it is there," Taggar said.
"It's great satisfaction to know that its potentially savings lives."
And ultimately on path to change the culture of how we use, or not use, our phones while driving.