The Truman Journey

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Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is the star of the Truman Show. When Truman is a baby, Christof (Ed Harris) somehow buys him. He is placed in a fictional town, Seahaven, and surrounded with actors. Christof broadcasts every minute of Truman’s life. And Truman has no idea his friends and family are paid actors. So that’s terrifying.

Truman only begins to discover the truth when a lamp, labeled with the name of a star, falls from the artificial sky one day. After that he notices things, like everyone knows his name, he has never left Seahaven, and his wife will act like she’s in an infomercial and try to shill products. When the entire town turns against him, refusing to let him leave, Truman escapes the only way he can: by sailing across Seahaven’s body of water to the edge of the world. There he bumps into the horizon, finds an EXIT door, and escapes into the real world. It’s like Under the Dome, if Stephen King wasn’t a horror writer.

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Life celebrated a baby sold by its parent to television executives.

A couple things about this movie jump out at me.The audience has to be most of the planet, because the show’s overhead must be huge; Christof enclosed the entire town in an arcology dome, and has a weather control device (something most supervillains have to put on lay-a-way). The governments of the world must not exist, or are so corrupt that “money over everything” is official policy. And the cast, crew, and audience must absolutely believe that Truman has a good life, because it only takes one defector to ruin the show.

At the end of the movie, Christof tries to drown Truman, preferring a magnificent death to Truman’s escape. When Truman survives, Christof claims Truman brings people hope and inspiration. He even asks Truman to stay. Something Truman does provides the world with enough satisfaction to justify all this.

My first thought was nuclear apocalypse, because the world must be some twisted ruin for people to think Truman’s life is acceptable. It would also explain the dome; perhaps Christof has fenced off a healthy area of the planet and is selling dreams of what life used to be to a devastated population.

The audience doesn’t really fit the Mad Max marauder type, though. There are old people, fat security guards, and a nice bar. The world looks okay. But these people still watch Truman, each day, as he toils through life, despite the fact that they apparently have normal lives themselves. Reality television is a form of escapism too; most rely on a gimmick (The Biggest Loser) or the antics of people filmed in just the right way to make them seem terrible (literally any contest-style reality show). All Truman does is live a normal life.

Philip K. Dick wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which became Blade Runner, which became the reason Ridley Scott still has a career. In the story, humans live on a ruined earth. Most of the animals are dead, so people try to raise personal livestock, or if they can’t afford it, “electric” simulacra. The protagonist, Deckard, has an electric sheep, and fears people will find out (it’s a social no-no). He takes a job to hunt down androids capable of nearly perfectly simulating human beings. They lack empathy, however, and a complicated test can reveal them.

It’s left out of the movie, but the book also shows that people are capable of “dialing” their emotions. Deckard avoids a fight with his wife by choosing a more pleasant mood. He also regularly logs into a simulation of a tormented figure rolling a stone eternally up a hill. Living with near-human androids has degraded human perception of reality, so they have to engage in something “real” to maintain their empathy and humanity. But, they are still living a lie, in denial of what humanity actually means.

The Truman Show serves the same purpose. Truman is the suffering saint; his lack of reality, and the life he suffers, makes the pale lives of the audience seem bright and real in comparison. No matter what their day was like, the audience can dial into Truman and adjust their emotions according to his life.

Truman’s world might be very close to ours, but it’s suffered something that makes engaging in life through Truman more acceptable than really living – he’s both sheep and shepherd, cared for by the audience and leading them through what life ought to be. And at the same time, he’s contemptible, because they can watch him poop and he doesn’t know.

I see two arguments about what happens after the ending. Truman abandons Seahaven, sails to freedom after nearly drowning in Christof’s artificial storm, and finds his world is truly false when he bumps into the “sky.” He leaves with his usual greeting: “In case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.”

Truman doesn’t curse or even seem to hate Christof. And the audience loves it. The ending is a montage of cheers and people flipping out. He’s provided their comfort for thirty years, and now Truman’s victory is the audience’s victory. As the chosen one, he led them through the hero’s journey to a heroic “ending.”

Truman is an artificially selected chosen one, however, not picked by fate. Christof had to know Truman would grow into a perfectly average (Jim Carrey-ish) adult, with no mental or physical problems, because anything else would have ruined his show. Truman’s revelations about his life, and by extension the audience’s lives, don’t have the same impact as a “real” chosen one. The audience watches him discover them, and they cheer like they’re watching football game.

The chosen one is an excuse for why “ONE MAN” can make a difference. Truman might not even be able to integrate into society, since he’s never actually lived in it, just in the television version. His life has as much to do with reality as Leave it to Beaver has to do with the actual 1950s.

We all wish (as the audience that watches Truman does) that we could be that one special person, chosen by destiny (or Ed Harris — close enough) to… do something. Other than be born, live as our birth and means dictate, then die. We need the chosen one myth, it keeps us from losing our minds in the vast, uncaring cosmos.

Truman shows that a chosen one is the avatar for the pointlessness of the audience’s lives, not a bringer of light and reason. Once he is gone, taking the inspiration and hope the audience relies on, we really only have two options: abandon the myth and try to find or make meaning in life, or, as the security guards say, “See what else is on.”

Weekend Music: The King is Gone (But He’s Not Forgotten)

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Neil Young at Toronto. Notable for the excellence of the harmonica work. One of those songs no one except the person who wrote it can play correctly. You don’t want your kids to internalize this attitude, but it is a way of thinking the 60s and 70s produced in North America. Great performance here. Watching this video is like standing in front of a large monument.

On to business.

No business today. Stop by tomorrow for a Fear the Walking Dead post from Luther, and read his damn blog, y’all.

Coffee here on Sunday, and we’re working on some things for next week which might include a Sourcerer’s 11 interview with author/blogger extraordinaire Alex Hurst.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday Chatter: Imagine Yourself as a Dungeons and Dragons Character!

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These Tuesday chatters are about conversations. Two weeks ago, I asked for feedback on the blog. Got some. Last week, I invited people to promote themselves. Many did. Both threads are still open, and you’re welcome to leave comments on them.

This week, I opt for pure silliness. If you ever played Dungeons and Dragons, think honestly about what sort of person you are, and imagine what your character sheet might look like. I’m going first.

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 Ability Scores

We all know D&D runs on ability scores and skill points. Here’s my stats.

Most of what I do is Intelligence- and Charisma-based. I’m not assigning my highest stats actual numbers. But I will say, I find it difficult to actually roleplay a character with a 19 Intelligence or a 17 charisma, so my stats probably aren’t all that. Wherever they land, these are my two highest scores.

I wish my Wisdom and Dexterity were higher. My direction sense is so terrible I’m notorious for it among my family and offline friends. I’ve failed at both juggling and various musical instruments so many times, it’s not even funny. I understand music theory and am able to play by ear well enough, but my fingers simply do not cooperate. That said, I have pretty good reflexes.

Whomever rolled me up put the lowest ones in Strength and Constitution. Even when I was in my teens and working out religiously, I was not that strong. And I’m not actually sick that often, but when I miss a CON check, I pay a hard price. My Constitution may be higher than my Wisdom and I just don’t know it because skill points.

Alignment

The Nine Alignments of Batman

The Nine Alignments of Batman by CompGeekDavid.

Chaotic Good is the sexiest alignment, but I am not that. I try to conduct myself as a Neutral Good, but really, if I am honest, I’m Lawful Neutral. Bit of a calculating Stoic here. We can explore the implications of the Utilitarian Principle on the thread if you like, but this is all I’m saying about my personal alignment on the front page of the blog.

Equipment

So, what would I spend my 50 to 200 starting gold pieces on?

Aside from some armor and three serviceable weapons, one of which is designed to be concealed and one of which is made of silver (because D&D is physically PERILOUS, yo’!); spell components (because you KNOW I’m casting some spells, whatever else I do); and food (because starvation is the LAST thing you want to be dealing with if your DM is worth a damn). Aside from those, here are the things I must have in my backpack before setting out on an adventure.

  1. Writing equipment. Scroll case full of paper. Quills, ink, etc. A blank journal if I roll the starting money well.
  2. A small knife. So small, it’s not much better than a fist in combat, but it is not primarily a weapon. Is a tool.
  3. Rope. Rope is just essential.
  4. Chalk. It weighs almost nothing, and one time getting lost in some bizarro dungeon-maze will teach you just how valuable three sticks of chalk can be.
  5. A collapsible pole, if I can afford it. Alternately, a pole with sections that you can screw together and screw apart.
  6. A mirror for looking around corners and identifying vampires and making sure my hair is cinematically correct before every battle.
  7. A 2-lb bag of marbles. You would be surprised just how often you find yourself retreating down a flight of stairs, pursued by a gaggle of large, flat-footed bipeds in this game. Marbles have other uses, too. They’re awesome for voting and gambling, if you pick the colors right.
  8. Handkerchiefs, tobacco, and smoking apparatus. Because Tolkien.
  9. The means to make fire and a couple of flasks of oil.
  10. A holy symbol and some vials of holy water. Even if you aren’t religious, sometimes there be undead. And sometimes you get into a situation where all you can do is pray for divine intervention and hope you live through it.
  11. A change of clothing.

That’s it. Don’t need no stinkin’ bow. (Got Magic Missiles and a lot of even nastier spells for ranged combat. Color Spray. Sleep. Entangle. All very low-level spells. You know what I’m sayin’ 😉 ) Torches and lanterns: Also not required, because Infravision and Continual Light.

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I almost did a section on my skills, but if I do that, we’ll be here all day. All my skills are about the subtle use of words, carefully considered body language, and knowledge.

My D&D characters are pretty frightening when I manage to keep them alive to 10th level.

So, what I am I when I translate myself into the language of D&D? Not a book wizard and not a fighter of any sort, obviously. Also not a cleric because I have no patience for religious discipline. And not a bard, though I’ve worked at the bard skills a bit. Rogue/Sorcerer FTW, I say. More Rogue than Sorcerer.

What sort of D&D character are YOU??? Inquiring minds want to know.

Seems appropriate to include an Imagine Dragons video with this one.

Weekend Coffee Share: Fear the Walking Dead Edition

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If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m thrilled to have Luther starting up another run of blogging here. Fear the Walking Dead starts tomorrow. We’ll have something special tomorrow for that, and Luther will be back here next Saturday with a post about the premiere. Have a trailer and a link to our Walking Dead archive.

Luther recently passed a huge blogging milestone, so when you have a second, bop on over to Infinite Free Time and congratulate him for passing 8,500 WordPress followers.

And I’d tell you I had a passable, but hectic week. Classes started this week an I’m gearing up to open my office to the public on Wednesday. I have a ton of public speaking to do over the next couple of weeks, and just in general, I am going to be busy, busy, busy from now until the last week of September or so.weekendcoffeeshare_2015

This is one of the times of year when I have the most difficulty maintaining the blogging, so I’ve been working frantically in my free time since Thursday trying to get far enough ahead to just keep the blog going until things settle down. I’ve learned to just do what I need to do to keep my hand in through August and September, then start the re-design work and planning for spring in October.

So if you see me around a little less over the next few weeks, rest assured: I ain’t going anywhere. Just doing the jobby thing. I’ll be back up to my usual mayhem before you know it.

And I’d tell you, if we were having coffee, that Serins has been running a blogger party across social media this week, and it’s still on through Monday. Then I’d have to finish my coffee and run, because I have stats to geek out on. I’ll discuss a recent Reddit spike here on Monday.

Don’t forget to add your coffee share post to the linkup at Part Time Monster and share it with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.