Writers Make Sense Out of Chaos
Robert McKee: Oh, in terms\r\n of the skill of executing stories, I would say we’re getting better. \r\nThat’s one thing. Okay, I think it’s clear. For example, I mentioned \r\nthe series, “Damages,” and in fact there was just an article in New York\r\n Magazine the other day about “Damages” and the brilliant way in which \r\nthat series does something that really has never been explored quite \r\nthat way before. They use flash-forwards as hooks. They give you \r\nglimpses of the future, but only glimpses, and so they put you in a \r\nstate of semi-dramatic irony. You know more than the character knows. \r\nThe character’s going to die. Okay, you know that. This character is \r\ngoing to die. Then you go and flash-forward to the death, all right? \r\nAnd now you watch... you go back and you watch them in the present. So,\r\n you know what he doesn’t know. You know he’s going to die, but you \r\ndon’t know how or why he’s going to die. And so, and you don’t know who\r\n did it, who killed him, and so forth. And so there’s lots of hooky \r\nquestions and curiosity, but it’s also a bit of dramatic irony. That’s \r\namazing.
When you see it, you wonder why hasn’t this been done \r\nbefore? So, in terms of executing stories, I would say that the \r\ntechniques are better than ever.
In terms of the content of the\r\n stories, that’s another question. And in terms of what these stories \r\nare about, the depth to which they bring their characters, I would say, \r\nno. The stories are more shallow overall. And that’s a huge \r\ngeneralization. But post-modernism itself, by definition, means \r\nshallowness. It means a satire of the techniques of writing. Okay? \r\nCalling attention to the techniques of writing, and that, of course, \r\ndivorces you from the content by the very nature of it. And so in this \r\npost-post-modern world, or wherever we are now, I would say that as a \r\ngrand generalization, that the content of stories are not the quality \r\nthat they were in the 50 golden years from the 1920’s to the 1970’s on \r\nstage, page and screen, every where in the world, especially the \r\nEnglish-speaking world, the films, the plays, and the novels of that \r\nperiod were magnificent in content.
And so we’ve learned to be \r\nmore clever, more experimental, and more skilled, often, in the telling \r\nof stories today, but I can’t say that the content is what it used to \r\nbe.
Question: Are you optimistic about the future of \r\nstorytelling?
Robert McKee: I never lose faith in \r\nstory, film may come and go as an art form, and art forms have come and \r\ngone. Opera, more and less, came and went and then just gets revived \r\nendlessly. There’s very little cutting edge opera today. There are art\r\n forms that rise up and dominate a period of time in human history and \r\nthen recede. And so film goes though that and recedes. So what, \r\nbecause there will always be story. And the medium of the future, I \r\nthink, is television. But certainly the novel and the theater is still \r\nalive and well, for the most part, despite some pretty mediocre \r\nstorytelling.
And so, the art of storytelling, the art of \r\nstory, I never worry about. People will always tell stories and they \r\nwill tell really great stories and beautiful stories. But the medium of\r\n the future, the medium that writers choose to do what is the best work \r\nin the future that changes.
Human beings... a great critic said\r\n once, Kenneth Burke said, “Stories are equipment for living.” Human \r\nbeings need storytelling in order to make sense out of life, in order to\r\n live as well and civilized as a human being can. And so they will go to\r\n the storyteller for meaningful emotional experiences that they cannot \r\nget from life, and then it’s just a matter of which medium the \r\nstorytellers of the future choose to dominate that period in time, and \r\nthen that too will change in time.
Question: \r\nDo we need stories more today than we used to?
Robert \r\nMcKee: The time that people spend in stories created for them by a \r\nstorytelling artist today compared to 50 to 100 years ago, it’s triple \r\nor quadruple what it used to be. Do they need it more? Maybe. You \r\ncould make an argument that the disintegration and relativization of \r\nvalues in contemporary society is so blurring that people desperately \r\nneed stories to help them make sense out of life because what we are \r\nused to agree upon nobody agrees on anymore. Society is, it’s obvious, \r\nbut is so splintered and so split. I mean, there’s a spectrum that runs\r\n from "I am my brother’s keeper" to "Every man for himself" and we call \r\nthat liberals, and on the right conservatives. And this argument over \r\nare we our brother’s keeper, or is it every man for himself, has never \r\nbeen more ugly and fragmenting of society. And so people are clustering\r\n now, depending on their position on that spectrum, of caring or not \r\ncaring in such ways that they cannot even talk to people who are \r\nanywhere else on that spectrum.
And as a result, there is more \r\nchaos in daily life and then throw in the great recession and a few \r\nother chaoses like wars, and people are desperate. And they need \r\nstory. Yeah, I think you could make an argument. Now, are they getting\r\n the quality of stories, comic or tragic, that would help them live \r\nthrough this really ugly period in history? Probably not. But the \r\nwriters do their best. Because the writers are just citizens too, you \r\nknow? And they’ve got no necessarily more philosophical, psychological \r\ninsight into this than anybody else. So the writer has to be a \r\nphilosopher of a kind today that they’ve never had to be before. They \r\nhave to make sense out of a kind of chaos that no one ever confronted \r\nbefore. I mean the worst thing that, you know, a hundred years ago, and\r\n the worst thing that could happen is that you die. So, people told \r\nstories about how to live well, live meaningfully if you could, or \r\ntragedy. But death was the worst thing. Well, there are far worse \r\nthings now. Far worse things. And people are literally in living \r\nhells. They’d be better off dead, all around the world. The suffering \r\nin the Third World today is of an extreme that the Third World has never\r\n suffered before because, generally speaking, in the Third World people \r\ndidn’t starve to death, they could farm. But even that in many ways has\r\n been lost and for a lot of reasons. But yeah, the world is in a worse \r\nstate than I know from history, and people would probably say, the Black\r\n Plague was the worse. But I don’t think so, because people understood \r\nthe Plague: You get sick and you die. Who can understand the banking \r\nsystem? Who can understand love? Who can understand parenting? I mean\r\n these are things people thought they knew; they don’t know anymore. \r\nAnd so the Plague at least was clear. It was terrible, but it was \r\nclear.
The problem for people today is confusion in a world \r\nthat should make sense. In a world in which you have more communication\r\n than ever, makes less and less sense than ever. And so you need \r\nstorytellers to make sense out of that chaos, but it’s as I said, it’s a\r\n chaos of a very different kind today, and the writer struggles.
We spend more time than ever consuming stories. Do we need them more than we used to?
Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.
Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
- A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
- This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
- The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Maybe you should enjoy this article with a cup of coffee or tea.<p> The <a href="https://drc.bmj.com/content/8/1/e001252?T=AU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> involved 4,923 type 2 diabetics living in Japan. The average participant was 66 years old. All of the participants were taken from the rolls of the Fukuoka Diabetes Registry, a study geared at learning about the effects of new treatments and lifestyle changes on the health of diabetics. <br> <br> The participants filled out questionnaires concerning their health, diet, habits, and other factors. Among the questions were two focused on determining how much green tea or coffee, if any, the participants consumed over the course of a week. The health of the participants was recorded for five years. During this time, 309 of the test subjects died from a variety of causes. <br> <br> Subjects who drank more than one cup of tea or coffee per day demonstrated lower odds of dying than those who had none. Those who consumed the most tea and coffee, more than four and two cups a day, respectively, enjoyed the most significant reductions in their risk of death. This level of consumption was associated with a 40 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201020190129.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p><p>Most interestingly, the effects of drinking tea and coffee appear to combine to reduce risk even further. Those who reported drinking two or three cups of tea a day and two or more cups of coffee were 51 percent less likely to die during the study, while those who drank a whopping four or more cups of tea and two or more cups of coffee had a 63 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/diabetes-coffee-and-green-tea-might-reduce-death-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p>
So, should I start swimming in a vat of coffee and green tea?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LY0E-JQxeoY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Not quite. </p><p> The primary takeaway from this study is that Japanese adults with type 2 diabetes who drink a lot of green tea and/or coffee die less often than similar people who do not. If this effect is caused by something in the drink, lifestyle choices people who drink that much tea all make, or something else remains unknown. The finding must be considered an association at this point. <br> <br> The eye-popping reductions in mortality rates are compared to the risk of death of others in the study. The people who died reported drinking less tea and coffee than those who lived. Unless you have several demographic and conditional similarities to the subjects of this study, you probably won't suddenly be at a two-thirds lower risk of death than your peers because you drink green tea. </p><p> Like all studies that depend on self-reporting, it is also possible that people misstated how much they consumed any one item. The study also did not look into other factors like socioeconomic status or education level, also known to impact death rates and potentially linked to coffee and tea consumption. </p><p> However, it is yet another study in the pile that suggests that <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">coffee</a> and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">green tea</a> are good for you. That much is increasingly <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/health-benefits-linked-to-drinking-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">agreed</a><a href="https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> upon</a>. This study also suggests the benefits are additive, which is a new development.</p><p><br> So, while it isn't time to start the IV drip of green tea, a cup or two probably won't <a href="https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20201022/coffee-green-tea-might-extend-life-for-folks-with-type-2-diabetes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hurt</a>. </p>
But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.
On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.
A study finds 1.8 billion trees and shrubs in the Sahara desert.
- AI analysis of satellite images sees trees and shrubs where human eyes can't.
- At the western edge of the Sahara is more significant vegetation than previously suspected.
- Machine learning trained to recognize trees completed the detailed study in hours.
Why this matters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTkyODg5NX0.O3S2DRTyAxh-JZqxGKj9KkC6ndZAloEh4hKhpcyeFDQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3770d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3c27b79d4c0600fb6ebb82e650cabec0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Area in which trees were located
Credit: University of Copenhagen<p>As important as trees are in fighting climate change, scientists need to know what trees there are, and where, and the study's finding represents a significant addition to the global tree inventory.</p><p>The vegetation Brandt and his colleagues have identified is in the Western Sahara, a region of about 1.3 million square kilometers that includes the desert, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahel" target="_blank">the Sahel</a>, and the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/subhumid-zones" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sub-humid zones</a> of West Africa.</p><p>These trees and shrubs have been left out of previous tabulations of carbon-processing worldwide forests. Says Brandt, "Trees outside of forested areas are usually not included in climate models, and we know very little about their carbon stocks. They are basically a white spot on maps and an unknown component in the global carbon cycle."</p><p>In addition to being valuable climate-change information, the research can help facilitate strategic development of the region in which the vegetation grows due to a greater understanding of local ecosystems.</p>
Trained for trees<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTk5NTI3NH0.fR-n1I2DHBIRPLvXv4g0PVM8ciZwSLWorBUUw2wc-Vk/img.jpg?width=980" id="e02c0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="79955b13661dca8b6e19007935129af1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Martin Brandt/University of Copenhagen<p>There's been an assumption that there's hardly enough vegetation outside of forested areas to be worth counting in areas such as this one. As a result the study represents the first time a significant number of trees — likely in the hundreds of millions when shrubs are subtracted from the overall figure — have been catalogued in the drylands region.</p><p>Members of the university's Department of Computer Science trained a machine-learning module to recognize trees by feeding it thousands of pictures of them. This training left the AI be capable of spotting trees in the tiny details of satellite images supplied by NASA. The task took the AI just hours — it would take a human years to perform an equivalent analysis.</p><p>"This technology has enormous potential when it comes to documenting changes on a global scale and ultimately, in contributing towards global climate goals," says co-author Christian Igel. "It is a motivation for us to develop this type of beneficial artificial intelligence."</p><p>"Indeed," says Brandt says, "I think it marks the beginning of a new scientific era."</p>
Looking ahead and beyond<p>The researchers hope to further refine their AI to provide a more detailed accounting of the trees it identifies in satellite photos.</p><p>The study's senior author, Rasmus Fensholt, says, "we are also interested in using satellites to determine tree species, as tree types are significant in relation to their value to local populations who use wood resources as part of their livelihoods. Trees and their fruit are consumed by both livestock and humans, and when preserved in the fields, trees have a positive effect on crop yields because they improve the balance of water and nutrients."</p><p>Ahead is an expansion of the team's tree hunt to a larger area of Africa, with the long-term goal being the creation of a more comprehensive and accurate global database of trees that grow beyond the boundaries of forests.</p>
Nazi supporters held huge rallies and summer camps for kids throughout the United States in the 1930s.
- During the 1930s, thousands of Americans sympathized with the Nazis, holding huge rallies.
- The rallies were organized by the American German Bund, which wanted to spread Nazi ideology.
- Nazi supporters also organized summer camps for kids to teach them their values.
A Bund parade in New York, October 30, 1939.
Credit: Library of Congress
Credit: Herald Tribune
Postcards from Camp Siegfried