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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

4 Tech realities pop culture needs to catch up on

When portrayed by pop culture, adaption of tech by various generations tend to be unrealistic. Here are six more examples that all writers for TV shows, movies, and particularly advertising need to catch up on…

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For anyone reading this, it is safe to assume you are – at least – a digital immigrant. Our generation is the first to truly grow up around technology; the first children of the digital age, and all the advancements it has been able to offer to society.

However, society can sometimes be a little slow to catch up, at least on a pop culture level. For example, older people – those over the age of 55 – are over characterized as being clueless around technology, relying on their children to help them navigate the new digital world.

In reality, those over the age of 55 are also digital immigrants. They were in their early 40s when the internet moved from a niche academic project to a way of changing how we interact with the world forever. Older people aren’t technologically illiterate; just look at the age demographics for Facebook on www.statista.com if you want that confirmed.

The above example is far from the only way that pop culture has misjudged the tech revolution and how it has changed the way we see and interact with the world. Below are six more examples that all writers for TV shows, movies, and particularly advertising need to catch up on…

‘ONLINE DATING IS CREEPY!’

TV shows have been spinning stories about how creepy online dating is for over a decade now. The premise is always the same: a character we care about goes on an online date. The date is either incredibly creepy, or somehow unhinged. The idea that is pushed as a result is almost offensive: online dating is weird. Proper people meet their mate in the real world. Get offline and start socializing.

The idea of socializing to meet a potential romantic partner is fine, but here’s the thing pop culture writers seem to have ignored: online dating is becoming the norm. 15 years ago, sure, most of society was extremely sceptical about online dating, furthered by the perception that anyone who is keen on the internet is likely to be an overweight manchild who lives in their parents’ basement.

Now, times have changed. Online dating has become a standard facet of life and it can be incredibly successful. Most of us know at least one couple who met online or via a dating app– it’s not remotely weird anymore. Yet for some reason, pop culture has yet to update to this reality, and online dating is still seen as outright bizarre in a plethora of TV shows and movies– which is all the more odd when you consider some of the writers of these TV shows and movies will have used online dating. It’s a trope that really, really needs to go.

‘TECHNOLOGY IS TO BE FEARED!’

There have been countless TV shows, movies, and video games that have sought to teach a lesson: technology is a bad thing. Technology is forcing humans to lose touch with their humanity. Technology will, ultimately, be the doom of the human race.

This is such a bizarre story to tell, yet for some reason, it keeps being told. Are there risks to technology? Of course– there are numerous tech developments that may prove problematic in years to come, and even the most devout tech fan needs to accept that.

However, technology is not inherently dangerous, troubling, or a cause for huge concern. The next time a TV show or movie tries to teach this lesson, then it’s worth remembering some of the things that technology has allowed us to achieve:

  • Medicine has never been safer due to technology. From robot surgeons that never tire to diagnostic exams that the doctors of 50 years ago could only have dreamed of, technology has changed human health for the better.
  • Technology has allowed processes and construction to be more refined than ever before. From companies like www.LaserLight.com making advances in micro-machining through to the incredible increase in data storage capabilities, technological advances have allowed us to make everything smaller, more compact, more easily managed.
  • Technology has changed the way that we interact with people for the better. 20 years ago, if your dearest relatives moved to Canada, then you’d probably lose touch with them almost entirely. Save for a Christmas card and a couple of extortionately-expensive phone calls, they would largely disappear from your frame of reference. Nowadays, if your family moves to Canada, that’s not really a problem – you’ll still be able to follow their everyday lives on social media, talk to them on Skype, and swap pictures and stories within 10 minutes of an important event occurring. The connectivity that we are able to enjoy as a result cannot be underestimated.

So while there are potential threats to heed warnings of when it comes to tech, there’s no need for such a heavy-handed approach to dealing with technology. A little more insight into how tech has improved lives would be nice.

#3 – ONLY ‘WEIRD’ PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN THE INTERNET

We’re all interested in the internet these days– it’s impossible not to be. The internet is the source of so much of our lives. It’s how we connect with friends and family; it’s how we find jobs; how we undertake education; it’s even how we can engage in activism by writing blogs and publishing opinion pieces. The internet has allowed voices to be heard that would have otherwise remained silent…

… which is why it’s so mystifying that being interested in, and vociferously using, the internet is still seen as something only “weird” people engage in.

Not sure you’re convinced that such a reductive, obviously-incorrect portrait of internet users is still in existence? Enter Exhibit A, a music video:

This is Lily Allen’s “URL Bad Man”, which depicts a respected music journalist as… a loser who sits in his mum’s house ranting on the internet (you can hear the journalist’s side of the story here, if you’re interested). This video is three years old now, but it was still ridiculous three years ago; nothing has changed about internet habits and user interactions in the past three years. It’s all the more bizarre, given Allen’s age, that she would dismiss internet users, writers, and content producers as bitter, lonely, and miserable.

It’s an attitude that persists. People who like using the internet, engaging on message boards, playing games online– they’re losers. TV shows and movies even take this trope further by insisting that these people need to “learn to live” and “stop being obsessed with their screens”– forgetting that we’re all only obsessed by our screens because our screens hold our lives now. It’s akin to mocking someone for using a paper diary 20 years ago.

#4 – HACKING. PERIOD.

Hacking, as depicted in TV shows and movies, is almost entirely nonsense. The visual shown is usually something along the lines of:

  • The “hacker” pulls up a screen on a computer
  • The screen is usually black, with green text (for some reason)
  • They begin typing something at a ridiculously fast pace
  • They then gain access to anything and everything they may want to see on another person’s computer.

Hacking… doesn’t work like that. It’s time-consuming, error-prone, and often doesn’t elicit anything in the way of material at all. Hacking definitely doesn’t involve speed-typing a string of code into a mysterious screen; nor does it only take a few seconds to gain absolute access to sensitive files.

In some ways, it’s easy to see why TV shows and movies depict hacking in this way. Firstly, it’s mystifying; as the “hacking” isn’t actually remotely close to what hacking constitutes, the TV show/movie cannot be blamed if someone tries to copy it. Secondly, most writers don’t truly understand what goes into hacking anyway, and as hacking is primarily used as a plot device, it’s not worth their time and effort to find out more.

While it’s easy to understand why hacking looks so terrible on TV shows and movies, it is nevertheless somewhat disconcerting that hacking is always portrayed as a sure thing. The character wants information and is then able to hack their way to this information. This kind of scenario doesn’t help with the paranoia many people fear about technology in general, so the occasional depiction of a failed hacking attempt wouldn’t go amiss.

IN CONCLUSION

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The reason many of these tropes exist in pop culture is, frankly, because they are an accepted part of pop culture. While we may now be well ensconced in the digital age, many of us carry over the beliefs and ideas that formed our childhood; TV show writers, advertising executives, and movie producers are much the same. We might know that these portrayals are misleading or false, but we’re used to them, so they become a staple.

In the future, and particularly as Generation Z become content creators, we may see these tropes finally begin to die out– but for now, it looks like we’re stuck tutting every time we see them.

Health & Wellness

First case of sexually transmitted dengue confirmed in Spain

Health authorities confirmed a case of a man spreading dengue through sex. This is a world first for a virus which – until recently – was largely thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.

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Photo by Егор Камелев from Unsplash.com

No, getting bitten by mosquitos isn’t the only way you can get dengue.

In Spain, health authorities confirmed a case of a man spreading dengue through sex. This is a world first for a virus which – until recently – was largely thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.

The case involves a 41-year-old man from Madrid who contracted dengue after having sex with his male partner, who got the virus from a mosquito bite during a trip to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

When the man’s dengue infection was confirmed in September, it puzzled doctors because he had not traveled to a country where the disease is common. An analysis of the sperm of the two men was carried out and it revealed that not only did they have dengue, but that it was exactly the same virus which circulates in Cuba.

Dengue is transmitted mainly by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which grows in number in densely-populated tropical climates, such as the Philippines.

Though it kills 10,000 people a year and infects over 100 million, the disease is fatal only in extreme cases, though symptoms are extremely unpleasant, including high fever, severe headaches and vomiting. It is particularly serious – and deadly – in children.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health reported a total of 271,480 dengue cases from January to August 31 this year, prompting it to declare a national dengue epidemic. As of end-August, an estimated 1,107 people have died of dengue in the country.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Gay in space in Disney’s ‘Star Wars Resistance’ kids’ show

This isn’t the first time an animated series highlighted LGBTQIA people/relationships; arguably even more progressive than mainstream Hollywood fare.

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Viewers sort of knew it all along, and then Disney confirmed that two characters on its “Star War Resistance” animated series for children are indeed a “gay couple.” 

On the Coffee with Kenobi podcast, Disney executive producers Brandon Auman, Athena Portillo, and Justin Ridge said that they are “proud” that two characters, Orka and Flix, are a “gay couple.” 

When Ridge was asked about the link between the two characters, he said: “I think it’s safe to say they’re an item… They’re absolutely a gay couple and we’re proud of that.” 

Orka is voiced by Jim Rash, while Flix is voiced by Bobby Moynihan.

Moynihan said later on the same podcast that he was glad to speak openly about Orka’s tendencies. 

“I have had a sentence prepared for a year and a half,” he said. “If someone would finally ask me, I would say, ‘All I can say is that when Flix says I love you, Orka says I know.’ … They’re the cutest.”

Orka and Flix are non-human, but fans assumed that they are homosexual. In an episode titled Dangerous Business, in the first season of “Star Wars Resistance“, there was a moment perceived to reveal the pair’s proclivities. 

The show is now in its second and final season on October 6, after getting nominated for an Emmy last year for outstanding children’s program.

This isn’t the first time an animated series highlighted LGBTQIA people/relationships; arguably even more progressive than mainstream Hollywood fare.

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In August, the new Aquaman, Kaldur, in the animated “Young Justice: Outsiders”, DC Universe’s animated show about teenage superheroes, was revealed to be LGBTQIA.

And in 2018, “Steven Universe”, a series from Cartoon Network, showcased a lesbian marriage proposal between two out queer characters in a special July 4 episode.

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Travel

Surrounded by art

Heading to Niagara Falls in NY in the US? The waterfalls may be the main attraction;buut there’s more to see in Niagara Falls than the body of water. Go IG crazy with a quick visit at Art Alley NF.

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When heading to Niagara Falls in the state of New York in the US, the three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge (between the Ontario, Canada and, yes, the US state of New York) may be the main attraction. This isn’t exactly surprising; heck, everyone who saw 1980’s Superman (before he got grumpy and too dark – even if he stayed yummy – with DC’s re-imagining of the alien boy scout) will want to see the… grandeur of the location. For that matter, Hollywood has repeatedly “told” us (via the likes of 2003’s Bruce Almighty, 2014’s Tammy, 2016’s After the Sun Fell, and 2016’s The American Side) that it’s a must-visit.

When you get there, though, it is but… a body of water.

Sure, it is grand. Perhaps made even grander by the power of illumination, with the waterfalls enveloped in various colors when the sun sets. But truth be told, there’s more to see in Niagara Falls than just the body of water.

Case in point: Art Alley NF.

Located a few minutes from Niagara Falls State Park, Art Alley NF is a public mural project located at 425 Third Street in Niagara Falls, NY.

Credit for its development goes to Seth Piccirillo, the city’s community development director, and Rob Lynch, one of Niagara Falls High School’s art teachers. The two established the roadside inlet in 2016 to house 19 murals from local artists.

Think of San Francisco’s Clarion Alley, and you’d get the idea of what this is. Sans the angst, political activism, et cetera…

The location used to be a vacant lot blocked by a wall. It was blasted down by the city’s Department of Community Development to make way for a walkway lined with the murals.

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Street art enthusiasts ought to like this; or at least IG aficionados.

Though I say that again, when in Niagara Falls, NY in the US, don’t just stick to the body of water (you can check this in a just a day); instead, be surrounded by art with a quick visit to Art Alley NF.

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Health & Wellness

Improved support after self-harm needed to reduce suicide risk

To reduce the high risk of suicide after hospital attendance for self-harm, improved clinical management is needed for all patients – including comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks, as well as implementation of risk reduction strategies, including safety planning.

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Photo by Sasha Freemind from Unsplash.com

Risk of suicide following hospital presentation for self-harm is very high immediately following hospital discharge, emphasising the need for provision of early follow-up care and attention to risk reduction strategies

To reduce the high risk of suicide after hospital attendance for self-harm, improved clinical management is needed for all patients – including comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks, as well as implementation of risk reduction strategies, including safety planning.

The results are from an observational study spanning 16 years and including almost 50,000 people from five English hospitals, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

“The peak in risk of suicide which follows immediately after discharge from hospital underscores the need for provision of early and effective follow-up care. Presentation to hospital for self-harm offers an opportunity for intervention, yet people in are often discharged from hospital having not received a formal assessment of their problems and needs, and without specific aftercare arrangements. As specified in national guidance, a comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks is essential to devise an effective plan for their follow-up care,” says study author Dr. Galit Geulayov, Centre for Suicide Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK.

It has been estimated that every year there are approximately 200,000 presentations to emergency departments in hospitals across England following acts of non-fatal self-harm. Self-harm is associated with increased mortality, especially by suicide. Approximately 50% of individuals who die by suicide have a history of self-harm, with hospital presentation for self-harm often occurring shortly before suicide.

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The new study compared the risk of suicide following hospital presentation for self-harm according to patient characteristics, method of self-harm, and socioeconomic deprivation. It also estimated the incidence of suicide by time after hospital attendance, adjusting for gender, age, previous self-harm, and psychiatric treatment.

The study included 49,783 people aged over 15 years who presented to hospital after non-fatal self-harm a total of 90,614 times between 2000-2013. The authors followed these patients for 16 years (until the end of 2015), and the study included five hospitals (one in Oxford, three in Manchester and one in Derby).

Within the 16 year follow up, 703 out of 49,783 people died by suicide – with the incidence of suicide being 163 per 100,000 people per year.

Around a third of these deaths occurred within a year of the patient attending hospital for non-fatal self-harm (36%, 252/703 deaths), and the study confirmed the high risk of suicide in the first year after presentation to hospital for self-harm (the incidence of suicide in the year following discharge from hospital was 511 suicides per 100,000 people per year – 55.5 times higher than that of the general population).

The authors found that risk was particularly elevated in the first month (the incidence of suicide in the month following discharge from hospital was 1,787 per 100,000 people per year – close to 200 times higher than in the general population) – with 74 out of 703 people in the study dying by suicide within a month.

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The authors note that men were more likely to die by suicide following hospital presentation of self-harm than women, people who attended hospital more than once for non-fatal self-harm were more likely to die by suicide than those with a single presentation, and age was associated with risk (with risk increasing 3% with each year of age).

In addition, those who lived in less deprived areas had a higher risk of death by suicide than those who lived in the most deprived areas, but this contrasts with a large body of evidence and might be explained by higher rates of psychiatric disorders in this group in this study – more research is needed. The authors also note that some forms of self-harm were more strongly linked to subsequent suicide, but advise against including detail of this kind in media reporting.

Suicide is a big issue in the LGBTQIA community. In 2018, for instance, a study found that a total of 37% of trans respondents reported having seriously considered suicide during the past 12 months and 32% had ever attempted a suicide. Offensive treatment during the past three months and lifetime exposure to trans-related violence were significantly associated with suicidality.

A study published in LGBT Health in 2016, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of strengthening family support and acceptance as part of a positive intervention.

The authors of this newer study note that holistic assessment of risk factors is required, and warn that no single characteristic will help predict later suicide.

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“While awareness of characteristics which increase the risk of subsequent suicide can assist as part of this assessment, previous studies indicate that individual factors related to self-harm are a poor means to evaluate the risk of future suicide. These factors need to be considered together, followed by risk reduction strategies, including safety planning, for all patients,” says Professor Hawton, Centre for Suicide Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK.

The authors note that their study focuses on three cities in England and the findings may not necessarily apply to the whole of the country.

Writing in a linked comment, Dr. Annette Erlangsen, Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, Denmark, notes that there is a range of treatment options available following presentation of self-harm in emergency departments (including referrals to psychiatric wards after psychosocial assessments, outpatient treatment for patients not under immediate risk of self-harming, and – in some countries – specialized suicide prevention clinics) but many countries send patients home with a referral to their GP or do not refer at all.

She says: “The bottom line is–while the body of evidence of effective intervention is growing, we need to help people who present with self-harm. Operating in such a scenario is challenging but the numbers are clear; we need to ensure that patients receive support immediately when presenting and implement a continuation of care after discharge.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Is Lara Croft an LGBTQ+ icon?

Lara Croft paved the way for female representation in action games and movies, and in doing so created an icon and ally for the LGBTQ+ community. While her tomb raiding days are still ongoing, the wealth of other games means that so many more people can find characters that resonate with who they are.

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Screencap from "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001)

Lara Croft is one of the most recognizable and popular characters to ever be created. Whether fans know her from the classic PlayStation games, from the Angelina Jolie films, or even from the remake with Alicia Vikander, Lara Croft is an icon. While female gamers are more aplenty today, back in the early days of gaming, every corner was nearly entirely male-dominated. So Lara Croft was created to appeal to every gamer. As such, she fell between the two demographics and became a broad church to many, but a very niche fandom for some.

While the tomb raiding heroine offers some much-needed female representation in the action genre, is she also an LGBTQ+ icon?

Who becomes and who doesn’t become a queer icon is unpredictable, but since her debut in 1996, Lara Croft has proven she has the mettle to do more than just raid tombs. Action games are coded with high masculinity, so offering a female counterpart helps to take some of the testosterone out of the equation and offer a different kind of character. It has been well documented that LGBTQ+ identifying people are more likely to choose the female character in games – from Princess Peach to Coco Bandicoot and Eevee.

Women in games are often underappreciated, which helps the LGBTQ+ community identify with them. The disregarding of traditional femininity to be an adventurer also bridges the gap towards androgyny. Lara Croft eschews what is expected of her to do what she really wants to do – a trait that is both admirable and holds a deeper meaning for a lot of LGBTQ+ members of society.

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But, while there has been wider representation as of late and a more welcoming eye on all communities since 1996, Lara Croft and the strength she embodies still pervades in all forms of gaming today. As the Lara Croft Tomb Raider slot game at LeoVegas Casino shows, that utilises popular themes, artwork, and motifs from the franchise, the theme is still a popular one, still succeeding in offering something different for players. The fact that so long after her debut, and with so many more options available, Lara Croft is still the go-to franchise for many people, helps to prove her appeal.

While some of the marketing may look at Lara Croft through a male lens and focus on her physicality, for queer people, the adventurous nature that contrasts with this image helped cement her as a heroine. The 2013 reboot, written by Rhianna Pratchett, strands Lara on an island with nobody else except Samantha. Her mission becomes to keep Samantha safe and illustrates the true power in their sisterhood.

Lara Croft paved the way for female representation in action games and movies, and in doing so created an icon and ally for the LGBTQ+ community. While her tomb raiding days are still ongoing, the wealth of other games means that so many more people can find characters that resonate with who they are. There wouldn’t be as much representation across gaming had it not being for Lara Croft and the temples she raided, and the doors she unlocked.

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Health & Wellness

Trouble sleeping? Insomnia symptoms linked to increased risk of stroke, heart attack

The results suggest that if we can target people who are having trouble sleeping with behavioral therapies, it’s possible that we could reduce the number of cases of stroke, heart attack and other diseases later down the line.

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Photo by Matheus Vinicius from Unsplash.com

People who have trouble sleeping may be more likely to have a stroke, heart attack or other cerebrovascular or cardiovascular diseases, according to a study published in the November 6, 2019, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“These results suggest that if we can target people who are having trouble sleeping with behavioral therapies, it’s possible that we could reduce the number of cases of stroke, heart attack and other diseases later down the line,” said study author Liming Li, MD, of Peking University in Beijing, China.

The study involved 487,200 people in China with an average age of 51. Participants had no history of stroke or heart disease at the beginning of the study.

Participants were asked if they had any of three symptoms of insomnia at least three days per week: trouble falling asleep or staying asleep; waking up too early in the morning; or trouble staying focused during the day due to poor sleep. A total of 11 percent of the people had difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; 10 percent reported waking up too early; and 2 percent had trouble staying focused during the day due to poor sleep. The researchers did not determine if the people met the full definition of insomnia.

The people were then followed for an average of about 10 years. During that time, there were 130,032 cases of stroke, heart attack and other similar diseases.

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People who had all three symptoms of insomnia were 18 percent more likely to develop these diseases than people who did not have any symptoms. The researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the risk of stroke or heart disease including alcohol use, smoking, and level of physical activity.

People who had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep were 9 percent more likely to develop stroke or heart disease than people who did not have this trouble. Of the 55,127 people who had this symptom, 17,650, or 32 percent, had a stroke or heart disease, compared to 112,382, or 26 percent, of the 432,073 people who did not have this symptom of insomnia.

People who woke up too early in the morning and could not get back to sleep were 7 percent more likely to develop these diseases than people who did not have that problem. And people who reported that they had trouble staying focused during the day due to poor sleep were 13 percent more likely to develop these diseases than people who did not have that symptom.

“The link between insomnia symptoms and these diseases was even stronger in younger adults and people who did not have high blood pressure at the start of the study, so future research should look especially at early detection and interventions aimed at these groups,” Li said.

Li noted that the study does not show cause and effect between the insomnia symptoms and stroke and heart disease. It only shows an association.

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A limitation of the study was that people reported their own symptoms of insomnia, so the information may not have been accurate.

Also, the researchers did not ask participants about having sleep that was not refreshing; this is another common symptom of insomnia.

The question that needs to be asked: How is this relevant particularly to the LGBTQIA community?

Sleep may be fundamental to health, but a study found that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults reported more sleep problems than their heterosexual counterparts. This suggests that sleep difficulties may underlie a number of mental and physical health problems experienced by sexual minorities.

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