jueves, 19 de abril de 2012


 By Silvia Uribe

Don’t get me wrong. The movie has what one can call a “happy ending," which I won’t spoil, in case you haven’t seen it. But, the more the movie progressed, the more I was subject to the unsettling feeling that this movie presaged some sort of reality the initial stages of which we are already living. Yes, I’m talking about the reality of our infamous “reality shows."

The parallels are stunning, if you think about it. People chosen to be a part of the entertainment have to do whatever the producers tell them in order to get the prize. Like in the movie, we reality show fans are avid consumers of whatever is sold to us as “fun to watch.” But – is it really? Or are we simply becoming insensitive, uncompassionate, and, to put it plainly, dehumanized beings? Is it right for us to laugh about other people’s misery, vices, depression, pain, or confusion?

Although I don’t watch a lot of TV shows in general, just by surfing the channels I’m aware of a number of them - which many times seem to be the only option available - that could very well be driving us to not think for ourselves, and to simply follow the path others draw for us. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

The Bachelor, and The Bachelorette – Self-abasement for fifteen minutes of fame.
Hoarders – Extremely depressed individuals who bury themselves alive.
Intervention – Drug addicts who at times consume in front of the cameras.
Jersey Shore – Low-living individuals with amazingly high levels of ignorance.
Wiped out – People risking their lives on a bad fall sparkled with snarky comments
Ultimate Fighter (UFC) – Pure bestiality.
Toddlers & Tiaras – Bordering on child abuse.
Sweet 16 – Brats’ empowerment at its best

Is this uplifting, positive, or even interesting? I venture to say that most of us don’t think it is. However, driven by a morbid impulse, we keep watching.

Who is to say that one of the Intervention participants won’t inadvertently overdose in front of the camera, or that one of the Jersey Shore cast members won’t badly hurt another one during one of their drunken brawls? What if one or more of the Wiped Out participants “accidentally” breaks their neck? Or if, while we’re watching, an ultimate fighter gets killed?

Will we stop watching then? Or are we going to coldly say that they knew what they were getting into? And will this explanation help convince us that we bear no responsibility whatsoever? Oh, wait a minute. Didn’t the husband of one of the Real Housewives commit suicide? Yes, he did.

To be fair, there are a few positive "reality" shows on the air, too. What Would You Do?Undercover BossRestaurant ImpossibleWhat Not to Wear, and a couple more. However, they don’t get half the attention from the media and the public as the other ones do.

At the pace we’re going, in not too long, our children may be “volunteering” for The Hunger Games. The question is whether we will – like the colorful people in the movie – still be watching.


Who's There? A Burglar.

March 18, 2012

Not too long ago, some Goleta residents heard a knocking at our doors. If we were home and answered the knock, we found a person selling magazine subscriptions. Those who were not at home probably didn’t know that they'd received this visit. Instead, they found that their home had been burglarized.
This is just an example of what may happen anywhere these days, our nice neighborhood included.

I was one of the neighbors who was at home. The individual on my doorstep seemed amicable, and interested in making a buck or two. I didn’t buy a subscription, and after he left the familiar, self-imposed, guilt trip hit me. (After all, it was late in the day, he was probably tired — you know how it goes.)

Since safety is paramount to me, I’m in an eternal quest to achieve it. Recently, I learned through the grapevine about a program that the City of Goleta launched not too long ago called “Nextdoor." I immediately called the city, and Valerie Kushnerov explained what it is:

“The city implemented Nextdoor in Goleta to foster neighbor-to-neighbor and citywide communication," she said. "Goleta residents can use Nextdoor — a niche social network — to create private Web sites for their neighborhoods where they can get to know their neighbors, ask questions, and exchange local advice and recommendations. Topics of discussion on Nextdoor are as varied as local events, school activities, plumbers, babysitter recommendations, disaster preparedness, recent crime activity, and upcoming garage sales or even lost pets.”

Terrific! I am a sociable person and this idea sounds great to me, but even for those who are less inclined to social interaction, Nextdoor is a viable idea, since each person determines how much contact they have in the network, and at the same time, they can keep themselves informed of what’s going on around them.

But does it really work for safety purposes? My question was quickly answered when Kushnerov showed me what Greg Sorenson, the community resource deputy for the Sheriff's Office, wrote to the Nextdoor neighborhood watch groups:

“Update: In the early part of February, many of you were confronted by door to door solicitors selling magazine subscriptions in your neighborhoods. Over the course of a few days, some Goleta residents fell victim to home burglaries and attempted residential break-ins. Ultimately, it was found that one of the solicitors was responsible for the burglaries and deputies soon apprehended him. Due in part to tips coming into the Sheriff's Office, via Nextdoor, Sheriff's Detectives were able to get vital information about the suspect, which helped to firm up the case against him.” You can see it for yourself at the Sheriff's Office website.

"However," says one of the Nextdoor participants, "this is not only an efficient way to deal with crime. In my neighborhood, we get together once a month with the Nextdoor members to share the extra produce we have from our own gardens. We rotate homes, and we keep it very simple. It is something that I look forward to every time.”

Signing up is easy! The City of Goleta has set up 22 different neighborhoods. If you go to Nextdoor.com and put in your address, you will see if your neighborhood has a leader/founder. If so, continue the process and join your neighbors on Nextdoor. If your neighborhood has not yet been established by a founder, you can be it! Contact Valerie Kushnerov, public information officer for the City of Goleta, at 961-7507, or email her atkushnerov@cityofgoleta.org.

Nextdoor is a positive way to be connected with our closest neighbors and to know that even when we’re not there, someone is always keeping an eye open for us.