Survivor: Siberia

Very few shows capture my attention like CBS’s Survivor.  What started as a fairly contrived reality television competition has evolved over many years to a fascinating cat-and-mouse game of wits.  Survival of the environmental extremes pales in comparison to the mental madness brought on by deliberate deceit, misunderstood conversation, and naked errors in judgment.  The lack of sleep by itself (on some nights strategic, on others unavoidable) would have me stepping out of the game well before the final day.

Like most reality shows Survivor is edited to manipulate the viewing experience to be as entertaining as possible.  You only see what the producers want you to see.  Given hundreds of hidden cameras, I can only imagine how much film ends up on the “cutting room floor”.  Regardless, Survivor is undeniably popular in America (with similar competitions in fifty other countries).  The current season – the thirty-fourth – is watched by over ten million viewers.  There have been over five hundred episodes.  And the format of the game is relatively unchanged from the first competition seventeen years ago.

When “The Hunger Games” movies came out in 2012, I remember how I couldn’t help drawing several parallels to Survivor.  In both cases you have contestants battling until only one remains; the recipient of untold riches.  In both cases the contestants have but a few items of comfort and are forced to endure the harsh conditions of their surroundings.  Also in both cases, you have a game manipulated behind the scenes by the powers that be, to maximize the entertainment value for its viewers (even at the “expense” of contestants).

So now let’s talk about Game2: Winter, the latest spin on reality TV competition from Russia.  Brace yourself.

Game2: Winter (G2W) is a hybrid of Survivor and “The Hunger Games”.  Take fifteen men and fifteen women, drop them into a remote location in Siberia (which is anywhere in Siberia come to think of it), wait nine months and see who survives.  Each entrant must be declared “mentally sane” to qualify (kind of an oxymoron for a G2W player, don’t you think?) and chooses up to 100kg of equipment from a warehouse en route to Siberia.  Clothing.  Tools.  Weapons.  Whatever they feel they need to survive.  Each entrant also gets a satellite-linked panic button.  That comes in handy when they encounter the hungry wolves and bears in the region – assuming the production crew can get to them fast enough.

With a particular nod to “The Hunger Games”, G2W will be televised 24/7.  Oh, and the contestants can do anything they feel is necessary to win the game.  Anything.  The Russian government has gone on record to say players will be prosecuted for crimes (i.e. murder, rape, physical violence), and the producers say they won’t interrupt such activities.  2,000 cameras have been strategically located to capture the “entertainment”.

Games2: Winter premieres this July.  The extremes of Siberia (100 degrees in the summer, -40 in the winter), the lack of adequate food/shelter, and the resident wildlife make you wonder if anyone will survive, let alone commit a crime along the way.  But apparently the $1.6 million prize is worth the risk in Russia.  G2W has a lengthy waiting list for its thirty contestants.  To them I say: I hope one of you will outwit, outplay, and ultimately outlast the others.  I certainly hope it doesn’t take nine months, nor something worthy of prison time.  May the odds be ever in your favor, even if I know they won’t be in Siberia.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Sounds Good to Me

At the movies last weekend, as we waited for the lights to dim, two women were having a conversation in the row in front of us.  What struck me was not what they were talking about, but how they sounded.  Their voices projected loud and clear above the quieter chatter of others in the theater.  Yet they were talking normally, neither straining nor raising their voices.  It’s like they had built-in megaphones.

36 - velvety

I find that fascinating about the human voice.  With one person the words come out all velvety and smooth, like honey-dripped taffy.  With others it’s all cymbals and brass band.

Take “Debbie” on the current season of television’s “Survivor”.  If you watch, you know who Debbie is (the self-proclaimed uber-intelligent “Brain Tribe” member).  But even if you didn’t know all that about Debbie, you’d recognize her voice in a heartbeat.  There’s just something about her combination of accent, volume, and non-stop blah-blah-blah.

When I hear voices like Debbie’s, I’m spirited back in time to high school speech class.  Midway through that semester so many years ago, our teacher brought in an “alumna” to demonstrate public speaking at its most refined.  I’ll never forget it.  Our guest spent several moments standing quietly in front of us; eyes closed, breathing deep, as if preparing for a long delivery.  Then she simply said:

Thank you for the plums.  They were delicious.”

That was it.  That was her entire speech.  But I was utterly spellbound.  The way she delivered just two lines: enunciating each word completely, starting and finishing each sentence smoothly, captivating her audience with her words as well as her body language – was the total sensory experience.  I could hear her eating those plums.  I could see the juice dripping down her lips.  I could even taste those plums myself (and they were delicious).  To this day it is one of the most powerful moments of speech I have ever witnessed.

The accents in the Southern states – i.e. Virginia or South Carolina or Georgia – are similarly spellbinding.  I remember touring a plantation house once when I was a teenager, and our guide was a short, heavy-set black woman who possessed one the softest, sweetest voices I had ever heard.  Her words were so calming and mesmerizing I found myself falling asleep on my feet, jaw dropped.  I hope she realized that was a compliment, because I can still hear her voice to this day.

The Irish accent is even more affecting to me.  Male or female; on the Emerald Isle or watching the movie “Brooklyn”; there is something utterly captivating about the Irish spin on the spoken word.  It is soft and fluid, with subtle twists of pronunciation and emphasis.  It’s like an audio massage.  I could listen to the female Irish voice for hours on end (just as my wife could listen to the male equivalent.  Hate you for that, Colin Farrell).

Since I am neither Irish nor a resident of the South, nor even a refined public speaker, I settle instead for using words that simply sound nice.  Search the Web and you’ll find lists of “the most beautiful words” or “the sweetest-sounding words”.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • cashmere
  • cinnamon
  • chimes
  • dulcet
  • effervescence
  • grace
  • lithe
  • mist
  • murmur
  • rhapsody
  • sapphire
  • serene

Don’t those sound nice and velvety?  Don’t they bring just a tinge of comfort, or conjure up images of the nicer things in life?  To conclude, some of us may not possess the most pleasant of pipes (like Survivor Debbie).  But at least we have some sugary words that can bring us a little closer to that honey-dripped taffy.