Monday, February 27, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Family Atlantic City

Strollering in Public
Ramblings and Gamblings
Atlantic City has, oddly, become one of our frequent family mini vacation spots.  Since we barely gamble, taking advantage of semi-regular discount offers is cost effective, providing us with a couple days away from life’s normal chaos for pool swimming, ocean strolling and general relaxationing-aning. (Sorry, that one got away from me.)  The first time we tried this plan, however, our lack of experience, coupled with a general focus away from family entertainment in many areas almost killed this tradition before it started.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Up the Lake: Behavior Problems

The Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Fires
Death of Denial

Many types of smoke signals came from this Indian.

I believe the statutes of limitations on getting in serious trouble have finally passed allowing me to admit there were several elements of unseemly behavior mixed in among the well meaning, if lunatic, other Up the Lake activities.  Due to the nature of these tales, the participants shall not be named, for protection in case I am wrong about those statutes…or their parents are reading this.  Although that hardly matters, as the only one who usually got in serious trouble was me.  Honestly, I’d get punished for things those who shall not be named did which I had no part. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jeff's Books to Open Your Mind: Fantasy Vs Real Violence

I can no longer, in good conscience, advertise for the author of the book this review was about.

Most of the information I'd written I'd seen in other reading and research I've done myself before and afterwards. That I'll leave below.

Most of the famous "violent media is bad" studies haven't been telling us the whole story of their experiments.

Everybody's heard about the kids shown a video of someone punching an inflatable clown who then go and punch a similar clown.
However, they don't tell you that there's virtually no correlation between punching inflatable clowns (or other play fighting) and real violence.

They tell you about how aggressive violent adolescents like aggressive violent movies and music,
However, they leave out the fact that this isn't a cause and effect relationship, but a correlation. (Romantic individuals like romantic movies, but the movies did not make them romantic.)
More importantly, they leave out the fact that the aggressive adolescents who watch the MOST violent media commit the LEAST amounts of actual violence.

They talk about the need to separate fantasy from reality,
However they leave off the fact that play fighting and action stories promote this by letting kids experience the emotions associated with these events in an environment they know is safe.
They also leave out that even without the media influence it happens.  Kids in native tribes play fake spear and bow and arrow games with each other.

They talk about the fact that girls move away from play fighting sooner than boys as another example of them maturing faster,
However, they leave out the fact that that's when girls transition into setting strong fashion "ins and outs" and forming cliques, it is often much more mentally aggressive than plain old play fighting.  (This makes me extra proud that my daughter is fully able to execute an elbow drop and a sleeper hold.)

They talk about the experiment where one group of kids watches Barney and the other Power Rangers, and the Power Ranger kids are all jumping and ninja kicking and play fighting directly afterwards.
However, they leave off the fact that when you go back to the two groups a little later on, the Power Ranger kids are much more social, happy and getting along better as a group. 
They also neglect to mention that the Barney kids turn to cannibalism. (OK , I made that up.)
They tell you about studies showing “watching violence makes kids agitated and aggressive”.
However, they don’t tell you that most of the "watching violence makes kids agitated and aggressive" studies are done the same way.  The kid is forced to watch the violent images, all completely unconnected and without any intervening information between them in a laboratory environment.  This has two major problems.
1)     This takes away the story component which is the most important, and beneficial part of any of these experiences.
2)    It’s the "forced to watch in a laboratory environment" part that causes the agitation and aggression.  The same results occurred when kids were forced to watch Mr. Rogers.

Parents groups and government cite the triumphs of the time when all cartoons were forced to be non violent, and even classics like Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry were edited down to incoherence to remove the violence, and how tragic it was when that all ended with syndicated cartoons like G I Joe and Transformers, chock full of violence.
However, they don't tell you that when the kids raised on the nonviolent stuff hit late teenage years there was a spike in violent crime in that age group, and a subsequent drop when the Transformers kids got older.
They also don't mention how every time in the 20th century when pressures were put on media to reduce the violence as much as possible, there was a surge in the popularity of Professional Wrestling, People need make believe violent storytelling, going all the way back to fairy tales and mythology.
Finally they leave out the fact that there was one generation that caused psychologists and sociologists great amounts of concern because the movies, pulp novels, and radio shows that were popular among kids were filled with lurid horror, violent vigilantes and evil gangsters.  That group is now the one we call "The Greatest Generation"

They tell you how horrible violent video games are.
However, they leave out the fact that video games partially get a bad rap because they are the newest media form.  Especially when studies show that they are actually better than passive entertainment, because they lead to creative thought, social interaction, and extend the age of imaginative play, which is also beneficial.

They tell you that fictional violence desensitizes people to real violence.
However they leave out the fact that while possible, it’s very hard to prove, but more importantly, it's probably a good thing.  The news media is working overtime with sensationalism and overstatement to OVER sensitize people in order to boost ratings and make them too afraid to change channels.  (This effect is especially strong on children.) This can lead to depression, feelings of helplessness and inaction.  Again, experiencing the emotions in a known safe environment during "Fake violence" better prepares people of any age to have positive responses for real stressful situations.

Final points here:

Advertising people figured out ages ago that you can’t make people buy what they don't want.  They send research groups out to find out what kids already desire, and then package it in creative ways to sell it.  The anti-violent stories slant is all very much like the trend in the 70's to keep all sugar away from kids, which gave us a bunch of undersized underdeveloped kids.  Kids like sugar because their bodies need it.  Kids like fantasy violence because their minds need it. Kids are basically powerless, and power fantasies help them develop their minds and creativity.

Even the strongest studies show only a 10% correlation between video violence and real violence.  Parental actions have a whopping 50% correlation.  Therefore, unsurprisingly, it all boils down to being a good parent – i.e. sharing the action games and shows with your kids, talking about them, and presenting a positive image. 

Watching a very violent movie or video game with a kid who has seen you behave compassionately and non-violently is a way of sharing their fantasy and imagination time with them, both of which are really important.

The kids who shoot up their schools are very rarely the ones really into violent games.  They're the ones who are really into REAL guns, and who have parents who are either equally violent in reality, or just badly disinterested.  Many of the recent school attackers were obsessed with previous school shootings, the first ones with adult workplace shootings.

I'll get off my soapbox now so I can go and get beat up by my daughter on the PlayStation.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why Guys are Stupid

This was one of the first things I ever wrote for no informative, assigned or required reason.  I lucked out and the Star Ledger bought it based on a cold submission and it was published on this day in 1998.  This means I technically started this blog about thirteen years before it existed.  I always was a fan of “Timey-whimey.”

Note who is clever enough to be in the shelter while the others face the danger.
Course: Life in General - Final Paper

Attempts to explain male psychological behavior have been attempted for years.  But all the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Peter Paul” explanations are needlessly complex.  Male behavior all boils down to one point:


That’s all there is to it.  Everyone agrees, but no one sees that there is far more here than meets the eye. Guys are not stupid because of:

Poor education

A lack of willpower and concentration

Or even for the popularly held belief: “They just want to annoy you.”

GUYS ARE STUPID because it is one of the most important laws of nature, which organizes all levels of human society and much of the rest of the food chain as well.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Up the Lake: Kids and Nature

“Never Work with Animals or Children” – W. C. Fields
“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinkin’ ” – Steve McCroskey
A clear violation of Rule 5.
On a typical night Up the Lake, after pretty much every one else has gone to bed, I used to enjoy a Southern Comfort while reading by the fire before turning in. (This was my pre cardiac inspired red wine days.)  Though I had been cutting it with seltzer as I (and my innards) aged, one summer I decided that I should probably stop for various reasons (better health, better example, and better at not falling into the fire).  Thanks to one extended weekend at the end of June, this decision needed to be heavily reviewed.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tragedy at Sea

Fourteen years ago, an amazing film sailed across the world’s movie screens.  This tragic tale of a doomed ocean liner ran the gamut of emotions.  Amidst heart rending tragedy there were views into the most inspiring actions of human courage and spirit, as well as glances at the lowest levels of pettiness and selfishness. 

Cutting edge special effects, a score by an Oscar winning composer, and dynamic writing and direction allowed the audience to truly connect with the fear of the trapped individuals, the conflict between self-preservation and the need to help others, and the crushing despair of a romance that survived hardship and disaster only to be lost to a heartless sea.

There was also a fantastically monstrous looking, barbed, giant squid monster!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Make Mine (Captain) Marvel!

Well, it looks like DC isn’t through deliberately annoying me yet.

No, unlike every aging comic fan with a blog on the planet, I’m not complaining about the Watchmen prequels. I figure Alan Moore will be offended enough for all of us.

Today’s gripe is that they’ve solicited a new Shazam series, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.  Initially, I expected greatness from the guys who brought us the most recent of the no longer existing origins of Superman.

Then I read the full description
Yes, you should look sad, Billy.