Monthly Archives: April 2012

Dissension from their own

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Through what has progressed of my research, writing and editing, I have come to the conclusion that the thesis of my piece is going to be that The Conservative Teen, in its inaugural glory, serves to represent all that is wrong with conservative attempts to reach out to youth.  There is a ton of information about youth voting upon which I can draw to substantiate this point.  However, I am going to focus more on the fact that the mission of the Conservative Teen magazine is completely misguided in its efforts.  I am in the process of restructuring my piece so that it is more cogently presented.

There are several great comments about The Conservative Teen which I have yet to include in my piece.  They include:

William R. Smith, TCT Publisher:  “Do you have a teenage child or grandchild? Are you concerned about their future and the kind of America they will inherit? The liberal agenda has long dominated our educational institutions, news media, and entertainment industries and so it’s imperative we counter by teaching our teen children conservative values. For just $19.95, your teen can receive 4 quarterly issues of The Conservative Teen. Written by industry professionals and leading academic experts, this unique publication is full of high-quality content emphasizing the full spectrum of conservative principles.

Our goal at The Conservative Teen is to foster the next generation of conservatives. A subscription to our magazine will ensure your teen builds honorable moral character and an in-depth understanding of all issues from the conservative perspective.”

Jordan Bloom, The Conservative Magazine:  (in regard to the message that TCT is trying to send its readers) “Woe betide ye, Millenials! Your depravity and moral rootlessness hath offended the Almighty and imperiled the American way of life! Turn away from your blogs and your cable TV! Lay waste to your RSS readers and sow conservative media commentary in its barren furrows! Smite the deceivers! Forget the lamestream news, what you really need is an article about ‘How to Draw Obama,’ and ‘Ronald Reagan: Our First Black President.’”

Wonkette:  (some criticism of the magazine) Except with The Conservative Teen, what we have is not product-touting, but idea-touting. IDEAS. Finally, some ideas. Like how to always have a baby at any time. And to never watch Glee. And of course, because the titular reader of this magazine doesn’t know anything because they are home-schooled in a patient manner, the articles in The Conservative Teen are written by grownups, who all happen to be involved with either The Heritage Foundation, Fox Business News, the Family Research Council or the Media Research Center. Fun fun fun!

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by | April 24, 2012 · 11:05 am

Caution: When Korean Plastic Surgery Goes Wrong


(Han Mi OK before and after injecting the oil)

(Japanese Magazine KEJ on Korean plastic surgery)

            As mentioned in my previous blog, foreigners invest thousands of dollars in plastic surgery in Korea. However, as much as other Asian countries desire the same Korean look, there are Asian magazines and TV programs criticizing and raising awareness of the blooming trend, especially in Japan. In 2009, a famous Japanese magazine, “Asahi,” published an article regarding the dangers of plastic surgery in Korea, targeting Korean entertainer Han Mi Ok as its main example. Han Mi Ok, also known as “fan lady,” first drew attention to herself by making an appearance on a Korean show called “The Things That Happen in This World.” There, she spoke of her addiction to plastic surgery, which ultimately led to the active injection of cooking oil in her face. As a result, her face expanded outwards, much like a fan, thus her nickname. The magazine warned Japanese readers that cheap plastic surgery in Korea can result in extreme distortions of the face, much like the case of Han Mi Ok. According to a Korean news site Kukinews, Japanese netizens (internet citizens) also responded by criticizing Korean plastic surgery, claiming that the procedure is dangerous and that it can lead to severe side effects. Japanese TV programs are also focusing on the plastic surgery fad in Korea, asking random Korean women on the street whether they have undergone plastic surgery.

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The Alienation of Satire

While The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are quintessential examples of television satire, they are two shows on a medium that tends to shy away from the genre. TV doesn’t like to alienate viewers. A higher Nielsen rating = more money and advertising revenue. This keeps the executives happy, which keeps programming on the air. “TV is the least confident of media, most afraid of rejection in the form of the audience reaching for the remote,” write Jonathan Gray, Jeffrey P. Jones, and Ethan Thompson in their 2009 book Satire TV. Satire is an openly critical genre, and “critical” is almost a synonym for “alienating” in the world of television because satire publically displays anger, frustration, indignation, righteousness, and malevolence. These are not the most pleasant of human emotions, and viewers who watch TV to be relieved of their frustration tend to avoid programming that capitalizes on the world’s terribleness.

Therefore, an aggressive, resentful attack on the follies and vices of others doesn’t always bode well on network television. It usually doesn’t even get the chance to bode at all. But Comedy Central, a basic cable channel, doesn’t seem to mind taking the risk of alienating viewers (case in point: Tosh.O). So Colbert and Stewart are free to be as angry and frustrated as they please. They are part of the few, the proud, the lucky enough to belong to a channel that allows animated fourth graders to say the word “shit” — uncensored — 162 times in 22 minutes.

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by | April 23, 2012 · 6:22 pm

Insert Coin To Continue

Heroes in the half shell -- screengrab from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time"

Excerpted from a working draft:

                In some ways, this new crop of games is a throwback to gaming’s early roots in the arcade, and not just in their relative simplicity.  Take my favorite cabinet classic for instance: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.  It only costs a quarter or two, each, for up to four players to take control of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo in the side-scrolling basher.  Compare that to the cost of the same game on a Super Nintendo cartridge for about $50.  But then, one of you would succumb to the Foot Clan’s flurry of kung-fu kicks and throwing stars, and the flashing Insert Coin To Continue would replace your character’s depleted health bar.

                One of my best memories involves spending $13 over the course of a rainy afternoon reviving fallen Turtles.  I was not playing the game.  I was watching other, older kids play, using my precious quarters to continue their quest.  Arguably, they should have known better than to take advantage of an 11-year-old with spending cash.  This was on a Boy Scout camping trip, by the way. Continue reading

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Snow White, Warrior Princess: Be a Man!

“Fantasize about that wedding, four-year-olds! Doesn’t matter how young you are, you get those priorities in line early!…But really now, I think there’s just something insidious about getting little girls to fixate on romance so early. I mean this is one of those things which freaking rules your life as an adult, must we start on it before [they hit puberty]?”

The above quote is from a video by the Nostalgia Chick concerning Disney Princesses. This quote touches on exactly the issue about burrowing certain ideas and priorities into the heads of little girls, and why at the heart of the problem, nothing has changed with these new interpretations. The message lingers on, just in a less potent form.

But enough about that, let’s talk about pants. Or at least Snow White’s relationship to pants in these media.

What is it about being in a dress that just makes a woman go, “Nope, it’s frilly dress-up time. No rough-and-tumble today”? Is it just an accepted fact that once a character slips into anything but pants, she’s reduced to little more than dead weight with a smile?

One of these girls is less active than the others. Guess which.

Many gamers refer to it as the “Zelda Principle” – in the Legend of Zelda games, when Princess Zelda is in her pretty Hyrulian dress, she’s about as useful as a jar of marmalade is to a serving of fries most of the time. But when she puts on a pair of pants and masquerades as a man called Shiek, she can take on any enemy, do almost any task, and essentially save herself. And then we have an even more confusing conundrum with Tetra, a pirate queen who’s an expert thief, marksman, and overall master of the high-seas, but the second it’s discovered she’s Princess Zelda, she apparently forgets all her skills and needs rescuing. All this from the tri-force of wisdom, mind you! And there are no other major reoccurring female characters but her – the game’s even named after her despite the fact that she does next to nothing.

Yes, if you are a lady and you want to be a hero, pants are essential.  But it’s not just the garment itself, it’s the attitude associated with the garment. You have to act like a man as much as you dress like one, while retaining your femininity so the audience can relate to you. Often, these portrayals fall into one of two ways: too masculine, or too feminine.

Once Upon a Time’s Snow White is ping-pong match of both. When she’s in her dress, she’s shy, sweet, kind but ultimately a thing to be protected. Her strength is purely internal and emotional. But when she’s wearing pants, she’s tough, athletic, overly aggressive, borderline obsessed with victory. Mirror Mirror’s Snow White slouches, spits, grunts, and even fights like what one would expect of a man – but she’s still overtly feminine. Even Snow White and the Huntsman version of the character is so androgynous-looking that she could be easily mistaken for a man, even though her personality remains mostly unknown.

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Fast Media, Media Fast

While researching media fasts online, I came across a pretty interesting blog from a contributor to Connecticut’s WNPR and Your Public Media. Heather Brandon went on a selective fast from media for four days last summer after interviewing Thomas W. Cooper, author of Fast Media Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life in an Age of Media Overload. (I’m also happy to find that this book exists and will skim through it in the next week to see what it can add to my piece.)

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As Brandon prepared for her fast, she noted:

“I’ll be doing a practical and slightly customized fast: no Facebook, Twitter, iPad/iPod/video games, TV, or online browsing (unless work-related). Allowed: texting for informational purposes, newspapers, and radio. Dr. Cooper suggests that electronic mass media fasting can reasonably leave intact one-on-one connections like email and phone calls. The goal is to eliminate media that ‘could potentially homogenize thought,’ he wrote in an email.’

“Dr. Cooper predicts several beneficial effects from this. I will find more hours in my day for reflection, creativity, sleep, play, family, community, art, and spirituality. I’ll also sharpen my perceptive ability and memory, and think more for myself rather than in slogans and jingles. I’ll create more of my own media, rather than consume it. Enslaving habits and mindsets will be behind me. I’ll become more selective about life choices, relationships, career, and my own relationship with mass consumption of information. I’ll be more of service, and I may rediscover nature and a balanced life, developing talents I have neglected. (Cooper, 50-51) In other words: I will transcend! Or something.”

Interestingly enough, she does seem to transcend. Or something.

Her fast was very short, but she makes a lot of observations during her time away from Twitter. She describes connecting with people on a more intimate level, especially her kids. And, she ends her fast by asking, “How do I incorporate this approach to daily life in a moderate way, so that I can maintain connections but also maintain sanity?”

Her blog doesn’t follow her re-immersion into digital life, but it left me thinking about my return to media.

PBS suggests, in one of their additional resources for the Frontline special “Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier,” that a media fast encourages “introspection,” and that after a fast you should “use media and digital technologies more thoughtfully,” instead of “launching right back into your old media habits.”

That’s definitely what it was like for me. I didn’t even have the mental capacity to “launch right back into” old habits. My brother was eager to introduce me to some of the movies I missed while on my mission, and put in “The Other Guys” my first week home. I couldn’t even watch the opening scene—it was too overwhelming visually.

I’m okay watching action movies now. But, my readjustment to media will never be a return to what it was before. Like Heather Brandon, I discovered I really did enjoy interacting in-person with the people in my life, immersing myself in something other than a screen.

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Understanding the Stigma

I realized that before I could really comment on the media’s coverage of PTSD and mental trauma among military men and women, I needed to know more about PTSD and also understand the stigma surrounding it.

To that end, the following were extremely helpful:

Veteran’s at the Breaking Point – MSNBC.com

The Army Denies Combat Stress Causes Homicide

Coming Home: The Army’s Fatal Neglect

As was the investigation of homicides at Fort Carson, Colorado from November 2008 – May 2009, which was published by the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.

In February 2009 Salon, a news site that has extensively covered issues in the military, ran an in-depth investigative series in February 2009,  “Coming Home: The Army’s Fatal Neglect.” The series highlighted “25 suicides, prescription overdoses and murders among soldiers at Colorado’s Fort Carson since 2004,” and behind the failures in treating and diagnosing mental health issues is “an Army culture that punishes problematic soldiers instead of aiding them.”

The investigation found:

The soldiers seemed to be suffering classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: explosions of anger, suicidal and homicidal ideation, flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia. The Army was responding, for the most part, with disciplinary action rather than treatment, evincing little concern for possible underlying problems.

Finally, I interviewed Jim MacMillan, a journalist and photojournalist who has spent the last several years focusing and seriously studying trauma.

MacMillan on the stigma of mental health in the military: “There are two stigmas associated with the military and mental health,” said MacMillan, who started looking at trauma critically in 2006. “The first is the stigma within the military that if you have PTSD or trauma then you’re weak and not capable of performing.”  The other stigma is that people with PTSD or other mental health issues are unstable – they “might go postal and kill everybody.”

MacMillan pointed me to a major problem about the misrepresentation and misunderstandings of PTSD: While “diagnosing and acknowledging [PTSD] helps clarify things, it also makes it difficult because there are differences among cases – a person can have only one or two of the following manifestations and be diagnosed with PTSD,” said MacMillan. Those manifestations are intrusion (dreams, flashbacks etc…), avoidance and arousal (elevated startle response).

MacMillan’s reaction to the coverage of Sgt. Bales: “It’s shallow, simplistic reporting,” says MacMillan, and “at a glance, I think it’s been disastrous.”  Because “the number of soldiers with PTSD who become violent is a very small percentage and the percentage that are violent in such a public way is even smaller – usually the violence is limited to themselves and those closest to them, which is devastating in its own way.” One of MacMillan’s biggest critiques of the coverage of the Bales case was that “in all the coverage, I never head about the context of how rare it is to go ‘postal.’ Before we had an under-abundance of reporting on PTSD, now we have a misunderstanding of PTSD.”

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