by Melanie Bettinelli on October 19, 2012
1. Bella: “There’s another kind of music than the music you listen to on your iPhone or computer or the radio, Mom. It’s the wild music. Of animals and wind and rain. Lightning has a music all it’s own. Thunder has a music. It’s booming drums.”
2. Sunday after Mass Bella is serving her siblings milk while they eat their pancakes. “Are you being a waitress?” Sophie asks. “No,” says Bella, “I’m being a queen serving her children.” Once the milk had been handed out she led them in saying grace before the meal.
3. I had this idea that I could fill up a whole quick takes post with cute kids stuff. Then we all got sick. Sunday was the last fairly normal day. I’d been feeling a bit off since Friday morning but it was just a cold—a little congestion in the sinuses and a bit of a cough. On Monday morning I went to the OB for my monthly checkup—and passed the glucose screening!—and the OB told me that I sounded awful and told me to get to my primary care doctor right away. By the time I got to the doctor Monday afternoon I was gasping for breath. She gave me a nebulizer treatment and wrote a prescription for Prednisone. So for the last few days I’ve been feeling like the walking dead (but with this weird excess of steroid energy that had me catching up on with the laundry on Tuesday and cooking up a storm on Wednesday and Thursday) and taking care of sick kids as one by one they each succumbed to the worst of the cold and spent a day on the couch (Bella on Tuesday, Sophie on Wednesday, Ben yesterday.)
4. Yesterday Ben was running a low grade fever and I realized that not only would we have to miss our meet up with the homeschooling family we’ve never met but already had to reschedule once before but that there was no way we were getting to the grocery store. Dom was going to have to work late so even though every time I’ve ever ordered groceries via Peapod I’ve been majorly disgruntled at both the cost and mediocre results. So I ordered a bunch of the stuff we needed most. And complained about how they didn’t even have clementines, but held my nose and ordered anyway.
5. And then later in the day when it was too late to amend my order I realized we didn’t have enough milk and children’s ibuprofen to get through the night. So Dom offered to stop by the store anyway to get the clementines and medicine. So Dom offered to make a quick stop to pick them up and to get the clementines and the other stuff that Peapod didn’t have. He told me to just update the grocery app that we use and he’d get everything on it.
Since he was going to be very late, I went ahead and sat down to dinner with the kids. During dinner Dom called twice but I couldn’t hear anything. I tried to text him but all that came through from his end was the single cryptic word “ounces”. Our supermarket is in a dead zone. Great. He came home more than an hour later with bags and bags of food. “Wait, what did you buy?” I sputtered, “There were only five things on the list!” Well, for some reason his phone hadn’t actually synced the grocery list and so he’d shopped from a list that was at least a month old. Bought a bunch of stuff we already had on hand, a bunch of stuff I’d just ordered from Peapod. Good grief! With the amount of time and money he’d spent, he might as well have just got the whole Peapod order. We didn’t save a darn thing. And now we have five packages of frozen blueberries in the freezer.
6. So here we are on Day Five of the kids haven’t left the house. Do you think the people at the library will notice that we’re all coughing? Do you think I care? I’ve got six books on hold for Bella that won’t still be there next Wednesday. I think I’m gonna risk it.
7. Except then I also have to face the librarian’s disapproval over that stupid Antarctica book we got back in September that seems to have disappeared off the face of the planet. I suspect we are going to be buying it. The really annoying part of that is that it wasn’t even one of the good ones that Bella enjoyed. It was one that we maybe read once because it was too basic and sketchy.
Wow! I got seven takes written and it’s not even ten-o-clock! I guess I’d better go put away the Peapod order and then do math and reading with Bella. Have a great weekend, everyone.
For more quick takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 23, 2012
I’ve been reading plenty of books in the past few months, just haven’t been inspired to write about them. I began to write a roundup post with a short description of several of the more noteworthy books I’ve read recently but found that this one was long enough to merit it’s own entry. So I’ll hold off on the other books for now and just publish this as it stands.
After the recent events in Colorado this book seems especially timely. I’ve spent some time discussing it on Facebook with people who argue that the Batman movies are responsible for creating the violence that occurred. Jones argues that media violence—even violent movies and first person shooter games—far from causing people to flip out and go on shooting sprees, actually helps people—children, adolescents and even adults—to process real world violence. Much of the book really focuses on children and adolescents, not adults. There is also a strong emphasis on comic books—Jones is not only a critic but has written comic books and has done many workshops in schools helping young people to create their own comics.
What I liked most about Jones’ approach is that he begins first by asking kids questions: Why do they love the kinds of violent stories and games that they love? Their answers are very interesting and not always what you’d expect. The book poses a question for the reader: What is the place of fantasy violence in a society that condemns the reality of violence? Instead of a knee-jerk reaction that there is no place for such violence, it well behooves the reader to listen to the stories Jones tells and look at the data he presents and to think long and hard.
As far as copycat shootings, Jones examines Columbine and several others and argues that the causal link is tenuous and mainly created by the news media. The data show that the kids who watch the most violent movies and games are actually the least likely to commit real-world violence while most real-world shooters are actually not very into violent games. Media violence doesn’t cause insanity, at best it just gives a particular insane person a particular focus but the insanity has to already be there for it to latch onto the image. But for healthy individuals violent movies, shows, games, comics tend to be a tension release and help them to create safe fantasies, which help them to process violent emotions rather than causing them to act out violently. In fact, it tends to be a safety valve. And in the cases of very public shootings the actual psychology points to a much more complex web of causation, the particular focus on a movie or song or game tends to be overemphasized by the media, which wants to draw a connection in order to provide an explanation for what is really inexplicable.
Jones is not a scholar but this book is well researched and does present data that convincingly supports his thesis, but the strength of the book is really in the stories where Jones talks to the kids and teens and asks them about their experiences. I was fascinated by the kids who loved both the Power Rangers and Teletubbies, turning to the Tubbies when he was feeling vulnerable and in need of reassurance and to the Rangers when he was feeling powerful and unafraid. Eventually he merged his fantasy worlds and imagined Tubby Rangers who morphed from cuddly buddies into powerful warriors.
One of the aspects of the book that really stood out was an interview with a Quaker peace worker in Northern Ireland who plays Quake recreationally (or probably not Quake but Doom or one of the other realistic first person shooter games, I don’t have the book any longer and my mind wants to remember that the Quaker played Quake but I think that’s wrong.) He asks the guy if there isn’t a contradiction between working for peace and playing this incredibly violent first person shooter game and the guy says something along the lines of it’s just fantasy. When asked why he plays a game that is so realistic and not something with less graphic violence, he answers that something less realistic wouldn’t be as useful to release the tension created by the very real violence he has to deal with every day. In other words, fantasy violence has to be at least as realistic as the stuff the news media feeds us or it doesn’t actually work as a psychological safety valve for some people. It is precisely the feeling of having power over the violence in the context of the game that is necessary to not feeling overwhelmed by the real world violence of living in a society where these kinds of things happen. The book also looked at upticks of people playing violent games after 9-11 and other events. I’d bet after the Aurora incident some people actually have a need to watch Batman and to play shooter games precisely to face those fears and to deal with the violent imagery.
Jones doesn’t suggest that parents and teachers should take a hands-off approach and simply let children and teens consume any media they want; but he does critique the typical reaction of parents who are made uncomfortable by their children’s choices. Rather than trying to ban media influences which we dislike, Jones suggests that parents and teachers instead engage children in conversation, asking them why they like what they do. Often the values that have led the child to the film/game/comic/music are ones that we can identify with. First, seek understanding, try to see it from the child’s perspective. Then you can share your own perspective: what elements make you uncomfortable and why.
The book’s main limitation for me was that as a secular work it addresses only the psychological value of fantasy worlds for the child consumer and doesn’t at all consider the moral component unless it is considering a moral compunction as a hurdle the adult has to overcome in order to seek understanding and empathy. While I agree that in any discussion of this sort with children we do need to first seek understanding, I do think the adult’s better formed conscience must at times prevail. Unlike Jones, I do think there are good reasons why an adult can and should impose restrictions on a child’s media consumption—although Jones does highlight the dangers inherent in a totalitarian ban, which is it can make the banned item into a forbidden fruit and alienate the child, creating a relationship of conflict instead of one of trust and partnership.
Jones looses me when he retorts: “We don’t ask whether game shows predispose our children to greed or love songs to bad relationships.” Well, in fact I have asked those very questions. Perhaps not so much of game shows per se but I recently read an article that questioned whether HG TV isn’t just a vehicle for encouraging envy as well as a materialist attitude and consumption in excess of our needs. And I certainly do feel that certain kinds of love songs—and love poetry and romance novels—can lead to unhealthy and immoral attitudes about sex and relationships. At the same time I do agree with Jones that when we find that our children are attracted to something that we find morally problematic it should be an opportunity for discussion and connection and that we should avoid making it into a power struggle. So Jones leaves the moral questions unasked and unanswered Perhaps violent and sexually charged media isn’t encouraging violence directly; but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is never an occasion for sin. So, yes, I do think that Jones’ narrative is lacking a crucial ethical component to the discussion. The book is good as a conversation starter but I’d like to see a follow up from a Catholic perspective.
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