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Monday, December 30, 2013

Ron Futrell and Nate Tannenbaum New Years 2003

The things kids do...

Chris Ainsworth: Shock of the new


In CityLife (click here)

“Badly drawn, badly written, and badly printed — a strain on the young eyes and young nervous systems — the effects of these pulp-paper nightmares is that of a violent stimulant. Their crude blacks and reds spoil a child’s natural sense of colour; their hypodermic injection of sex and murder make the child impatient with better, though quieter, stories. Unless we want a coming generation even more ferocious than the present one, parents and teachers throughout America must band together to break the ‘comic’ magazine.”
— Sterling North, Chicago Daily News, 1940

“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock ’n’ roll!”
— Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario Bros.

In the winter of 1574, early in the days of English theater, the Common Council of London issued a statement censoring and restricting theatrical performances within London city limits, complaining of their great popularity among youth and, as they described it, “the inveigling and alluring of maids, especially of orphans and good citizens’ children under age … and many other corruptions of youth and other enormities.”
While fears of plague and the risk of large gatherings also played a role in the ruling, chief among its reasons was the danger that this form of entertainment posed for the young, lower classes and the overly susceptible. This was followed by an outright ban within the city limits of London, and further censorship, lasting until the Restoration era of the 1660s.
From the 1690s until 1710, Pope Innocent XII and his successor, Pope Clement XI, following previous bans on female singers, whistling and shouting during performances, outlawed opera entirely, as a sinful and seditious form of music at odds with the morals and spirituality of the Church. The Teatro Tordinona, a place where “extravagance, gluttony and every other most guilty form of intemperance triumphed, so that the resources of families were squandered, youth were corrupted, and pilgrims were scandalized,” was torn down, only to be rebuilt several decades later with opera’s later resurgence.
With the popularity of jazz in the 1920s, so grew opposition to the so-called devil’s music (not the first to be labelled as such, and not the last). Within a decade, more than 60 communities in the U.S. (and Germany in its entirety) enabled prohibitions against the public performance of jazz, with the music seen as “the accompaniment of the voodoo dance, stimulating half-crazed barbarians to the vilest of deeds.”
Sixty years later, the 100th Congress passed Resolution 57, designating jazz as “a rare and valuable national American treasure.”
It never stops.

And then there’s film, immediately after its rise in popularity and again and again throughout its history, most notably with the moral censorship guidelines of the 1930 Hayes Code, which stated among its goals that “the important objective must be to avoid the hardening of the audience, especially of those who are young and impressionable, to the thought and fact of crime.”

Television, every couple decades since its invention. As Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minow put it in 1961, a procession of “blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons.”

Comic books, particularly during the 1940s and ’50s. Portrayals of superheroes, crime and horror led to the 1954 publication of psychiatrist Fredric Wetham’s Seduction of the Innocent, an alarming screed warning of the dangers of lowbrow sequential art. This was followed by the formation of the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in the same year, which held hearings on the potentially deleterious impact of comic books on young readers.

Role playing games in the 1980s. Dungeons and Dragons was believed by some to promote devil worship and suicidal behavior, with opponents often tying unfortunate events involving young players to the demonic influences of the game.

Don’t get me started on rock ’n’ roll.
So we arrive at the present, and with it a new target. Video games, a form of entertainment with more than 90 percent of youth and the majority of adults playing, are the new opera, the new jazz, once again stimulating half-crazed teenagers to the vilest of deeds.

They’ve been connected to Sandy Hook (Adam Lanza was said to have played in his “underground bunker,” normally referred to as a basement), Aurora (James Holmes, alongside 10 million other players, was a fan of World of Warcraft, a fantasy adventure game), and the Virginia Tech massacre (shooter Seung-Hui Cho hadn’t played a video game since Sonic the Hedgehog in the early ’90s).

During a press conference held the week after the Sandy Hook shooting, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, called the game industry “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”

On Jan. 12, following outcry against the industry, the vice president met with the heads of several prominent video game publishers as part of a task force looking at the role of video games in mass shootings.

Last week, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, asked about supporting universal background checks for gun purchases, replied that video games were “a bigger problem than guns.”

Never mind that murder rates have fallen in the United States over the past 20 years, while video game sales have skyrocketed.

Never mind that the largest video game markets in the world, per capita, also have some of the lowest reports of gun violence.

Never mind that this same sort of hysteria has happened many times before.
During the rise to prominence of any new form of media or pop culture, there follows a cadre of misguided do-gooders, armed with misinformation and loose correlations, ready to lash out at any perceived potential for harm. They take to the streets with the notion of protecting the youth, publishing anecdotal evidence as fact, pointing to unrelated ties and exclaiming “This! This is that which we should repress, for surely it brings no good!”

When tragedy happens, the new medium is hoisted onto the platform, threatened and mocked, examined and dissected because somewhere, somehow, there has to be a link between it and our woes. Because it’s the easy way; because it’s the new, it must be at fault, lest we pause and find fault in ourselves.

Over and over again, until the new is no longer new and another arises to take its place.

CHRIS AINSWORTH is a native Las Vegan and tech dilettante. Find him on Twitter (@driph) or at

Upton Sinclair and the Modern Media Campaign

Sixty-eight years ago Upton Sinclair, muckraking journalist and erstwhile socialist, won the primary for the governorship of California by a landslide. The response from the state's newspapers and the motion picture industry was swift and merciless: they used every trick they could think of to defeat him. In 2010, Brooke spoke to Greg Mitchell, author of The Campaign of the Century, who argued that, for better or worse, the anti-Sinclair effort ushered in the modern political campaign.
Radio Citizen - The Hop


Greg Mitchell

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Shift In Mormon Age Policy Widens Women's Options

A statue representing womanhood — and women's role in raising children — is seen with the Mormon Temple in the background in Salt Lake City.
EnlargeDouglas C. Pizac/AP
A statue representing womanhood — and women's role in raising children — is seen with the Mormon Temple in the background in Salt Lake City.

Hannon Young was listening with only half an ear during the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints earlier this month when Church President Thomas S. Monson started talking about missionaries. But then Young perked up — and froze, as Monson declared that women no longer have to wait until they are 21 to go on their missions. They can begin at 19, he said.
"You could hear an audible gasp throughout the whole conference center," says Young, a freshman at Brigham Young University. "It was just this wave of shock."
A moment later, Young, who turns 19 in July, began to laugh and cry.
"I wanted to go on a mission since I was 16," she says. "And the thought of waiting two more years was really difficult for me. So, it was such exciting news."
Young called her mother, Jane, in New Hampshire. Neither could speak due to their emotions — for Jane, it was a little bittersweet that this rite of Mormon passage was coming so soon. Jane Young says that with this change, the church is sending a signal.
"I do think what it allows is for women — Mormon women — to have it all," she says.
Here's why. At age 21, a woman is nearly finished with college, and historically there's been pressure to marry rather than set out on an 18-month mission, which is optional for both men and women.
That's what Jane Young did: She already had a "call" and was training to be a missionary when her boyfriend proposed. But taking time off at 19 is more like having a gap year; young women can then go on to college, career and marriage.
Jane says the new policy represents a philosophical shift in how Mormon women are viewed by the church — and by themselves.
"I think women will see themselves differently," she says.
Hannon agrees.
"I think I do, because it's empowering to think that they want more women serving," she says. "It feels like a call to really join the ranks."
The church also announced that young men may start their two-year missions when they're 18, a year earlier. Seventeen-year-old Brendon Holland, a high school senior in Springfield, Mass., plans to sign up next year. He's thrilled — but he acknowledges that he'll be making a sacrifice. Holland was hoping to get a college rowing scholarship.
"When I come back, my form would be off, and I wouldn't be in as good shape," he says. "And I probably wouldn't be able to be accepted into a Division I program."
So Holland is trusting on God to provide.
"I know that if I go and do this thing, I will be blessed — and that I'll be able to find a different way to pay for college," he says.
Mormons line up outside the historic Salt Lake Temple before the church's general conference in 2010.
EnlargeGeorge Frey/Getty Images
Mormons line up outside the historic Salt Lake Temple before the church's general conference in 2010.
Don Hangen, a leader in a Mormon stake, or region, in New England, says it's not just teenagers who are pleased with this shift. So is the church, which has seen a surge in the most effective recruits.
"Some of the very best missionaries are the women missionaries," Hangen says.
  "and this just opens the floodgates for many more of these women to serve."

Published 10/31/ 2012
Some 4,000 young women applied in the two weeks since the announcement. Overall, applications have quintupled — and fully half of them are women. Until now, only about 20 percent of missionaries have been female.
Hangen sees another dynamic that could change as a result of the policy: romance.
"Culturally, there are many young women who are waiting for their missionary to come home. This is going to turn those tables a little bit," he says, laughing, "and now there will be men that will be waiting for their sister missionary to come home."
But now that missionaries will be essentially the same age, will there be more so-called mission romances? Lauren Bowman, an 18-year-old at BYU, says absolutely not.
"The purpose to go on a mission is to be on a mission; it's not to go out and find your eternal companion," she says. "It's to go and serve, and to talk to people and stuff. And you need to make sure that you keep that goal in mind."
The church hopes that Bowman and other new young missionaries will bring in thousands of new converts ... and accelerate the already speedy growth of the Mormon faith.

The Shift to On-Line Reading

Colleges are encouraging faculty to put their syllabus on line, to have students go on line for handouts, and to reduce hard cost as much and as often as possible. The recession, Nevada's governor, a shift in priorities by voters and other factors are contributing to this rapid shift in how education is done and who takes on the burden of costs.

Even in economic crisis one state is looking at ways to shift to paper-less and save money.

California is moving toward mandated Internet support of the classroom, including electronic books. Governor Schwarzenegger would prefer for all students to have their textbooks on a flash drive or available on demand on the Internet. It would save the system billions of dollars and make California the first state to move in what most educators believe is the direction textbooks will be going. Of course California is currently broke and many poor students still have poor or no access to computer use off campus. California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas feels that these are obstacles that can be overcome. The truth is that knowledge, information and standards are changing so rapidly most school districts are having problems keeping up with updates, changes and use of existing text books. Where once people read books and felt more comfortable with paper and binding, today’s students read less, and what they read tends to be on-line or on their smart phones. The cost and use of books readers, the number of text available on-line or in pdf or other downloads is increasing exponentially. Google and others are digitizing public domain and by permission texts, photographs and videos while Barnes and Nobel and other companies are increasingly releasing books that are only published digitally or come out first in digital at a lower price than any print edition. While it may be hard for you or I to get use to, reading from a Kindle or other e-book reader is the future, at least with the current technology.

California has ten digital textbooks approved for K-12 starting next year, open source, free and available in multiple downloadable formats.

Textbook costs are escalating rapidly, just as information flows faster than books can be written, published, distributed and sold.

With textbooks, time sensitive non-fiction or commentary and daily news source increasingly offered on-line or as e-books, what will be the future of paper and pen, ink and binding?

Digital readers, the Internet and smart phones have many writing the obituary of paper books, magazines and newspapers, yet Star Trek The Next Generations’ Jean Luke Picard and the original Star Trek’s Captain Kirk still preferred to savor vintage well bound books, with Kirk using vintage eye glasses to read.

Xerox may have lunched the information age and with it geometric growth in the use of paper and in the overall literacy of the generation now known as Baby Boomers, the largest generation in the history of mankind. The same information explosion sped the erosion of rainforest, Canadian old wood forest, global warming and filling of open once abundant landfills. Today 40% of pages are thrown out the day they are printed, ether through errors or through short-term use.

Next generation electronic readers are near ready to market, with thicknesses and consistencies about the same as actual paper, completely reusable and producing the clear, easy on the eyes full color range of actual paper printing.

Scanning, skimming ahead and smooth flow of the eye are more difficult with e-readers than with ink and paper publications.

A lack of funds in this new economy may reverse the trend to hire more and more teachers, perhaps making it a much more difficult profession to enter or stay in. Proponents argue that a technology assisted and redefined education system that is less reliant on number of teachers and more on quality and content may be beneficial and a real improvement. In one model not only is the internet used extensively, but a laptop (and/or reader) for every student, more time put into physical activities, less time in the classrooms and the use of skilled, but lower paid, assistants and helpers whose jobs do not even exist yet, much less have been defined, may lead to a much stronger and lower overall cost learning system to the labor intensive and costly traditional classroom.

Just one of many changes the economy may be forcing on our society.

Is it for the good?

Will the end users accept the change?

Can you get the same knowledge, feeling, experience from on-line or e-books as you can from paging through a book?

-This blog entry First posted 8/17/09

Famously Fake People Throughout History

In light of the fake girlfriend story associated with Notre Dame football player Manti T'eo, host Scott Simon talks to resident trivia expert A.J. Jacobs about several other prominent, nonexistent people in history.

There's been much coverage this week of the unusual case of Manti Te'o, the Notre Dame football player who told reporters that he mourned for his girlfriend who died of leukemia this season, the same day his grandmother died. Sportswriters and fans admired his character and pluck in playing through his sadness, but it turns out the girlfriend did not exist except online.

Whether she was a hoax on Manti Te'o or his hoax on fans is being investigated. Our friend A.J. Jacobs joins us from New York now to tell us she wouldn't even be the first famous first fake person in history. A.J., thanks for being with us.

A.J. JACOBS, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: There was 13th century Pope Joan?

JACOBS: Yes, Pope Joan was my favorite pope who never existed, and she was in the 13th century, and she disguised herself as a man, so she was sort of the Catholic version of Yentl, and she rose to become pope and apparently gave birth while riding horseback, and that's when people were tipped off that maybe she wasn't a man.

But she was - she started as a rumor probably by the enemies of the papacy.

SIMON: What can you tell us about Silence Dogood?

JACOBS: She was a middle-aged widow who wrote a series of letters to the New England Courant. She complained about hoop skirts, which she called a topsy-turvy monstrosity, and Harvard College, which she said was filled with rich, spoiled kids. And she got a lot of fans, and she even got some marriage proposals. The only thing was she wasn't real. She was the creation of a 16-year-old apprentice named Benjamin Franklin.

SIMON: Benjamin Franklin was real, right?

JACOBS: As far as I know, he was real.

SIMON: But I check everything these days. But there are several stories out of sports. I mean, some of us remember Sidd Finch.

JACOBS: Yes, the greatest fake baseball player of all time. In 1985, Sports Illustrated ran a profile of a pitching prodigy named Sidd Finch who was training with the Mets, and he grew up in an orphanage, he studied yoga in India, he wore one shoe, and he could throw a fastball at 168 miles per hour without steroids.

But it turns out he was a hoax by writer George Plimpton, one of my heroes. Tons of people believed it. Other teams were worried they'd get hurt by his fastball. And weirdly, you know, this year the Mets had a pitcher who seemed like he was fake, this R.A. Dickey, who was a middle-age guy who started throwing these knuckleballs.

SIMON: Hockey hoax players. There's a player from Tokyo.

JACOBS: Right, the Buffalo Sabres made an 11th-round draft pick named Taro Tsujimoto. And he was the creation of the Sabres' general manager, who was annoyed that the draft was dragging on so long. So he submitted this fake name. And for years afterwards, Buffalo fans would chant: We want Taro, we want Taro.

JACOBS: So it became kind of a mascot, a legend.

SIMON: Well, as Pope Joan would say, many blessings.

JACOBS: Thank you, and to you.

SIMON: Esquire Magazine's editor-at-large, A.J. Jacobs. This is NPR News.