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1. Youth and the new media: what next?

By Daniel Romer


Now that the Internet has been with us for over 25 years, what are we to make of all the concerns about how this new medium is affecting us, especially the young digital natives who know more about how to maneuver in this space than most adults?

Although it is true that various novel media platforms have invaded households in the United States, many researchers still focus on the harms that the “old” media of television and movies still have on youth. The effects of advertising on promoting the obesity epidemic highlight how so much of those messages are directed to children and adolescents. Jennifer Harris noted that children ages 2 to 11 get nearly 13 food and beverage ads every day while watching TV, and adolescents get even more. Needless to say, many of these ads promote high-calorie, low-nutrition foods. Beer is still heavily promoted on TV with little concern about who is watching, and sexual messages are rampant across both TV and movie screens. None of this is new, but the fact that these influences remain so dominant today despite the powerful presence of new media is testament enough that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

When it comes to the new media, researchers are more balanced. Sonia Livingston from the UK reported on a massive study done in Europe that found a lot of variation in how countries are dealing with the potential harms on children. But when all was said and done, she concluded that the risks there were no more prevalent than those that kids have confronted in their daily lives offline. What has changed there is the talk about the “risks,” without much delving into whether those risks actually materialize into harms. Many kids are exposed to hurtful content in this new digital space, but many also learned how to cope with them.

2013 E3 - XBOX ONE Killer Instinct B. Uploaded by - EMR -. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

2013 E3 – XBOX ONE Killer Instinct B. Uploaded by – EMR -. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

The perhaps most contentious of the new media influences is the emergence of video gaming, either via the Internet or on home consoles. The new DSM-5, which identifies mental disorders for psychiatrists, suggests that these gaming activities can become addictive. Research summarized by Sara Prot and colleagues suggests that about 8% of young people exhibit symptoms of this potential disorder. At the same time, we still don’t know whether gaming leads to the symptoms or is just a manifestation of other problems that would emerge anyway.

Aside from the potential addictive properties of video games, there is considerable concern about games that invite players to shoot and destroy imaginary attackers. Many young men play these violent video games and some of them are actually used by the military to prepare soldiers for battle. One could imagine that a young man with intense resentment toward others could see these games as a release or even worse as practice for potential harmdoing. The rise in school shootings in recent years only adds to the concern. The research reviewed by Prot is quite clear that playing the games can increase aggressive thoughts and behavior in laboratory settings. What remains contentious is how much influence this has on actual violence outside the lab.

On the positive side, other researchers have noted how much good both the old and new media can provide to educators and to health promoters. It is helpful to keep in mind that many of the concerns about the new media may merely reflect the age old wariness that adults have displayed regarding the role of media in their children’s behavior. In a recent review of the effects of Internet use on the brain, Kathryn Mills of University College London pointed out that even Socrates was skeptical of children learning to write because it would reduce their need to develop memory skills. Here again, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Daniel Romer is the Director of the Adolescent Communication and Health Institutes of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. He directs research on the social and cognitive development of adolescents with particular focus on the promotion of mental and behavioral health. His research is currently funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He regularly serves on review panels for NIH and NSF and consults on federal panels regarding media guidelines for coverage of adolescent mental health problems, such as suicide and bullying. He is the author of Media and the Well-Being of Children and Adolescents.

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2. Tea Party or Fist Fights? Why Action Scenes are Hard to Write!


COMING: March, 2015


ActionViolenceIn my current WIP, I want to up the action and make this a physically exciting story. So, I bought a great ebook, Action! Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques by Ian Thomas Healy. It’s great, as I said, and breaks down the actions into easy components that can be easily mastered. Even for me, it’s easy.

Healy says that great action scenes put characters into motion and the “effective description of that motion is what makes the difference. . .
I get that part. But here’s what stumps me: “At its most basic level, an action scene is an expression of plot or character development through violence.”

Violence. As in people hitting each other, shooting at each other, killing each other. Yep. That kind of physical violence.

It’s been a long, long time since I was in a knock-down drag-out fight. That was with my younger brother when I was about 15, and we were fighting about whether the overhead light was on or off while we watched TV. I never had the chance to play football, which is a pure Show-Don’t-Tell version of testosterone. When my daughters played soccer, I cringed when they played tea party on the field: Oh, you have the ball? Well, take your turn and when you are finished, I’ll take my turn. Teaching aggression (much less violence) to young ladies is hard.

Our society trains women to avoid violence. We teach our daughters aggression now on a soccer field, but step off the field and it’s tea party time again. Women writers are at a disadvantage in writing action scenes.

Because Healy says that a great action scene needs violence.
Heck, I can’t even work up a good case of Road Rage.

Motivation. The hardest thing for me is to motivate the characters. I can block out the action and get the characters fighting. I’ve seen enough action movies to be able to do it. (Go watch The Transformers latest movie if you want non-stop violence. Wow. It must take up 75% of that movie.)

But WHY are these characters resorting to violence? (See, even our language makes it hard to use violence: “resort” implies that violence is a last option and the choice to use it is not easy.) Why would the characters use fists, swords, guns or other weapons against someone else? Healy helps with blocking out the sequences of actions and building them into longer sequences. But he says little about the character motivations.

In one sense, this is an escalating of tensions. Almost any motivation would work: revenge, for example, could easily escalate into violence. Two rivals for a fortune in gold could escalate an argument into violence and death. For violence to take place, there’s a line that needs to be crossed. Polite society demands that people restrain themselves, and that self-control must break for your characters, shoving them into a no-holds-barred action. Violence. It’s an escalation and it’s a letting go of social restraints. It’s a willingness to take action and a determination to get something done—no matter what.

Sounds like a good way to increase the tension and stakes in a story. Yes, often action stories are physical stories, without much in the way of characterization. You’ve heard it said that you either write an action story or you write a character story. A cross-pollination though, could create an intriguing mix. This time, I’m shooting for a story with better balance between action and character.

Cinematic. In some ways, this mix will be more cinematic. The sights and sounds of the action are crucial to the success of the scene. And yes, as I am writing, I am trying to visualize the actions in my head; I’m trying to see it as if it is on the big screen. Healy’s title is right on, violence—action scenes—are cinematic.

Thanks to Healy’s advice, I am making lists of what he calls “stunts,” or isolated pieces of actions, that will build into “engagements,” or movement across a setting, which will ultimately build toward some climactic “resolution.” I am taking baby steps in building a chapter with interesting action, um, violence.

Look out. I’m strapping on my boxing gloves, er, getting ready to type the next chapter of this new action-adventure story.

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3. Another Armed, Angry White Man


At the Daily Beast, Cliff Schechter has a piece titled "How the NRA Enables Massacres", which, despite some hyperbolic language, is worth reading for the general information, as is his piece on a visit to the recent NRA convention. Schechter isn't reporting anything new, and the pieces are superficial compared to some earlier writings on all this, but it's always worth reminding ourselves that gun massacres in the US are part of a culture that has been carefully manufactured, protected, nurtured, enflamed.

I've written a lot about guns and gun culture here over the past few years. Writing those posts from scratch now, I would change occasional wording in some of them, clarify a few points, etc. (the hazards of writing on the fly), but you could take almost anything I've written previously and apply it to the latest massacre.

The place of hegemonic masculinity in this type of event is especially clear this time, but it's been present before and is a common component to why this sort of thing happens. It's a racialized hegemonic masculinity, too, the deadly scream of the angry white man — a sense of entitlement thwarted. In the book Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, Michael Kimmel writes: "As men experience it, masculinity may not be the experience of power. But it is the experience of entitlement to power" (185).

The NRA and the gun manufacturers have become experts at stoking that sense of entitlement and profiting off of it. At every possible moment, the NRA, the manufacturers, and their minions point out as many threats to power as they can imagine, and then they offer their commodities as tools for stabilizing and strengthening that power.




The patterns have been in play at least since the 1980s. James William Gibson's Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America was published 20 years ago, but it's at least as relevant today as it was then. Consider, for instance, his discussion of mass murderers:
Although several of these paramilitary killers went after former co-workers and bosses, and some even killed their families, most targeted a distinct social group... Thus, Huberty seems to have considered the Latinos at the San Ysidro McDonald's to be Vietnamese. Patrick Purdy was found to have been a white supremacist; his choice of Asian schoolchildren was not an accident. Canadian Marc Lepine shot only women. (237)
Gibson's chapter "Bad Men and Bad Guns: The Symbolic Politics of Gun Control" is useful reading for these conversations, and reminds us of the deep history here. Most importantly, it helps show why so many past efforts have been ineffective (though profitable for both the NRA and the gun control organizations). What would have stopped the mass shootings? he wonders. Most of the proposed and enacted legislation would not have. A more accessible and effective mental health system might have helped in some cases. But:
Most of all, stopping the madmen would have required understanding that they were not isolated "deviants" who simply invented their mayhem out of thin air and looked and acted completely differently from the "ordinary" people in the mainstream of American culture. On the contrary, in their killings they gave expression to some of the most basic cultural dynamics of the decade — in the face of either real or imaginary problems, declare an enemy responsible and go to war....

To argue, then, that many of these murderers could have been stopped solely by increased gun control is to pretend that the social and political crises of post-Vietnam America never occurred and that the New War did not develop as the major way of overcoming those disasters. Paramilitary culture made military-style rifles desirable, and legislation cannot ban a culture. The gun-control debate was but the worst kind of fetishism, in which focusing on a part of the dreadful reality of the decade — combat weapons — became a substitute for confronting what America had become. (263-264)
A year after Gibson's book was published, Timothy McVeigh drove to Oklahoma City and showed exactly what the angry white male paramilitary culture stood for.


Siege imagery pervades and energizes that culture, as demonstrated with the Cliven Bundy affair.  One shift it has taken after the end of the Cold War is toward a more general apocalypticism. Instead of yearning for war with the Russians, now the paramilitarists yearn for the breakdown of contemporary society. Like the world's most overzealous Boy Scouts, they are prepared. This is a power fantasy and a religious fantasy: all the "bad" people will be wiped from the Earth, and the "good" people (prepared, armed, ready) will inherit it and thrive. Or something. The details of eschatology don't matter as much as the process of preparation, because that process is a way of reclaiming some sense of power and protecting a feeling of entitlement: I will survive because I deserve to. There's also a sense of revenge in apocalyptic yearning, too: Once the apocalypse comes, you'll no longer be able to laugh at me, dismiss me, devalue me. You'll need me, because I will be ready and you will be miserable.

What's really under siege is the sense of entitlement. That sense is part of a mythology, one killers feed on. Here's part of a conversation between Bill Moyers and the historian Richard Slotkin, whose work has done a lot to delineate the history of the murderous mythology:
RICHARD SLOTKIN: We produce the lone killer. That is to say the lone killer is trying to validate himself or herself in terms of the, I would call the historical mythology, of our society, wants to place himself in relation to meaningful events in the past that lead up to the present.
BILL MOYERS: You say “or her”, but the fact of the matter is all of these killers lately have been males.
RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, yeah, pretty much always are.
BILL MOYERS: And most of them white?
RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah. Yeah, I think, again this is because each case is different, but the tendency that you've pointed out is true and I've always felt that it has something to do, in many cases, with a sense of lost privilege, that men and white men in the society feel their position to be imperiled and their status called into question. And one way to deal with an attack on your status in our society is to strike out violently.
American gun culture has always been racialized and gendered. From later in the conversation with Slotkin:
RICHARD SLOTKIN: ...And Colt-- one of Colt's original marketing ploys was to market it to slave owners. Here you are, a lone white man, overseer or slave owner, surrounded by black people. Suppose your slaves should rise up against you. Well, if you've got a pair of Colt's pistols in your pocket, you are equal to twelve slaves. And that's “The Equalizer,” that it's not all men are created equal by their nature. It's that I am more equal than others because I've got extra shots in my gun.
BILL MOYERS: But you write about something you call “the equalizer fallacy.”
RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, the equalizer doesn't produce equality. What it produces is privilege. If I have six shots in my gun and you've got one, I can outvote you by five shots. Any man better armed than his neighbors is a majority of one.
And that's the equalizer fallacy. It goes to this notion that the gun is the guarantor of our liberties. We're a nation of laws, laws are the guarantors of our liberties. If your rights depend on your possession of a firearm, then your rights end when you meet somebody with more bullets or who's a better shot or is meaner than you are.
BILL MOYERS: And yet the myth holds--
RICHARD SLOTKIN: And yet--
BILL MOYERS: --stronger than the reality?
RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, yes, the myth holds. And it is stronger than the reality. Because those guns, particularly the Colt is associated with one of the most active phases and most interesting phases of expansion. And therefore it has the magic of the tool, the gun that won the west, the gun that equalized, the whites and the Indians, the guns that created the American democracy and made equality possible.
The angry white men may be a minority of gun owners, and just one of the audiences for the NRA and the manufacturers, but they are the audience most valued, because they are the people who will keep buying no matter what, the people who will, from fear and anger, amass a hoard of deadly tools. The NRA and the manufacturers have cultivated that audience, have encouraged that fear and anger, and have profited greatly from the murders. We should give no credence to their crocodile tears; every massacre means they can return to their favorite profit lines: Now the liberals and feminists and Obama-lovers will come for your guns. Now you will lose your power. Now you will be robbed of what you deserve. Stock up. Prepare. Defend yourself. Be a man. Ready — aim — fire—

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4. Rethinking domestic violence: learning to see past the stereotypes

By Sherry Hamby


The common stereotypes about battered women are wrong and not based on up-to-date science. Here are five common myths about battered women and the real truths about the realities and complexities of domestic violence.

Myth #1

Battered women keep domestic violence a secret.

Reality: Countless research studies show that most battered women disclose their partner’s violence to at least one person—about 80% to 90% of victims in many studies. Victims not only tell, they often tell multiple people and agencies. The problem is not that women don’t tell, it is that they do not receive useful help when they do disclose.

Myth #2

Victims just need to call the police.

Reality: Police officers cannot offer a cure-all for domestic violence. Police arrest perpetrators less than half the time when they are called to the scene of domestic violence incidents, according to the most recently available national data. Worse, arrested perpetrators seldom go to jail—approximately five out of six perpetrators arrested for domestic violence never serve any jail time.

hamby

Myth #3

Battered women don’t seek professional help.

Reality: Despite the limitations of police and victim services in many communities, battered women seek help at rates that are similar to people facing other problems. Battered women report to the police at rates that are similar to many other crime victims, and also similar to the helpseeking of people with psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.

Myth #4

Battered women just need to leave.

Reality: All sorts of dangers can increase when women try to leave, including separation violence, stalking, and increased homicide risk. Further, custody battles and other risks can, in some ways, pose even greater threats to women’s well-being and that of their children. We all wish that there was a simple solution like walking out, but the reality is far more complex.

Myth #5

Most women need professional help to cope with domestic violence.

Reality: Most women cope with the problem of domestic violence with informal helpseeking. In nationally representative data, it was ten times more common for women to go to a friend or family’s house than to a domestic violence shelter.

If you want to help women who have been victims of domestic violence, listen to their assessments of what is important, respect their values, and help them come up with a plan or seek resources that address all of the complexities and realities of domestic violence.

Sherry Hamby, Ph.D., is Research Professor of Psychology and Director of the Life Paths Research Program at the University of the South. She is author of Battered Women’s Protective Strategies: Stronger Than You Know.

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Image Credit: Violencia de género. Photo by Concha García Hernández. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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5. Overcoming everyday violence [infographic]

The struggle for food, water, and shelter are problems commonly associated with the poor. Not as widely addressed is the violence that surrounds poor communities. Corrupt law enforcement, rape, and slavery (to name a few), separate families, destroys homes, ruins lives, and imprisons the poor in their current situations. Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros, authors of The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, have experience in the slums, back alleys, and streets where violence is a living, breathing being — and the work to turn those situations around. Delve into the infographic below and learn how solutions like media coverage and business intervention have begun to positively change countries like the Congo, Cambodia, Peru, and Brazil.

Infographic Locust Effect

Download a copy of the infographic.

Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros are co-authors of The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. Gary Haugen is the founder and president of International Justice Mission, a global human rights agency that protects the poor from violence. The largest organization of its kind, IJM has partnered with law enforcement to rescue thousands of victims of violence. Victor Boutros is a federal prosecutor who investigates and tries nationally significant cases of police misconduct, hate crimes, and international human trafficking around the country on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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6. Top 5 Things That Bore Me




As I watched yet another body count trend upward in a recent movie, it inspired me to list the top five things that bore me as a viewer/reader. These clichéd and overused tropes are supposed to wow, but leave me snoring. This list applies to fiction as well as movies.



1) Gratuitous sex scenes, aka sex with a stranger.

It’s stupid. Why should I care? The encounter between two people who truly long for each other, who have been kept apart then finally come together, is far more intriguing. Couples who have a history that reunite or make up are more interesting than random rutters.

2) Random violence.

Killing one character I've grown invested in is more compelling than blasting away with an automatic weapon downing characters I don’t know or care about. It's a fact of human nature that genocide in a distant land doesn't register until the battle is brought to a person's front door. The closer the character who dies is to the protagonist, the higher the story stakes. As much as I love cozy mysteries, there's almost a disconnect when it comes to the victims. The best cozy mystery makes me care that the victim died.

3) Gore.

It’s a turn off. As much as I appreciate special effects makeup artists, they can use their talents to make cooler effects that don’t involve rolling heads or spurting arteries. In books, I really don’t need paragraphs of gruesome details. I scan past them. Same with torture and battle scenes. They make me cringe. I'm a grown-up. I have experienced loss and pain. I get the drift. The reality that people are bestial and kill each other is disgusting and horrifying enough. We never followed Anne Frank to the concentration camp, but the reality of the horror of that story scarred me for life. Why? Because I grew to know and like her and that made what she went through personal rather than abstract. If you want to impress upon your readers true horror, make it personal.

4) Drawn out panoramic shots.

Whether it’s a prolonged movie clip or endless paragraphs describing the setting in excessive detail, I have a tendency to fast forward or skim read past them. Take a picture; it lasts longer. Have you ever sat through an endless slideshow of someone else's vacation? Make description short and make it count, then move onto the point of the scene. It's even better if the setting has an impact on the scene.

5) Adults or teens that behave like out of control toddlers.

Book or movie, I have no patience with these characters. I wouldn't hang out with them in person. I don't waste page time with them either. If this character is the protagonist, I put the book down and it goes on my discard pile.

What tropes inspire you to flip pages or quit reading?

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7. REVIEW: “Do I Really Want My Name Associated with SEX AND VIOLENCE?”

by LTZ

ploregon REVIEW: Do I Really Want My Name Associated with SEX AND VIOLENCE?

A while back, the Beat’s own Henry Barajas – tireless observer of Kickstarted comics that he is – took some time to preview a crowd-funded book by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Jimmy Broxton, and Juan Santacruz. Sex and Violence, Vol. 1 was laid bare (spread-eagle, perhaps) to its supporters this past week, after reaching its funding goal. The only hurdle yet to cross is for Palmiotti, Gray, and cover artist Amanda Conner to actually sit down and sign the damned things. I was part of the crowd that funded Sex and Violence; I expect I’ll get my copy in the mail any day now. In that copy, and in everyone else’s, too, there will be my name (my government name, my “goes on job applications” name), thanked for helping to finance, well, sex and violence.

I wonder if this bizarre offshoot of buyer’s remorse is common amongst Kickstarter supporters. The thing is, it’s not exactly remorse. It’s more like Schroedinger’s cat, where a funded project exists in a quantum state of being both satisfying and regrettable until you get your copy and find out for yourself. “So, goofus,” the dialogue begins, “why did you throw money at it if you weren’t sure you’d be happy with it?”

I’m not sure I have a good answer for that. I like Jimmy Broxton’s art, I guess. Getting an Amanda Conner art print or whatever else is pretty cool. As writers, Palmiotti and Gray have yet to grievously offend me, but then again, I’m not exactly snatching Freedom Fighters off the racks so roughly that the staples kink. It almost, maybe, makes a little more sense when I take the long view and consider the status quo of adult-people comics today.

Joe Casey, agent provocateur, just released a comic called Sex, which I saw praised on Twitter as “the most 2003 comic of 2013.” Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads, a book I love without qualifiers, started as a porno gag strip in an NBM anthology. Matt Seneca’s Very Fine Comix debuted with Daredevil 12”, a XXX Marvel comic spoof; Jane Mai just put out Blumpkin Spice Latte, a zine that’s 99% dick talk (with the best title of 2012). Sex is in the air in comics, these days, but it’s kept its edge, sticking mostly to the dim corners or weird vortices of the market.

sex and violence censored 205x300 REVIEW: Do I Really Want My Name Associated with SEX AND VIOLENCE?Violence, of course, is the foundation modern comics were built upon, and the sword that they live and die by to this day. I shouldn’t even need to point out examples, but the “big moments” in the Diamond-distributed scene always revolve around bloody carnage. Think Damian Wayne, freshly skewered. Glenn from The Walking Dead: turned into a piñata. Avatar Press is its own thing entirely. Both Mark Millar and John Romita’s certified hit Kick-Ass and Frank Cho and Joe Keatinge’s upcoming Brutal have promo art that looks jacked straight from the cover of Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power. DC Comics’ big multimedia tie-in for the quarter isn’t just a fighting game, it’s a fighting game built by the people who make Mortal Kombat.

So in this rough-sex-and-eyeballs-popping milieu, Sex and Violence seemed like a romp. Sure, it was being pitched as tawdry, sleazy, exploitative, and unshakably macho despite itself… but sometimes the grindhouse is the place to be. All of this is very much after-the-fact justification, but it seems to add up. But that just takes us back to Schroedinger’s cat. It could be fun and trashy. If could just be trashy and a little sad. I paid my admission, so the least I can do is find out.

There are two halves to Sex and Violence. You’d think that with the title structured the way it is, this duplex approach would lend itself to a sex story and a violence story. It almost does (one tale is certainly more violent than sexual, and vice versa for the other), but not enough to comment on the idea at any other point in this piece. The book starts with “Pornland, Oregon,” illustrated by Jimmy Broxton. In what starts as a sideways riff on the movie Hardcore, a young woman is made a deep web sensation forevermore by being murdered in a snuff film. As it turns out, in one of those funny coincidences life likes to play, her grandfather is a retired Mafia hitman, and all expected murders and executions follow in due course. The second story, drawn by Juan Santacruz, is “Girl in a Storm,” about a lesbian NYPD officer who becomes obsessed with spying on her beautiful neighbor, and has to deal with the small complication of that neighbor already having a woman to keep her bed warm. Things, as they must, get more sordid from there.

So is it any good? Jimmy Broxton’s minimalist (and very British, in a way I can’t put my finger on) style sells “Pornland” rather well. Abetted by Challenging Studios’ color palette of blue, grey, purple, and what I can only call “various shades of Dave Stewart red,” Broxton makes “Pornland” into something not unlike the crime media of the 70s, when character actors could still look like the bottoms of feet: Get Carter, The Outfit, The Squeeze, some imaginary episode of The Rockford Files with more exposed breasts… In fact, the plot of the thing is pretty much Get Carter with some serial numbers filed off, and things like “a vaguely sympathetic hero” and “romance” bolted on like a new spoiler on a Gremlin. That’s not bad, mind. If you’re going to be something in the avenge-young-relative sub-genre, Get Carter is really what you want to be.

sex and violence teaser 202x300 REVIEW: Do I Really Want My Name Associated with SEX AND VIOLENCE?On the other hand, “Girl in a Storm” is just… there. The story strains to be Brian de Palma, which is a noble ambition until you realize that Brian de Palma is usually straining to be other people (in this case, a Sapphic voyeur version of Rear Window) – it’s a well that quickly dries up. Juan Santacruz is a veteran superhero artist, and that’s a downside here. Instead of a claustrophobic, psychologically maladjusted story of obsession, passion, forbidden desire, violence, and all those other things that we pretend not to love, the leggy all-but-baby-oiled figures and brightly-lit colors give the whole thing a plastic shine. The look of the strip – which, in a strip about looking, is really the most important thing on multiple levels – isn’t enough to elevate an uninspired script, and both sides end up worse for it. If “Pornland” is Get Carter, “Girl in a Storm” ends up as a post-depilation-culture take on something like a Christina Lindberg movie, and not one of the really twisted, memorably corpse-mutilating ones like Thriller.

So this is what’s going to have my name tucked away in it, until we’re all dead and beyond. I don’t feel particularly embarrassed about this, I suppose. I probably should, and the sting is probably lessened by my name being so generic as to sound like an ethnic take on “John Smith.” Only half of Sex and Violence is really any fun – a statement more true than I intended it to be when I typed it – and I overpaid, based on that math. It’s not egregiously offensive (by comic book standards) and it’s not a work of genius. It just exists, and me with it, twins conjoined at the donation. It’s hard to work up a head of steam one way or the other when both pleasure and disappointment come mild.

LTZ sells comic books, and infrequently contributes to the Beat. He even more infrequently contributes to his own site, Nowhere / No Formats. He tweets about how hard this rigorous schedule is at @less_than_zero.

4 Comments on REVIEW: “Do I Really Want My Name Associated with SEX AND VIOLENCE?”, last added: 3/17/2013
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8. The Ends of Violence

I have a new video essay and a new text essay up at Press Play looking at Clint Eastwood's movies, called "The Ends of Violence: The Conclusions of Clint Eastwood". The text essay also contains links to two previous video essays I made on Eastwood, "Outlaw: Josey Wales" and "Vigilante Man: Eastwood and Gran Torino".

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9. Resources to help traumatized children

By Robert Hull


As parents, children, and communities struggle to come to terms with the events in Newtown last week, it is important for educators and parents to be aware of just how deeply children can be affected by violence.

Community violence is very different from other sources of trauma that children witness or experience. Most trauma impacts individual students or small groups, whereas the violence that was experienced in Newtown affected the local community and the entire nation. The lack of warning and the unexpected nature of these kinds of events, combined with the seemingly random nature of the attack, contribute to a change in individuals’ personal views of the world, and their ideas about how safe they and their loved ones actually are. The world comes to seem more dangerous, people less trustworthy.

Exposure to trauma can impact several areas of children’s functioning. Teachers may notice that students who have experienced trauma appear to be shut down, bored, and/or hyperactive and impulsive. Interpersonal skills might be impacted, which can lead to social withdrawal, isolation, or overly aggressive behavior. Students might appear confused or easily frustrated. In addition they might have difficulty understanding and following directions, making decisions, and generating ideas or solving problems.

Family members and educators are often at a loss in how to support students following an event such as what happened in Newtown. The following are guidelines on helping students exposed to community violence:

  • Teachers and family members should attempt to maintain the routines and high expectations of students. This directly communicates to children that they can succeed in the face of traumatic events.
  • Reinforcing safety is essential following unpredictable violence. Remind children that the school is a safe place and that adults are available to provide assistance.
  • Do not force children to talk. This can lead to withdrawal and downplaying the impact. A neutral conversation opening can be stated in this way: “You haven’t seemed yourself today. Would you like to share how you are feeling?”
  • Teachers can model coping mechanisms such as deep breathing, relaxation and demonstrating empathy.
  • Being flexible is a must following traumatic events. Teachers should allow students to turn in work late or to postpone testing.
  • Educators should increase communication with parents in order to provide support that recognizes a specific child’s vulnerabilities.


There are several websites that can provide additional information on supporting students who have been exposed to violence. These include:

Robert Hull is an award-winning school psychologist with over 25 years of experience working in some of the most challenging of educational settings, and was for many years the facilitator of school psychology for the Maryland State Department of Education. Currently he teaches at the University of Missouri. He is the co-editor, with Eric Rossen, of Supporting and Educating Traumatized Students: A Guide for School-Based Professionals.

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10. Warrior Dreams and Gun Control Fantasies


Yesterday's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the sixteenth mass shooting in the U.S. in 2012.

Looking back on my post about "Utopia and the Gun Culture" from January 2011, when Jared Loughner killed and wounded various people in Arizona, I find it still represents my feelings generally. A lot of people have died since then, killed by men with guns. I've already updated that post once before, and I could have done so many more times.

Focusing on guns is not enough. Nothing in isolation is. In addition to calls for better gun control, there have been calls for better mental health services. Certainly, we need better mental health policies, and we need to stop using prisons as our de facto mental institutions, but that's at best vaguely relevant here. Plenty of mass killers wouldn't be caught by even the most intrusive psych nets, and potential killers that were would not necessarily find any treatment helpful. Depending on the scope and nuance of the effort, there could be civil rights violations, false diagnoses, and general panic. (Are you living next door to a potential mass killer? Is your neighbor loud and aggressive? Quiet and introverted? Conspicuously normal? Beware! Better report them to the FBI...)

That said, I expect there are things that could be done, systems that could be improved, creative and useful ideas that could be implemented. I'd actually want to broaden the scope beyond just mental health and toward a strengthening of social services in general. I'm on the board of my local domestic violence/sexual assault crisis center, where demand for our services is up, but we're hurting for resources and have had to curtail and strictly prioritize some of those services. It's a story common among many of our peers not just in the world of anti-violence/abuse programs, but in the nonprofit social service sector as a whole.

What we have is a bit of a gun control problem, a bit more of a social services problem, and a lot of a cultural problem.




One of the best books I've encountered on this subject is James William Gibson's Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America. It's from 1994, but is in some ways even more relevant now.

Gibson ends a chapter called "Bad Men and Bad Guns: The Symbolic Politics of Gun Control" with these words:
To argue ... that many of these murderers could have been stopped solely by increased gun control is to pretend that the social and political crises of post-Vietnam America never occurred and that the New War did not develop as the major way of overcoming those disasters. Paramilitary culture made military-style rifles desirable, and legislation cannot ban a culture. The gun-control debate was but the worst kind of fetishism, in which focusing on a part of the dreadful reality of the decade — combat weapons — became a substitute for confronting what America had become.
We seem to be a generally less violent country than in the past, and yet this specific type of crime (mass killing) is on the rise. Coverage of killers in the media certainly adds to the attraction of these acts for people who seek such glory. More broadly, mass killings such as this should cause us to consider hegemonic masculinity, a culture of child-killing, and the privileges of white male terrorists. (Those last 4 links via Shailja Patel.) We should remember that the President who shed tears for the deaths of children in Connecticut authorized drone strikes that have killed many times more children.

The desire to get rid of all the guns is understandable, but it is useless and counterproductive. 300 million (or more!) guns aren't going away, sales have been strong for at least 10 years, with at least 1 million guns sold legally every month (good luck finding reliable statistics on illegal guns).

Meaningful policy needs to be pragmatic. We've got tons of laws already. Additionally, the utopian desire to get rid of all guns only plays into the paranoid narrative the NRA uses to keep fundraising strong: "The liberals want to take your guns! Send us money to stop them! Meanwhile, stockpile because the liberals always win and they're going to ban all gun sales next week!"

Many people have called for a renewal of the assault weapons ban. I expect the gun manufacturers would be thrilled. First, because it would incite panic buying. Second, because it's primarily based on particular rifles' aesthetics, and the last time the ban was in place, the manufacturers found easy loopholes. So they get the best of all possible worlds: increased demand, which allows them to raise prices on items they've already manufactured, and then relatively easy design changes that don't cost them a whole lot of money and still allow them to sell lots of guns. Indeed, if anything, the ban increases the aura around such weapons, making them even more desireable to would-be killers. The NRA would love it, too, because they would finally be able to pin some actual gun control measures on the Obama administration, and their fundraising would skyrocket. They'd never say it publicly, but the gun industry and the gun lobby might as well stand there just waiting for the assault weapons ban to be renewed, saying, "Go ahead. Make our day."

Probably the most practically effective part of the ban has nothing to do with the guns themselves, but rather how much ammo they can hold before reloading: the magazine capacity limits. Ban all magazines beyond a certain capacity and no matter how scary the gun looks or how light the trigger action is, it's not going to be able to fire lots of bullets. To control guns in the US most effectively may mean controlling not the guns themselves so much as their components and ammunition.

Which brings us to a worthwhile question: What sort of practical gun policies might have prevented what happened in Newtown, Connecticut? The sad, frustrating answer seems to be: maybe none. Even a fantastically perfect system for preventing potentially mentally ill people from buying guns wouldn't have worked: the killer used his mother's guns. She bought them legally. She could, presumably, pass any background check. I'm all for better funding and implementation for the background check system, but let's not pretend it would have done anything in this case.

What about bans on high-capacity magazines? That has more potential. Such magazines would still exist, so the effect of a ban would not be immediate. It would have been entirely possible for the killer's mother to have some high-capacity mags that she'd bought some time before the ban, or bought second-hand. There are hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions, of such magazines out there. Even a draconian confiscation system wouldn't eradicate all banned magazines; it would create a black market. Still, we know from experience that high-capacity magazine bans do generally cause prices to rise and supply to fall.

Then there are the arguments from the other side of the issue: More guns! If you don't regularly spend your time among the core gun-rights-at-all-costs activists, you might think such a suggestion is a joke. It's not. It's the only direction in which the absolutist philosophy of the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and similar groups can go. And there's a core of a truth-like substance to it: crime rates generally have been falling. (But individual gun ownership may also be falling.) The fundamental problem with the MORE GUNS! argument is that it is based on a wild west mystique that assumes far too much competence among people in crisis moments and ignores how easy it is for mistakes to become deadly when guns are involved. Even if the premises of the argument were reasonable and desireable, it doesn't take a lot of deep thought for the practicalities to show their problems.

That's not to say that people don't successfully defend themselves with guns, or reduce the number of casualties in some situations, or even that the presence of guns does not deter some crimes. In plenty of such situations, though, if everyone were armed, the likelihood of the moment escalating into total, even more deadly chaos would increase. I'm completely in favor of more gun safety training (in a nation of guns, it makes sense for as many people as possible not to freak out when they encounter one), but I don't want to live in a world where everybody feels the need to be armed.

An important point to note, though, is that the current situation didn't just pop up out of nowhere. It was constructed over the course of decades, and the NRA is partly to blame. But they couldn't have done it alone.

There's an insightful post at Talking Points Memo, a letter from a reader who, much like me, grew up in the gun culture. The reader notes the rise in popularity of military-style weaponry since the mid-1980s.
I can’t remember seeing a semi-automatic weapon of any kind at a shooting range until the mid-1980’s. Even through the early-1990’s, I don’t remember the idea of “personal defense” being a decisive factor in gun ownership. The reverse is true today: I have college-educated friends - all of whom, interestingly, came to guns in their adult lives - for whom gun ownership is unquestionably (and irreducibly) an issue of personal defense. For whom the semi-automatic rifle or pistol - with its matte-black finish, laser site, flashlight mount, and other “tactical” accoutrements - effectively circumscribe what’s meant by the word “gun.” At least one of these friends has what some folks - e.g., my fiancee, along with most of my non-gun-owning friends - might regard as an obsessive fixation on guns; a kind of paraphilia that (in its appetite for all things tactical) seems not a little bit creepy. Not “creepy” in the sense that he’s a ticking time bomb; “creepy” in the sense of…alternate reality. Let’s call it “tactical reality.”
Some of these people are my friends and acquaintances; indeed, when I inherited a gun shop and got an FFL to sell off the inventory, I sold some of those tactical guns to my friends, the fetishists. I certainly don't think they'll go on a rampage, but I do think they live in an alternate reality — a reality my father was very much part of, where black helicopters fly over the house to spy on us, where conspiracies and threats lurk in every social crevice, and where anybody without a bug-out bag is a moron who will die in the ever-impending apocalypse.

The TPM reader who notes this proposes the change in US culture happened sometime between 1985 and 1995. It's probably a few years earlier, but in general that seems right to me (and fits with the information and argument in Warrior Dreams). It was in the early 1980s that my father started selling fully-automatic machine guns, then moved to primarily military-style semi-automatics after the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act banned the civilian ownership of new machine guns and added a lot of regulation and taxes to existing machine guns, turning them essentially into collectors' items (many cars are cheaper to buy than a legal machine gun these days). Business was very good for a while, and the threat of the assault weapons ban helped sales considerably. When the ban was in place, those guns became even more desirable — much like banned books or banned movies, once somebody says, "No, you can't have that!" then people who never wanted it before suddenly become interested.

I haven't been able to find any reliable statistics on gun sales in the 1980s (good data on gun sales isn't easy to get, for various reasons), but 1984/1985 seems plausible as a critical mass point for the shift in gun culture — conservatives' push within the NRA to shift the organization's tone and political attitude had succeeded*, Reagan was President (the first President endorsed by the NRA), TV shows like The A-Team and Airwolf were popular, G.I. Joe and other military comics were common, various paramilitary books and magazines filled newsstands, and Hollywood had started making movies like Red Dawn and Rambo II.

The last fact is significant. When Dirty Harry came out in 1971, sales of the Smith & Wesson Model 29 increased significantly. But that was just a big revolver. In 1985, Rambo II seemed to do wonders for sales of the H&K 94 and MP 5. Warrior guns.

It would be facile for me to end by pretending I have any easy or immediate solutions. I don't. Perhaps we need some feel-good measures, but I fear they make us think we've accomplished something when we haven't. There's a strong desire right now, it seems, to do something. But symbolic laws and security theatre won't help us.

Here's the final paragraph of Gibson's introduction to Warrior Dreams:
Only at the surface level, then, has paramilitary culture been merely a matter of the "stupid" movies and novels consumed by the great unwashed lower-middle and working classes, or of the murderous actions of a few demented, "deviant" men. In truth, there is nothing superficial or marginal about the New War that has been fought in American popular culture since the 1970s. It is a war about basics: power, sex, race, and alienation. Contrary to the Washington Post review, Rambo was no shallow muscle man but the emblem of a movement that at the very least wanted to reverse the previous twenty years of American history and take back all the symbolic territory that had been lost. The vast proliferation of warrior fantasies represented an attempt to reaffirm the national identity. But it was also a larger volcanic upheaval of archaic myths, an outcropping whose entire structural formation plunges into deep historical, cultural, and psychological territories. These territories have kept us chained to war as a way of life; they have infused individual men, national political and military leaders, and society with a deep attraction to both imaginary and real violence. This terrain must be explored, mapped, and understood if it is ever to be transformed.

---------------------------------------
*Jill Lepore in The New Yorker sums up the change:

In the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. began advancing the argument that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to carry a gun, rather than the people’s right to form armed militias to provide for the common defense. Fights over rights are effective at getting out the vote. Describing gun-safety legislation as an attack on a constitutional right gave conservatives a power at the polls that, at the time, the movement lacked. Opposing gun control was also consistent with a larger anti-regulation, libertarian, and anti-government conservative agenda. In 1975, the N.R.A. created a lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, headed by Harlon Bronson Carter, an award-winning marksman and a former chief of the U.S. Border Control. But then the N.R.A.’s leadership decided to back out of politics and move the organization’s headquarters to Colorado Springs, where a new recreational-shooting facility was to be built. Eighty members of the N.R.A.’s staff, including Carter, were ousted. In 1977, the N.R.A.’s annual meeting, usually held in Washington, was moved to Cincinnati, in protest of the city’s recent gun-control laws. Conservatives within the organization, led by Carter, staged what has come to be called the Cincinnati Revolt. The bylaws were rewritten and the old guard was pushed out. Instead of moving to Colorado, the N.R.A. stayed in D.C., where a new motto was displayed: “The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed.”

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11. Hear My Roar: A Story of Family Violence by Gillian Watts

5 Stars  Hear My Roar: A Story of Family Violence Author: Gillian Watts; Illustrator:  Ben Hodson Publisher: Annick Press 978-1-55451-201-0 No. Pages: 56  Ages: 6-9 .............................. ........................... It’s summer and Mama, Papa, and Orsa Bear are picnicking in the woods.  Papa tells Orsa how they used to scare animals into traps by roaring.  He challenges [...]

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12. Freedom Pen by Dionna L. Mann

 4.5 Stars Back Cover:  Being mean ain’t in nobody’s blood. Reckon folks will argue that one until there’s no more moonshine on the mountains.  But in Freedom Pen that’s what Sarah the Twerp believes.  And soon she and her brother, Billy, are setting out on a courageous summertime adventure to free two pit bull pups [...]

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13. Zero de Doom

Here's a new video essay I created, mixing elements of Jean Vigo's Zero de Conduit (1933) with Gregg Araki's The Doom Generation (1995), plus some words from Robin Wood and an anonymous reviewer of Vigo.

Please note that the theatrical version of Doom Generation was rated R for "strong vicious violence, graphic sexuality, pervasive strong language and some drug use", and I used the unrated version, so if you have a weak stomach for graphic representations of violence, are aghast at the sight of naked bodies, and/or don't like the English language at its most crude and vulgar, you really, really, really shouldn't watch this.



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14. Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)


A black boy was shot dead in Florida.

His killer is known, but the police refused to arrest him.

The police said they had no probable cause to arrest the killer, who claimed self-defense.

The killer was a Neighborhood Watch volunteer. He saw a black boy walking in the rain. He called 911. The dispatcher told him not to follow the boy. But he did. He approached him. They wrestled. Witnesses called 911.

Trayvon Martin was armed with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.

A black boy was shot dead in Florida. His killer walks free.

More information:



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15. The Snowtown Murders


The Snowtown Murders (aka Snowtown) inevitably draws comparisons to another brutal and disturbing Australian crime movie, Animal Kingdom, with which it shares some general plot elements and stylistic moves (both films were shot by Adam Arkapaw). But where Animal Kingdom shows one young man's struggle to stay innocent in a family of thieves and murderers, Snowtown depicts the power of a small-time messiah to employ hatred as an excuse for torture and murder. Both films focus their narrative on a quiet (eventually traumatized) adolescent surrounded by monsters, but Animal Kingdom, for all its virtues, is primarily a drama of demons and angels fighting for a soul, whereas Snowtown is less allegorical, less schematic, and more deeply disturbing. (A more meaningful comparison than with Animal Kingdom would be with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.)

Though in some ways Snowtown is the story of how Jamie Vlassakis goes from being an apparently gentle and unassuming teenager to a participant in multiple murders, fundamentally the character is a conduit through which we get to know John Bunting, a charismatic, ebullient fellow who thinks all homosexuals are pedophiles and all pedophiles deserve to be tortured and killed. He happily expounds on his ideas to anyone who will listen, but only a few know how seriously he believes in what he says.

Jamie Vlassakis and John Bunting are real people, and Snowtown is closely based on actual crimes that occurred in South Australia from 1992 to 1999. Snowtown sits north of a Adelaide, and the crimes became associated with it because the murderers, who didn't live in the town, ended up storing the bodies there in barrels of hydrochloric acid hidden in a disused bank vault. Viewers of the film who know at least a rough outline of the actual story may go in expecting a dramatization of the events or a police procedural, perhaps an upscale version of the Discovery Channel's vulgarly ghoulish documentary.

Such expectations would be disappointed, though — more than disappointed: frustrated. We spend at least the first half hour of the film with little or no knowledge of quite who the characters are: names only come up now and then, people appear and disappear in Jamie's life. And that's clearly the point. Looking at the shooting script, we can see that some of this information existed in Shaun Grant's screenplay, but was either not shot or was removed in editing. As viewers (particularly as first-time viewers), we are only slowly given the information we need to sort out who is who and what their feelings, desires, or motives are, if we a

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16. "I have long had a theory that one reason people become so agitated by cartoons is that there is no..."

“I have long had a theory that one reason people become so agitated by cartoons is that there is no way of answering back. A caricature is by definition an exaggeration, a distortion, unfair. If you don’t like an editorial you can write a letter to the editor, but there is no such thing as a cartoon to the editor.”

- “Why Are Political Cartoons Incendiary?” by VICTOR S. NAVASKY (NY Times)

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17. Egypt’s anti-Christian violence: How things got so bad

By Steven A. Cook If February 11, 2011 demonstrated the very best of Egypt, then October 9, 2011 demonstrated the very worst of Egypt. The only way to describe what unfolded in front of the state television building (and subsequently Tahrir Square), where Copts were protesting over not-so-subtle official efforts to stoke sectarian tension over a church being constructed in Aswan, was an anti-Christian pogrom. The death toll stands at 25 with 300 injured. There have been scattered reports of soldiers and policemen injured, but by far the Copts took the brunt of the violence.

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18. Legend: Same Dystopia, Different Day

Legend-marie-lu     Absolutely everyone has noticed the rash of dystopian YA novels kicking around the bookstore these days. I was recently in the wonderland that is Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, and their YA room had a great "I'm Dystopian!" display. Author Philip Reeve wrote about the phenomenon in this month's School Library Journal. And you can't escape the promotions for the upcoming movie version of The Hunger Games. I'm guilty of being quietly obsessed with the genre ever since I started teaching Lois Lowry's classic The Giver twenty or so years ago.

    Well, in the past few years, I've read: The Hunger Games series, The Maze Runner series, the Chaos Walking series, the Gone series, the Uglies series, Incarceron, Divergent, Matched, Delerium, Enclave, Shipbreaker, The Roar, etc., etc., etc. Lots and lots of 'em. Some of them are great (Shipbreaker, Delerium, Chaos Walking series); some are very good (Maze Runner, Uglies, Gone, Incarceron). All of them are addictively readable.  For some reason I cannot fathom, we are fascinated with our own inevitable, horrific future. What we know for sure: Earth will suffer many cataclysmic disasters which will (probably) be our fault; the new government of what is left of the U.S. will be oppressive and totalitarian; the poor will be really poor and the rich will be really rich. And one last thing: Some plucky teenager with mad fighting and survival skills will soon see it all for what it is and will fight back.

    So what is different about Marie Lu's Legend, which will be published later this year and has already been optioned for the screen? Truthfully, not much. When I received the galley of Legend and read the back cover, I actually groaned. Aloud, not inwardly. My obsession was in danger of spilling over into compulsion: Yet another dystopian novel I must read. No, really, I just can't do it again. Please make it stop!

    Still, I cracked Legend open and began. Original it ain't, but, I gotta tell you, I liked it.  I liked it a lot. Despite being able to predict almost everything that was going to happen, I couldn't put Legend down. And if it's done right, it could make an awesome film. At the very least, it would be a great video game.

    June is a war-ready prodigy in the future Republic of America, a perfect soldier-to-be, who grew up in the golden light of Los Angeles's richest district. Day is a prodigy of another kind. He is from one of the city's poorest districts, and he's also the country's most wanted terrorist/criminal.  June and Day could not have come from more contrasting origins, but their worlds are about to collide in a big way.

    When Day's family is quarantined because of a breakout of the newest strain of plague to run through the L.A. slum areas, he needs to steal some plague cure quick. June's brother Matias, who seems to be the ultimate Republic soldier, is murdered at the hospital on the night that Day tries to swipe a few vials of the cure. Now, Day is the number-one suspect in the crime, and June is out to exact her revenge.

    Soon, however, June and Day cross paths in a most unlikely way.  An uneasy alliance, even a touch of romance develops, and June and Day start to uncover some horrifying trut

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19. Freedom Ride dispatch: Day 4

Raymond Arsenault was just 19 years old when he started researching the 1961 Freedom Rides. He became so interested in the topic, he dedicated 10 years of his life to telling the stories of the Riders—brave men and women who fought for equality. Arsenault’s book, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, is tied to the much-anticipated PBS/American Experience documentary “Freedom Riders,” which premiers on May 16th.

In honor of the Freedom Rides 50th anniversary, American Experience has invited 40 college students to join original Freedom Riders in retracing the 1961 Rides from Washington, DC to New Orleans, LA. (Itinerary, Rider bios, videos and more are available here.) Arsenault is along for the ride, and has agreed to provide regular dispatches from the bus. You can also follow on Twitter, #PBSbus.

Day 4–May 11: Augusta, GA, to Anniston, AL

As we left Augusta, I gave a brief lecture on Augusta’s cultural, political, and racial history–emphasizing several of the region’s most colorful and infamous characters, notably Tom Watson and J. B. Stoner. Then we settled in for the long bus ride from Augusta to Atlanta, a journey that the students soon turned into a musical and creative extravaganza featuring new renditions of freedom songs, original rap songs, a poetry slam–all dedicated to the original Freedom Riders. These kids are quite remarkable.

In Atlanta, our first stop was the King Center, where we were met by Freedom Riders Bernard Lafayette and Charles Person. Bernard gave a fascinating impromptu lecture on the history of the Center and his experiences working with Coretta King. We spent a few minutes at the grave sight and reflecting pool before entering the newly restored Ebenezer Baptist Church. The church was hauntingly beautiful, especially so as we listened to a tape of an MLK sermon and a following hymn. The kids were riveted.

Our next stop was Morehouse College, King’s alma mater, where we were greeted by a large crowd organized by the Georgia Humanities Council. After lunch and my brief keynote address, the gathering, which included 10 Freedom Riders, broke into small groups for hour-long discussions relating the Freedom Rides to contemporary issues. Moving testimonials and a long standing ovation for the Riders punctuated the event. Later in the afternoon, we headed for Alabama and Anniston, taking the old highway, Route 78, just as the CORE Freedom Riders had on Mother’s Day morning, May 14, in 1961. However, unlike 1961’s brutal events, our reception in Anniston, orchestrated by a downown redevelopment group known as the Spirit of Anniston, could not have been more cordial. A large interracial group that included the mayor, city council members, and a black state representative joined us for dinner before accompanying us to the Anniston Public Library for a program highlighted by the viewing of a photography exhibit, “Courage Under Fire.” The May 14, 1961 photographs of Joe Postiglione were searing, and their public display marks a new departure in Anniston, a community that until recently seemed determined to bury the uglier aspects of its past. The whole scene at the library was deeply emotional, almost surreal at times. The climax was a confessional speech b

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20. Freedom Ride dispatch: Day 5

Raymond Arsenault was just 19 years old when he started researching the 1961 Freedom Rides. He became so interested in the topic, he dedicated 10 years of his life to telling the stories of the Riders—brave men and women who fought for equality. Arsenault’s book, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, is tied to the much-anticipated PBS/American Experience documentary “Freedom Riders,” which premiers on May 16th.

In honor of the Freedom Rides 50th anniversary, American Experience has invited 40 college students to join original Freedom Riders in retracing the 1961 Rides from Washington, DC to New Orleans, LA. (Itinerary, Rider bios, videos and more are available here.) Arsenault is along for the ride, and has agreed to provide regular dispatches from the bus. You can also follow on Twitter, #PBSbus.

Day 5–May 12: Anniston, AL, to Nashville, TN

Our fifth day on the road started with the dedication of two murals in Anniston, at the old Greyhound and Trailways stations. I worked with the local committee on the text, and I was pleased with the results. In the past, there was nothing to signify that anything historic had happened at these sites. The turnout of both blacks and whites was gratifying and perhaps a sign that Anniston has begun the healing process of confonting its dark past. The students seemed intrigued by the whole scene, including the media blitz. We then boarded the bus and traveled six miles to the site of the bus burning; we talked with the only local resident who was there in 1961 and with the designer of a proposed Freedom Rider park that will be built on the site, which now boasts only a small historic marker. I have mixed feelings about the park, but perhaps the plan will be refined to a less Disneyesque form. It was quite a scene at the site, but we eventually pulled ourselves away for the long drive to Nashville.

Our first stop in Nashville was the civil rights room of the public library, the holder of one of the nation’s great civil rights collections. Rip Patton gave a moving account of his life as a Nashville student activist. We then traveled across town to the John Seigenthaler First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, where John Seigenthaler talked with the students for a spellbinding hour. He focused on his experiences with the Kennedy brothers and his sense of the evolution of their civil rights consciousness. As always, he was captivating and gracious, and full of truth-telling wit. We gave the students the night off to experience the music scene in Nashville, while I and the Freedom Riders participated in a Q and A session following a screening of the PBS film. The theater was packed, and the response was very enthusiastic. It was great to see this in Nashville, a hallowed site essential to the Freedom Rider saga and the wider freedom struggle. On to Fisk this morning before journeying south to Birmingham and “sweet home Alabama.”

Raymond Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and and Director of Graduate Studies for the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. You can watch his discussion with dire

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21. Freedom Ride dispatch: Days 6-8

Raymond Arsenault was just 19 years old when he started researching the 1961 Freedom Rides. He became so interested in the topic, he dedicated 10 years of his life to telling the stories of the Riders—brave men and women who fought for equality. Arsenault’s book, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, is tied to the much-anticipated PBS/American Experience documentary “Freedom Riders,” which premiers on May 16th.

In honor of the Freedom Rides 50th anniversary, American Experience has invited 40 college students to join original Freedom Riders in retracing the 1961 Rides from Washington, DC to New Orleans, LA. (Itinerary, Rider bios, videos and more are available here.) Arsenault is along for the ride, and has agreed to provide regular dispatches from the bus. You can also follow on Twitter, #PBSbus.

Day 6–May 13: Nashville, TN, to Birmingham, AL

Day 6 started with a torrential downpour–the first bad weather of the trip–that prevented us from walking around the Fisk campus and touring Jubilee Hall and the chapel. So we headed south for Birmingham, passing through Giles County, the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, and by Decatur, AL, the site of the 1932 Scottsboro trial. We arrived in Birmingham in time for lunch at the Alabama Power Company building, a corporate fortress symbolic of the “new” Birmingham. We spent the afternoon at the magnificent Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where we were met by Freedom Riders Jim Zwerg and Catherine Burks Brooks, and by Odessa Woolfolk, the guiding force behind the Institute in its early years. Catherine treated the students to a rollicking memoir of her life in Birmingham, and Odessa followed with a moving account of her years as a teacher in Birmingham and a discussion of the role of women in the civil rights movement. Odessa is always wonderful, but she was particularly warm and humane today. We then went across the street for a tour of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of the September 1963 bombing that killed the “four little girls.”

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to a tour of the Institute; there is never enough time to do justice to the Institute’s civil rights timeline, but this visit was much too brief, I am afraid. Seeing the Freedom Rider section with the Riders, especially Jim Zwerg and Charles Person who had searing experiences in Birmingham in 1961, was highly emotional for me, for them, and for the students. As soon as the Institute closed, we retired to the community room for a memorable barbecue feast catered by Dreamland Barbecue, the best in the business. We then went back across the street to 16th Street for a freedom song concert in the sanctuary. The voices o

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22. Out of the Shadows by Jason Wallace (Carnegie finalist)

This book generated the best discussion so far, which surprised me as I really hadn’t been sure at all what the girls’ reaction to it would be. The school staff, whilst not disliking it as such, had found it quite a bleak read with nothing positive happening in it to draw you out of the misery.

This novel is set in Zimbabwean boarding school for boys, in the early years of the Mugabe government after a long, bitter struggle for black independence. Long held school traditions are being overturned by the admission of a few black teachers and students and this breeds resentment amongst many of the pupils.

New pupil, Robert Jacklin, freshly arrived from England, initially makes friends with a young black boy, the first pupil he meets there. But in the end, he turns his back on his friend in an attempt to avoid the vicious bullying of Ivan, and he is drawn into his gang’s violent and racist games.

The girls felt that they could empathise with Robert’s predicament and inner turmoil and felt greatly sorry for him as his home life was a mess too. Although they did not understand a lot of the history and political references, they felt that this did not detract from their enjoyment of the book. This scored the highest so far amongst the group.

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23. Why Grand Theft Auto is like Hansel and Gretel

It isn’t.  I explain.

A children’s librarian may sometimes spend a certain amount of time defending a child’s right to read fairy tales or books that reference those tales.  So when a parent complains about the severed heads in A Tale Dark and Grimm or the girl dancing to her death in Breadcrumbs, the librarian can point to the classic fairy tales on which these books draw their inspiration and point out that such literary violence is a part of our cultural history.  It is also generally cartoonish in nature.

On a grander scale literary violence as a whole has rather exploded on the market lately.  My husband the other day was saying that if a person isn’t asking you if you read The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest then they want to know if you’re a Hunger Games fan.  Across the board we’re seeing a spike in violence in children, young adult, and adult literature.  Some of this is justifiable.  Some of this most certainly isn’t, but the decision of what a kid is ready for rests with the parent.

Which brings us to the recent Supreme Court Decision regarding California’s ban on selling “violent” video games to people under 18.  The Court threw out CA’s decision citing a variety of reasons, none so strange as those of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Saying that video games are no different than books . . . I’ll just stop the good Justice right there.  Video games are no different than books?  Believe that and I think we’ve put our finger on the problem.  Anyway, saying that video games are no different than books, if you do not restrict selling violent books to kids then you can’t restrict violent video games.

I suggest you read this fascinating article from Minnesota Public Radio.  In it you can watch as Scalia defends the decision to knock down the ban and in doing so cites various violent works of children’s literature.  He brings up Snow White, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel.  He also brings up Odysseus, Dante, and The Lord of the Flies.  It all gets rather strange when Clarence Thomas disagrees with Scalia (!) and then brings up, of all people, John Newbery.

John Newbery, the publisher often credited with creating the genre of children’s literature,removed traditional folk characters, like Tom Thumb, from their original stories and placed them in new morality tales in which good children were rewarded and disobedient children punished.”

Putting aside the idea that Newbery “created the genre” of children’s books, I’m fascinated by this use of literature for children to either support or detract from this decision.  The “violence is always with us” versus “children must be protected” arguments are as old as time.  I just didn’t think they’d play out on such a grand stage.  Thoughts on the matter?

Thanks to Boni Ashburn for the link.

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24. Are riots normal? Or, ‘Don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring!’

By Leif Jerram As we watch riots tear through the centres of British cities, many people have (instinctively and understandably) tried to see something of profound importance in them. For Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, they show why the budget for his police force should not be cut. For those on the left, the riots have been an essay in the perils of vacuous consumerism on the one hand, and shameless abandonment of the poor by the state on the other. And for our Conservative prime minister, it is confirmation that parts of our society are sick and evil.

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25. "In the capital, Damascus, attackers abducted and beat a prominent Syrian cartoonist, who was found..."

“In the capital, Damascus, attackers abducted and beat a prominent Syrian cartoonist, who was found bleeding along the city’s airport road. A photo released by activists after the attack showed cartoonist Ali Ferzat, 60, in a hospital bed, with his head and both hands swathed in bandages.

The cartoonist, one of the best-known in the Middle East, had become increasingly critical of the Syrian regime and had begun addressing the uprising against Assad in his drawings. One of his recent cartoons depicts Assad painting railway tracks to escape from a train approaching him at fast pace.”

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A Facebook Page has sprung up in support of Ali Ferzat, which includes photos of the 60-year-old cartoonists injuries. I hope he’s got lots of friends and family nearby to help him through this.  

via: ‘This is just a warning:’ Pro-regime gunmen break Syrian cartoonist’s hands - Toronto Star





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