Lessons in Parenting
The Tough Job of Discipline
Published on October 31, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

I recently read a letter requesting advice on and the response horrified me. The letter-writer was asking how to deal with the eleven-year-old child of a friend who exhibited all kinds of inappropriate behaviors: grabbing things, yelling, demanding to be the center of attention — and it only got worse with any attempt at redirection or remonstrance. The child’s father reportedly did nothing to curb the behavior.    

The response was to upbraid the writer for calling the child a “brat” (fair enough), but went on to defend this behavior, which the writer had described as “bullying,” and which seemed to be an accurate term based on the examples he gave.  It accused the writer of squashing the joy and spontaneity of childhood with his negative attitude and seemed to recommend that parents let their children raise themselves. 

First of all, the term “bullying” should have sounded an alarm bell with the responder. Bullying is an important issue with school age children — pay even a little attention to the news and you will see reports of unhappy children who have been driven to extremes, even suicide by those who have bullied them. If this child feels comfortable attempting to bully an adult, what might he be doing to his peers? To defend bullying behavior is irresponsible.

Second, why the extremes?  The response seems to suggest that it is not possible to enjoy childhood in all its spontaneity and innocence if you curb or correct a child’s behavior in any way. Why on earth not? It is a parent’s responsibility to do so, not only for the sake of those who come into the child’s path, but for the child’s own health and safety.    


Mitt Romney, Mormonism and Race
Published on October 31, 2012 by guest author: Steve LeBlanc

In early 1978 Mitt Romney was 31 years old, a recent graduate of Harvard Law/Business School, and the counselor to the president of the Boston stake of the Mormon church. At the time, the Mormon church excluded black men and women from the priesthood, and also refused on theological grounds to teach black people the secret signs, tokens, and passwords the church believes are required to get into heaven.
The above paragraph will probably surprise many readers. This is due to the fact that Romney’s Mormonism has for the most part been a non-issue during the general election. Commentators have been reluctant to dig up aspects of Romney’s involvement with the Mormon church that might be viewed as detrimental. The Christian-Right, while not pleased with Romney’s non-traditional Christianity, has nevertheless supported his candidacy and kept themselves fairly mum on the issue of Mormonism. The majority of those remaining seem to agree that religion has no place in politics, and have not brought Romney’s spiritual life into the general discussion.

While I agree that religion has no place in politics, I do think it is vital for voters to learn all they can about the judgment and character of the candidates they are considering for the most powerful position in the world. I believe that the history of Romney’s involvement in the Mormon church, as well as public comments he has made (and refused to make) regarding certain aspects of the church’s past and present policies and dogma, do in fact reflect on his character and judgment.

To sufficiently explain my point, it is necessary to quickly review the history of how the Mormon church has handled the issue of race. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was actually fairly progressive with regard to race relations compared to the standards of his day. While he didn’t exactly consider blacks equal to whites, he did allow a few “exceptional” black men to become members and priests within his church. Unfortunately, strident racism took root in the church when Brigham Young assumed leadership in 1844. Young was clear in his views on race, stating that “you must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham …”


Please Defriend Me
Published on October 31, 2012 by Sara Foss

A friend of mine passed along this piece in response to my most recent column, about how I never defriend anyone on Facebook, and why, if you belong to the LGBT community, you might see things a little differently.

Listening to What People Think
Published on October 31, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my ongoing effort to understand why people think the things they do.

Here's an excerpt:

"As we near the election, there’s been a distinct uptick in heated political rhetoric, especially on Facebook.

I didn’t learn about Romney’s 'binders full of women' remark from watching the debates, but from Facebook, where people began posting jokes and comments about the phrase within moments of it leaving the Republican candidate’s mouth. The Democratic and Republican conventions inspired similar observations and commentary. Even on relatively quiet days, my Facebook page is filled with political chatter, and this chatter ranges from the calm and level-headed to the completely unhinged. (Beware of any post that was written with the caps lock button on.)

For the past few months, one of my friends has been writing essays on various issues — health-care reform, the economy, the 47 percent comment controversy, etc. — and posting them on Facebook, along with his thoughts on the candidates and their proposals. And he isn’t just blowing off steam. He actually believes that he can persuade people to vote for Obama if he lays out reasonable, intelligent arguments for doing so. His goal, he told me, is to convince moderate Republicans to vote against their party."

Click here to read more.

Message From the Publisher
Published on October 22, 2012 by Sara Foss

We are on vacation.

Top Reads of the Week
Published on October 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Movies: J.K. Eisen on his favorite horror movies, and Sara Foss on "Argo"

Music: Sara Foss on the joys of the CD bargain bin

Media: Sara Foss on free speech and Internet trolls

NFL Picks, Week 7
Published on October 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 7 NFL picks.

Click here to read them.

Free Speech, Outing and Creepshots
Published on October 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

On Monday I posted a link to the excellent Adrian Chen piece on the notorious Internet troll Violentacruz, along with some quick thoughts. Anyway, Chen's story has generated a lot of interesting commentary (as well as some nonsense commentary), and I wanted to put up a couple more links and offer a few more quick thoughts.

- One thing I didn't discuss is the fact that the First Amendment is actually fairly restrictive - it does not mean you can go anywhere and say whatever you want at any time. For instance, privately owned companies such as Reddit can are under no obligation to post content and comments they deem offensive, as John Scalzi explains in a very good blog post on the whole subject. Now, a veneration of free speech is part of Reddit's brand; the site attracts people who are seeking a freewheeling forum for all sorts of vile crap, as well as perfectly normal people who like to read interesting stuff and talk about it. And that's fine. Myself, I take a different approach to curating content. As the proprieter of this here website, I'm perfectly fine with not posting content that I find objectionable. Like, if someone approached me and said, "Hey, can I post upskirt shots of young women that were taken without their consent on your website?" I would say, "No." And they could scream "Free speech!" all they wanted, but I would not be moved, other than to suggest that they go start their own website, where they can do whatever the hell they want.

- Perhaps because I've always signed my name to the things I write, I'm a little bit baffled by the people who seem to think there's some sort of sacred right to anonymity. I've certainly granted anonymity to people that I've interviewed, such as rape victims, and I've allowed some of my friends to post content under aliases, for various reasons. But I can't bring myself to feel at all sorry for Violentacruz, whose hobby was posting offensive crap on forums with names like "Chokeabitch." Actions have consequences, and if your hobby is pissing people off, don't be surprised if there's a little pushback. Like, if you play with fire, you might get burned.


Thoughts on George Michael
Published on October 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

Two days after I wrote about my recent purchase of George Michael's "Faith," Steven Hyden has posted a piece on the album's 25th anniversary and Michael's continuing evolution as a pop star. He, too, shares my love of the song "Father Figure." 

Anyway, click here to read what he has to say.

New Roads Out of Old
Published on October 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the process of repaving old roads in her weekly column Greenpoint. Basically, recycling is involved in this process, which makes it environmentally sound.

Here's an excerpt:

A couple of roads near my house were repaved last month, and if you’ve ever had a child or a dog, you know how exciting that can be.

The first thing the dog noticed was all the trucks parked at the intersection of our road and the one that goes over the dam. We had to stop during our early morning walks in the dark so the dog could investigate by sniffing every tire. Satisfied that they were indeed trucks, she was off to more interesting adventures, namely checking in with the beaver couple near the beach. They’ve been working on a little construction project of their own.

The boy child noticed something even more interesting than tires: a huge machine, as wide as one lane of the road, with fire coming out of the bottom to melt the pavement it ran over.

'It was amazing, Mom,' he told me. 'It’s the coolest machine ever.'

He is given to hyperbole, but to me the system is the coolest ever because it recycles the asphalt, right in place, as it resurfaces the road."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Watching "Argo"
Published on October 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Ben Affleck movie "Argo."

Here's an excerpt:

"Somehow Ben Affleck has become a better director than actor. Not that he’s a bad actor. He’s just a much better director. Not necessarily a great director (yet), but a pretty good one, with three pretty good movies under his belt: 'Gone Baby Gone,' 'The Town' and the new geopolitical thriller 'Argo.'

The based-on-a-true-story 'Argo' is definitely Affleck’s most ambitious film. The gripping opening scenes depict Islamic militants taking over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and taking those inside hostage while six Americans quietly escape out a back entrance and take refuge at the home of a Canadian ambassador. The action then moves to America, and the C.I.A.’s discussions on how to get the six Americans out of Iran and back home. An 'exfiltration' expert named Tony Mendez (Affleck) is brought into these brainstorming sessions, where he informs his co-workers that all of their ideas are doomed to fail. 'Do you have a better idea?' someone asks him. 'No,' he replies.

Later, while watching 'Battle for the Planet of the Apes' while talking to his son on the phone, a lightbulb goes off in Mendez’s head. He returns to work and proposes that the Americans pose as Canadian filmmakers who are scouting locations for a science-fiction movie. Told that this is a bad idea, Mendez’s boss, Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), replies, 'This is the best bad idea we have.' The next section of the film shows Mendez recruiting make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to help him with his ruse: They set up a fictitious film production company, find a script and hold auditions for the movie, dubbed 'Argo.' The Hollywood stuff is interspersed with tense scenes of the six Americans, who worry that the Iranian housekeeper has figured out who they are, and the final third of the film details Mendez’s audacious rescue — his effort to convince the Americans that his crazy plan to work, and trouble-shoot the various snags they encounter."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Fixing the Debates
Published on October 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at Salon, Alex Parenee has some decent ideas for fixing the presidential debates, which are generally pretty lame.

Click here to read them.

Bargain Bin CDs
Published on October 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the musical gems I recently purchased at a flea market in New Hampshire - Young MC's "Stone Cold Rhymin'" and George Michael's "Faith."

Here's an excerpt:

"When I visited my friend Susanna last year in the British Virgin Islands, she mocked me for continuing to purchase CDs.

'You still buy CDs?' she asked. 'Why?' Then she speculated that my irrational attachment to physical media was in line with my years-long refusal to get a cell phone, or switch my email from AOL to gmail.

Susanna is right: I am a technophobe. I usually regard new technology with suspicion, before eventually breaking down and accepting it. About three years ago I decided to give up landline and rely entirely on my cell phone, and I made the transition to gmail long before that. So I’m not completely incorrigible. However, I cannot bear the thought of converting my music collection from disc to digital. My CD racks line the wall, and help keep albums and bands I might otherwise forget about at the forefront of my mind. Keeping all my music on a little gadget or my laptop doesn’t seem like nearly as much fun, or as interesting."

Click here to read more.

A Different Kind of Scare For Halloween
Published on October 14, 2012 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

Halloween is approaching, which means some people may be looking for a movie that can provide a good scare or two.

Of course, there are some obvious choices. Just as Christmas has movie staples such as “A Christmas Story” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Halloween has, well, “Halloween,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Friday the 13th.” So, here are a few alternatives for those looking for some Halloween horror – whether it’s hardcore or high camp – but largely off the beaten path. My terrifying 13 are listed in no particular order.

“Johnny Got His Gun” – This powerful anti-war movie from 1971 may be best known for being featured in Metallica’s “One” music video. It follows the story of a soldier (Timothy Bottoms) who loses his limbs, sight, hearing and voice in World War I. The doctors and nurses think he’s a vegetable, but he’s conscious and the moviegoer gets to witness the thoughts and memories of a man trapped within his own body. Donald Sutherland also offers up a memorable performance as Jesus Christ.

“Dead Snow” – This 2009 Norwegian film can be summed up in two words: Nazi zombies. The Third Reich’s undead terrorize a group of college students during a mountain getaway. Featuring great makeup effects and some seriously vicious undead, it’s a fun and unique zombie flick.


Exposing A Troll
Published on October 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at Gawker, Adrian Chen does some good work in a piece on a notorious Internet troll.

I've always wondered what motivates these people, and apparently they believe the First Amendment allows them to anonymously post creepy photos of young women, taken without their consent. And that if their identies were to be revealed, it would be tantamount to fascism.

Uh huh.

It's true that the First Amendment does protect a whole range of offensive speech, but it doesn't protect the speakers from certain consequences, like being revealed as a total asshole to friends, co-workers and acquaintances.

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