Living in the Twilight Zone

I watched some of the “Twilight Zone” marathon this New Years as I have many times before. The episodes were based on and have themselves become part of American folklore. My kids recognize the themes from vignettes they saw on “Simpsons”, “Family Guy” or “South Park”. TV is the only culture many of us share. Most Americans do not know the words to the “Star Spangled Banner”, but almost every baby boomer recognizes the theme to “Gilligan’s Island,” including the second verse.

Nevertheless, even this common culture is slipping. I enjoy seeing the actors in the "Twilight Zone" who subsequently became bigger stars. William Shatner, Elizabeth Montgomery, Jack Klugman, Robert Redford, James Coburn and many others got some of their early work on the show. I find it depressing that my kids know none of these people or the shows they made famous in my time (with the exception of Captain Kirk, who they know from the caricatures in subsequent comedy shows.)

Some of this is just my getting old, but some is a loss of common culture. Almost every member of the baby boom is familiar with the "Twilight Zone." Many of us never saw the original series, but we picked it up in afternoon reruns, which we saw over and over again. As far as I know, there is nothing in 2006 that everybody has in common.

This goes for the literature too. I have a good time paraphrasing great literature. Some people recognize the allusions. Even more think I just made them up myself and give me the credit. But it is kind of sad . The allusion is more than just nice words. It carries a lot of meta meaning that is lost to those unaware of the context. .

As the old black and white images become less relevant and melt into the landscape of memory, I have a question for any young whipper snappers who might be reading this as well as us old farts. What is it that we Americans have in common today?

BTW - many of the "Twilight Zone" episodes refer to the future, which is now. It is really funny how much has changed, and how little.

Posted by Jack at January 2, 2007 3:22 AM
Comments
Comment #201149

Jack,

Each generation has its commonalities, many of which are being defined by the pace of technology. For those like me, born in the early 80’s, video games and interactivity are a rallying point (Mario and Luigi changed the world), while those born more recently seem to be drawn toward communication, cell phones, text messaging and the like (from what I’ve seen anyway). I think this has much to do with the shift in our society toward isolation, where technology eliminates (and is now replacing) much of the need for face to face contact that previous generations relied upon and took for granted.

Since your theme was mostly television, I think you’re looking at this through a nostalgic lens. For many from my generation, The Simpsons, Married with Children and South Park hold the same place in our hearts and memories as The Twilight Zone does in yours. Rather than Gilligan’s Island, I would bet that everyone born after 1980 could recognize the theme music for The Simpsons after two notes (although you’d never see that one on Name That Tune). You mention William Shatner and Robert Redford (I admit that those are the only two names I really recognize in your list), while we whipper snappers mention Jay and Silent Bob. Some mourn the crudeness and see decline, while I applaud the honesty and stark reality presented; Ozzie and Harriet were caricatures, while Dave and Vicky (from The War at Home) are human beings.

There are fewer universals, simply because there are more choices. When the Twilight Zone first aired, how many television channels were there? I would guess that today, there are more inane reality shows than that on at any given time.

Literature, sadly, seems to be dying. There is little place for words in the fast paced, ADD-infused culture of the Playstation 3. People today would rather read How R U and I M Good than William Blake or Edmund Burke; the fall of the Roman Empire had something to do with that guy who says “Pizza Pizza!” Maybe I’m being too cynical, but our education system isn’t helping. And this in an age where knowledge and information are being pumped into our homes like water.

The generation gap will always seem widest to those on the further side of it. Already, at 25, I feel somewhat out of touch because I detest cell phones and Blackberries; also, I not only follow politics, but actually take the time to write about it occasionally. I’ve felt disconnected from my own generation ever since I saw the aspiring looks in many of their eyes when the media learned to conjoin names of dating celebrities. Rather than be outraged that this is now considered “news”, they began seeking out mates whose names were complimentary. Trying to discuss Kosovo during the 1990’s would elicit little more than a glassy-eyed stare and a quick change of subject. So perhaps I am not the best emissary for those my age.

I do however have a sneaking suspicion that this lack of awareness is nothing new, that it has more to do with basic human interest rather than any specific generation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were growing worse.

You are right in that there are no overreaching bonds, no defining moments to bind us all in the here and now. Corporatization, consumerism and the ‘branding’ of everything from our clothes to our food and water is the closest thing we have. Mention Prada to a younger girl, or Xbox to a similarly-aged boy, and you have your commonality.

Posted by: Liberal Demon at January 2, 2007 6:31 AM
Comment #201151

Jack, Liberal Demon:

I share many of the concerns you both raised though I really have no pangs over “lost” TV culture. I am much more concerned with the “loss” of common literary references though, if we look at literarcy rates, it’s hard to find any period in which most of any population could recognize an allusion to, say, Protagoras or Uncle Toby.

Also, I do not think that we are really moving toward isolationism. These kids with their gadgets are using them to stay in touch in ways we never considered. It’s like our great-great grandparents claiming that the telephone encourages isolationism.

I think we are rapidly moving into an era characterized by another type of literarcy — a change as dramatic as the shift from an oral culture to a literate one. My daughter is agitating for an early ride to school, so I’ll have to develop these thoughts some other time.

Posted by: Trent at January 2, 2007 8:02 AM
Comment #201153

Liberal
I think you have hit the main point - choice.

Let me expand a little on your video game issue. Kids might share the video game genre, but they still are split re which games and which systems. My kids have a couple of different systems and now they want a wii. Some of their friends have a different set of systems and so play different games.

Choice is usually a good thing, but I fear it is taking away what common image we had. People think in stories not in solid concepts. if the stories are too different …

Even physical realities are becomming more varied. At one time at least the weather affected everybody in the same place the same way. Now some people are largely unaffected by it as they go from climate controlled building, ot air conditioned car to their work etc. THey do not really know if it is hot or cold. In the old days, people would refer to the big heat wave etc. because they remembered collectivly how it felt. Now it is more theoretical of synthetic.

Returning to your video analogy, maybe when we die, we face neither heaven nor hell, but just a “Game Over” message.

Posted by: Jack at January 2, 2007 9:32 AM
Comment #201156

That is the role of many of the arts, Jack, to repackage anew the ancient themes, such that the young can entertain the notion of discovery all their own. My gravest concern is how the good vs. evil theme seems to dominate all other themes of ancient human knowledge - wisdom is being replaced with reverence for technosaavy, common sense is being replaced with reverence for eclectic sense, multiple serial shallow relationships are replacing lifelong anchoring relationships of mutual growth, respect, and admiration, and reverence for pedagogic art forms is being replaced by sensual and shock value art forms.

But the gravest trend of all, in my opinion, is that the young increasingly accept vicarious experience for real experience. And that holds grave consequences for the relationship between leaders and followers, institutions and supporters, and for democratic governments in particular. We have long left the eras of hunters and gatherers and defenders of the tribe in which all members of the society contributed directly to maintenance of the society, and were respected and accepted for their contributions.

More and more we are becoming spectators, watching and enjoying others taking the risks and receiving the shame or accolades of failure or success vicariously - which leads directly to massive social problems centered on valuelessness, hopelessness, depression, listlessness, powerlessness, and activities in which desperation rises so high that members take what they think they need rather than earn what they really need in acceptable ways which society at large can condone and embrace.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 2, 2007 10:57 AM
Comment #201162

Jack,

To add my thoughts to David’s about our becoming spectators;

When I was young, any day of the week, any season of the year, I could go to the park and depend on a group of the guys being there to play pick-up baseball. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t baseball season.
I also remember that there weren’t fences around the schools I attended, and we could play there as well.
I came home often with scrapes and bruises as a result of “hard play”. It was part of growing up.
I never see children playing pick-up ball anymore, though I occasionally do see “adults” playing basketball in the parks at night.
Have we become so litigious as a society, and/or, so afraid of other humans, that children can’t play together without it being some organized outing or sport?

Posted by: Rocky at January 2, 2007 11:56 AM
Comment #201163

Jack,

Generational gaps exist and always have. It’s important for all of us to reach across the gaps and help validate the interests of other generations. For example I try to understand what my kids are interested in and why. With my 14 year old daughter it’s books. I read some of the books she does and in turn suggest some of my favorites. With my younger daughter it’s music. We are not a big TV family (no cable) so maybe it’s easier for us. What we have in common with older and younger generations is that we see the world through our experiences. The more experiences we share with other generations the more we can fill the gaps.

Just my $.02

Posted by: clyde at January 2, 2007 12:08 PM
Comment #201165

Jack and LD,

There is one commonality that I would guess most share: music, specifically Rock. The generation approaching retirement today heard the Beatles first in the 60’s. I would guess that at least 75% of the country can recognize the Beatles, Elvis, and Johnny Cash if they heard them.

The difference in the cultural divide on music is now about the equivilant to what it was in the 30’s and 40’s I’m guessing, where there were common musical choices in the house that all can recognize, and tangents that only the adults or the children can recognize. The “revolution” of rock has come and gone, and it is now mainstream.

Rocky,

We played football when I was child in the 70’s instead of baseball, and I miss that too. I don’t know if it is societies penchant for law suits, hyper awareness of the dangers that face our children fed by 24 hour news, two parent households, or video games that have descreased the ability to find a game, but it is something that is missing in today’s neighborhoods. Not sure we will see it again.

Posted by: Rob at January 2, 2007 12:20 PM
Comment #201169

Jack,

I think you’re really reaching for the game platform divide. All the kids I know have multiple platforms and the games themselves are common across those platforms. Preferring Wii to PS3 or Halo vs. Call to Duty isn’t a divider anymore than my preference to play Asteroids vs. Pong or a penchant for soccer instead of basketball. As a parent, I used to think that the games devolved social skills but I’ve since discovered the complete opposite. Additionally, Mario Super Strikers actually lets our family spend some more time together than might otherwise have been possible.

Finally, every generation has complained of a generation gap. There have always been cliques, it’s just that nostalgia makes one think there are universal constants. Face it, we’re just getting older and the gap is getting bigger. As for “synthetic experiences” (several references come to mind), even if the weather has been replaced with something virtual, doesn’t make it a less real experience. As for “Game Over” (again, several references come to mind) we won’t know until it is.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 2, 2007 12:51 PM
Comment #201175

What is our commonality? You’re using it right now. Young and old, perfect strangers interacting with one another accross cable lines. The internet has changed the way we interact, sometimes for the better and sometimes worse. I interact all the time with people I have never met, perhaps people that I would not have the chance to interact with normally. The downside is that the interaction becomes impersonal and losses a certain human quality that can only come with face to face contact.

Posted by: JayJay at January 2, 2007 1:04 PM
Comment #201177

Jack

My 21-year-old nephew is half Iranian and we sit around and swap Simpson’s anecdotes, talk about George Orwell (Eric Blair) and Hemingway and their writing, trade Hendrix licks on guitar, and parse the poetry of Rumi. I received a classical education: Latin, Greek, Shakespeare, etc. along with science and mathematics. I know these things much better than he, but he is aware of a wider range of “classics” that span the globe. As you say, television was a uniting force, but is losing it’s power in that regard. I think as we old farts fade, the younger generations will have a broader and deeper appreciation of the themes that unite us all, because they will not be so narrowly channeled as we were. Some things that we hold precious will be lost, as they are in each succeeding generation, but new things will come into the canon.

We just need to have faith that the “haves” of the world will realize that their own best interest lies in assuring the “have-nots” get some. Then this trend toward globalization will eventually unite us all in a relatively peaceful community of trade and culture. If we “haves” don’t step up, we are cooked. I believe this is why we contest so energetically on these pages: we need to find the best way to accomplish spreading the wealth (by this I mean not just money, but beauty and knowledge) to all peoples, and the path is dimly lit and must be groped by us blind and frail humans.

But if my nephew is any indication, we have strong, vibrant intellects to pick up the challenge after you and I have hurled our last epithets at the others ideas and heroes. And perhaps with their broader perspective and heightened awareness, they will succeed where we have failed.

Peace, brother.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 2, 2007 1:11 PM
Comment #201181

Jack,

In speaking about the “generation gap”, I am reminded of the relationship I had with my step-father.

He was an electronics engineer, and math was his business.
He relaxed by reading technical manuals and plotting the stock market. We had no common ground, as I wasn’t interested in math, and we constantly butted heads.

As a late teen/young adult I felt (as most do) that not only was I invincible, but knew everything there was to know.
As I matured I not only learned how much I didn’t know, but how much my dad actually knew.

Maturity, and patience established a commonality, even though our intrests were still diverse, and we became friends.

BTW, I recently went through the same thing with my son.

Posted by: Rocky at January 2, 2007 1:40 PM
Comment #201184

Yep.

Times change. Life is fluid and cyclic. What goes around comes around. There is a very fine line between genious and insanity, and ignorance is bliss. You gotta keep your head up, and keep your feet on the ground. Etc. Etc.

So now that I’ve philosophically stroked myself, where do I go from here?

Honestly, Jack, your perception is hand-crafted by your brain. Science can already show that a person’s “free will” is nothing more than the brain acting in a way it is comfortable with and the mind justifying it. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6216913.stm)

In other words, there are no answers to your questions other than beliefs we already have. Finding real world examples to back that up is all too easy.

Posted by: Kevin23 at January 2, 2007 2:01 PM
Comment #201189

K23,

Are you a Dilbert fan?

Try this link through from there too


Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 2, 2007 2:14 PM
Comment #201196

Dave1-

I’m not a huge Dilbert fan, but I chuckle at it now and again. That was a pretty good one.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about the science of the brain and the new techniques that can record and time certain stimuli. I find this kind of stuff to be much more interesting than debating in the abstract. Of course, the more we know, the more we realize we dont know.

Posted by: Kevin23 at January 2, 2007 3:06 PM
Comment #201226

Jack,

I watched the “Twilight Zone” Marathon myself! I, too, enjoyed seeing some old friends, and following the plot lines as an adult, instead of as a child - we didn’t have a TV until I was almost 6. I thought television was the neatest thing I’d ever seen (and it was too!). My father thought it was a waste of time and money!!! (hum - sometimes I agree with him)

I believe what you are describing is what we baby-boomers call the GENERATION - GAP!!! I also believe it ends where grandparents begin. My 3 daughters, all grown now, had and continue to have (fortunately) a wonderful relationship with their only living grandparent. I frequently wish at least one of my parents had lived long enough for my girls to have met them - but they do know their paternal grandmother very well, for which I am grateful.

I was much closer to one of my grandmothers than I ever was to my own parents, or my daughters. This is possibly because I was the PARENT, not a best friend to my girls as they grew up, as were my parents not best friends to me.

Today I share a close relationship with all 3 of my girls. We have much more in common now that they have grown up. We share a love for volunteering, books, jokes, and trivia, to name a few. One collects all the “MASH” episodes, another the original “Star Trek” and we all enjoy them.

As for literature - I read aloud to them every night and on every 15 mile+ trip we took. Since I chose the materials, I helped to insure their literary background - something that got very tiring (for my voice) but I look back today and am glad I was able to persevere.

Liberal Demon
Who are the people (characters?) you are referring to? I honestly have no idea!!! Oh well - ;-D

I suspect, even we have a generation-gap, but on this Internet blog,as JayJay pointed out, we can still talk intelligently with each other about our interests in politics.

Posted by: Linda H. at January 2, 2007 10:38 PM
Comment #201235

Dave 1-20-2009 per your earlier comment that you believe that gaming can detract from social skills, there is an intesting book “Got Game: How The Gaming Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever that does not contradict your point, however, offers up an interesting study on how gaming is impacting the workplace. Here is a review of the book:

Those who are looking for a contrarian view of video games will find it in these pages. While many parents fret about their children’s minds turning to goo as they squander hour after hour absorbed in electronic diversion, the authors argue that gamers glean valuable knowledge from their pastime and that they’re poised to use that knowledge to transform the workplace. Beck (The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business) and Mitchell (DoCoMo—Japan’s Wireless Tsunami: How One Mobile Telecom Created a New Market and Became a Global Force) base their claims on an exclusive survey of approximately 2000 business professionals. That survey, say the authors, provides the first data showing a direct, statistically verifiable link between digital games and professional behavior in the workplace. The authors express their analysis in clean, crisp prose devoid of jargon, making it accessible for non-gamers, especially non-gamers who are managers. “Gamers believe that winning matters,” Beck and Wade contend, and gamers also place “a high value on competence—wanting to be an expert in the first place”—all of which makes the video game generation, estimated by the authors to be some 90 million strong, an influential force in the work place. The book touches on a handful of other ways in which gamers differ from non-gamers and provides suggestions on how employers can take advantage of their unique values and skills. Some readers may find themselves grinding their teeth at many of the authors’ upbeat conclusions about the benefits video game players will bring to the business world, but most will find the pair’s findings fascinating and provocative.

As a father of two kids that have unrestricted access to games and friends, I am happy to say they prefer friends and activities to embracing a vegatable like state in front of our TV. Perhaps if I purchased a color one?

Posted by: Edge at January 2, 2007 11:46 PM
Comment #201236

Anybody who wants to claim that somehow the culture’s becoming more decayed needs to take a look at who and what is successful in Hollywood nowadays.

Bryan Singer, before he directed the X-Men films and Superman, directed the indy classic The Usual Suspects. Steven Soderbergh was well-known for his edgy arthouse fare before he made his mark on mainstream films with Erin Brockovich, Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven and other works. Anybody who wants to pose the theory that this generation can only process split second cuts has to explain how M. Night Shyamalan has managed to make such a name for himself with movies replete with long takes. Look at American’s fascination with Anime, where virtuoso action blends into complex, morally sophisticated stories and brilliantly drawn characters.

Culture isn’t decaying, it’s vocabulary is expanding faster than some in the culture can keep up with. Give folks some time, and the sky’s going to be the limit. Folks are hungry for meaning.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 3, 2007 12:04 AM
Comment #201237

Jack
We all like Mexican food. Ha.

Posted by: BillS at January 3, 2007 12:13 AM
Comment #201243

Jack:
“TV is the only culture many of us share.”

It’s definitely one, but it’s far from the only cultural medium that should be shared. Music, Art, Literature and Poetry and Films are all easily shared forms of culture too. People just have to make the effort to explore and share these things with their kids. Throughout my life, my parents and grandparents always made that effort with me, and as I grew to adulthood, it became a reciprocal thing — I began sharing newer more cutting-edge things with them. It continues with the younger generation, just as it should. This keeps the threads of culture alive and going strong, and makes both young and old people lively, intelligent and well informed.
Honestly, I can’t even imagine what kind of a person I’d be, had TV been my major source of culture.

Trent:
“I really have no pangs over “lost” TV culture.”

Me either, because there is a cable station called “TV Land” that plays all the old shows that a lot of us watched as kids. My nieces and nephews love watching that station — although sometimes they need to be clued in to some of the references.

David:
“reverence for pedagogic art forms is being replaced by sensual and shock value art forms.”

You realize of course, that historically people have said very similar things about the Impressionist, Pointillist, Symbolist, Fauvist, Cubist, Futurist, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Surrealist, Dada, Constructivist, Abstract Expressionist, Ashcan School, Op and Pop Art movements? ;^)

In my opinion, as long as we’re doing our part with the kids, we shouldn’t worry too much. They’ll interpret their own times in their own way — just like every generation always has. We personally may not like it very much, because it may not be suited to our particular taste, but that’s nothing new — in fact, that’s life, baby.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 3, 2007 12:45 AM
Comment #201255

Trent,

You are correct, if television had stagnated decades ago, so would have sales. I too think that the trend toward isolationism is being slowed through these technologies, but like JayJay said above, it is, at times, being done at the cost of personal contact. I often feel that we lose something when other humans are little more than words on a screen.

I agree with you on the literacy aspect, even though you lost me with Protagoras and Uncle Toby.

Jack,

Age also divides the video game choices; most younger children will go for the Wii, teenagers the Xbox 360 and older players will opt for the more expensive Playstation 3. These are generalities of course.

You speak of a common image, but I then have to ask the question here: Did it really exist, or was it just an image? When everyone is forced to either listen to the radio or watch The Twilight Zone, the Zone will be exceedingly popular no matter the quality of the content or the tastes of those watching. It seems to me that choices are allowing more individual expression, rather than just the facade of homogeneity.

If all of this is a game, I fear the reality which spawned it (also, I hope that the Game Over screen is at least interesting and fun to look at).

Rocky

Regarding kids and sports, I have another idea which I didn’t see mentioned here. Not many people are too aware of this, but there is actually a fairly pervasive antagonism toward groups of children (and especially teenagers) these days. No one really wants them around and, growing up, I often found myself the target of people’s wrath simply because of my age. Stores where I lived would limit the number of children allowed in at once, schools would shoo us off the property if we were spotted. Once, a few of my friends and I used a school parking lot to turn our van around and were actually chased by some overzealous schoolmarm in a pickup truck for quite a few miles.

Basically, what you speak of in nostalgic terms is no longer allowed in many places, mostly because of (generally unfounded) fears of vandalism and who knows what else. Ageism is alive and well.

Rob,

When I was in high school I met a guy who listened to what he called “Noise Variation.” It was exactly what the name infers: a wall of noise which shifts in pitch and intensity, with other noises thrown in at times for good measure. No beat, no rhythm…and I thought Techno was bad.

That said, Rock has certainly been a defining movement, the basic guitar, bass and drums setup is pretty universal at this point and has been adapted to too many forms of music to even list here. The variations are astounding; one of my favorite styles of music involves the fusion of Hummpa (Finnish polka, basically) with Death Metal; you simply haven’t lived until you’ve heard the joining of traditional Scandinavian folk melodies and instruments with modern day distortion and screaming vocals. Universality erodes as expression evolves; how’s that for a generation gap?

Linda H.,

Jay and Silent Bob are creations of the writer/director Kevin Smith, who did movies like Dogma and Clerks; he also plays Silent Bob in the films. Dave and Vicky are the parents of a new sitcom on Fox called The War at Home (I probably wouldn’t have used them if my brain hadn’t been refusing to give me another example). :)

The internet is amazing; people who wouldn’t even look twice at each other in real life are able to share and speak with other. I used to always wonder why, when a large group of people are sitting in a place such as waiting room, no one ever strikes up conversations between one another. Most often, everyone walks in strangers and leaves the same way. Perhaps reality is just as impersonal sometimes as all of this is.

Hope everyone here is having a good New Year so far.

Posted by: Liberal Demon at January 3, 2007 4:59 AM
Comment #201260

Great post and responses!

The general trends of this post are interesting in that they reveal a generation gap not so much of anything but age. I was not alive to watch the Twilight Zone, but I have little doubt that decades from now, people of my generation will look back with fondness on the Simpsons or any other number of shows out there.

The most unfortunate thing about modern taste in TV to me is the destruction of the idea of a competent father figure. Homer Simpson means well, but he’s a serial incompetent and was a model for most of the TV dads out there. This is sad to me. Like Rocky, I had an intersting time in my life with my father when I was a teenager. He went from always seeming to be right to always seeming to be wrong. Later on as I continued to get older, I noticed that the older I got, the smarter my dad seemed. That sense of a television father as a fair-minded and strong example seems to be gone, with morons of varying intentions as its replacement. Mores the pity.

Posted by: 1LT B at January 3, 2007 6:52 AM
Comment #201267

Edge et al

Re gaming

My kids play World of Warcraft. It is a good example of the future of online collaboration. I was talking to a guy who runs a tech firm. He told me that he would not hire anybody who did NOT play World of Warcraft because he figured it built those skills. I did not share that insight with my boys, who need no further encouragement, but I think he is right. My kids stay in touch with friends from around the world, although most of what they are doing seems kinda lame.

Stephen

My contention is not that culture is decaying (although some it depends where you look) but rather that we no longer share a common culture. We have so many choices and still the same amount of time to devote to them AND our brains are no more able to hold information than before.

BillS

I like Mexican food but only the American style. “Authentic” Mexican, Chinese or Indian food just does not appeal as much.

Adrienne

I agree with you re culture options, but you hit the nail on the head when you said that people have to make the effort to explore them. Most people do not and will not.

Never before in human history have so many people had such easy access to the wealth of world culture. Many people will not take advantage at all. Among those who do, intelligent people will make different choices. We may be equally well educated, but if your passion is Sanskrit and mine is Classical Greek, we may not be speaking the same language.

TV had the advantage of being a great equalizer. Everybody could watch and with only limited TV choices many people watched the same things and thus had a common vicarious experience.

Liberal

You know you could not make the Twilight Zone today. When I watch it, I realize how silly it is and how poor the production values are. We accept it because it is a classic and we forgive (and read in) a lot. That is what makes it a cultural classic.

BTW - nothing can be a classic until and unless it goes through the cultural digestion. I always think it is amusing to hear something that is only a few years old called classic and/or something recently rediscovered that nobody read before. If we discovered a completely unknown book by Homer, it would be old and maybe interesting, but it would not be a classic.

1lt

I am a big fan of Simpsons and South Park. I hate Family Guy and American Dad. While they seem similar, there is a big difference. As you say, Homer is stupid and thoughtless, but Peter is really just a rat. There is a difference.

Re these shows, it is interesting how much of the Twilight Zone you find in them. There are iconic images included in the vignettes. Maybe that is why my kids still like the Twilight zone, despite it being in black and white, is because they recognize the roots.

Posted by: Jack at January 3, 2007 9:15 AM
Comment #201269

Edge,

To clsrify my first post, my belief of devolving social skills from playing video games was in the past tense. Fortunately my kids view gaming as just one piece of their life along with schools sports etc… (I just wish my son liked reading as much as his sister) Thanks for the text though, it does give me some pause.

Jack,

Do you ever think that people still like Twilight Zone because it was well acted and thought provoking drama focusing on timeless issues? I couldn’t care less about the technology used to present it. As for your supposition that society was better in the good old days becasue “with only limited TV choices many people watched the same things”, that is a topic by itself: homogeneity vs diversity.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 3, 2007 10:19 AM
Comment #201270

Liberal Demon,

“Stores where I lived would limit the number of children allowed in at once, schools would shoo us off the property if we were spotted. Once, a few of my friends and I used a school parking lot to turn our van around and were actually chased by some overzealous schoolmarm in a pickup truck for quite a few miles.”

No offence meant, but most often these things are done for a reason.
In a convenience store that is near a school for instance, it is difficult enough to service a few customers, and watch the store at the same time, and to have a horde of students descend during lunch only exacerbates the problem. As most of these stores that I have been in only have two registers, controlling a crowd of say, 20 students, becomes impossible.

Perhaps it is the time I grew up, but my parents controlled the one TV that we owned. We watched what they wanted to watch. Hell, we didn’t even have a color TV until I was 12 or 13, and there wasn’t a second TV in the house until after I left home when I was 18 in 1970.

We didn’t watch TV during the day, if we could go outside. There was no cable, no computers, no video games, no boom boxes, and we didn’t hang out at the mall, because the mall was miles away.
If I wasn’t reading or doing chores, I was at the park, playing with my friends.

When and where I grew up in California, convenience stores barely existed. When our game broke up we usually went to the houses of the guys that lived closest to the park, or went home.

You speak of ageism.

The stores in my neighborhood were mom and pop stores. We were expected to behave as if our parents were there with us, otherwise our parents would hear about it.

In other words, we were brought up by the whole neighborhood. It was about community, and I think community is what’s missing in society today.

Posted by: Rocky at January 3, 2007 10:34 AM
Comment #201277

Jack-
I don’t think we ever had a common culture. However, I think we’re closer to it than we use to be. The internet and other forms of telecommunication have made the main barrier between people of different interests-distance-irrelevant. The internet has also made a difference when it comes to the give and take of conversations across distance and between multiple parties, allowing a high tech, near-instantaneous modern version of the committees of correspondence.

When it all comes down to it, all that’s left now is to adjust to the constant influx of information, to think up ways to take advantage of all that we have at our fingertips.

I think the key there is that meaning is more important than just outright information. Culture is now more than ever about figuring out what interests you and what’s in your interest to know and finding it. Ignorance is no longer bliss. We need to mature in our perspective on information.

As for art? There will always be those who exploit the sensational to gather attention. Again, though, the distinction between information and meaning takes on additional significance when we write, make television shows, and create movies. You can throw a bunch of sensational content at people, and end up dulling their sensations, making them jaded, or you can keep their interest by using that gained attention to draw people through material in a novel way. The only way to be truly competitive in such businesses is to be meaningful in a way others people cannot match. The value for an audience is the unexpected meaning they find in your work and the successful evocation of new meaning in old material as well.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 3, 2007 11:23 AM
Comment #201284

With the wealth of information and artistic works available today, the sort of cultural homogenity we had through most of the 20th Century does not seem possible today. I do have to wonder, though, how much American culture truly was homogenuous — with limited television channels and a fraction of the movies produced every year, I think what we had was media entertainment that reflected the values and concerns of a dominant segment of the population. Other segments were either not represented or were represented in caricature. The popular stereotypes of Italians and the Irish, of course, were promulgated by media.

Today with hundreds of television channels and hundreds of new movies available each year, other segments are being represented. Does this indicate a loss of common culture or the loss of a certain standardization reflective of the dominant population?

As I said before, I do not regret the loss of a common culture, especially as represented by television. There are better shows on television today that ever before — perhaps not in terms of percentages of shows produced, but certainly in raw numbers. Television art forms have not yet been exhausted in the ways that many critics believe the novel has been exhausted.

I’m not certain if we need to worry. It’s really not important that I keep up with CSI, a show my friends talk about but I’ve never seen. I can share thoughts on West Wing or The Daily Show or the late, great, but short-lived Firefly. We don’t all need to watch the same shows.

But we do need some common ground. That is one of the reasons that public education is so important and that it is so important that we have some degree of standardization in curriculum. I have done any research on this, but I have lots of anecdotal evidence that civics is not being taught or not being taught well in grammar schools. America is not a country of any particular religion or ethnic group (despite what many desire); it is a country of ideals, and those ideals should be what we hold in common. We need our schools to provide a rhetorical education grounded in civics. In our rush to emphasize math and science, I wonder if civics has been shortchanged.

—-

LD,

You know, I don’t think it’s crucial that everyone know about Protagoras or Uncle Toby. I’m old fashioned enough to believe literature is essential to a good education, but I’m not dogmatic about specific works. I had an English prof who once said that anyone who hadn’t read Middlemarch couldn’t consider himself educated. What an ass, I thought, and I wished I dared to say to him the words that lept to my mind: “Anyone who hasn’t read The Phaedrus in the original Greek can’t consider himself educated.” It’s so arbitrary. Nowadays it is impossible for anyone to read all the great literature available today.

When I was in high school, Hemingway was taught as if he were a god; nowadays his status as diminished greatly. Things change. Man is the measure of all things, but exploring that notion could lead me to get on my hobby horse — and there are the obligatory allusions to Protagoras and Uncle Toby :)

Jack,

Your story about the employer who would only hire someone who plays Warcraft reminds me of a story my father told me years before. He had lunch with some executive who said he wouldn’t hire someone who salted his food before tasting it. My dad, an executive himself, said that perhaps some people know what they like. The point? These employers are being arbitrary. They have the power to do so, so they do, and consider themselves wise because few will gainsay them.

To me Warcraft and the like are late comers to the game. In the 90s I developed with some friends a MUD, which were the text-based precursors of the graphic multiplayer RP games today. We were small scale, averaged about 50 players, didn’t charge a dime — nowadays people shell out real money for fancy pictures at the expense of more sophisticated gameplay. Were we successful? Not in terms of money but we never thought in those terms. Our game is still running after 10 years and it’s still free. But then, you know, I’m a commie at heart.

Posted by: Trent at January 3, 2007 11:53 AM
Comment #201285

Though diversity has changed many things in America and the world, perhaps the one thing that can truly bring all ideas together is the blog! It is yesterday’s literature and TV.

Long live the bloggers!!

JD

Posted by: JD at January 3, 2007 11:56 AM
Comment #201293

My little granddaughter (age 3) has all the high-tech gizmos and gadgets (age-appropriate, of course) that good old Japanese technology can produce. And she enjoys all the flashing lights, bells and whistles.

But the highlight of her day is climbing into Mom or Dad’s lap and enjoying a good book together. (I also am blessed with this opportunity as often as possible.)

While we have encouraged her to become technologically proficient, we are also nurturing in her a love for the written word and the arts.

For far too many children, technology is a curse in that their parents have abdicated their responsibility to nurture their children to the gizmos and gadgets.

Our family’s history is the history of America. We will not deprive my granddaughter of that heritage.

Reality television is not reality, folks. It really isn’t.

Posted by: vietnam_vet at January 3, 2007 12:28 PM
Comment #201305

Mark Twain once said something to the effect:

“When I was fourteen I thought my father was the stupidest person alive. At twenty-one I was amazed at how much he had learned in 7 years.”

Posted by: Linda H. at January 3, 2007 1:41 PM
Comment #201315

liberal demon-

great comments…i enjoyed reading them. I think your point about people not being social in real life (like in the waiting room) hits the nail on the head. All we are doing is giving people what they want. Is it good or bad? Who knows? But people must live and act for themselves, and making and learning from mistakes is part of our society’s evolution. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because at least we know that if our nation or way of life fails, we can only blame ourselves.

The world does not need another “war” to pre-emtively change behavoir through fear. (The wars on drugs, poverty, etc.) It just doesn’t work.

1LtB-

You just nailed one of my biggest pet peaves: the idiot dad. I think it really boils down to one thing: advertisers have learned that women are more likely to watch, relate to, and be influenced by TV commercials. Most commercials other than the sex and sports themed ones really do seem to be aimed at women. I saw this trend start in the 80’s. Soon I began commenting that every commercial on TV depicted the wife or mother to be the competent and stable one while the man fumbles his way through some easy task. It became much more than the norm…it became the universal TV commercial truth.

Then the TV shows started having success with bumbling dad types (Homer still rules though). Now it is a mainstay in almost all shows, at least to a degree. And now the shows on TV have been generally getting less original and less inspired over the last decade or so, I think it is safe to assume that we’re in for a lot more moronic dad characters before the horse is beaten into oblivion…which essentially means that women consumers begin to find it cliche or unfunny. That’s right…we’re at the mercy of the soccer moms. Scary huh? That’s why I stick to the science channels and sports if I can at all help it. I never tire of young girls drinking light beer to keep their figures.

Not to stay on the soapbox for too long, but I think you are definately onto something 1Lt B. I think that, whatever the complete reason is, the mere fact that there is zero incentive for TV to portray the American male as anything but embarrassing is a disturbing development in our culture. But, in the end, someone smarter than me believes there is money to be made, so I guess we’re stuck with that double edge sword of free will again. Please people, start turning off the channel and avoiding products when something insults your intelligence. It really is the only way.

Jack-

“American mexican food” is NOT Mexican food. Not even close. Different cooking style, diff. ingredients, etc. So, to speak honestly, you do not like Mexican food. Please don’t insult my favorite food by associating it with that tex-mex crap they have back east and in many chains in the west.

Posted by: Kevin23 at January 3, 2007 2:17 PM
Comment #201319

Kevin23-
The deal is that the big media conglomerates sell to this certain frathouse demographic, the folks they call the Mook. The notion is to appeal to them, to make the culture to be ironic and everything.

However, if you overemphasize a certain kind of character, you do it at the expense of the meaningfulness of it. It’s nice to occasionally have a schlub who’s irresponsible and dumb, but emphasizing them alone will make them less captivating as characters, meaning they won’t have as much of an audience pull.

Then somebody will come along, and BOOM. The audience shifts. Rely too much on beating people over the heads with conventions, and you’ll end up on the wrong side of such a shift.

What you need are good characters, not conventional ones. If you can’t legitimately take the character in a plausible direction the audience hasn’t anticipated, then you don’t have all that great of a character.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 3, 2007 2:27 PM
Comment #201333

Come on Kevin23
Do not be so serious. A breakfast burrito from 7-11 is Mexican food. Just not very good mexican food.
I find some irony in that the most popular Mexican foods are not the high cuisine of Mexico but the foods of compesinos,trabahadoros. Things like Tacos,Burritos and tamales that can be wrapped up and taken to the fields. The equivelent of a ham sandwich.

Posted by: BillS at January 3, 2007 3:34 PM
Comment #201338

Stephen D-

I completely agree. I meant to write in my previous post that the vast majority of these commercials were initially popular simply because of the irony. There is, of course, an element of truth behind the Homer Simpson-esque caricature as well, but you’re absolutely right in that there is only so many times you can show some proud and bumbling guy hurting himself with his power tools while some woman just shakes her head and does what he couldn’t with the snap of a finger. Then it gets old and loses all novelty.

Characters are likable or interesting for all sorts of reasons. I think we’ve gotten into this groove where we feel like the only thing people will watch are certain types of characters with simple tendencies. Then most shows and movies bomb.

Posted by: Kevin23 at January 3, 2007 4:27 PM
Comment #201340

I always assumed the bumbling TV father came about because of a reaction against the idealized father of shows such as Father Knows Best. I’m no expert in TV history but I’d think All in the Family was a relatively early reaction against the convention of the wise father. After the role-shaking ’60s, the ’50s version of family life seemed like a fantasy.

I’m a bit surprised to hear people complaining of the bumbling father now. Maybe I don’t watch the same shows, but in the dramas I watch, there is no bumbling father. Perhaps it is more of a sitcom thing — I haven’t watched a new sitcom in years (I got over the Simpsons long ago).

Posted by: Trent at January 3, 2007 4:44 PM
Comment #201371

Jack:
“I agree with you re culture options, but you hit the nail on the head when you said that people have to make the effort to explore them. Most people do not and will not.”

Perhaps you’re right, although it’s hard for me to understand why. Personally, I think it’s incredibly boring to watch TV all the time, because it just doesn’t stimulate to my own imagination enough. However, I do realize that a lot of times it’s far easier to turn on the TV, rather than seek out other more fulfilling forms of culture. Maybe it also has something to do with people being worn out after work, because clearly people do work much harder and longer hours these days, so maybe that makes TV seem a lot more relaxing than doing other things.

I also suspect that there are many people who are simply intimidated by the idea of exploring other forms of culture. They (wrongly) believe that immersing themselves in such things automatically makes them appear to be elitists, or they’re afraid they’ll be mocked by their peers, or they feel too timid and insecure, wondering whether they’re actually smart enough to be able to form their own opinions about such things.
I say Nonsense to all of the above. Because life is just too damn short to allow other people to define what culture is and what it can mean to them personally.
As writer and mythology professor Joseph Campbell famously once instucted: “Follow Your Bliss.” I agree with that. I think whatever appeals to someone, what ever excites their mind and imagination is the kind of culture that’s going to enrich and enhance their life from the moment they open themselves to it. I believe people should just start exploring, ignore everyone who is critical of their choices, and try to start trusting their own unique mind and tastes in these things. Because before they know it, they’ll see their senses growing and expanding, and very naturally becoming more sensitive to all the amazing human creativity out there — the old stuff, and the new stuff.
Once people reach that stage, they might even take it a step further by making their own contributions to our American culture.
As a professional artist (who has taught art to many people through a volunteer organization) and an aspiring writer, who is married to a (IMO, brilliant) musician and songwriter, I encourage people to go for it if they’ve got the urge and the itch make their own statements. And if possible, I hope they’ll take their kids along on their creative journeys when they go — because kids are always so inspired by the things their parents do.

“Never before in human history have so many people had such easy access to the wealth of world culture. Many people will not take advantage at all.”

I know, and I think that’s tragic.

“Among those who do, intelligent people will make different choices. We may be equally well educated, but if your passion is Sanskrit and mine is Classical Greek, we may not be speaking the same language.”

I agree completely, but yet, it’s great to know people who speak a “different language”. Often they teach you and you teach them very interesting and fascinating things — stuff that neither of you would ever get a chance to learn about otherwise.

“TV had the advantage of being a great equalizer. Everybody could watch and with only limited TV choices many people watched the same things and thus had a common vicarious experience.”

While I agree that it’s nice to share experiences, I don’t think that all of us having the exact same ones is always necessary to keep our culture going strong. As I said in my comment above, sometimes not sharing certain knowledge gives people something new and exciting to discover and explore at a later time. You know?

Rocky:
“It was about community, and I think community is what’s missing in society today.”

I can’t agree, Rocky. Where there is no community, people have either got to find one, or reach out and try to make one. Being isolated is sometimes a choice, but I think most people want to get to know their neighbors, at least a little bit. And there are definitely specialized communities that exist which are made up of people who are passionate about all kinds of different things. I’ll give you an example, I mentioned that my husband is a musician, well there is a whole community of musicians and fans of instrumental surf music here in Northern California (and often people bring their kids to the shows, too). Over the years, my husband and I have gotten to know a great many of these people. And from those people, we then began to meet other surf musicians living all along the Pacific Coast who come to do gigs here, and likewise musicians from all across the country, as well as instrumental surf muscians from many other countries. Many of these people have been our houseguests, because it’s often too expensive for them to always stay at hotels. Of course, maybe because instrumental surf is a rather small musical niche, it’s become such a tightly knit community of people, but I don’t really think so. I’ve gotten to know a lot of artists the same way, and I’ve got a friend who is into Art Cars and I understand that this too has a community that has grown up around that particular obsession. What I’m getting at here is that community doesn’t just refer to the people you live closest to, it can often have something to do with what people like doing best.
Btw, I consider those of us who post here on Watchblog as also a unique kind of community.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 3, 2007 7:49 PM
Comment #201376

Adrienne,

My point as about the fact that at one time every child in the neighborhood was every one’s child, that we were all looked out for, and if there was mischief afoot every child’s parents were only a phone call away.

That sense of looking out for each other is pretty much gone today.
I mean, how many mothers today could accept that they may, at any time in the afternoon, be descended upon by 10 or 12 boys coming back from a ball game?
For that matter how many mothers are even home when their own children come home from school?

Jack speaks glibly of choosing video game platforms, yet these “games” are an unnecessary luxury.
How many parents are working extra hours to give their children these perks (designer clothes, video games, video players, TV sets (with cable or satellite of course) that would be better served by actually spending time with their children?
Our society has dictated that any parent that isn’t supplying their children with these luxuries is a failure to their children.
Keeping up with the Jones’ now starts with keeping up with Dick and Jane.

And that, is a sad commentary on the state of American society.

Posted by: Rocky at January 3, 2007 8:53 PM
Comment #201387

Rocky

Some things that we had we can no longer give ot kids. Like you, I spent a lot of time outside as a kid. We would just wander around, swim in the lake, play by the RR tracks. Any parent who let their kids do that today would get arrested.

Society is also more mobile and dangerous. We could play in the streets because few cars went by because many people did not have cars. Now traffic is everywhere.

We also knew who was who. There was a perv who lived down the street. We all knew to avoid him. Now you do not know who are the pervs.

We also had mothers at home most of the time. We now have two income households. Society has really changed. Many of the changes are caused by thing we think are good.

Posted by: Jack at January 3, 2007 9:34 PM
Comment #201388

Jack

My son plays Worlds of Warcraft with similar stories of friendship. It has also, oddly enough, given him a terrific sense of direction and awarness in that the game does require you to remember locations and the different ways to reach each location. He has demonstrated this ability as my 2nd back street driver.

Dave 01-20-2009

I am very surprised that my son is balanced in his reading, sports, and gaming. However, like any of us he sometimes over does it with each one.

Posted by: Edge at January 3, 2007 9:39 PM
Comment #201389

Jack,

“Like you, I spent a lot of time outside as a kid. We would just wander around, swim in the lake, play by the RR tracks.”

And you and I probably have a fuller life for it.

There are more pervs on the Internet than you or I would have ever had to deal with wandering around. I don’t know about you but I did my wandering with my pals, we were seldom alone to get into “trouble”.

Posted by: Rocky at January 3, 2007 9:42 PM
Comment #201421

Kevin23, Trent,

Good points about the idiot dad. There are good father role-models out there, Frasier’s dad from Frasier etc, but they seem to be few and far between. In a larger sense, it seems like the trend of TV and entertainment in general has been the dumbing down of the American male, at least in comedy. More and more men seem to me to be depicted as either fools or jerks who callously disregard the welfare of their children and wives. I also think there’s some difference between an Archie Bunker and a Homer Simpson and a Peter Griffin. Archie was an archtype of an ignorant and bigoted man, but one never doubted his love of Edith, even if she was a dingbat, or of Gloria. His fault was ignorance, which I think of a different from stupidity. Homer Simpson is a moron, but he at least seems to have the best interests of his children at heart, when he can overcome his laziness. Peter Griffin, on the other hand, is not only stupid but malicious as well.

Rocky, Jack,

Good posts. I don’t have any children yet, at least that I know of, but I’ve already made up some rules I intend to follow. There will be one TV in my home, and it will be in the living room where I can monitor it. Same thing with the computer and any video game system. If I send my kids to thier room, it will be a punishment, not an excuse for them to rot thier minds. If its nice outside, the kid(s) will be outside period. I’ll be damned if I have one of these kids whose idiot parents let them sit around all day eating ding-dongs and then wonder why they weigh 170lbs at 6 years old. Also, dinner will be a family affair, not group TV watching while eating.

I’m guessing that I’m a bit younger than most of the bloggers here, but if there’s one thing I hate that seems to be a hallmark of my generation is a “home” that’s more like a hotel. The parents and children never interact, the kids eat dinner in their rooms while watching TV or playing video games etc, its annoying. One more thing. When they finally do decide to ban corporal punishment, I’ll be dropping my children off at the judge’s house and telling him/her to raise them.

Posted by: 1LT B at January 4, 2007 4:54 AM
Comment #201424

Rocky,

No offense taken. My gripes were mostly local and I understand the need for some of these restrictions in some areas. In the area that I am talking about, schools did not allow children off campus during school hours and therefore these restrictions only came into effect for the local kids. It seemed so much paranoia to me, as the 12-18 year olds were mostly looking for a cold drink on a hot day or a snack to keep them going, not to rob the place.

A big complaint I have though stems from the idea that public schools have somehow become ‘private property’ and I have been told exactly that by teachers and other officials on numerous occasions. Large expanses of (tax-payer funded) open field that only the privileged few are allowed to enjoy, basketball courts locked down tight except for when the pre-approved teams had permission. Leaving kids listless and bored only invites misbehavior.

I would mostly agree with you on community, but I think that a lot of that simply has to do with free time. Most families require two bread winners these days and the times when a stay-at home-parent could afford to join the PTA, the neighborhood watch, throw ‘block parties’ and so on are long gone.

Trent,

Hemingway is still revered; I clearly remember being beaten over the head for weeks on end about the symbolism contained in the Old Man and the Sea by a certain teacher who never heard Freud’s admonition that “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Sometimes a fish is a just a fish as well; anything more and it becomes tedious, the art lost in the contemplation of the brush stroke.

You are more than correct on civics education in our schools, and I would add current affairs to that as well. I remember sitting in class, learning about the fur trading posts in the Pacific Northwest and wondering when we were finally going to get around to discussing something important and relevant…in many ways we never did. In the same way that history is more than wars, our nation is more than commerce and our lives much more than time to be spent.

Kevin23,

Thank you. And you’re right, consumerism and transactions are now the glue which bonds our society together. Sometimes I feel that it’s not quite sticky enough, but like you, I’ll leave the value judgments to others for now.

The world does not need another “war” to pre-emtively change behavoir through fear. (The wars on drugs, poverty, etc.) It just doesn’t work.

While my mind is aching to expand on this, I’ll leave it at what you said and wholeheartedly agree.

Regarding the ‘idiot male’ character, I really think that this is, in some ways, a response to the historical imbalance of power between men and women. In the same way that many film/television producers will now bend over backwards to create a high-minded and respectable African-American character (and his dim-witted or maybe just slightly ignorant Caucasian counterpart), so too are we finding women given a dominant role, where they receive some overdue recognition for deeds and responsibilities that our society took mostly for granted for a long time. Barring evidence of any real harm, I choose to sit back and enjoy the antics. Further, idiots are funny, but just try making a show where the wife is a clumsy ape and the man is all-knowing and competent at every task. The backlash wouldn’t cease until the show was not only cancelled, but the originals destroyed and flung into the deepest, darkest pit available.

Posted by: Liberal Demon at January 4, 2007 6:19 AM
Comment #201437

In a culture where so many people are isolated from each other, sometimes TV culture (knowing the words to a TV show’s theme song, for instance) is all we have in common. Sad but true.

Posted by: Rhea at January 4, 2007 10:07 AM
Comment #201442

LT,

You have a pretty good plan there, except for the corporal punishment part. There is never a need to hit a child, it just begets more violence as they begin to believe physical force is a preffered way of discipline. I have very well mannered children and have never spanked them. Do as you say (not: Do as I say not as I do) and they will follow a good path through their lives, not just because they’re scared of getting beaten but because they know it’s right. Of course, it’s easier just to give them a whooping.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 4, 2007 10:47 AM
Comment #201466

1LT B-

I have laid down similar rules in my house (No TV’s in the kids’ rooms, family dinner, etc.). I must warn you though, you definately do not want to make a child’s room the primarily place of punishment. If you do, they’ll never want to go in there…especially to go to bed at night. There is a balance, and trust me, you do not want to have to fight with them every night just so they’ll go to sleep. Some parents will then let the kids sleep with them…which only delays and increases the innevitable, and creates attachment issues. The other extreme is making a child’s room a sanctuary…a place where they can safely spend 12 hours a day indulging in their every naive or idiotic fantasy with the aid of technology. Kids need guidance. Left to their own devices, its only a matter of time before they screw the pooch.

I think in the end, it just comes down to honesty and consistency. Those two breed trust and respect. If they comprehend where you are coming from, and have a good sense of what behavoir will, and will not be punished by mom and dad, everything else is gravy (that is, unless you have terrible priorities or are a moral misfit yourself).

re: corporal punishment

I’m not for it or against it. Life is cicumstantial, and I think it would be extremely assumptive and arrogant for me to claim to know definitively that it never works. BUT, I will say this: if you hit your kid, you had better be damn sure (not just lost in the heat of the moment) that the child understands exactly why they are being punished in such an extreme fashion. Any well deserved beating must be completely foreseeable and, thus, easily avoidable by the child in the first place. Beating kids randomly or for having accidents almost guarantees problems expressing or mitigating their own aggression later on.

Liberal Demon-

Once again, I agree. The reality is that regardless of how certain trends annoy me or how much I feel they insult my intelligence, they must be working. For every perfectly reasonable rant on how sick a person is of seeing Paris Hilton on the cover of another magazine, there must be two more silently buying and reading it with some level of interest. So I guess I can’t conclude that it is good or bad to portray men as dumbasses for example. If it moves product, I’m all for it in the end. I just wish marketing firms would raise the bar every now and then. But apparently the most impressionable audience is stupid people…imagine that.

One process I’m familiar with is jury selection. The sad reality is that lawyers who specialize in this process are specifically looking for stupid and easily manipulated people, and they are extremely competent at finding them. I know one guy who is proud of the fact that he has never once selected a college graduate. Guess what? He’s one of the most successful trial attorneys I know. We all remember OJ, right?

Posted by: Kevin23 at January 4, 2007 12:57 PM
Comment #201480

Way to go young’ins!!!! (Kevin23 & 1LT B)

Children need to know the bottom line - and most would take a discliparian as a parent over a totally permissive one. Good disclipline shows that parents have honestly thought about thier children. This is of course, assuming the parents are consitant and have talked to each other about how they want to use disclipine.

One thing neither of you mentioned - love your children and make sure they know it. Talk to them like people instead of dumb-bells. And learn from them.

Posted by: Linda H. at January 4, 2007 2:44 PM
Comment #201484

Linda,

Why do you associate discipline with corporal punishment? Why do you feel it is a necessary component of discipline?

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 4, 2007 3:04 PM
Comment #201492

Dave

Different kids require different things. I do not believe in harsh punishment, but a little does make a difference. It does not even have to hurt.

My wife and I have a little difference. She believed in spanking and carried it out on sometimes. I believe it in theory, but never had occasion to use it. She is not really strong enough to hurt anybody anyway.

On the other hand, I believe in experience. If the kid is doing something stupid (but risking serious injury) I let him do it until he gets hurt. “Want to go down that slide that has been heating up in the sun since noon wearing your shorts? I don’t think so, but go ahead.” I do not step in unless their is gushing blood or broken bones. Why wife would always ask me why I didn’t stop them from doing … I always told her that now he knows why.

My round about point is that a little pain is okay. Sometimes a physical pain is better than the mental anguish caused by some other forms of punishment.

Posted by: Jack at January 4, 2007 4:02 PM
Comment #201503

Jack:
“On the other hand, I believe in experience. If the kid is doing something stupid (but risking serious injury) I let him do it until he gets hurt. “Want to go down that slide that has been heating up in the sun since noon wearing your shorts? I don’t think so, but go ahead.” I do not step in unless their is gushing blood or broken bones. Why wife would always ask me why I didn’t stop them from doing … I always told her that now he knows why.”

Jeeze Jack, that’s sick. IMO, waiting until there is gushing blood and broken bones is going too far. For instance, couldn’t you have just told them to test it out with their finger or hand first, rather than let them sear the backs of their sensitive little legs on a red-hot metal slide?

I personally don’t generally believe in hitting children (or dogs, for that matter) because they’re supposed to trust you and expect you not to hurt them. That being said, I do believe in spanking a kid for one reason only: if you see your child hitting or mistreating other people or animals, then I think they deserve to get a couple of spanks and to be asked how they liked that kind of treatment from somebody. Still, if they’re still hitting and mistreating others after reaching the age of eight or so, it’s probably a good idea to stop spanking them, and take them to a psychiatrist instead.

Kevin:
“Any well deserved beating must be completely foreseeable and, thus, easily avoidable by the child in the first place. Beating kids randomly or for having accidents almost guarantees problems expressing or mitigating their own aggression later on.”

Kevin, I think it’s important to make the distinction between a spanking and a beating. Those are two entirely different things. Beatings are never called for with a child.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 4, 2007 5:31 PM
Comment #201591

Dave1,

Seems the corporal punishment issue was intriguing to some. I do think that corporal punishment can be a good thing provided that its not done in anger, randomly applied, or overused to the point the child simply cannot be taught by it anymore. I would tend to use it more as a last resort than anything else, something to be feared but not often acted upon. In a larger sense, I have a few other thoughts on the subject. The first is that we as a society are creating more and more laws to punish parents for the misdeeds of thier children. I think the main reason for this is that not enough parents are doing their jobs properly and Americans, as a law loving people, now need something written down to do what decency and shame once did. It seems foolish to me to take away a viable method that’s worked since humanity was around from parents who now need more and more control over thier children to satisfy the law. Also, I somewhat relate corporal punishment to drug legalization or sex ed. Bear with me on this. The argument behind most efforts to legalize drugs or have sex ed taught in schools is that people will do this anyways, so better that they be educated and know how to protect themselves. I think many parents are the same way with thier children in that they either have struck them or been very tempted to do so. Finally, the main reason that I wrote about the corporal punishment thing was more to express my contempt for the idea that the government has the power and right to tell me how to raise my child provided I’m not abusive or otherwise unfit.

Posted by: 1LT B at January 5, 2007 7:20 AM
Comment #201596

LT,

I think we bascially agree. I don’t think corporal punishment should be outlawed, I agree that abuse is a different element, and I think current laws already make that disctinction. Of course there is debate and a variation of opinion as to where that line should be drawn. I was spanked only once as a child, and I remember it to this day, 40+ years later.

I don’t think drugs should be “legalized” although I think basic non-addictive drugs should be regulated but not as a felony. As an aside, I think tobacco/nicotine should be regulated as a drug, it’s worse for you than pot and far more addictive.

I have no issue with schools teaching sex-ed. It’s a valid public health issue and I see no reason to follow an ineffective religiously based mantra of abstinence only.

Jack,

Adrienne has a shared opinion with me on a reply to your last post, except for the “see if you like it” exception. I’d be more interested in knowing why they felt the need to hit in the first place and then explain the alternative choices that could be made. The one exception I’ve made is when my son was being picked on and hit by a bully at school. I explained that sometimes you just have to fight back. The next day he did and there haven’t been any problems since.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 5, 2007 9:18 AM
Comment #201614

Dave:
“The one exception I’ve made is when my son was being picked on and hit by a bully at school. I explained that sometimes you just have to fight back. The next day he did and there haven’t been any problems since.”

Absolutely agree, Dave. Sometimes kids have to fight back in order to escape being the target of a bully. And that gets right to the heart of why I think it’s a good idea for parents to automatically spank kids that begin hitting or mistreating others — to (hopefully) keep them from turning into the bully that all the other kids are forced to deal with.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 5, 2007 12:50 PM
Comment #201620

Adrienne,

I’ve come to understand that being a bully is not about the violence and force, but it’s to feel better about ones self. In my opinion hitting the child only reinforces the “violence as solution” model. Since I couldn’t resolve the other kids problems, beyond complaining to his dad (boy was that ever fun), I had to unleash the karate kid (not easy since he’s been admonished innumerable times to never use the martial arts except in practice and self defense, and this was self defense, etc…). I could go on for a long time on that situation, but I hope this is clear enough.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 5, 2007 1:18 PM
Comment #201624

Adrienne-

I admit that the word “beating” elicits much more drastic imagery than “hitting” or “striking”. Rodney King style beatings produce an entirely different result than a token backhand to the cheek or smack on the butt. Everything is circumstantial, but it really comes down to a parent keeping their eyes on the prize when administering punishment. A “beating” seems to exemplify a parent crossing the line between acting for the child and acting for themselves.

I can remember one time swearing at the dinner table and having my mother’s hand smack me in the mouth in mid-bite before I even realized what I had done. Guess who never swore at the dinner table again? Fact was, I got cocky and this taught me to have some degree of decorum…to think before speaking and to have a nose for context. I took a little offense to it at first, but I still remember it to this day, and my mother got exactly the result she wanted. I don’t see how anyone could call it the act of an “unfit” parent. I agree with 1Lt b in that the day a government official tells me I cannot use proven tactics in relation to my own kid, I will officially give them to the government to raise.

Dave1 and 1LT B-

re: drugs - legalize them and don’t pay for the resulting medical care. I like the analogy between government telling us that drugs are bad and government telling us that hitting a kid is wrong. There are indeed many parallels. Certainly both involve masking general beliefs and assumptions as universal facts.

All these issues have a common denominator: lie to people (kids included) only at your own peril.

Posted by: Kevin23 at January 5, 2007 1:56 PM
Comment #201629

“I’ve come to understand that being a bully is not about the violence and force, but it’s to feel better about ones self. In my opinion hitting the child only reinforces the “violence as solution” model.”

I love to be able to agree with you about this 100%, but I simply can’t. As I said earlier, I don’t believe that the vast majority of children need to be spanked — at all. That’s because you can reason and explain things to most children, and they’ll immediately grasp what you’re telling them and take it to heart. But, there are a small percentage of kids that this approach simply doesn’t work on. These are the kids who from a very early age seem to get a thrill out of making others (people or animals) suffer and feel pain, and are the kids who I feel need to get a spanking in the worst way. Because if a kid like this isn’t made to understand and learn to empathize by receiving a little of what they enjoy dishing out, that behavior will only get worse. Kids who become the bullying kind (for various reasons, low self esteem being one) are the types who relish exerting power and control over others more than the average child, therefore, they need to learn several things from the moment they display this kind of behavior: First, they have to experience a little of the same sting of what they’re dishing out feels like, followed by the parent asking them how they like it. Secondly, they need to know that their parents will is stronger than their own, and that hurting others and being violent is entirely unacceptable. Third, not only do they get a spanking, but some favorite activity or thing must be withheld for awhile as a result of this incident. This reinforces the idea that there will always be serious reprecussions for hurting other people, beyond the quickly fading humiliation and sting of a spanking.
Understand, I’m not suggesting whupping the hell out of any child, ever. What I’m saying is that when kids are little, and begin showing the first signs of being able to disconnect from what others feel when they lash out, that’s when a spanking and carefully chosen discipline can teach a kid like that a vitally important lesson.
And as I said earlier, if parents can’t curb this kind of behavior in their kid by the age of around eight or so, there may well be a more serious problem causing that behavior that will likely need some professional attention.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 5, 2007 2:14 PM
Comment #201630

re: bullies

If you’ve done your job well, a young boy (I can’t speak for girls) should have good instincts about when they should or should not fight. I got into several fights as a youngster, and was jumped once by 6 kids. Only once did I fight at school and I was suspended for several days as a result. But my father, who never held back when he thought I deserved it, didn’t even admonish me for it. He could tell from my actions and my reactions that the incidents were tramatic enough as they were. He knew that I was not the type who picked fights, and he knew that I was often an arbitrary target since I was literally one of the only white kids around. He also knew that punishing me would not teach me anything, but rather just create more bitterness and resentment. I simply told him the truth (which was never contradicted) and he trusted my judgement.

Dave1-

I guess this relates to your son’s story in the sense that your son probably tried everything he could think of before resorting to fighting. Since you knew this, you did not view the conflict as unnecessary. Its damn unfortunate, but sometimes a physical altercation can show a bully that you won’t be an easy target, and at the same time re-inforces to a good kid the reality that fights are to be avoided at all costs as they are not fun. So, for a good kid, a fight is often its own punishment.

Adrienne-

I’m assuming your idea about hitting a kid only in response to their hitting someone else first is aimed at those who start fights. I’m not sure I totally agree with the bright line rule. I can say that violence begets violence. It may work several times due to the shock factor, but I have the feeling that a boy will eventually start to feel cathartic about it. I think re-framing is a better approach. Seperate them and make them both realize what they did wrong rather than upping the ante before they have that chance.

Posted by: Kevin23 at January 5, 2007 2:37 PM
Comment #201635

Adrienne-

“These are the kids who from a very early age seem to get a thrill out of making others (people or animals) suffer and feel pain, and are the kids who I feel need to get a spanking in the worst way.”

Usually these kids have bad role models at home, or a shaky foundation of honesty and consistency to begin with. These are not kids who respond well to being spanked. They need better guidence on a day to day basis. They need their parents to be more involved in teaching them right from wrong. It takes years of informally reinforcing good behavoir and punishing bad behavoir before a kid can fully understand.

There is nothing magic about a spanking other than the shock value which forces a kid to fall back on what they know will please others and put them back in the good graces of mom and dad. Kids that terrorize other kids and animals are well past this point and have little foundation to fall back on. I’m not a huge fan of family therapy, but it seems much more appropriate under these circumstances than most others. They’ve got to build that foundation, maybe even from scratch.

Or rather than spanking the kid, maybe someone should publicly spank the parents for letting their kid grow up with an ethical handicap. In fact, it is even worst than other forms of neglect. But I’m sure the ACLU would ruthlessly defend these parents’ right to reproduce without assuming a responsibility for their morality, all while criminal lawyers and child “experts” across the nation excuse or justify the criminal acts of these children solely based on the fact that they grew up in abusive households.

We’re just treating the symptoms and not the disease…as usual.

Posted by: Kevin23 at January 5, 2007 3:06 PM
Comment #201638

“violence begets violence.”

I agree, if that’s all the message of being spanked consists of — of the parent exerting the same kind of violence on them without following it up by explaining and clearly demonstrating what the parental expectation is in no uncertain terms: never hurting others on purpose, unless it’s in self defense.
I’ve known people whose parents never made this clear to them. They were the kind of kids whose parents repetitively and whiningly begged their children to stop being bad, or alternately made excuses for their kids — while they beat the crap out everyone in the neighborhood, and laughed while torturing any dog, cat, bird, frog etc they could manage to corner.
These are the kids who, had their parents had been doing their job from when they were very young, would have adminisistered a few well placed smacks to their behinds from the first moment they started up with their sick, anti-social behavior, added further disciplinary action to back up their complete disapproval, and made them understand that THEY were the ones in charge, not the kid.
It’s about taking responsibility, so that the child will grow up to be responsible themselves.

Btw, the same is true of training a dog. If you don’t nip any bad behavior in the bud from the very beginning, communicate your expectations, and assert your dominance as the one in charge, you will end up being your dog’s pet, rather than having a well behaved friend and loyal companion.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 5, 2007 3:20 PM
Comment #201645

Dave,

Why do you associate discipline with corporal punishment? Why do you feel it is a necessary component of discipline?

HUH??? No where in my comment did I mention corporal punishment. In fact I avoiding matter very carefully, as I bleive it has to be up to the parents to decide. Try learning to read.

Posted by: Linda H. at January 5, 2007 3:57 PM
Comment #201646

Adrienne, Kevin,

I guess it comes down to the parent; how does the parent express their love of their child within the “discipline” component of parenting? How does the parent know what to do? Through their experiences, good or otherwise, from their upbringing, and their subsequent learning. I wasn’t spanked, I’m OK. And, I won’t spank, for that reason and the ones above I try to only use positive reinforcement. I think we do all agree on the fundamental: Children must have discipline. How else will they grow up well?

Kevin;

You’re right that my son tried everything he could think of before coming to me about the issue. I’m also glad he resisted a physical response. He was actually more afraid of hurting the other kid than anything else (even though he was in 2nd grade and the other kids was in 4th).

Adrienne

These are the kids who from a very early age seem to get a thrill out of making others (people or animals) suffer and feel pain, and are the kids who I feel need to get a spanking in the worst way.
I think I’ll leave that to the psychiatrists to answer whether sociopaths are born or made. Dahmer apparently had capable loving parents but exhibited the above behaviors.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 5, 2007 4:05 PM
Comment #201648

Dave1,
To satisfy your apparent interest in my view of coproral punishment, I will tell you how I raised my daughters.

At the age of 2 and 1/2, Anna, my oldest, decided it was great fun to climb on my stove. After talking with (NOT AT)her, then time-outing her, I finally popped her, rather hard on her diaper, in front of her siblings. She never climbed on the stove again. Interestingly enough, neither did her sisters.

Because she was placing herself in danger of serious injury, I felt that the only responsible thing I could do as a parent was to make sure she associated the stove with pain.(but not the burning kind) I decided then and there that if necessary to avoid serious injury to my child or someone else, I would spank, after first trying the above mentioned talking with, (NOT AT) and time-outing. Fortunately I never had to spank again - but then they all knew I would if I had too.

About 5 years later, this same child attempted to lie to me, and incriminate innocent people in her lies. I hauled her down to our local police station, and they placed her in an empty jail cell (exactly all were empty at the time) for about 30 sicends. Fortunately I was able to do this because we lived in a small town, and I knew the Chief as well as all the police officers.

This same child is now an A.D.A and I am very proud and close to her. (Of course I’m proud of her sisters as well!!!)

Posted by: Linda H. at January 5, 2007 4:28 PM
Comment #201651

Linda,

You answered my question, thanks.
As for your snide remark, maybe you should try learning to write:
def’n: corporal punishment
–noun
2. physical punishment, as spanking, inflicted on a child by an adult in authority.
You posted:

Way to go young’ins!!!! (Kevin23 & 1LT B)
LT clearly supported spanking, how is your support of them supposedly an avoidance of corporal punishment?

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 5, 2007 4:58 PM
Comment #201779

You’ll get more than a snide remark from me if you don’t READ what I actually wrote. I even quoted it again below for you. And my way to go remains - because at the time both Kevin 23 and 1LT B were talking about raising their children - using discipline.

I still maintain that each child is different and each set of parents needs to decide how they will raise their children. Corporal Discipline must be a decision made carefully between hopefully two parents, and what ever discipline is chosen should be consistently enforced.

Way to go young’ins!!!! (Kevin23 & 1LT B)

Children need to know the bottom line - and most would take a discliparian as a parent over a totally permissive one. Good disclipline shows that parents have honestly thought about thier children. This is of course, assuming the parents are consitant and have talked to each other about how they want to use disclipine.

One thing neither of you mentioned - love your children and make sure they know it. Talk to them like people instead of dumb-bells. And learn from them.
Posted by: Linda H. at January 4, 2007 02:44 PM

Posted by: Linda H. at January 6, 2007 5:48 PM
Comment #201836

“more than a snide remark”? Very nice. Or perhaps you’re just having a bad day? I read what you wrote, why don’t you read the three posts prior to the first time you posted it. Then, perhaps, just maybe, you’d have gotten my perspective.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 7, 2007 1:06 AM
Comment #201844

Jack: So often, we are are on opposite sides of the discussion. However, this time, our minds are at least in the same ball park. Just two days ago I had a long conversation with a former colleague, now retired, concerning our world and the world of the young. I think we feel similarly. However, I am now beginning to think that what we think as “common” wasn’t so common… what we think as common was merely common among those with whom we have associated… When I consider the past 40 years of working with undergrad types (18-22) at the military academy and in the university, I suspect us old folks haven’t always had the clearest perspective…. then, I consider the “Twilight Zone” generation and I see that not so many of our generation were really there in it…. many, like my parents and my siblings, didn’t have TVs…. This is what I see as common among my students over 40 years: a desire to make sense of the world as it is in light of the world as it is… and, finally, an understanding that reality has never been a matter of black and white…. What I see in my undergraduate students is a realistic ackowledgement that what we have most in common is our differences…. and that our differences are not that different…. If I had to describe my undergrad students of today, I’d say they are not willing to put the world into a dichotomous world view… they have more perspectives than I’m quite willing to be comfortable with… however, I have the suspicion that they are right… What I find most remarkable in my students is their willingness to consider what they do not understand and their willingness to reject simple, two-dimensional world views…. my current students are the most anti-discrimatory, anti-bigoted generation we have ever seen.

My former colleague asked an important question: How are we old folks to think about outselves in light that we are not old?… just older…. I reply: What questions should we have demanded answers to from our parents who were no more wiser than we…. Our parents did not tell us about getting olde because they didn’t know it was important to impart that information.

Jack, the only view is forward…. I hate to admit that being the “child” of the 50s/60s that I am doesn’t give me answers for the 21st century…. Nevertheless, the “gap” has always been there…. it’s just bigger now… and it requires us old folks to be wiser, to be smarter than our parents… and I hate to say that….

In the mean time, I’m going to put my Twilight Zone DVDs on… BTW, I can’t sing the first line of Gilligan’s Island… However, I do know the theme song of Petticoat Junction….

pax, R

Posted by: Dr. Poshek at January 7, 2007 6:34 AM
Comment #201918

So, sit right down and you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful ship…

Sounds like life.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 7, 2007 5:16 PM
Comment #202113

Dr. Poshek,

As a young boy, I found the introductory scene in Petticoat Junction showing petticoats flung over the side of the water tower irresitably titillating. Naked beauties in the water supply — oh my. Was the scene of the train with the huge column of steam shown directly after that? I never made the connection until now.

I’m afraid the comedy of Gilligan’s Island left me cold, but I had a huge crush on Mary Anne. So much for culture. …

Posted by: Trent at January 8, 2007 9:16 PM
Comment #202146

Trent: You’ll enjoy this: http://youtube.com/watch?v=9pkIKGbrvcE

I always found Uncle Joe a lot of fun as well as the doctor played by June Lockhart was fascinating back in those days when female physicians were so far and few between and outside my childhood experience……. There is a 20-episode DVD out now…. I just ordered it on Amazon.com…. in my old age, I like walks down Memory Lane from time-to-time….

pax

Posted by: Dr Poshek at January 9, 2007 11:11 AM
Comment #202155

I really feel depressed after reading this. At 17, i’m pretty self-outcasted BECAUSE I love the “Lost TV Culture”, and I am an avid reader, as well as an avid listener to old radio shows. I Have seen the Twilight Zone. And I DO know who most of those listed people were.
Just because the old shows and the literature is not as visible, it doesn’t mean that it is gone forever.

- Emilie Kent.

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