Thursday, April 26 2007

Guns for the Children

Interesting debate at Jeff Goldstein's site on the FCC's attempt to regulate violence on TV.  There are several interesting musings I have in this topic, but I'll only inflict one on you this evening.

In a previous post, I wrote that I thought that the correlation between the traditional groupings that divided a culture into subcultures (race, religion, ethnicity, etc.) were having less of an influence on what other groupings an individual belongs to.  There are some traditional ways of grouping individuals that are still valid predictors of what other groupings an individual belongs to, or, rather, there are traditional groupings that still can be predicted to a large degree by what other groupings a person belongs to and will continue to be predictable in the foreseeable future.  The one that interests me today is age.

Hobby and interest groupings often develop out of relationships with peers, and especially at the school and college ages when one has copious free time and associates with peers of the same age.

Almost everybody imagines the good parts of their own particular childhood as the exemplar of what a childhood should be.  I get around a table of gaming buddies (one of the hobbies in which I am an age outlier and in which there is a diversity) and in discussions of childhood, everyone had it best in their own particular childhood.  Everyone's TV programs were the best, everyone's movies were the best, everyones genres were the best.  One odd predictor of age I have seen is for those who like Mel  Brooks movies, which movie is the best.  People who were raised on a diet of Westerns like Blazing Saddles, people who grew up to Star Wars like Spaceballs, etc.  It's not a surprising observation as each of his movies was written to track to a particular genre.

How does this relate to violence on TV?  Those of us who remember being children in the 80's and 90's look at TV and already see a children's programming lineup reduced to mush by previous campaigns against TV violence.  Those of older generations constantly remind us of what we missed in the way of the good Looney Tunes cartoons.  The political affiliation of the poster doesn't matter except as in which group of politicians get most of the blame.  The liberals blame the social conservative fundamentalists, the conservatives blame the nanny state non-violent progressives.

The problem is the prime voting age population takes a look at the present situation and sees someone who claims they can make it right by getting all the garbage off of TV, without realizing that the garbage on TV isn't particularly worse then when they originally grew up.  I have my own theories that place some of the blame for the current cultural problems (which are relatively mild when you actually look at the symptoms rather than the hype) on TV, but not in the places where you would normally look.

Posted by: Civilis at 08: 44 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Monday, April 16 2007

James Bond versus the Conspiracy Theories

I like a good spy action movie, and for decent production values, few do the genre better than James Bond.  In addition to the normal Bond question (Sean Connery), an interesting question to ask when discussing the movie series is: which is your favorite Bond movie?

In my case, the answer is hard to say.  I like the one where the bad guy is trying to get the two big countries to go to war against each other by faking attacks between the two.  Tomorrow Never Dies?  No, the other one.  The Spy who Loved Me?  No, the other other one.  Diamonds are Forever?  The Living Daylights?  You Only Live Twice?

The plot is a fairly common one.  Two enemies, currently at a (relative) state of peace or at least a cold war, are pushed into a deeper conflict by a third party.  It's been done in anime (El Hazard is probably my favorite example).  It's been done with the third party being the good guys (Yojimbo / A Fistful of Dollars / Last Man Standing).  Just about every Saturday Morning Cartoon show has used the plot at one time or another.

How do we recognize this plot?  We look for one of two things.  One, the presence of a party to the conflict that is supposedly neutral that deals with both sides and profits from conflict between them.  Often an arms dealer or something similar, he first shows up about the time of the first incident that escalates the conflict.  Alternatively, a militaristic member of one faction willing to go to any length to get ahead of the traditional enemy and resentful of the more diplomatic approaches taken by the current power structure.  Once you see one of those in the plot, you know he'll be the ultimate cause of the war, and it becomes up to the heroes to deliver justice and stop the villain.

Where else do we see this plot?  The conspiracy theories that have sprung up around 9/11.   It all falls into place when you assume what the conspiracy theorists assume about the administration.  Each and every member is a wannabe General Ripper.  Depending on the personal bogeymen of the individual involved, the International Jooish Conspiracy, the Military-Industrial-Oil Complex, or the Fanatic Christianists take the role of the neutral third party.  If you know they're evil, you know there's a plot involved somewhere, or else there wouldn't be a story.  If there's no story, there's no way for you to be a hero.

This idea of fitting facts to a preconceived narrative is everywhere in the news.  If you see a poor minority woman claiming to be oppressed by a group of rich young men, especially rich jocks, you know that the narrative demands that the woman be the good guy and the jocks the bad guy no matter what the evidence tells you.  When the lone, plucky scientist stands up against big industry, he's always the good guy.  Its a tempting trap, and its one we all fall into.

To start, we need to examine the way culture at all levels shapes the way we think and act.  But that is a later discussion.

Posted by: Civilis at 07: 59 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Thursday, April 12 2007

Welcome to the Dork Side

To start with, how about an introduction to your guide to this cryptic repository of thoughts and musings?  I'll throw in some idea as to what I'm trying to accomplish by putting my thoughts on paper as a bonus.  Sound good?  Read on...

My nom de blog is Civilis.  Its supposed to sound somewhat Greek in the wise philosopher mold one expects of a sage, but it means nothing.  The origins might be explored somewhere down the line as an aside, but for now they mean nothing.  I am around 30, live in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington, DC, close enough that I have something of an up-close perspective on the workings of the Federal government, but not so close that everything I see is through the lens of federal politics (a common problem among many who live off the political or government sectors of the local economy).  I work in computer support at the local government level.  My serious interests are history, international relations, politics, and technology;  my hobbies are reading, games of all types, and anime.

I write for two seemingly contradictory reasons.  I often feel the need to put my thoughts down on paper, or at least in a digital representation that is reasonably permanent.  This is selfish and somewhat egocentric;  I have no reason to believe that my thoughts are any more brilliant than those of anyone else.  I also feel the need to put thoughts out there for comment or criticism.  Its only after they have had a chance to survive the ebb and flow of debate that they fully mature.

What I hope to accomplish with this blog is with the help of commenters come up with a coherent and rational understanding of modern culture and how all the little pieces fit together.  To that end, I intend to try to link my posts to previous posts to eventually arrive at the big picture.  Wish me luck.

And you're all invited along for the ride, by the way.  Heck, if all you want to do is admire the wreck, you're fine with me.  Pull up a chair and sit down for a while...

Posted by: Civilis at 05: 33 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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