Monday, February 24, 2014

The Insane Process of Filmmaking

If anyone has every worked on a film production, you have to appreciate this film. It's a little like what "Office Space" is for corporate workers, only for film productions. In fact, some of those frustrations that you find in working on any collaborative projects, are explored and somewhat released in this film. And, it's just fun.

"Living in Oblivion", is a sweet little indie film (1995) written/directed by Tom DiCillo with Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney (Catherine's husband at the time), Danielle Von Zerneck, James Le Gros, and Peter Dinklage as the "dream dwarf", or, maybe not.

The guy with the clapper board on set, Ryan Bowker, is the guy who pulled this idea from Tom in just a few minutes at an event they both happened into one day. They had both been in acting classes together years before and when they ran into one another again, Tom had previously produced a failed film called, "Johnny Suede". So Tom gave him the role as the clapper board guy.

The idea came to Tom though because Ryan was so happy to see him because he knew he had actually produced a film. Tom's experience on this was so bad (the film only ran one week and because of that he lost financing for his next planned film, stagnating his career for a while), that he came off at Ryan about what a pain film production is. And that's when the idea hit him for, "Living in Oblivion".

I say again, if you've experienced the set of a film being made, you have to appreciate this film. Tom talks a lot about the technical difficulties and he explores that in this film. I can relate. I can really, relate.

I got my university degree in Psychology. But I also got a minor in creative writing that involved a year of a special screenwriting class with eight specially chosen other writers, from a previous playwriting class we all had together. Before that though, I shot a film for two of my Psychology Professors on Phenomenology. That was really my first experience in a film production. As a kid I was the go to guy for our family for our home movies whenever we would watch them. I learned to use a film splicer for 8mm. 

In high school I had a couple of years of Audio Visual where you got to run media devices for classrooms whenever a teacher needed the equipment. Then came my college experience. I was using a reel to reel half inch black and white video tape camera whose vidicon tube was really beyond its years of use. This equipment had really been run through its paces and were at the end of their life cycle. But I didn't know that. 

My first day of shooting was driving through downtown Bellingham, Washington. These were not small cameras and were attached by thick cords to the reel to reel. It had a battery in it so it could be used remotely which was great, but only lasted about a half an hour before needing a charge again. I was trying to drive, direct (that is find interesting things to shoot) and drive. At several points I nearly drove off the road and one time in particular, literally scared the hell out of myself in almost losing control of the car. But I got the shot!

My next shot was at the beach just south of Bellingham in a suburb called, Fairhaven. Essentially a community of ex hippies who moved there in the 60s and now they had kids who were going to college. It's a nice little community almost on the beach. I went down to the beach and found a sign that warned about "red tide" and said do not pick the shellfish. The shot had large storage tanks nearby for waste sewage or something and I really liked the composition of the shot.

So I have the tripod set up, the camera mounted, the reel to reel running and I was getting footage of the scene shooting out toward the Puget Sound waters. As I was shooting I noticed a family, parents and a couple of kids, picking shellfish. I looked at the sign. As they walked past me I asked the father if he had seen the sign, but he just said, "Naw, I don't pay any attention to that, it doesn't mean a thing."

Okayyyy.... Well, maybe he knew what he was talking about. One could only hope. I got about fifteen minutes of footage there. I was pretty happy at this point.

Then I took it home. I had gotten enough footage outside all over town. Then I was going to shoot footage inside. Then I realized that there was no way to hook up a microphone. There was a plug in but it wouldn't work with my microphone which was a normal 1/4 inch jack. Not wanting to admit defeat, I got out my electronic tools and wired together something that would work. During this production phase I came up with a paper with a light behind it and an embossed insignia (just happened to be my family name), but it looked cool. 

I had noticed while shooting around the town that I was having problems with the camera equipment. Before I got to doing any shooting indoors, I ended up at school that next day. So I went to the A/V department where I had checked out the equipment and asked them. What's up with the battery on this thing. Do you have another better one? I got a shocked look. 

It would seem that none of the batteries worked anymore and they had pulled all of them. You had to plug it in for it to work. But I had a battery. He said I shouldn't have one, but that would explain any problems I was having. They were getting new equipment to replace all this ragged stuff, next year. Which was too late for me.

Then I got a cold chill. After school I hurried home and ran the tape back and sure enough, the battery had enough power to run, but not record. All that footage I had shot, the risked possibility of driving into a telephone pole, the ironic footage of the family gathering allegedly tainted food on the beach, was all lost. I was crushed. 

I pulled myself together (a couple of days later) and realized I would have to plug it in, limiting me mostly only to indoor shots, and that was that. So I had to start all over again on my theme. I only had the equipment for a weekend at a time and each time might get me different equipment. One weekend I had a camera where the vidicon tube, which you should never aim at a bright light as it would make a permanent burn in on the tube. Then you would have ghosts in your frame when you record. 

This one weekend I received the worst camera I had used, with lots of these burn ins leaving it almost useless for me, so I got this idea. I noticed that if you did aim it at streetlights and moved the camera, you'd get trails. It looked like UFOs in the night sky. Which, was awesome. Things started to pull together and in the end, I got the film done, turned in and was done with it. 

Then I found that one of my Professors had shown it to all of his classes. He did that to me a lot, I'd turn in a paper one day and later find he had shown it to all his classes as a handout. The film needed an actor in one part, I had decided and no one was available in my time frame with the camera. So I thought I could use myself. Why not? No one but the Prof.s will see it. So I did.  

I became an instant semi celebrity around campus. Lots of attractive women would stop me between classes to talk to me, argue my theme, and so on. I was living with my long time girlfriend so all these interruptions weren't doing anything but making me late to my next class. So it was kind of lost on me at the time. And I was not pleased with the overall quality of the film. Luckily, it was a pass / fail kind of class. I passed.

Film production. What a nightmare. I figured my next turn at it would be much better. 

In 1984 just after graduating college, I had moved down from Bellingham to Tacoma. My sister's husband Joe, called one day to ask if I wanted to go with him to the Stanley Kramer film production series of seminars at Bellevue Community College. I was stunned and excited to think of meeting the famous director. I was broke, just out of college and Joe paid my $150 for the seminars. Thanks, Joe! [By the way, for the last few years Joe has been running Live it Out Loud!, an awesome kind of day band camp for teens.] It seems Mr. Kramer had moved up here to retire and be around his daughter and family and wanted to teach at the college. It was a fascinating set of Saturday's to sit and listen to a film legend. Needless to say, it was re-energizing in my love for film.

By 1986 I had split up with my girlfriend and moved up north to Seattle. One day a film crew was shooting the pilot to the new TV show, Starman, from the feature film with Jeff Bridges. I ran into them on the way home from work, on Queen Anne Hill. I heard them talking and they said they would break and then head to the Seattle Center for night shooting. So I went home, ate, and ran down to the center. It was amazing. The rides there were all running just for background for the show. They guy I saw with the walkie talkie up on the hill would give an order and all the rides would start up or stop.

The location guy in charge kept walking by me and seeing me just sitting there watching it all. He stopped one time and asked if he hadn't seen me on the hill earlier that day and what was I doing? I said yes, and that I had studied screenwriting but never been on a set. He said to follow him and we went beyond the security guys up to the monorail platform where the lights and camera were set up. He put me just behind the camera to the side of the director and I got to sit there all night and obverse. I learned a lot just from that one night. It was also kind of fun in that many of the crew kept looking at me like, who is this guy?

In the late 80s early 90s, I was involved with a project from the Psych Department at the University of Washington. My wife at that time was running one of the computer labs for the project, and I worked for MCIS at the UW and would help her out in the lab sometimes. We became friends with the head of the project and one thing led to another and my wife, our nearly four year old son and I were the subject of a BBC documentary. It was an interesting and difficult week to be the focus of a project like that, and that doesn't say anything about how fascinating the actual Psych department's long term project itself was. And so, I got to learn just how "real" a reality show could be, or not be.

Years later I became a public cable TV producer in Seattle. It was the wild west of the cable industry in about 1992. There were shows on like a girl that interviewed people, only in her bikini in hot tubs around the Northwest. Another with a woman who was naked and danced around candles. There was a garden show that was very low quality but ended up as a real cable show on a real cable channel years later. 

I was again lacking help to do a production,  but I convinced my best friend to do a film of some sort with me. He was being difficult. He didn't want to do it. I made a mistake in not using the resources of other producers and film makers at the station but I wanted someone I knew I could trust. We finally agreed on doing a documentary on his favorite topic. An old TV sci fi show, as it just happened to be its twenty-fifth anniversary. And he would do anything to talk about that show. 

As it turned out, he would be the host and narrator. He looked okay on camera but his speech skills weren't so good. He just wasn't an actor. As time went on he got better, though. But rather than using a script, which would have most likely made it more difficult for him, he just winged it. Which was okay, in that he was an expert in this area, but he hesitated at times. So I had trouble, to put it mildly, with the talent. And then, I was the entire crew.

We finally realized at one point that we needed an interview segment with him. That meant, even though I made it clear I never again wanted to appear on screen, I was going to have to, just to make it feel more natural. I fixed that in post. I interviewed him, then took some pick shots of me that would blend in. Not a problem.

One principle shooting was done, it was time to edit. I was the editor. I had Panasonic machines and just had to reserve time and show up to do it. It was professional equipment and I was very excited, after the University experience, to use real equipment. So I got to it. I could only do it in blocks of time within what was available so usually that meant only two or four hour blocks. It took a while, needless to say. 

One day I showed up to edit and the editing machine was gone. They had like six editing bays so that wasn't a problem. Right? I asked them and they said that machine #8 had been sent to California as it needed work. Something, was wrong with it. So they pointed me to another bay and I got to work. Except that, the other machines wouldn't correctly recognize my master tape. Oh my God! I asked when the machine would be back and they said a couple of weeks or so. 


In the meantime I had met this girl. Eventually, I moved in but for now, I was just spending a lot of time over there at her place which was in another town and so I'd spend the night sometimes. After a few weeks of that, I moved in with her, later we married, bought a house and ten years later got divorced. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I finally had to go back and see if the machine was back and finish editing. It had been a few weeks now and I was hoping it would have to be back by now. I don't remember but I may have called to check if it was back yet. So I signed up for some editing time and went back to finish the project.

I got back to the editing bay and there it was, good old machine #8. I got a feeling of elation. But now, would the old master tape work? I pushed it in and sure enough, it worked. I finished the cuts, finished the music overlays, the titling and (I may have had to go back one more time or so), I was done. I was overjoyed. I turned the tape in, schedule it for playing across the Pacific Northwest and waited for the premiere day. 

Finally the day and time came and I sat with my girlfriend and we watched the show. Then, there it was, on TV! Pretty cool! The quality wasn't what I had hoped, but it was all there, all that we had wanted to say, to show, to tell people about his favorite show. I did realize that I would like to have re-shot the whole thing, redoing what wasn't that good with what I had learned through the entire process. Maybe use a script and reader cards, for instance. But it was all good. 

Except for one thing. 

About half way through it, I realized that there was no background music whatsoever. At the end where the titles ran, there were the music references. But no music. What happened? I went back to the station and got the tape and rescheduled it to run again in a week. I took it back to the editing bay and listened to it again. And there it all was. All the music sounded great. But then I took it to another machine, a regular player not an editor. And no music! None! What the hell?

So I took it back and dropped it off. It ran its last time on cable TV and then I took it home and put it in a box. 

Film production, especially if you are doing it low budget, especially if you are using free help (as Tom mentions on the second audio track on the DVD of "Living in Oblivion"), or no help and doing it all on your own, can be misery. And even if everything is going well with the talent, there are always technical difficulties. 

After all this, would I like to direct a film? I don't know. I do enjoy writing screenplays. I can't say I have a great desire to be on the set or in charge of something on the production. Other than writing. And I'm good at writing on the fly, should things suddenly need to be redone. There are so many parts to film production that, it's a bit insane, really. 

Stephen King on the set of directing the film Maximum Overdrive (1986) with Emilio Estavez said that film production is insane and he hated it and didn't know how any film ever got completed, ever! I can understand that. I'll never forget the look in King's eyes sitting there at the camera on set that day in the middle of shooting.

Film making is a strange, surreal, sometimes psychotic and marvelous thing. 

Still, in the end, it is a marvelous thing. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Climate Modification by Nation States

I am not a conspiracy nut. I'm not a nut at all. I once had a therapist tell me that I was the most sane person he had ever met, and that that might have been part of my problem at the time. See, I was in the US Air Force back in the 70s and being sane in an insane environment, well, it can kind of make you loopy sometimes. I had a security clearance. Yay for me. Trust me, those are a big pain in the ass. Anyway, I got over it. Then, I really got over it once I got out of the service. That next year, was some ways. I was poor, the transition was horrible, but again, I got over it.

But that's not what this is about.

I've been hearing about chemtrails (not, contrails) for years now. I've heard both sides of the story. Mostly it sounds like a conspiracy theory. But then, like with UFOs, you can explain most of it away, then there is that hard little nut at the end, that tiny percentage, that is not explainable. So on the topic of chemtrails, I've been mostly dismissive, but had this tiny feeling that there just might be something going on.

Is it ridiculous to think this is true? Is there precedent? Surely there is precedent with the American government. This is the government whose CIA took civilians off he street, fed them LSD and threw them into a closet, just to see how they were react. We dropped Agent Orange in Viet Nam, on the energy, and out own soldiers. We have denied PTSD, we have denied Gulf War Vets could have anything wrong from the battlefields were they were exposed to all kinds of things. War, is dirty, after all. Projects like MKULTRA, Operation Midnight Climax (wikipedia), and others.

Like Operation Popeye (Wikipedia) during the Viet Nam war, known as "geophysical warfare". From the wikipedia article:

"Reporter Jack Anderson published a story in March 1971 concerning Operation Popeye (though in his column, it was called Intermediary-Compatriot). The name Operation Popeye (Pop Eye) entered the public space through a brief mention in the Pentagon Papers[9] and a July 3, 1972, article in the New York Times.[10] Operations in Laos ceased two days after the publication of the Times article.
The press stories led to demands from members of the U.S. Congress, led by Senator Claiborne Pell, for more information. U.S. House and Senate resolutions in favor of banning environmental warfare were passed as Senate Resolution 71 on July 11, 1973, H.R. 116 of 1974, H.R. 329 of 1974 and H.R. 28 of 1975."

Anyway, there's precedent. Yes, our government is capable of bizarre things (remember torture during the I don't know, past ten year or so?). Twenty-years ago I would have said no, we wouldn't do that. Yet, we have.

So what about motivation? For there to be a crime, cops, as we all know, have to find motive, opportunity and means. Well, the US Government has the capacity, it has the opportunity, and it certainly has the means. But what is the motive?

The motive is that although Republicans have been denying Climate Change for years now, inside our government, regardless of what the politicians say, those in charge of actually doing something, do things. They have to do things. That's what we put them there for, whether or not you know that.

There are many things we can and may already be doing. Planting trees, solar and alternative green energies, nuclear energy over coal, even painting your roof white. And there is certainly the other side of this conspiracy stuff, the "debunking" side on sites like the Skeptic Project. I've tended to lean that direction myself. Are they spraying reflective materials in our skies to offset climate change? Are they not? If you're not careful you can drive yourself nuts over this.

Sometimes, the government does do wrong things, usually thinking that it is right. Because of misplaced "good intent", bad data, bad management, greedy program managers (and don't get me started on the military industrial complex and their excesses and abused), or even a bad Zeitgeist, as with torture more recently. We got hit on 9/11 and we were angry, so HURT somebody and do it now! And, we did.

The motivation is certainly that scientists have been saying for a while that we need to do something. SOME thing. Now. And that the window for not being able to do anything, wherein something BAD would happen, is closing at an ever increasing pace.

It could slow down, it could speed up. They earth does wobble on it's axis. Things in nature aren't always progressing in a linear fashion (Remember dinosaurs? Exactly.). But if it passes a certain level (2%), we're screwed. Now that, could get a fire lit beneath certain government types. And if they have bad data, they will still act because it's their job to ACT.

The next question is, if this is true, is America doing it alone?

Sooner or later someone in charge will speak up. Someone in the government, typically ex government types as they have nothing to lose as they would were they still IN the government, are the ones we generally and finally, hear from. Someone will speak up. They always do. But when they do, will we listen, and if we do, will we believe them. Doesn't everyone always have another agenda? Actually, no, not always.

Especially with many of these ex-government types. To that, I can fully relate. When you're immersed in it all, you do what you are supposed to do, you hold you secrets as required by law until you can no longer stand it. So you leave, then you want to tell someone. But why would anyone believe you?

So, let's wait. Even though our lives could be on the line here.

Okay, that's long enough. Ex-Vice President Al Gore says use of geo-engineering to head off climate disaster is insane, as reported in the UK's Guardian newspaper. "Belief in an instant planet-wide quick-fix, such as blocking sunlight with sulphur, is delusional, US activist declares."

Oh, great. Right? That was from January 15th, 2014 by the way.

I've seen the chemtrail videos. Mostly very easily debunked. But like I said earlier, a few things are hard to explain. Like flight maintenance people wondering what nozzles on some planes were about, when there was no record of them, or need for them, to be there. Okay, could be nonsense. I don't know. See, that's just it, that's the thing about conspiracies. You don't know. It's hard to prove a negative. Until you have a positive to point at.

And that's what we're starting to see, maybe. The positives are starting to speak up.

Someone posted a video recently and I don't give maybe half of all this any credence to begin with, but once in a while there is something interesting, or someone that says something that you find hard to ignore. This is one of them.

Geoengineering And The Collapse Of Earth 2014

I don't know what to think. We need to keep an open mind, though. But suddenly, I'm feeling a wee bit uneasy about all this. Remember, just because you want to believe it's nuts, or it just sounds wacky, be skeptical, in both directions until the final evidence comes in. I've also seen some UFO videos recently and either they've gotten very good now a days, or there's some very unexplained phenomena going on out there. Yes, the tech is there to fake it, but there's some very credible people coming out talking about some very interesting things in recent years.

The best thing we can do is try to be informed. Not ignorant. Open minded, critical. Rational. And when the time comes, if not sooner, vocal.

Now, if only these aliens would come down and tell us how to affect climate change properly, without killing ourselves.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Today launches a new Giant Tales Horror Anthology, World of Pirates!

Today marks the official launch of a new Giant Tales anthology by Heather Marie Schulte titled, World of Pirates, and along within it my latest short story, "Breaking on Cave Island".

There's some back story about how this came to be.

But first, Happy Valentine's Day to you all! And best of luck with that....

I ran into Heather Marie Schulte's group on a LinkedIn writer's group, last year. It sounded like they were doing some fun and interesting things. I offered (submitted) a short short story for evaluation and got a "best tension" label on that short-short story titled, "The Regent's Daughter". Well, I thought that was fun. I was in and out of the group as I tend to be, commenting from time to time about one thing or another, until one day Heather asked if I would like to submit a story for the next book.

It was to be a pirate horror book and a part of her "Giant Tales" series of books: "Beyond the Mistic Doors" and "From the Misty Swamp" that I'm now happy to be involved with. I had never written a pirate story before. I thought it might be a good experience, though. A chance to stretch my skills and add to my catalog in a previously untrod upon and unexpected direction. But, could I pull it off?

The first thing I usually do at a time like that is to consider my past writings. Have I written something like this before? Do I already have an unused story that I could save time with and submit? The answer was, no. But there might be an old friend, a character I wrote long ago, who might fit this story very well. Maybe even as a prequel to his previously published adventures.

Typically, I look over what I have before I do anything else, as who knows, I may have forgotten I wrote a pirate tale before. Hey, I like pirates. I like the new Starz cable show, Black Sails. I grew up loving Errol Flynn in Captain Blood. As well as so many other films about pirates.

As far as my new story, "Breaking on Cave Island", if you like it and want to know more about the character, "Lord Ritchie", his continuing story is in my book, "Anthology of Evil" (2012). This character has a long and prestigious history going back to my university days at Western Washington University in the early 1980s. I always liked this guy and felt for him as life always seemed to serve him up a messy and undeserved path.

Now, who is this woman who challenged me to enter an arena I was unfamiliar with and who is putting out these fun books?

Another woman in the group, Rebecca Lacy, wrote an article on the "Women's Voice Magazine" site that I think states this clearly. It's an "Unsung Hero" article about Heather Marie Schulte, also owner of, a short story contest site where the entrants judge one another. Here's the article:

A Love Letter to Those Who Cheer for You to Succeed.

After reading Rebecca's article, I have to agree. Heather is indeed a positive influence (force) in the world.

Drop by and check out this new book, "World of Pirates", maybe even shed a few doubloons and see what you think yourself!

Then feel free to come on back and let me know what you thought of it.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sons of Anarchy producer Kurt Sutter slams show, The Devils Ride on Twitter

SOA's Kurt Sutter
I posted on FB about these "Devils Ride" guys the other day, the "reality" show, "The Devils Ride" a Discovery Channel show that follows some San Diego, Calif. "motorcycle clubs". According to insider info, it's all a set up and the opposing Motorcycle Club or MC known as SinMob, is registered under the name of the production company.

"Sons of Anarchy" producer, writer and actor, Kurt Sutter was well within his rights at commenting on "The Devils Ride", and also in ignoring a call to arms from the Laughing Devils MC on that show as well as their ex "Wonder Years" star Jason Hervey, who created the show (according to the article).

Sutter had tweeted: "Is 'Devil's Ride' still on? my thespians are harder than these b****es. don't take my word, ask any OMC in the f***ing world." He added after members of the "Devils" show responded negatively, "If your MC has agreed to become a show, you are now reality TV stars. you've traded legacy/pride for cash/fame. And you are in my circus," and, "I may have to buy all the devils chocolate valentine hearts. They're feelings are so hurt. Especially the fat one from 'The Wonder Years'.""

Yep, fully within his rights to speak up.

I have watched this season just to try and figure out what in the hell is going on there. Do I like the show? I don't know. Sometimes they are obviously acting (poorly), sometimes it appears very real. I keep watching it, but more like watching a train wreck, I can't stop. And that's what a reality show is all about. So I guess, in some way, they are successful. But will I continue once my curiosity is satisfied? That's the question.

The best I can figure is that it is a pro wrestler type show about MCs. What MC is going to allow themselves to be wired up for sound and video? If they all get thrown in jail soon, then I'll believe it's all real (or some of it anyway).

Last week the big shot local MCs showed up to tell the little MCs that they better stop bringing the heat from police through their actions toward one another. One of the "big guy" MC members outright clocked the leader of one of the smaller SinMob club and told him to get their shit together within 30 days, in their club interactions with the Laughing Devils. Or else. That wasn't a fake punch. It was a warning shot to wake him up but any Pro Wrestler or for sure, ANY UFC type fighter could have taken that blow and had a beer and a smile immediately after.

But it doesn't all fit, either. So I'm watching it next week, just because really, I don't have a clue what in the hell is going on with this show.

There's some interesting talk about the show online.

In a previous "insider" article I read and posted about elsewhere the other day (that article has been removed, which makes me think, 1 it was real, 2 I should have copied the text and not just the link), it was claimed that the member of the Laughing Devils who broke off and started their nemesis, the SinMob MC, was in trouble for child molesting his daughters after season one was over. So for season two , to protect the show he was immediately dropped from the show and now no one mentions him. Which is weird on a show like this. So something is up there, but never to be discussed again. Apparently.

I'm thinking that this new show is a hybrid, a new type of reality show. Most likely scripted, but with UFC type action at times. They are showing illegal activity, like stealing a car last night. So how can it be real? Right? It's documenting grand theft auto, literally. And as someone pointed out, how can they be using a bolt cutter on the lock on the fence when the film crew are already within the perimeter?

The "fights" aren't real biker fights from what I know about MCs going at it. It's like they're just trying to make it seem real, faux action. That is, people don't go to the hospital. Yet. And I don't mean by way of the action in the storyline, but from the "stunts", as those accidents seem to be on the rise in the reality TV realm, as the stakes get higher and higher.

This is, entertainment. But the "actors" or members, are putting themselves on the line a lot more than any actors normally would. The private stuff, like one member's situation with his wife, appears real. Is she an actress, is this real? Is it a hybrid of real and scripted? I can't find the center ground. Which in itself is intriguing. I view this all from a writer / producer's point of view. Is something new happening here? Or just something very old?

I'm an SOA fan. Between the two, I'd watch them. I'm a writer, I prefer scripted shows. There are few "actuality" shows on TV, like "Cops", one of the first. "Reality" shows are ALL at least partially scripted, or re-shot. I've been in a "reality" show myself, in a documentary many years ago before anyone was doing it. It was as real as you can get and even then, we were asked by the BBC film crew from time to time, to "just walk down the street again, normal like you just did, but we need to shoot it again because of the lighting."

I'm watching the show, for now, but I don't think it will last very long. My watching, that is. For the time being, I just want to see what the producers do with this "Devils" show.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Higher Achieving Kids in College, Ethnic, or Cultural?

Yale Law Professors who wrote "The Triple Package, The Three Unlikely Traits That Explain The Rise And Fall Of Cultural Groups In America", Amy Chua ("TigerMom") and husband, Jed Rubenfeld say in their book there are three environmentally oriented traits that are important:

1 a sense of specialness,
2 insecurity/self esteem (not to an unhealthy degree though), and,
3 impulse control.

Those studied with these traits do seem to do better than other groups or individuals without these things. At first it looked like this was an ethnic divide. Until they dug a little deeper.

A thirty year old experiment took children, gave them a marshmallow, asked them to wait fifteen minutes to eat it, and if they did wait, they would get another. Tracking these children over time, the ones with the impulse control were found to achieve higher degrees of success then the others.

So, I would suggest taking your child, offering them something they want, but waiting to have it with a reward of more, and if they can do it, great. But if they cannot do it, start giving them practice on building their impulse control until they can.

The other two elements are easy, let them know they are special, but be reasonable and rational about it. If the child doesn't believe that for good reason, help them to overcome that which makes that belief unreasonable for them. As for insecurity / self esteem, they need to have a desire to achieve, not to feel they are useless or horrible or their parents don't appreciate them; I find this one the hardest to consider.

Let's just say that someone very close to me in my past has these things, but to a degree that I believe is unhealthy. She achieved things, big things, but at the cost of personal relationships with others and her husband and children and in the end, things haven't seemed to work out so well. Why? I'd argue that we need to achieve, to persevere, we need to accomplish and to think well of ourselves; that is, to know that we are special. We also have to enjoy ourselves, and appreciate the journey, not just the destination.

The concept of "putting one's head down and blazing forward", working with little distraction, is destructive and an easy choice for many. Life isn't that simple. One has to stop and look around, consider, then adjust goals and direction.

Consider a ship Captain, leaving port, aiming for another port, then full speed ahead, no course adjustments. He'd never get to his destination and it would be destructive for the ship, the crew, the cargo and, himself.

Knowing this information is valuable however. Though it appears to be racial at first, it's not, it's environmental. After three generations, these immigrant families have assimilated to where they are not extraordinary any longer. So the argument for environmental orientation carries a lot of weight. Speaking of weight, these groups seem to pick up the laziness and weight gain of other Americans, albeit it, if not quite to the same degree, at first, that we know of.

We have a long way to go, but I will say that knowing something as important as the three traits necessary to achieve higher success, is an important piece of knowledge. As for the sloughing off after a few generations, that too is environmental and America will just need to start paying attention, and trying harder.

Not really a big surprise to anyone.

We have for some time now needed to adjust our thinking. To lose weight. Re-order our priorities and stop feeling quite so entitled. Entitlement should come from hard work and doing what is right. That being said, last year for the first time, childhood obesity rates are on the decline. Maybe finally, we are on the road to reclaiming our perceived, "greatness".

Monday, February 3, 2014

Increasing Food Allergies

Although nearly any food is capable of causing an allergic reaction, only eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the United States. These foods are:
  • Peanut
  • Tree nuts
  • Milk 
  • Egg 
  • Wheat 
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
The prevalence of food allergy increased by 18 percent from 1997 to 2007. - NIH

Estimated prevalence rates in the United States for individual food allergens include the following:
  • Peanut: 0.6 percent
  • Tree nuts: 0.4–0.5 percent
  • Milk and egg: no reliable data available from U.S. studies, but based on data obtained outside the United States, this rate is likely to be 1 to 2 percent for young children
  • All seafood: 0.6 percent in children and 2.8 percent in adults
Food Allergies on the Rise
  • According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.
  • The number of people who have a food allergy is growing, but there is no clear answer as to why.
  • Researchers are trying to discover why food allergies are on the rise in developed countries worldwide, and to learn more about the impact of the disease in developing nations. More than 17 million Europeans have a food allergy, and hospital admissions for severe reactions in children have risen seven-fold over the past decade, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).
So it all begs the question. Why are food allergies on the rise? What has changed from say, 100 years ago? Pre-ackaged foods? Food colorings? GMOs? Preservatives? Using chemicals rather than real foods to make pre-packaged foods last longer and be produced cheaper?