The Jessica Journals

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Introduction To What Will Probably Be A Really Long Treatise On Why Dr. Dobson's Child-Rearing Theories Suck

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Tapestry Of Power

What person who grew up in the American evangelical subculture within the last 30 or so years doesn't know about James C. Dobson? He's one of the foremost leaders of the evangelical subculture in America today. Focus on the Family, the non-profit organization he founded, produces a radio show of the same name that is played on over 3,000 North American radio stations and is heard by over 220 million people throughout the world.

He earned a doctorate in child development from the University of Southern California and, prior to founding Focus on the Family, worked as an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the USC School of Medicine and served on the Attending Staff of Children's Hospital Los Angeles in the Division of Child Development and Medical Genetics.

Given that background, it is not surprising that he has focused much of his attention on child-rearing issues. In 1970 he first presented his parenting philosophy to the American public in his best-selling book Dare to Discipline and has further expounded upon it in several of the over 30 books he has written in the intervening years.[1]

Being one of those American evangelical children, I was very much aware of Dobson and his influence. His magazines littered my house--"Focus on the Family", "Citizen", "Clubhouse", "Clubhouse Jr.", "Brio". My mother regularly listened to his radio show. I and my siblings watched the children's videos they produced and listened to "Adventures in Oddyssey" so much that, eventhough most of us have reached adulthood, we still remember intimate details of the show and have various inside jokes we tell each other about it.

There is much about Dobson's parenting philosophy that I disagree with, and, in the years since I became an adult, I have ocassionally browsed the internet for some critiques of his books and his philosophy. I have, however, been disappointed by the general quality of the critiques I have come across. Many of them have been cursory in nature and somewhat histrionic in tone.

As a result, I've decided to write my own critique of some of his work. Specifically, I've decided to focus on The New Dare to Discipline and The New Strong Willed Child because, it seems to me that, those two books most broadly explain his views on child-rearing.

I'm not a parent myself. I speak from the perspective of an adult who, as a child, experienced some of Dobson's child-rearing techniques and was, and continues to be, unimpressed by them. One of the reasons I'm writing this critique is because I think it will be good and cathartic for me to publically explain why I dislike Dobson's philosophy and what I think is wrong with it.

In reading The New Dare To Discipline and The New Strong-Willed Child there were several specific issues that jumped out at me and which I hope to write about over the next several weeks or months.

There are several other minor things that annoyed me or with which I disagreed when reading his books. I might possibly decided to write about those things also, but the items I listed above strike me as the biggest and most important problems with Dobson's writings, and so I will focus on them first.

I hope you will enjoy the first installment in which I discuss...

Dobson's use of inappropriate stories to illustrate his points.

Footnote

[1] 1. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/press/focusvoices/A000000025.cf

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

When Animals Attack

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I'm beginning to suspect that I am not the right sort of person to be watching the Generally-Harmless-Animals-Suddenly-Turn-On-Mankind-And-Wreak-Bloody-Vengence genre of movies. If my recent experience watching several of these movies is any indication, my ability to suspend my disbelief seems to abandon me when I view these types of films.

Take for example Kingdom of the Spiders, the 1977 cult classic starring William Shatner.

The Shat portrays Robert "Rack" Hanson a veterinarian in a small, Arizona town who is investigating the sudden and mysterious death of a local rancher's prize calf. With the help of entomologist and hot babe Diane Ashley he discovers that the calf was taken down by a colony of aggressive and uncommonly poisonous tarantulas.

Apparently, the rampant use of pesticides has destroyed the tarantulas natural food supply (i.e. insects and small rodents), and in order to survive the normally solitary creatures have banded together into one massive colony and have started working together to take down cats, dogs, and eventually horses and cows as food.

But by the time Rack and Diane figure this out and try to destroy the fuzzy little buggers, it is too late, for the tarantulas have moved on to the sweet succulence of human flesh.

And here's where my inability to suspend my disbelief really becomes an issue. Let's be honest here, their dealing with an infestation of tarantulas. Not giant tarantulas. Not jumping tarantulas. Not super-high-speed tarantulas. Just tarantulas. They might be fuzzy, black, kind of gross-looking, eight legged spiders...but they're still just spiders.

They crawl along the ground at a fairly slow pace, and, at most, they're a couple inches in diameter and can be easily squashed beneath a booted foot, so it's a little unbelievable when person after person is taken down by these admittedly ugly but still pint-sized nemeses.

I find myself reaching similar conclusions about these people as I did of the characters in Frogs...some of these individuals do everything they can to make their deaths at the spindly legs of bloodthirsty arachnids possible.

Take for example Walter Colby....

This is a picture of him shortly before he suffers a horrible, spidery doom....

Based on this picture, it seems to me there are only two logical possibilities.

  • Either he has the absolute worst peripheral vision of any human ever anywhere throughout history or...
  • He wants to die.

Suspension of disbelief or no, there is simply no possible way you can have a big, black tarantula crawling on your shoulder and not be aware of it. A blind person could see it. It's simply that obvious.

I really don't understand how hard it could be to deal with this spider infestation. Just put on some boots and some long pants. Put a rubber band or tie some string around the bottom of your pants so the little buggers can't crawl up your legs, then go out there and have a stomping good time. It's really as easy at that.

But, alas, most of the characters choose instead to panic and fall down so that they are more accessible to the spiders, and the film ends with Rack and a small band of survivors staring out the window of the house they have holed up in only to discover that the entire town--every building, every car, every structure of any sort--has been encased in a massive cocoon of spider webs.

Yes, the tarantulas have triumphed.

Elsewhere in Arizona, DeForest Kelley is busy battling horrendous animal upstarts of his own in the form of normally docile creatures that have swollen to many times their typical size and begun to feast on the flesh of man.

I refer, of course, to the giant caterpillar that has affixed itself to De's upper lip.

I joke. I'm really talking about the giant, genetically mutated bunnies that are running rampant and slaughtering all who stand in their path.

My family's pet rabbit, King Rex Velveteen, recently passed into the great beyond, and I felt I ought to memorialize him by watching an appropriate movie. However, in all honesty, I did not expect Night of the Lepus to be as entertaining as it was. The whole idea of giant, rampaging, blood-thirsty bunnies equals pure awzumness, and I held little hope that the movie could live up to its amazing premise. Thankfully, I was wrong, and Rex's memory was suitably honored.

Night of the Lepus is a cult classic, and I feel as if I'm jumping on the bandwagon a little late with this review, but I'm sure the internet will not suffer from yet one more person blogging about the killer bunny movie.

Somewhere in the southwest (I believe in Arizona due to the fact that they mention Phoenix), rancher Cole Hillman's land is being overrun by rabbits. He wants to find a more environmentally friendly way of destroying the pests than by the use of poison, and since he is a large benefactor of the local college, Elgin Clark, the college president with the above mentioned mustache, offers to get two of the college's zoologists to work on the problem.

Now, here is where my suspension of disbelief first begins to abandon me. De refers to the zoologists as a "young couple", but, at the time the movie was released, Stuart Whitman was forty-four years old and Janet Leigh was forty-five years old and, quite honestly, looked like a woman in her fifties who had had some work done.

At any rate, the...couple throw themselves into figuring out a way to thin the rabbit population without causing any collateral damage to the other small animals. In an effort to create a disease that will affect only the bunnies, they manipulate the genes of one of their test rabbits which does not actually result in a disease, but instead causes the fuzzy little fellow to grow beyond the normal size of a member of the family Leporidae.

Stuart and Janet have, however, made the unfortunate decision to cause said genetic mutations in a bunny that happens to be their young daughter's favorite. She quickly proceeds to "rescue" it, and then accidentally releases it into the wild where it immediately begins mating with the other rabbits and building up an army of rabbits of ever increasing size.

Eventually, according to a character in the film, they become the size of wolves...but only if by "wolves" you mean "bears", and, in need of food, they turn on the human population and begin to kill men and feast on their flesh.

This again is where my suspension of disbelief abandons me. Leaving aside the fact that rabbits are as herbivorous as herbivores can be, they are ostensibly attacking people because they need sustenance; however, throughout the course of the film, they routinely kill people and then simply leave their bloody corpses mostly intact and out in the open where the authorities can find them, identify them, and be confused about how they died.

I am left asking two questions.

  • If the bunnies are starving why do they kill humans but then not really eat them?
  • If the bunnies are starving what is preventing them from turning on each other?

I realize that, considering the movie is about giant killer bunnies, I really shouldn't expect much if any logic, and yet, foolishly, I do.

At any rate, Stuart, Janet, De, and the rancher eventually discover the giant, mutated bunnies holed up in a (mostly) abandoned mine and decide to take care of them by dynamiting the place. Needless to say, that doesn't work, and the bunnies then go on a giant, killing rampage through the town.

Stuart eventually gets the brilliant idea to destroy their cute, fuzzy, menacing foes by electrifying a section of train railing and then herding the horde of bunnies onto the track.

In a scene I would recommend no one who has epilepsy or is prone to seizures should watch, they implement Stuart's plan, which leads to the moment I personally found to be the funniest of the entire film--that in which the townspeople are left staring at a gigantic pile of dead, smoldering, electrocuted bunnies. Can you say hasenpfeffer?

What can one say of this film? It's a movie about giant, killer bunnies. I can't stress that point too much. They're giant, killer bunnies, people! I think the movie was meant to be frightening or at least intense, but...they're giant killer bunnies. Even when they're rampaging through a town, their fuzzy faces covered in blood, they're just sooo cute. They're adorable. They're bunnies. I just want to pet and caress and nuzzle them--the little cutie pies, mummy loves you yes she does ohmylittlesweethearts.

So, what have we learned from these two movies?

  • Bunnies are cute, even when they're giant mutated monstrosities with blood splattered faces.
  • If the endings of the movies are any indication, normal sized tarantulas are more deadly than giant, man-eating rabbits.
  • Small towns in Arizona are not necessarily the best places to live.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

An Apology

A couple months ago I posted this video. Upon reviewing it I realized that I had made an egregious error. I have, therefore, made another video apologizing for my horrible error.


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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Because Frogs Hopping Aimlessly Around Are Scary

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As I think has been fairly well documented on these pages, I watch a lot of sub par movies. This is quite obviously a weakness of mine, possibly the result of having been exposed to Mystery Science Theater 3000 at an early age, or perhaps it's merely a sign that I am incredibly insecure and need to bolster my enervated ego by feeding it images of the laughable failures of others.

Either way, upon viewing these risible celluloid spectacles, I am often confronted with the cold, harsh reality that, while vaguely amusing in an unfulfilling way, the films are so incredibly boring that the sheer difficulty of writing about them in an interesting fashion negates any desire I might originally have had to blog about said movies.

Such a film is Frogs, a 1972 horror thriller thing* starring Ray Milland and (a surprisingly young) Sam Elliot.

Ray portrays Jason Crockett, an old, wheel-chair ridden, extremely crotchety millionaire who has gathered his relatives to his island estate in the Deep South for their yearly Fourth of July get-together. Needless to say, his family hates it, and they only come because they don't want to get cut out of Jason's will. This year, they are joined by one Pickett Smith, a photojournalist who is working on a story about pollution.

The estate grounds are simply crawling with frogs and other assorted amphibians, and, this being a horror film a thriller a movie, we viewers get to enjoy an hour and a half of watching the Crockett family getting bumped off one after another by the cold-blooded (pun intended) little killers.

And when I say "little killers" I mean exactly that...much to my disappointment, for although the movie poster may sport a picture of a frog with a human hand sticking out of its mouth, absolutely no giant, man devouring frogs appear during this film.

...Which only makes the various victim that much more pathetic.

It is one thing to be chased down and devoured by a giant frog. It is entirely another thing to trip over some grass, shoot yourself in the thigh with a rifle, and then lie relatively still and do nothing save scream while a couple spiders crawl over you and spanish moss, apparently of its own accord, jumps off the trees and lands on top of you, hiding you from sight.

Perhaps Jason Crockett's arrogant, over-bearing, and controlling attitude finally drives all his relatives to commit suicide. That is the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for the fact that everybody goes out of their way to make their deaths at the hands of amphibious creatures possible, and a couple characters have to actually work quite hard to be killed.

If my brief internet research is any indication, this film is more often than not categorized as "eco-horror" because the movie suggests that the animals have risen up to wreak fell vengeance as a result of and in answer to man's debasement of the environment. I, however, think that it can more properly be seen as a socio-political morality tale which speaks out against the idleness and excess of the indolent rich and praises the working class values America was founded upon. America [so says the movie] was made great by old fashioned, middle-class, can-do initiative, but now we are in danger of becoming a country of torpid and indulged individuals who have known only privilege and never had to strive for anything. If we do nothing to halt and reverse this retrogression [continue the filmmakers] we shall reach a point where even the French (i.e. frogs) could overcome us with ease.

When viewed in that light, the film suddenly takes on an urgency and import that rivals even some of Leo Tolstoy's writings.

Who am I kidding? If the movie has any purpose at all it is only to (a) see how many people it can show blundering into their deaths before doing so becomes tedious** and (b) discover how many close-ups of frogs it is possible to cram into a 91 minute long film***.

All in all, I would have to say that if you're looking for a fun, campy murderous-animal movie Frogs should probably not be your first choice.

Footnotes

* Any aspects of horror that this movie might possess result solely and directly from the far-too-seventies outfits worn by the male characters.

**The answer: between 0 and almost 0.

***The answer: far too many.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On My Continuing Tarzan Fixation

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I realize that my well documented Tarzan fixation has existed for many years, and I suspect that several people have asked themselves the question, "When will it end?"

To that I answer, "Hah! Fah! And Pah! My Tarzan fixation will end only when said Jungle Lord ceases to conduct himself in a bizarre and overly dubious manner."

In other words, "NEVER!!!!"

Attention: Tarzan cartoon copyrighted Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc./Dist. by UFS, Inc.

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