As part of my assessment for my MSc, I have been doing a joint poster project with my friend Rebecca surrounding the topic of violent video games. Are violent video games really causing our kids to be more aggressive? I say “our” kids – I don’t have kids. But I WAS a kid. And I played violent video games. So did my brothers. I wouldn’t consider us to be particularly aggressive. Maybe we were boisterous kids, but that was arguably before the games, and plenty of people have boisterous kids.
Image from GeekWithLaptop.com
Anecdotal evidence, you say? Maybe. But some facts and figures from the US of A -
“According to the FBI in 2009,The arrest rate for juvenile murders has fallen 71.9% between 1995 and 2008. The arrest rate for all juvenile violent crimes has declined 49.3%. In this same period, video game sales have more than quadrupled. The FBI statistics show that video game sales have been on the rise, while all juvenile violent crimes have fallen in the same amount of time.”
OK, but that’s just someone saying a thing on a debating website, I hear you cry. I won’t lie: I’ve made no effort to track down that report from the FBI. It could be made up. This is the internet, afterall. EDIT: Oh look, found it.
You might have read some news articles talking about a correlation between violent video gameplay and subsequent aggressive behaviour in children. Bollocks to that, is what I say. Correlation, as any good scientist knows, does not equate to causation. It might be that children that already have an aggressive disposition are more likely to be drawn to play violent games in the first place. They see violent games as a way of directing their aggression, which surely is no bad thing. We don’t see a correlation between calm kids and violent video gamplay, maybe because calm kids don’t get attracted to play violent video games (they’d much rather play bonkers colourful games like Katarmari Forever or Hamster Ball.)
And what about extraneous variables? Studies that show these correlations tend to ignore the children’s family history, or trait violence. Who knows, these kids might come from abusive homes, and violence is all they know. Oh, and we usually only see the short term effects of violent influences – what about a longitudinal study, please? Do these same kids grow up into violent adults? Or is that a rare thing? Are the majority of violent video game players (i.e. MOST WESTERN TEENAGERS) likely to populate the globe with murderers? I think not. They will probably be accountants, or contestants on Britain’s Got Talent, or some other, (arguably) normal lifetime pursuit.
Perhaps some “more research is needed” – I hate to fall back on that old line, but it’s true. Video games are here to stay, so rather than bitch and moan about the possible influence of young children, and their subsequent development into aggressive teens (view not supported by evidence), maybe it’s high time we started looking into the other factors influencing aggression in young people. Maybe there’s deep-rooted issues. Maybe aggressive children need early-intervention programmes. Maybe we need to teach the negativity of violence to young people. What about anger management strategies for children? Don’t scoff – the naughty step works wonders for Supernanny.
Interested in reading more? Go for it -
Nope, sorry, massive disappointment. Similar to Ben’s reaction to Gran Turismo 5 (where he was waiting ages for it, really looking forward to it, and cetera), Sonic Colours just did not meet my expectations.
That’s cruel – Sonic Colours is a pretty good game in its own right. The game is pretty (especially the starlight carnival planet) and the designers have obviously tried hard to remain true to the original charm of the original Sonic games.
But it just… doesn’t match up. It doesn’t have the same addictability as Sonic, Sonic 2, Sonic & Knuckles… There is even more annoying stuff to fall off of than in Lego Batman (beyond challenging, into the realms of pure frustration, to the point where I actually just turned off the console mid-level several times). The controls are a bit sticky (the double jump is a pain in the arse) and the “Colours” themselves are a bit gimmicky and frankly slightly embarrassing.
Oh, and the 2-player part of the game SUCKS. Jesus.
Fine, I’ll admit it – I didn’t finish this game. It just didn’t grab me like those from my childhood did. In fact, I traded it in today, and got Lego Star Wars for PS3 instead.
It seems SEGA still haven’t managed to recapture the wonderful Golden Combination that those original games had (up until the first 3D game *shudder*). I even liked Sonic Spinball. But not this.
Maybe I’ll just download the original games instead…. Sigh.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I was determined to get in to central London on Sunday, in order to experience Chinese New Year 2011, London style.
You will also be aware that I was sadly disappointed.
Whilst there was food in abundance, lion dances parading from shop to shop, and lanterns laced above our heads, Chinatown was rammed with people (prams = BAD IDEA, people), so good luck actually seeing over heads.
Oh, and to the chap behind me who shoved me in the back whilst we were all trying to get out of New Loon Moon – Yes, you were pushing me, no, pushing didn’t help, and no, threats don’t work on me either. Yes, you were right to feel embarrassed and shut up after I pulled you up on that one. Weren’t expecting that from a girl half your size, were you? Jerk.
I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too at first: Why can’t people just put their rubbish in the bin?!! Well, maybe it’s because…
My other major irritation with Chinese New Year in London is that there was advertising EVERYWHERE. The paper lanterns were sponsored by Lebara mobile, children carried red balloons festooned with Lyca Mobile logos, and lo and behold – Kung Fu Panda 2 fortune cookies. It all just felt a bit tacky and was, in my honest opinion, a massive anticlimax. On the upside, I managed to get three buffet box take-aways for £9. With that in hand, I bustled through the insanely large crowds (well, that’s what you get when you have a completely free event) and retreated to home.
What about you? Maybe you aren’t as jaded about your Chinatown Chinese New Year experience as I was. Maybe you are 6’5” and therefore actually managed to see a lion dance. Maybe you were one of the many pushchair-users that rammed me in the ankles – we need to talk.
Ben and I ventured to Wales this week. Predictably, it rained pretty much the whole time we were there, but that was ok because:
- I had my new wellies with me
- We were staying in the gorgeous and cosy Paxton’s Tower Lodge
OK, maybe that needs a bit of explaining (the lodge, I mean. Not the wellies)
This is Paxton’s Tower:
While Paxton’s Tower is a folly, erected in honour of Lord Nelson, and now maintained by the National Trust (not that it needs much maintaining, to be honest), the Lodge has been lovingly restored by the wonderful Landmark Trust. If you’ve never heard of the Landmark Trust (and three years ago, I hadn’t), they are a charitable foundation that restores historic and architecturally interesting buildings for the enjoyment of the paying public. But unlike the National Trust, English Heritage and so forth (where you pay an entrance fee, have a look around, then buy a cake and souvenir and leave), Landmark Trust properties are for living in. Yes, you can rent one for your holiday.
Ben and I have been to one other Landmark Trust property before (the equally wonderful Tangy Mill out in the wilds of Kintyre), but this time we decided to go somewhere… well, less Far Away. We wanted to go to Castle of Park, but they were already booked up for the dates we had free. Ben had been to Paxton’s Tower Lodge once before (4 years ago now, so before we met), and liked the building and surrounding area, so we thought we’d give that a go.
And it was lovely! Apart from the typical Welsh weather, Carmarthenshire is quite nice indeed, but definitely the crowning glory of the stay was our accommodation, no doubt about it. We hardly got any actual sight seeing done, because the cottage was so lovely (and it was cold and wet out). Every evening was spent curled up on the sofa, knitting, whilst Ben poked at (and cursed at) the open fireplace.
(Still working on that bloody Firestarter jumper!!)
A lovely big kitchen meant that I could Get My Cook on – we did eat like pigs. OK, I know, I know, I made a resolution to lose weight, but you didn’t expect me to diet on holiday, right? That aside, I have a separate post put aside for my adventurous cooking, so watch this space.
Other evening activities included trudging up to see the tower (which is lit up at night), and of course Airfix. What? Oh yes. Ben got a Mk 1 Ford Escort Airfix kit for Christmas (from his sister and her other half).
Which reminds me: I have a bone to pick with Airfix. What the hell did you do to the paints, dude? You used to supply tiny tins of top-quality Hummel paint with your kits. And now you have what amounts to shoddy, thinned down nail varnish. Hummels gave a smooth, even coverage in one coat. Three coats in on the bodywork, and the paint job is still streaky. Before you ask: Yes, I did stir the paint before use. Thoroughly disappointed on behalf of my foreman (I was delegated to paint duty, whilst Ben did important cutting and sticking).
Aaaaaaaaaaanyway. We did have some small adventures in wet Wales, but this post is running on a bit now, so probably best to leave those for another day. Deal? Here’s a picture of me in the lodge’s loft bedroom, to make up for it:
I should probably start by saying I did not like this book. In fact, there are no significant redeeming features, in my honest opinion. So, if you have read this book, use this book or like this book for whatever reason, then please give this review a miss. Because I didn’t like it, this review will mainly concentrate on WHY I didn’t like it. These opinions, being opinions, are not debatable.
Where to start? Probably at the beginning, is best. When this book was first released, I read an interesting review of it in the Guardian. So, when I saw this book in my local BHF book shop, I thought “what the hell” and thought I’d give it a go. I have never read a self-help style book in my life, and now I know why.
Dr Liz Miller is an ex-neurosurgeon, and so you would expect her to be a sensible woman of science. She’s not: she is full of absolute crap. I was willing to sit through her sad stories of struggling through her breakdowns (she says in the text that she is bipolar, but she doesn’t specify what type. I suspect cyclothymia), and to start with, her advice is pretty sound. However, it is also common sense: keep a mood diary so that you can try and see patterns in mood vs. time of day, events, foods, etc.
Anything that didn’t fall under this header of “common sense advice” was not useful at all, and in fact made me rather angry. One of my common gripes is preachy, self-righteous types: Miller is one of these. Her favourite thing to preach about, it would seem, is food. I knew this would be a problem from the Introduction, where she gently declares a war on meat, alcohol, and processed food. Later in the book, she all but blames mood disorders solely on what we eat.
Let me get one thing straight: PROCESSED FOOD WILL NOT MAKE YOU DROP DEAD. You do not need to be on a “raw food diet” to be happy. Let’s look at the evidence: you know plenty of people who eat microwave meals, take aways and stuff from tins on an almost daily basis, and yet they are functioning perfectly. And then there is “Doctor” Gillian McKeith. I’m sure you’ve all been forwarded a copy of the McKeith vs. Nigella email (they’re both 50, and yet…) She doesn’t look like a happy bunny. She looks fucking miserable.
Fair enough, we’re all sensitive to different foods in different ways – I’m not all that susceptible to caffeine, but I am more careful about alcohol nowadays. And I think that’s the key: you do NOT have to give up everything fun or delicious to live well. You need to know your own body. And that’s where Mood Mapping MIGHT be useful: just for finding patterns in your mood in response to external stimuli. But you do NOT NEED TO BUY THIS BOOK (RRP: £12.99) to be able to do that. Food is not the root to aaaaaall your problems.
On a housekeeping note: Miller needs to get hold of a better proofreader. Even my casual, half-attentive reading of this book (often accompanied by a background of Christmas TV and the sound of family members reading articles from the newspaper outloud) spotted a whole menagerie of errors. Most hilarious IMHO was pp. 237-8, and the supposed “Causes of bipolar”…
“…Bipolar disorder can also start after head injury, treatment with anti-malarial drugs, particularly mefloquinine, head injury, childhood abuse, drug abuse…”
And later on in this ridiculous list of madness and repetition: post-traumatic stress disorder. WHAT?! PTSD is a mental illness in its own right, not a “cause” of bipolar. I think she’s getting confused: violent mood swings are not the only characteristic feature of bipolar. They are a symptom. And guess what? They just so happen to be quite a significant symptom of PTSD, too. Just because someone is having severe mood swings does not mean they have suddenly “come down with” bipolar disorder.
I’m trying to keep this short, so here’s the last and most important reason why I hate this book:
“…what my research and experience did prove is that mood and its associated chemicals respond more to the five keys to mood than they do to drugs. By physically managing your mood, it is often possible to dispense with drugs entirely.” (p. 233)
My, that’s a sweeping statement. And, “prove”? Really? Please, tell this to anyone suffering from psychosis, or chronic, major depression. Some people simply cannot function without medication. Some people can’t even cope WITH medication, it’s that bad. MY research and experience INDICATES this. Read a far better and more realistic account of mood disorder.
By all means, I am not poo-pooing Miller’s personal trauma and experience of the mental health system, but that is what it is: a personal trauma. She found something that works for her. Good. She has no right to prescribe it to others.
The Meaning Of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist
I was a wee bit disappointed by this book. I think Richard P Feynman is brilliant, and therefore maybe I was expecting something utterly ground breaking. Maybe it’s important to remember that this book is actually a transcript of three John Danz lectures which professor Feynman delivered in April 1963 at the University of Washington. As a result, the book tends to be a little fragmentary, a few points are repeated, and a little unfocussed. Perhaps, had Feynman gone back to this and refined it, we would be left with a more comfortable and satisfying read. As it stands, it might benefit from you reading it aloud (as if you were giving it as a lecture, live).
That said, this small work does reflect on some important topics, mainly the use of science to society. What makes for good scientific practice? What is the true value of science? Can scientists really believe in God? And, my personal favourite, why is it, that with the advances of scientific research in the modern world, is there such widespread belief in flying saucers, homeopathy and astrology?
Feynman also discusses scepticism at length, and in the final lecture he explores how science has been abused. Whilst nothing strictly ground-breaking, Feynman is a hugely respected scientist but also a great teacher and philosopher. A nice quick read for anyone interested in science, philosophy, scepticism, and the philosophy of science.
And as another reviewer has pointed out: Yes, it rambles, but then so do scientists!
Ben has been raving about Dorothy Parker pretty much since we first met, and having finally gotten around to reading her work, I am beginning to understand why.
All of her poems are bitter and witty, and none are too long (Ben and I are not overly fond of poems where you have to turn the page – again, call us philistines if you want). Parker voices frustrations that you wish you had found the words to express. She’s especially bitter about the plight of woman – but voices it fantastically well. Parker’s women are feisty, vengeful and fierce. A snippet from one of my favourites is in order, I think…
…Down from Caesar past Joynson-Hicks
Echoes the warning, ever new:
Though they’re trained to amusing tricks,
Gentler, they, than the pigeon’s coo,
Careful, son, of the cursed two -
Either one is a dangerous pet;
Natural history proves it true -
Women and elephants never forget….
Ballade of Unfortunate Animals
I’m fairly certain that Parker is not for everyone: she does not write happy or upbeat, and too much Parker, I’m sure, might make you pretty bitter yourself, so I advise taking in small doses. Not all of it is fantastic – a lot of it is self-indulgent pining over lost loves and boredom. Like the modern teenager, she does seem to enjoy her misery far too much.
However, she is very witty and observant, and made me laugh out loud more than once (at the expense of her archetypal characters, I must admit). Her short stories are fairly entertaining too, but I felt they weren’t on par with her poetry. That said, both stories and poems make clever observations about the hypocritical and often cruel behaviour of “normal people”.
And I can see myself getting Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom inscribed on my bedroom ceiling.
…Though I go in pride and strength,
I’ll come back to bed at length…
…Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall -
I’m a fool to rise at all!
Poor Dotty P.
Typical! Just about to have out Easter break from uni, and I come down with a horrid cold-thing. Obviously I can only get ill when I have the time. Just hope I’m not too ill to sing this weekend.
You may have noticed I rehauled the layout of my blog. This is more along the lines of how I want to brand my new shop. Still a bit generic at the moment, but I’m still working on it – just got a bit sick of the all-black look; I think I’m getting a bit too old for that! I plan to incorporate some other elements (cutesy ones!) but I’m fond of the London sky line. Still no firm thoughts on a name.
But what have I been working on, in preparation for my new shop? I’ve decided to focus on my strengths (i.e. easy things, that I believe I make well, and that sell!), being fibre crafts. I love making beaded jewellery, I believe I produce really nice pieces, and have received a LOT of compliments for my jewellery products – however, not a single jewellery piece has sold. So unfortunately, I’ll be calling a halt to production of jewellery for retail purposes – it is simply a flooded market. Any jewellery I make in the future will be only for me, or as gifts for friends.
So what does sell? Cute crochet things, like this:
It’s a mouse! Yay! I’m also working on other crochet critters, after the success of those ‘shrooms.
AND I ordered some new felting needles – my last one broke ages ago, and I never got around to replacing it.
And now, a Current News Rant
There is talk of altering Daylight Savings by an extra hour, to match the rest of Europe. The idea behind it is to make summer evenings longer - “