zen.org Communal Weblog

January 19, 2006

Two tests in one

Filed under: — Sven @ 04:55 GMT

Test 1: A few years ago I got a Logitech USB camera for “free” when I signed up for Verison DSL. This morning I finally got it working, and I made the enclosed movie.

Test 2: I have also never used the enclosure feature of this Blog thing Brendan set up.

Update: I guess Test 2 didn’t work. Try http://www.zen.org/~sven/webcam-2006-01-18.mpg

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What did you expect?

Filed under: — alice @ 02:31 GMT

With the kind permission of children’s advocate and former child acting star Paul Petersen, following is an Editorial written last June by Mr. Petersen, Founder and President of A Minor Consideration. Formed more than a decade ago, the Non-Profit exists to help young performers and their parents literally survive the stresses, pitfalls and potentially devastating effects of a childhood which, for want better words, is quite abnormal.

Much of the group’s work is devoted family education and the development of solid parenting skills — and the points they raise about the dangers of pushing children too quickly into the adult world are as applicable to kids in all sorts of other situations as they are to the young artists. It is for that reason that I asked for and received the go-ahead to share this Editorial with all of you. Both Mr. Petersen and I would be very grateful for any comments you’d be willing to add. TIA 🙂

by Paul Petersen

In advance of the Michael Jackson verdict I think the time is right to weigh in on the role our culture has played in the growth and development of “the Child Star Syndrome” in all its distasteful manifestations.

For many years A Minor Consideration was a highly visible component in the Press coverage every time a former child star got in trouble. In fact, no less than Time Magazine called me “the predatory spokesman for kid actors.” It was a ghoulish pursuit, I grant you, but there was a public argument to win…and I believe we have accomplished that early goal of educating America to the fact that all was not well in the world of celebrity children. There is no longer any question in the public’s mind that early fame has long-term consequences.

Life in “the public eye” has an impact, and not just on the person who must suffer the effects of a loss of privacy. Fame also distorts the perceptions of those who for better or worse make up the adoring public. People’s behaviour is altered when they come face to face with a celebrity of any age. The person who wears the public badge is also affected by his or her Fame in ways both subtle and profound.

In short, the ordinary awareness of reality goes out the window in the face of Celebrity. Long-held societal rules are bent beyond recognition when even the youngest celebrity is involved. Worse, what we know of character development is suspended in the face of Fame.

Think of Drew Barrymore being allowed into raging nightclubs at age ten. Think of Michael Jackson working seven-day weeks on the road without relief for nearly two decades. Remember Danny Almonte, the Little League pitcher who, at fourteen, cheated his way into the World Series with the knowing support of an entire community? Close your eyes and picture Jon Benet Ramsey. Who allowed these and other abuses but us?

In Catholic doctrine, Silence is Acceptance. The absurdity of a six year-old saying “I always wanted to be in Show Business” is manifestly apparent if you would just step back and consider the situation. When you distort a person’s childhood you distort the resultant adult. It’s axiomatic. We are all, each of us, the product of our younger years, and every day we live is connected to the past.

It is a fact of life that each of us is capable of overcoming our past. With the dawn of every day it is within our capacity as thinking, reasoning beings to start fresh…to put even the worst abuses behind us…to forego the consequences of being forced to eat those fabled “green beans.”

It helps immeasurably if there is a support group around us to solidify these changes…or a group of uncompromised friends who can serve as our Fire Alarms when things start to get hot.

Our contemporary culture is an ocean of influences that is constantly bathing us in behavior modifying pressures, and when we ignore the obvious negative impacts delivered like hammer blows on our children we do so at our own peril. It’s the future you’re trifling with.

Rap Music is an example. Parental misconduct at sporting events involving young athletes is another. Elevating a young person to celebrity status for their misdeeds is going to have consequences, and not just on that individual, but on all those who remain mute. Excusing misconduct by anyone involved with children is poisoning our future.

Robert Blake’s trial and the subsequent circus surrounding Michael Jackson’s on-going tribulations have created a dilemma for many people who have themselves been through this process, even as we witnessed the young tennis star, Mary Pierce, re-emerge from her demon-infested past at the French Open. News of Danny Bonaduce’s return to Rehab came at the same time the young television star of “Desperate Housewives” is arrested on a New York street for smoking a joint by an undercover, star-struck policeman who really just wanted to know how the season’s finale turned out.

And we blame the victim, forgetting that we played a role in their unusual development.

What did you expect?

What, exactly, do you expect of children who are asked to excel scholastically when we are sending them to schools without paper and books…whose entrances are guarded by metal detectors…and where there is no toilet paper in the bathrooms?

How many times can you turn a blind eye on conduct you know to be detrimental before the consequences affect you?

What did you think Michael Jackson would become as we all stood by and demanded performance excellence as we mutely accepted the troubling plastic surgery, and permitted unescorted children to attend sleepovers at Neverland Ranch?

Where were the whistle-blowers? At what point are we called to break the glass on the Fire Alarm?

If you doubt for an instant that fame, even fleeting fame doesn’t have an impact, turn on any televised sporting event and watch what happens the moment the cameras are turned on the fans in the stands. Do they know they’re being watched? Does their behavior suddenly change?

Children all over this world are going to work instead of to school. Parents are paying hard-earned money for video games that are absolutely ghastly in their violence and disrespect of women. Movies that employ young performers to act out the fantasies of adults who should know better litter the media landscape, even as advertisers market harmful if not useless products to an ever-younger consumer base.

I am reminded of my Grandpa Burr who was always consistent in his belief that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

“Every time you point a finger at someone else,” he told me, “remember that four fingers are pointing back at you.”

So I’ll close with the same question that began this essay on the predicament faced by celebrities who came to fame too early to resist its blandishments and now find themselves in trouble with the law or who are living lives of not-so-quiet desperation:

“What did you expect?”

PP on June 7th 2005

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