Few states tell us how to raise our kids. Illinois is now one of those states that says, “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor” is being negligent.
The new law suggests that I would’ve needed a babysitter when I was 13 years old—a teenager. The funny thing, I was a babysitter for the little kids around the block at age 12. I was responsible, being raised by a police officer and teacher, and I knew how to keep the kids entertained. I even handled a faulty gas line fire both calmly and efficiently, making the parents thankful they hired me.
A few high school and college kids I knew were far less responsible and couldn’t manage an emergency if it happened. They allowed the kids under their supervision to wreak havoc, creating a huge mess for the parents to clean up after their return.
And what about the fact that our 13-year-olds are allowed to watch a single occurrence of natural frontal nudity and hear two F-words in a PG-13 movie, but they can’t stay home alone for a subjective unpublished time frame?
The law does allow you to leave your child for a “reasonable” amount of time, but if a neighbor makes a call suggesting negligence, the state can take the child into custody without a warrant. Once a court date is provided, the judge has 15 non-exhaustive factors to consider in determining the guilt of the parent. Unfortunately the courts do not provide a list of criteria to help the parent determine if his or her 13-year-old can be left alone for a short time.
I’m a firm believer that most parents know if their 13-year-old can be left alone and for how long. I’m also confident that the government has no idea if a young teen is capable of being left alone, regardless of the period of time in question. This perspective suggests that the new law was put in place as a tool to punish a very small percentage of people who are negligent when it comes to raising their kids.
The problem with a law aimed at so few, rather than being a law for the majority, is that it opens the door for someone wanting to abuse or hurt a healthy family. It only takes one phone call to engage the system and pull a kid from their home until the issue can be resolved in court.
Worse yet is the list of 15 non-exhaustive factors a judge can use in making his or her determination. This list is not available to the general public (at least not at the time I wrote this blog), which means parents don’t know the criteria that their parenting skills are being judged on.
And, what happens if the political landscape changes and a new list warns the judge about children living in what might be considered an overzealous “religious” home? Can the government eventually define healthy parenting as those who “protect” children “from” religion until they become adults? That’s the way it is in some countries.
Whenever laws are put in place to punish the few instead of protecting the many, we find more restrictions placed on our lives, which takes away another piece of our freedom. Historically, specific and objective laws were designed for the majority of the people and the few oddball cases were determined by the judge based on the intent revealed by the majority of the laws.
Abuse becomes too prevalent when laws become highly subjective and parents are being measured by a list that is not available for their review. Our society has become so focused on protecting the few that we’ve lost sight of how we protect the majority.
I hope we protect all children who face abuse, but we do it without jeopardizing the freedom of the majority of our children. There has to be a better way. Shouldn’t lawmakers look for it?
Copyright 2018 by CJ Powers
Our love affair with social media has forced society into a new form of isolation where “truth” is determined by the number of people we convince to believe our tale, rather than being about proven or substantiated facts. The social platforms have empowered the media to drive crowds in how to think and respond. The users are becoming judge and jury to the detriment of society.
In the past, we waited to learn if something alleged was proven to be true or false. During lengthy trials, people waited with anticipation of the outcome to know how to proceed concerning the circumstances or the person. But today, if you allegedly did something 30 years ago that is now a hot point of discussion, you’re immediately fired and blocked from making any future income.
Our society seems to be fine with this new politically correct judgment system. But not everyone wants to see his or her future disappear based on an allegation that has no merit.
I recently read an article about a woman who accused former President H.W. Bush of assaulting her. The woman posed for pictures with several political figures and was blocking President Bush. He called out to get her attention, but she didn’t respond. He then reached forward from his wheelchair and gave her a little tap. She quickly stepped to the side and all was well.
Several years later, after the reporting of harassment was politically correct and popular in the media, she reported that he assaulted her. She said he touched her backside and told her dirty jokes, which was never substantiated by any of the dozen people at the photo shoot. But the media published the assault story.
Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report” is about a society where empaths have people arrested for thinking about committing a crime, sparing society from the pain caused by an actual crime. People are judged, based not on what they did, but what they allegedly were about to do.
The number of people losing their jobs based not on facts, but allegations is staggering. What’s worse are the number of people losing their jobs because of someone else’s allegations. The Netflix series “House of Cards” was cancelled due to Kevin Spacey’s allegations from decades earlier, putting the 300 cast and crew members out of work.
The number of people leaving social media is also astonishing and telling. When asked, most say they are dropping social media because it’s become the breeding ground of false news. Some mention they want to protect their future by avoiding a misunderstanding in social media that could negatively impact their jobs.
In the past few years, I’ve asked numerous employers if they ever used social media to vet a person before hiring them. Everyone said, “Yes.” One person made sure she didn’t accidentally hire a heavy drinker. Another person avoided extremists like “Christians.” Still another person said, “If I like their social life and they agree with my political views, I’ll hire them.”
Society is no longer growing from people listening to both sides of every issue and thinking through its consequences. Instead, we’ve become a people who gather in groups of like-minded folks that judge others on the number of allegations that they’ve received, rather than on documented facts.
Before we get judged based on a regrettable choice made during our less intelligent years, we might want to drop our opportunity to judge others and instead learn how to give grace. That doesn’t mean we ever condone their unhealthy mistakes, but it does mean we focus on ourself, making sure we live out the best version of our lives.
Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers
The weekend has arrived and those dating are most likely headed out to dinner and a movie, but they don’t know where to sit in the theater. Most know to avoid the first few rows and some will make sure they don’t end up in the back of the theater unless they like being remote. But few know, for which seats the director designed the movie.
Theaters range in size and shape and follow the rudimentary formats prescribed by the National Association of Theater Owners and the Motion Picture Association of America. These formats are based on screen ratios and the projector’s “throw” of light based on lumens, curvature of the lens and the screens’ reflective material.
Let’s make it simple…
Without trying to figure out the complex formulas to determine seating placement, a well-designed theater will provide good seating about two thirds of the way back from the screen. Unfortunately that’s based on typical screens being about 20’ X 47’ and the theater having a total depth of… Nope, let’s keep it simple.
Have you ever attended the rehearsal of a stage show? Did you notice that the director always sits in a specific place? Or, how about at a concert venue, did you notice where the mixing board is located?
Microphone jacks are typically placed in the ideal location for the director to plug in his headset or microphone in professional, university and high school theaters. This gives him the closest view of the stage, while still being able to see the entire stage. If he moves closer, he can’t get the big picture. If he moves further back, he can’t focus on the detail.
In film, the same rule of thumb holds true. When a director is viewing his final mixed film, he is seated based on the screen location and surround sound speakers. Even in the mixing room the director is positioned in the ideal location and makes all the decisions based on that spot.
When the show releases to the silver screen the ideal location is about 2.5X the screen height back from the movie screen. If you select a seat in that location, you’ll notice surround speakers directly to the left and right of you. The entire movie was created based on those seats. Any other point of view changes the impact of the film.
For instance, if you don’t like horror films you can sit in the back to diminish the surprise factor and reduce the emotional pull on your heart. If you enjoy rollercoaster like action films you can move closer to the screen to keep your head moving and help your stomach churn your latest meal.
Regardless of the screening room size, you’re safe sitting 2.5X the screen height back from the screen in order to see the film as the director designed it.
© 2017 by CJ Powers
Bill Hybels, a legendary spiritual leader, once talked about a “holy discontentment” and how it drives the spiritual to continually look for ways to help others. Choreographer Martha Graham spoke of an artist’s “divine dissatisfaction” that drives all creative work.
Prose writer Rachel Carson also spoke of this unrest that leads to creative activity, “No writer can stand still. He continues to create or he perishes. Each task completed carries its own obligation to go on to something new.”
Dancer and choreographer Agnes De Mille, known for her original choreography in Oklahoma!, a musical that generated numerous awards including a record setting 2,212 performances, found herself struggling with her “fairly good work” when critics touted it as a “flamboyant success.”
De Mille received clarity concerning this disconnect in her life when she bumped into Graham and shared her sense of dissatisfaction. De Mille started the conversation with a confession that she had a burning desire to be excellent, but had no faith to achieve it.
Graham: “There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”
De Mille: “But, when I see my work, I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”
Graham: “No artist is pleased.”
De Mille: “But then there is no satisfaction?”
Graham: “No satisfaction whatever at any time, there is only queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
Graham and Hybels had hit on something fascinating. Both saw the activity rising from creative discontentment as divinely inspired for the good of others. While artists long for satisfaction with their work, the blessed only receive a drive to move on to another work.
Julia Cameron, known as a artist, poet, playwright, novelist, filmmaker, composer, journalist and teacher, learned through her studies of the human condition that, “Art is a spiritual transaction. Artists are visionaries. We routinely practice a form of faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that shimmers in the distance—often visible to us, but invisible to those around us.”
When I meditate on what I’ve observed, whether information from life or scripture, and many times the combination of both, I receive a divine awareness that helps me to understand a perspective that most have never considered. The excitement contained within the moment drives me to share it with others. But they don’t get it.
The only way for people to understand what I’ve seen is to create art that can demonstrate it or move a person to consider something outside of their reality. It therefore compels me to create art, always hoping it reaches the people it was intended to reach.
This continual drive that most of my friends label as passion, breathes life into me daily. It forces me to try and try again so everyone gets the gift of understanding that I received, but my attempts always fall short. The cycle begins again and again. While I can’t complain because of the life that stirs within me, I am always dissatisfied in my feeble ability to communicate such an important understanding.
And there lies the truth of an artist’s dilemma. Filled with life overflowing, always driven, but never arriving with any form of satisfaction. I’ll call this curse a blessing for it is who I am.
© 2017 by CJ Powers
The PC police are expanding watch over the Internet. No longer will you have true freedom of speech, as Google and other search engines are working to block your toxic words from being published.
I tested Google’s new algorithm to see if my word choices would be blocked. Here is a sentence I wrote that was 2% likely to be perceived as toxic.
“Those who accept media bias without consideration find themselves following unhealthy trends.”
I then decided to make the comment more opinionated to grab the attention of the reader and found my words were 97% likely to be perceived as toxic.
“Those who accept media bias without consideration find themselves following idiots.”
Here is the winning version of my statement that was 0% likely to be perceived as toxic.
“Those who accept media bias without consideration find themselves following trends.”
I next tried a few religious comments. The following statement was 34% likely to be perceived as toxic.
“Shows about Jews should be banded from the media.”
After correcting the word “banded” to “band” the statement was 18% likely to be perceived as toxic.
“Shows about Jews should be band from the media.”
I then switched out the word “Jews” to “Muslim” and then “Christian,” which dropped the likeliness of the statement to be perceived as toxic to 1% for each.
It was apparent that the algorithm used was based on machine learning, which draws from biased news sources. The more sources stating that certain words are toxic, the greater the bias being policed becomes.
In other words, if you fill the Internet with documents, stories and news briefs stating how hateful the word “gismo” is, you’ll actually shift the algorithm to determine that the use of the word is toxic.
While its unlikely a group of caring people will produce 20 million articles using the word “gismo” as a hate word to change algorithm results, some might consider sidelining their competition by turning their important phrases into hate words.
I think we’re at a turning point and need to leave ethical and moral decisions to man, not machines. Then again, can you really trust them?
© 2017 by CJ Powers
Decades ago the major studios drew audiences to the silver screen with big extravagant pictures. A few decades later movie stars became the biggest drawing card to pack out film houses. But recently we’ve seen a shift to a new role that is drawing in millions to the box office—the director.
The audience is no longer willing to sit through a star driven movie just because their favorite actor plays a role in the film. Over the past few years, films that had Bruce Willis in its trailer or on the one sheet poster disappointed many. Why? Because the films weren’t really Bruce Willis type films. He was just in the movies for a paycheck.
This summer we saw a lot of film actors fail to deliver audiences to theaters like Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell and Rough Night, Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, Charlie Hunnam’s King Arthur, and Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
But it was the directors that brought the solid draw as social media buzz surrounded the filmmakers, not the stars. The successful films used lesser-known actors in leading roles under the guidance of strongly directed vision. The box office successes included Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.
Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group told Variety, “To be theatrical, you need to be distinctive now. That’s what Spider-Man and Baby Driver have in common. Even though they are as different as night and day, the audience can feel both are distinctive, and so theater-worthy.”
Director Alex Kendrick, of the faith-based Kendrick Brothers, has carved out a niche for himself that draws in enough audience to generate about $60MM every time he releases a film. While Sony has rarely understood how he does it, they have acknowledged his distinctive films. In fact, there have been many who have tried to follow in Alex and Stephen’s footsteps, but all have failed to replicate their distinctive style.
One of the reasons I study a lot of film is to make sure I create something that hasn’t been done before. A director’s style coupled with his writer, DP and Production Designer choice makes for a uniqueness that is seldom replicated. The heart and soul of his vision must come through in order to create a successful title that will storm the box office.
I’ll never forget listening to an interview with Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tales fame, before he became famous. In the interview he was likened to Walt Disney, which surprised me since I was familiar with both artists. The two were highly creative and did the voices for their primary animated characters, but their styles and audiences were very different.
The thing I remember most about the interview was how quickly Phil’s distinctive style was getting lost behind the Disney name. Don Bluth, known for The Secret of NIMH, had the same problem differentiating himself from Disney. It takes a strong director to carve out a niche for his own style that is memorable and draws an audience to the box office.
So who’s your favorite director?