Friday, February 27, 2009

Gotta read this article...

I included the links to some outstanding blogs on the right so an astute and active reader exploring every inch of DonovanMedia could check them out and read some really good stuff.

This piece on the Reason magazine Hit & Run blog, though, is so well done I had to take the time to point it out. It's a thoroughly outstanding dismantling and destruction of a particularly noxious piece of bull*%# about the grace and spiritual rewards of suffering through a financial catastrophe.

And yes, I proudly admit that I regularly play the lottery because I want to win a @%*#load of money I can use to buy frivolous, extravagant, expensive stuff and live a life of materialistic bliss.

Octomom Should Do Porn (?)

...and that was the question for our listeners on the last episode of Culture Wars.

With the nice turnout of opinions on the great chimpanzee controversy, we'd love to know what Culture Warmongers think of the last strange turn in Nadya "Octomom" Suleman's bizarre saga. Apparently she has gotten a $1 million offer to do a porn flick with Vivid Entertainment. Check out the story here.

It is interesting to read that Suleman will be given as much input on the "plot" and the overall development of the film one would expect any major star to get. Vivid CEO Stephen Hirsch has promised to work out the deal with Suleman in such a way that she will be satisfied and comfortable with the finished product. Whoever said the porn industry was sleazy?

So let us know what you think? Should she do it because the money she's earning will keep her from leaching off California's citizens? Or have you had enough of Suleman and wish all news of her would just disappear? Is this tacky and morally offensive? Or maybe you can't wait until it comes out so you can add the video to your library of Vivid Entertainment classics?
Send your comments to

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Presidential analysis on Culture Wars

Don't miss today's live broadcast of Culture Wars for some interesting takes on the Presidency and op-ed controversies!

Presidential historian Nick Ragone joins us to discuss his impression of the State of the Union address...and whether President Obama will stay more popular than God.

Over the past week, we also got some interesting listener feedback on the New York Post chimpanzee controversy. We'll read all them on the air today. Don't miss it!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Good riddance to more bad laws...with loving thoughts of the PTC

Well, a federal appeals court has just declared that a California law that tried to limit the sale of violent video games to minors is unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment. Check out the story right here. And my reaction to this is...YESSSSS!!!

Good riddance to yet another bad law based on nonexistent evidence to prove any sort of a causal relationship between media content and behavior.

And yes, in case my big fans in the Parents Television Council are reading this blog, I am indeed grinning very broadly right now, barely able to resist jumping up and down for joy.

Rulings like this are victories for common sense and reason. These are things severely lacking today. You see, we seem to be living in a world where such things as evidence and proof are no longer requirements for many people to make up their minds about issues. A couple of weeks ago, my radio show, WSPC Culture Wars, aired a debate with the head of the New Jersey chapter of the PTC, where that organization's policies on rational, scientific proof were very clearly demonstrated. Not only does the PTC not really care about whether or not their ridiculous assertions about media violence can be scientifically proven, but they wouldn't be able to recognize scientific data if it very aggressively hit them over the head.

A couple of examples: Their web page is filled with "studies" on the amount of violent and offensive behavior in the broadcast media. These are, technically, content analyses, or literally the count of exactly how many times punches are thrown or shots fired or curse words uttered in any given episode of a TV show. That's all nice and good, except that such a study does not prove a causal link. If you're ever taking a statistics or research methods class and you feel like getting and "F" just to make life more exciting, tell your teacher that a content analysis study is a proof of causality. Your "F" will be assured. Maybe the teacher might even mumble something like "moron" or "idiot" under his breath.

Or go to the PTC's link of "Education" and then the link to "outside studies." Here you will find a lot more content analysis studies, as well as a massive pile of correlational studies (and look up this blog's January post about correlations and the explanation for why saying that a correlation proves causality will also earn you an "F" in a stats class). The best part of the PTC's list of outside studies, however, is the fact that they actually list some studies that completely disprove their position about media effects!!!!!!! The conclusion here is obvious:

THESE PEOPLE DON'T READ ANY MORE THAN THE TITLES OF RESEARCH ARTICLES BEFORE THEY POST THEM ON THEIR WEB PAGE! Or, for that matter, before they try to lobby and pressure lawmakers to enact unconstitutional, un-American, McCarthyesque censorship laws.

So yes, while the good folks like the PTC, their blowhard leader, Brent Bozell, and all the "concerned" activists in their local chapters are upset over the California decision today, I am having a really, really good laugh at their expense.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


OK, you just need to check out this article...based on a study done by the Office of Naval Research. All I want to say is that perhaps from now on the best people to run things in this world, make any sort of policy, must be science fiction writers!

The possibility of battle field robots running out of control and becoming a threat? Haven't we heard this sort of thing somewhere before? Hmm...
All these crazy technological possibilities we're worrying about, science fiction writers have already warned us about a long time ago. I think from now on I will only vote for politicians who can demonstrate that they're sci fi readers.

Of course, military robots running out of control and going all Terminator on you is an easy threat to imagine. The next type of menacing robots to watch out for will be the ones that try to do a favor for you by taking over. Those are the types that want to save you from yourself and keep you from harming yourself. Sure, you might not like it too much at first - the elimination of choices, free will, all that sort of stuff - and might find it all too constricting and unpleasant. But in the long run you'll see that it's all for the best.

Check out those nasty customers in sci fi flicks like Colossus: The Forbin Project, or Will Smith's I, Robot.

But, then again, there are also a lot of humans like that running around out there right now. They're scary.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The posts are back! I promise!!

...with more apologies to the readers! From now on anyone can fantasize about violent retribution if they need to go an entire week without an update on this page.

I must confess that during the fun and excitement of a long holiday weekend, there was too much I let get in the way of updating the blog. To confirm the suspicions of some of the people who've written the Culture Wars e-mail account (, I might even have been up to some no good. Some of the show's PTC listeners have accused me in the past of being in favor of everything immoral, so at least now I need to be honest. I did rip the wings off of a few flies the last couple of days and tripped an old lady.

But at least the past week has provided some really interesting - and exciting - research to mull over. Check out this article about a study from Europe showing that playing video games is actually good for kids! And I endorse the study because it actually takes the social research approach to its data gathering, talking to video-game-users about the meaning of the video games in their lives. So they eschew the correlational and content analytical nonsense. Good for them!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sanity on Culture Wars! 2/12/09

Be sure and tune in to the February 12th show of WSPC Culture Wars when we talk to people who understand big words like “research,” “proof,” “correlation,” and “causality.”

In the wake of last week’s PTC debate, we are joined by USC sociologist, Dr. Karen Sternheimer, talking about her book, “It’s Not the Media: The Truth About Pop Culture’s Influence on Children.” For one of the most readable and concise works on why all the media violence arguments are little more than unfounded paranoia and dishonest flim flam by a bunch of censorious control freaks, buy a copy of this book as quickly as you can!

But that’s not all!!!

Also joining us will be Rick Biondi, former Libertarian congressional candidate from Arizona’s 6th district. He’ll discuss the viability of third party candidates in today’s political culture…and the inherent wisdom of all who call themselves Libertarians!

Don’t miss it!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How to Publish Commercial Nonfiction...

Dr. Donovan’s advice: Take a lot of drugs first. Hard drugs. Cocaine, heroine, crystal meth. You have to go hard because if you’re lucky, they might give you brain damage and your IQ could drop about a good 10 to 15 points. This way you’ll be in the correct state of mind to write something the book business will deem of interest to the general reading masses.

I’m writing this because one of my former students asked me this same question. Since she’s a pretty bright kid, the drugs are in order. My answer’s prompted not so much by my usual aimless wanderings through the local Borders, but the latest romantic comedy that opened this weekend: He’s Just Not that Into You.
There’s just something about the existence of that movie that annoyed me and got me thinking. I realized I wasn’t so much annoyed by the fact that someone would make a film based on a relationship advice book, but by the fact that the book is so emblematic of the trivial, pointless, redundant pabulum you have to wade through in a big bookstore to find some really worthwhile nonfiction that might educate you, give you a new perspective to think about, or just open your eyes to some interesting and cool new facts.

For example, just wander through your bookstore in the near future and see what you find. Here’s some of the stuff I found, and stuff that left me feeling like an angrier and more unsatisfied reader as I left the store:

Books called “sensitive” and “life-changing.” I hate today’s books that are called sensitive or life-changing. They are most often about people dealing with the same things we all must handle every day. The problem is that these books make the random frustrations of every day life sound like epic obstacles you deserve a medal for dealing with. A few words to the authors of these things: you have to struggle to deal with a breakup, a divorce, your kid going to college, your kid moving home after college because he can’t get a job, your husband cheating, your wife cheating, or you gained ten pounds and can’t lose it? Welcome to the club!

If you’re dealing with any of the problems described above, I am really not interested in reading about it. If publishers pay a great deal of money to get books like that produced and marketed, they will not recoup their losses from me.

I am incapable of giving a damn about how a woman ate her way through Italy and Indonesia following a divorce.

I won’t read books about people and their animals. You get a lot of these in the wake of “Marley and Me.” After the success of the film, you will get a lot more. I saw books about people and their dogs, their cats, and even a “sensitive” and “life changing” book about a researcher and her relationship with a parrot. I had a dog once too. Just like millions of people. I really loved him. He was a big black lab named Einstein. Then, just like all dog-owners, I had to see Einstein grow old, sick and die. I was really depressed afterward. I’m not writing a book about it and I really don’t care to read about anyone else’s dog experience either.

Now let me qualify this by saying that I will read all of Dean Koontz’s fiction about dogs. Koontz, you see, is God and he is the greatest living novelist in America. I would pay to read Dean Koontz’s grocery list.

I also suggest you look at – but don’t buy – books with pastel-colored covers. The copy on these covers will usually look like a high school girl’s wavy cursive. These things are usually either “sensitive” or “quirky.” Most often they are about eating or buying shoes. Pastel covers are also usually found on “chick lit” fiction. Chick lit is invariably about women buying shoes in New York. Chick Lit is usually described as being “light,” "fluffy," or “frothy.” I want my yogurt light and fluffy, not my literature.

Today I saw a pastel-colored book about the importance of having conversations with people. I’m not making this up.

Another author – pastel cover on her book – tells me the importance of writing in good cursive. Thanks for the tip.

Books like these are the literary equivalent of elevator music. Unfortunately, publishers and agents think this is what the average American wants to read. This is the sort of trivial, inconsequential crap that will get multimillion dollar marketing and advertising budgets. And huge advances for their writers.

Seeing all this taking up space in a bookstore is almost as annoying as seeing so much self-help non-fiction and completely worthless memoirs of people of absolutely no distinction.

Most self-help advice I hate because it comes in either of two varieties:

One explains how to deal with the unfairness of a world where every single person you meet does not automatically love you and want to have sex with you.

The other category makes up the massive glut of weight loss advice. Why are these things being published? Or, more importantly, why do people buy them? It’s obvious most of the readers of these things don’t follow the advice between the covers. My free weight loss advice: Stop binging on junk food and get some exercise.

As for the memoirs/biographies: Similar to the points above about people dealing with breakups, divorces, dead pets, and weight gain.

Oh, and then we have the biographies of every flash in the pan, flavor of the month celebrity. I generally have no problems with people writing biographies of accomplished performers, directors and authors whose work stood the test of time or had a major impact on the culture. I own biographies of Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Ian Fleming, James Dean and, naturally, Dean Koontz. When I was writing my book on Hollywood and Asian action films, I bought biographies of Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, John Woo, Bruce Lee, and Sylvester Stallone. Chan, Lee, Stallone and Eastwood are people who made a long-lasting impact. Unfortunately, if you go to the bookstore today, you’ll also find biographies of Tila Tequila and Sanjaya Malakar!!! (hardcover prices of $26 and $20, respectively) I doubt that when the list of the important early 21st century performers will be written, the names Tila Tequila or Sanjaya Malakar will be on it.

Since it’s a fact that most books barely break even, I write this as an open challenge to the acquisitions people and literary agents who decided to buy/represent manuscripts about Tila Tequila and Sanjaya. Show me an earnings report that proves these books actually turned a profit.

But, of course, if your IQ is somewhere around your belt size, keep writing! You might have a future in nonfiction publishing.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Dangerous Media Effect

Since I was just arguing media effects with the head of the New Jersey chapter of the Parents Television Council on Culture Wars, I can’t help but comment on what may be a truly dangerous media effect I just ran across. And no, it’s not people becoming more violent, or wanting more sex, or trying to bully each other, starving themselves after reading fashion magazines, or watching anything on TV. It’s the possible effect of atrocious journalism.

The FOX news web page has a link to an AP story about a study on video game use by college students, with the headline reading “STUDY: VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES BAD FOR MENTAL HEALTH.” Check it out here.

The article describes a study published in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence. It looked at the sort of people who play a great deal of video games. The researchers report that students who play a great deal of video games are also the ones who may have alcohol problems, use drugs, and have bad personal relationships. The gamers who enjoy the violent games are also the ones to have a lot of sex partners and bad personal relationships. We are told that there is a “clear correlation” between the video gaming habits of these students and the sorry state of their lives.

So this study is proof that video games really cause you to become and alcoholic, a junkie, perhaps a sex addict, and someone who can’t have a healthy relationship, right?


But, of course, going by the AP story, you might conclude exactly that. The way the story is written – and most people are going to get the majority of their science news from the mainstream media rather than reading a dense, jargon-laden academic journal – the average person might conclude that here is a study establishing a clear causality between video game use and behavior.

Except that the study does nothing of the sort. The study finds a correlation, which is NOT the same as causality. A correlation is merely the observation of changes between two variables. From a study like this, we can’t tell if playing video games turned these students into sex-crazed, alcoholic drug users, or if people who like their cheap frat house beer, smoke too much reefer, have sex a lot with different women (most of the problem gamers appear to be men) because they’re loose and licentious (or perhaps they’re just lousy in bed and get dumped after the first roll in the hay) will also play a lot of video games. Maybe if you’re a drunken screw-up to begin with, you might be a high-using videogamer as well.

Again, maybe these people were screw-ups to start with and they turned to video games in their screwed up state.

Of course the problem with this is that media-phobic control freaks like to jump on these stories and get all “active” and “concerned.” For example, we might have a lot of folks at the PTC with a great, big silly grin all over their face right now, writing an Op-ed about the “scientifically proven” danger of video games. Then they’ll be starting campaigns to pass new laws to control video game sales because “the research proves the dangers.” These are the people who are incapable of understanding the nature of correlations in statistics and incapable of grasping why a count of the number of punches thrown in your average Rocky movie is not a proof that Rocky movies cause people to get into fights.

But, nevertheless, these very concerned activists like to get active and pass new laws to control your life and behavior.

And the real culprit in all this is a sloppy reporter!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More State of Panic Coming Soon!!!!

The podcasts of Culture Wars will be available by early next week. You can tune in and listen to our PTC debate with sound enhancements correcting some of the level problems experienced in the studio today.

Be sure and check back in here and I'll let you know when you can hear our thrilling exchange and the NJ PTC's explanations of:

The rampant crime...

Out-of-control social diseases decimating humanity...

Children going wild in the streets...

The breakdown of all civilization...

...all caused by the mass media!!

And why colleges should be coerced and intimidated if they let anyone say anything that offends the high arbiters of taste, style, and morality!!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The PTC on Culture Wars!

With apologies to the constant reader - as Stephen King would say - for the lax updates over the past week, I just wanted to announce that the Culture Wars radio show, hosted by yours truly and Ernabel Demillo, will have a special presentation this Thursday. The head of the New Jersey chapter of the Parents Television Council will join us to discuss her organization and their agendas and views of the media.

While this blog had been critical of the group, there is nothing we support more than free speech and the opportunity for everyone to exercise their rights to free expression. Thus, Culture Wars will give the PTC the chance to speak up tomorrow and air their views.

Tune in and decide for yourself!