Posts Tagged ‘teen’


New cover for my 2013 story of the Apocalypse.

TRANSFIXION has a bunch of 5-Star Reviews.


Here is my favorite review:

Fast-paced, thought-provoking and at times moving

download (1)


Regular marijuana use bad for teens’ brains, study finds

While researching an article on this subject I found other studies from neuroscientists that suggest it may be true. The issue is the development of the frontal cortex of the brain, which is not fully cooked until about age 25. Marijuana may interfere with the connections being forged in that region. It is always better to be safe than sorry and to keep your substance abuse to a bare minimum. Young people may be significantly more at risk, and so be warned.

Frequent marijuana use can have a significant negative effect on the brains of teenagers and young adults, including cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ, according to psychologists. “It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth,” said one expert.


Rereading this (2019), there is sufficient reason to be skeptical:

“These findings remained even after researchers controlled for major medical conditions, prenatal drug exposure, developmental delays and learning disabilities, she added.”

Oh–What didn’t they control for? Not a trick question. No mention (again) of anti-depressants, such as those that deliberately interfere with structures of the brain and their SSRIs. No control for environment, schooling, alcohol, or pretty much anything! The medical industry has a vested, major financial interest in not finding problems with the pills they prescribe.

That means it was assumed that any differences had to be the sole fault of cannabis consumption. You know what happens when we assume.

The phrase “even after” is even more damning, as it suggests they didn’t want to control for anything, and like other bogus “studies” just wanted to blame cannabis for any problems they could quantify. That’s not science.



New upcoming sci-fi anti-war novel for YA readers.





This one grows on you over the years.  It’s such a weird little indie indulgence that it needs to be seen.  Based on a graphic novel, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johanssen are angsty high school graduates facing a dismal suburban future and trying to find themselves.  Caught between childhood and adulthood, and unsure about the road ahead, it makes for an unexpected, twisting melodrama unlike other teenage films.


Society and its mores are in the gun sights, as these misfits face the possibility of conforming.  This conformist / anti-conformist dichotomy drives the story and drives a wedge between longtime besties, Enid and Rebecca.

Throw in one off the wall encounter with Steve Buscemi, a hard core recluse dweeb with an old 78 record fetish, and things get highly discomforting.  Enid plays games with everyone’s lives, including her own, with mixed results.  In the end, perhaps we’re not sure what the hell happened or how to make sense of it.  The fantasy ending is what annoyed me originally.  Now, I can look past it and enjoy the film for its view on our culture and the performances of those involved.


Oh yeah.


Few films are so beloved as John Hughes’ quirky 80’s tale of high school truancy and the cry for freedom.  A distant relative of mine recently named her baby “Ferris.”  What is it that clicked into place on this film, and why does it still hold up, while so many teen comedies fizzle upon further reflection?

The legend is that John Hughes wrote the script in 6 days, confronted by a fast approaching writer’s strike.  Hughes is the 80’s teen comedy guy, with such films as The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Weird Science to his credit.  Hughes also directed and cast the film with just the right actors at just the right moment.

Ferris (Matthew Broderick) talks to the camera, repeatedly breaking the 4th wall, a high-risk move that fails more often than it works.  Luckily, Broderick had recently been in three different roles that also did this, and he was now so comfortable acting to the camera and so confident that he could pull it off, it just naturally emerged to give the comedy an elevated sense of philosophical musing.

Ferris’ best friend Cameron is the real central character, the project, the one with an arc and a life change to make.  Ferris acts as a hyper-real, charismatic catalyst to bring his friends, and the audience, on a greatest day of their lives kind of joyride.  And joyride they do – in Cameron’s father’s $350,000 classic Ferrari.

The point of the story is to break free and live more, to seize the day.  In that regard, it floats above the usual teen love/angst film, where shy nerds usually search for sex.  That’s not the goal here.  It works on a different plane.  It’s an unconventional storyline, and you can’t easily predict where the caravan will head next.

In the Behind the Scenes the atmosphere on the set is so spontaneous, so elastic and ripe for improvisation, credit really goes to Hughes for being such a collaborator.  Actors ad lib and mold the scenes, and they have great fun doing it.  The way a comedy should unfold.

The conflicts are strong and so memorable.  The school’s principal is on a wild-eyed Jihad to bring Ferris down, at any cost.  So is his jealous sister, Jeannie, who despises how Ferris gets away with everything, but she can’t get away with anything.


I’ve never met anyone who disliked Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and perhaps its timeless story of industrialized education suffocating the youth, and their natural inclination to rebel and break free will live on forever in the classics section.

Ferris on Netflix.

Save Ferris.

And if you can handle it, one of the best mashups between two completely irrelevant movies, ever:

Ferris Club


The Politics of THE HUNGER GAMES
By Bob Burnett

“The Hunger Games” movie had a multimillion-dollar weekend opening and seems destined to be the most successful film of the year. Which is remarkable because it’s a political movie set in a not-too-distant America and expresses themes that are familiar and disturbing.

“The Hunger Games” was published in 2008, the first book of a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. It imagines a post-apocalyptic America, “Panem,” with an authoritarian central government set in “The Capitol.” Inhabitants of the Capitol live a life of luxury while the rest of the citizens of Panem live in twelve slave colonies, “Districts,” scattered across North America. Once a year the Capitol televises a great spectacle where two teenagers are selected by lottery from each district, brought to the Capitol, trained and groomed, and then transported to an arena for a battle where only one teenager can survive — the games’ slogan is, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

“The Hunger Games” heroine is sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen who represents District 12. She supplements her family’s diet by (illegal) bow hunting. Her archery talents protect her when the games begin.

“The Hunger Games” novel was targeted for young-adult readers — there’s violence but no sex — and then crossed over to a larger audience. The “Hunger Games” movie grossed more than $155 million in its first weekend: 61 percent of moviegoers were women and 56 percent of ticketholders were over 25.

Unlike other recent blockbuster movies — “Harry Potter,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Spiderman” — “The Hunger Games” is set in a recognizable America and expresses themes from the contemporary zeitgeist.

The first is that things aren’t going well. “The Hunger Games” is part of a wave of dystopian novels — other examples are “Pure” and “Divergent” — that are favorites with young-adult readers. The books assume an America that has been ravaged by nuclear war or an environmental calamity. This builds upon fear that the US is headed in the wrong direction — in the most recent Gallup Poll 72 percent of respondents felt this way.

The second theme is that the central government cannot be trusted. In “The Hunger Games,” President Coriolanus Snow, an autocrat, governs the Capitol, which controls the twelve districts by means of a ruthless police force. In addition to forced-labor camps, Panem utilizes extensive electronic surveillance, and during the period of the games, compulsory television viewing. This reflects the belief the US government cannot be trusted. Those on the right believe the Federal government has been usurped by “socialists” and gotten too big. Those on the left believe the Federal government has been bought by plutocrats and isn’t doing anything to protect workers. Many Americans believe there is too much government intrusion into our private lives.

The third “Hunger Games” theme is that government no longer works for all the people. There’s a small group that lives a life of privilege while most people struggle to fend off starvation. Collins doesn’t use the terms 1 percent and 99 percent, but it’s clear that those in the Capitol are members of the 1 percent and everyone in the Panem districts is part of the 99 percent.

The fourth theme is ubiquitous surveillance. There are cameras and listening devices planted everywhere in Panem. Even before Katniss enters the games, she’s aware that most of the time her movements are being observed. After she enters the games she has no privacy; a tracking device is implanted in her arm and every move Katniss makes is broadcast on TV.

The fifth theme is young adults dying as “entertainment.” This is the aspect of “the Hunger Games” that’s gotten the most negative attention — the notion that a battle to the death involving teenagers serves as a form of reality television for the citizens of Panem. (By the way, the movie is rated PG-13.) But the fact is the US has an unusually high rate of teenage violent deaths. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among all teenagers, but homicide is the leader for black male teens. If you couple these facts with the ubiquitous American culture of violence — the prevalence of handguns, violent imagery in books, films, games, and music — most contemporary teenagers accept the violence in “the Hunger Games” as near reality. Note that at the end of Harry Potter, Harry and the teenage students at Hogwarts School engaged in a battle to the death with Lord Voldemort and his allies.

The sixth theme in “the Hunger Games” is revolution. This is only hinted at in the movie — there are scenes of fighting in District 11 after Rue is killed. But in ” Mockingjay,” the final book of the trilogy, Katniss leads a rebellion against the rulers of Panem. We’re beginning to hear muttering about revolution in the US: states seceding from the union, Americans withdrawing to survivalist enclaves in the deep woods, Tea-Party radicals eliminating of the federal government, and so forth.

Sixty-three years ago, Orwell’s dystopian novel, “Nineteen Eighty-four,” turned out to be prophetic. Will that be true of “The Hunger Games?” Decide for yourself and “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.