Great Cartoon Fantasies…and a naked lady!

Posted May 10, 2007 by edukfun
Categories: Uncategorized

Many ages ago, when this ancient planet was not quite so ancient…there was an animated movie. Not a nasty, dirty educational film; nor a dry, boring documentary. It was an animated fantasy and that meant GREAT TIMES for kids!

To this day, The Hobbit is my all-time favorite movie, and I play it just to have on in the background–much to my wife’s chagrin. As soon as I hear the strumming introduction or the trilling notes of “The Greatest Adventure” it makes me happy and sad. Happy because I love it so, and yet sad because in many ways it represents the end of an age for me personally; the end of childhood and forcible entry into the blah world of grown-ups. Bah!

I did not write this article for treasure alone…I mean only for The Hobbit. There’s also The Secret of Nimh,The Last Unicorn, Watership Down, and an Honorable Mention for Jack and the Beanstalk which appeared on HBO in 1974 and beyond. These are my favorites and if you haven’t seen ’em, you oughtta!

Quick side note: Flight of Dragons is covered with awesomesauce but I only have it on VHS so I am saving it for a second article. Likewise, Mouse and His Child can only be adequately described by taking your audience and making them watch it. Alas, it hasn’t made its way to DVD and I cannot wait to get my eyes on a copy. Please contact me with any info.

This is an Interactive, Scratch ‘n’ Sniff, 3-D article with Kung-Fu Grip(tm). In the comments be sure to tell us what is your favorite animated fantasy…and if you’re younger than me, have no fear, you can have a favorite from any era!

Now on to the show (naked lady to follow, I promise).

The Hobbit


The greatest adventure has to begin somewhere, so why not with a tea party?

This epic tale is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings smash hit movie phenom. It has it all: a reluctant hero, wizard, dragon, dwarves, elves and assorted monsters. Poor Bilbo goes from his comfy hobbit hole (that’s not dirty, you sicko!) to being captured by trolls, goblins, spiders, elves, and barrels. His humble and curious nature, along with some hardcore determination, see him through to the end.

Dwarves–apparently–are delicious. I conclude this from the fact that at every turn someone or something was trying to eat them. Trolls? Check. Goblins? Check. Spiders? Check. Smaug the Dragon? Check. The elves don’t count because we all know that they are vegetarians. Gollum tried to eat Bilbo, but since he never ran into a dwarf we can only assume that he was dying to tuck in to their bearded organs.

Jack and the Beanstalk


DVD Menu Screen


Yes, she plans to eat him too!

This movie messes with my mind. It came out in 1974 and I think HBO played it to death, which was fine with me and drove my parents crazy. I have a hazy recollection of my dad being both amazed and annoyed that even though I’d seen it 4.3 zillion times I would practically cry if he made me change the channel. The story is pretty straightforward: boy gets suckered into trading his cow for “magic” beans that really are magic! There’s a castle, a giant, a princess under a spell, some cute mice (who are really people) and a faithful dog. Like The Hobbit, this movie has loads of music that as a kid you love, but as an adult you say, “Why did I like this?” Thanks to the rose-colored glasses (and ears) of youth, I will always love these songs, including “No One’s Happier Than I.”

No naked lady here, but keep reading!

The Secret of Nimh



Mrs. Brizby and her old coot friend.

Yes the book is better than the movie, but the movie totally rocks! Intelligent rats that live in a rosebush and a single-mom mouse who has to move her cinder block house before a tractor runs over her pneumoniac son. She gets help from a love-sick crow, a crotchety old mouse and Justin the handsome nice rat. She dares death to poison an evil cat (it only puts him to sleep), and goes to see The Great Owl. What a brave mouse! In the end there is an awesome sword fight and someone gets squished. Even more importantly, you find out how the rats got smart in the first place and what happened to Mrs. Brizby’s deceased husband.

The Last Unicorn


The Last Unicorn with her butterfly friend.


At last—a naked lady! But she’s really a unicorn.

This movie will make you cry. You simply have no choice. The music, the tone, the storyline, the tragic and lonely characters…it all adds up to a snot-fest for one. Now guys, don’t turn away. There’s also an evil witch who holds the nastiest harpy ever as a captive in her (mostly phony) freak show circus. A talking skeleton, the monstrous red bull, and an evil old king all add up to a great adventure. Not the greatest, but a good one. Oh and guys you can totally score points with the ladies by watching it with them.

Watership Down



Talking rabbits you say? Yes, it does sound weird but it actually works. It helps that these rabbits are violent and kill each other in their quest to find a safe place to live. This is another sad one. What is the deal with these sad cartoons? Are all beloved children’s stories tear-jerkers? Don’t even get me started on Charlotte’s Web!

Well that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed the ride down memory lane. Next time we will take the Great Space Coaster back to 1955. If we play our cards right we can change history so that Dick Cheney will never be born and we won’t have to grow up.

Don’t forget to tell us about YOUR favorite in the comments.

May the hair on your toes never fall out!

-Allen Dobkin


lol +Sir Lawrence

Posted May 7, 2007 by edukfun
Categories: Uncategorized

If you played DDO on Thelanis server last night, you got punked by the live event that almost TPK’d my group. Here is my fan art to commemorate the event.

If you like it, shoot me an email at edukfun at gmail dot com .




Traumatic Brain Injury Sufferers have found their Princess Di

Posted March 12, 2007 by edukfun
Categories: Anna Nicole Smith, attention, Bob Woodruff, brain injury, media, memory, tbi, therapy

When ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff entered the news field, he may have had the idea that he could help change the world.  He has, though not in a way he might have expected.

Woodruff sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) while covering news in Iraq and has since partially recovered.  His story has generated a great deal of interest in TBIs and the great eye of the American Media has focused its attention on what is now being called a Silent Epidemic.

According to a story reported by (click here), 1.4 million Americans suffer Traumatic Brain Injuries every year—making TBI more common than cardiac arrest.  Over 5 million of us are dealing with long-term TBI disabilities.

Common problems associated with Traumatic Brain Injuries include impaired thinking, attention, memory and judgment.  Sparks of Genius’ cognitive training helps to literally rewire the brain and enhance those skills.

TBIs are most often the result of car accidents and explosions.  In a separate article (here), MSNBC reports that the damage is not all instantaneous.  After the traumatic event, bodily processes that occur can aggravate and expand the effects.  Effective, timely treatments could make an enormous difference to victims.

Kim Valentini, the TBI victim highlighted in the article, found significant improvement by undergoing intensive retraining.  Sparks of Genius can be an effective part of rehabilitation, and has had great success in working with victims of mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBI).

Of course, the reason that TBI has been a silent epidemic is that the media has been silent about it.  No one can blame them.  They can’t bother to discuss a major medical issue for which there is no Viagra.  All their top people are in Iraq and covering Anna Nicole Smith’s funeral.

Thanks Mr. Woodruff!  You put a face and a family behind TBI.  Like Princess Di, who helped focus the world’s attention on the horrors of land mines and the suffering of its victims, you have enlightened us.  Sadly, Princess Di may have been more effective if, instead of talking about land mines, she had been killed by one; as long as Anna Nicole Smith didn’t die that day, too.

Made to order: “Kids these days”

Posted February 21, 2007 by edukfun
Categories: add, adhd, discipline, parenting, psychology, school, science, self esteem

I blamed Hollywood

The one resounding lesson I took away from my four high school years as a proud underachiever was this:

Hard work is for suckers.

While the “smart” kids were working hard, studying, and doing their homework, I was staying up all night playing computer games (on my Commodore 128, yes I am that old).  The homework that I did complete usually came into the world during a horribly long morning bus ride.  I graduated with a 3.0001 GPA by showing up and “winging it” on exams.  I stayed up until 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning, and slept in all but computer classes.  I thought I was better than everyone else.  What suckers they were, actually doing their homework.  Bah.

I’ve been paying for that mistake ever since.

In real life, the people who are diligent, conscientious and hard-working are the movers and shakers.  They are the people who get things done.  They are the ones who write a novel every year (I’ve written 0.34 novels in 33 years).  They are the ones who finish college in 4 years (I dropped out).  They stay in the Navy for 20 years and retire (early honorable discharge here).  They are the ones who set—and break—records.

I blamed Hollywood for my lack of follow-through.

It makes sense.  You never see the hero of a movie get to the climax and save the day at the last minute by doing six months of hard work.  He always saves the day at the last second by being clever: he had a gun taped on his back, or he used *69, or he tricked the bad guys with sleight-of-hand.  If there is ever–EVER–hard work, it gets covered up by an 80’s style montage.

So who are you blaming?

Who are you blaming when you complain about “kids these days”?  Kids these days don’t know about hard work.  They don’t want to learn.  They won’t make an effort.  They just don’t care.  If you haven’t heard or said something like this yourself, ask the nearest public school teacher.

Then along comes Po Bronson (author of “What Should I Do With My Life?”) with a phenomenal article in New York Magazine, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids:  The Inverse Power of Praise.”  You have to read this article.  Parents and teachers, this is an order!  The article is here:

Read this article.  That’s an order!

The essence of the article is this: praising children for being smart, as opposed to working hard and being persistent, stunts their growth.  Praising children for making an effort, trying hard and not giving up can improve their performance in school and in life.  Children praised for hard work, work even harder.  Children praised for being intelligent avoid challenging tasks that might ruin their “smart” self-image.  Teaching high school students that intelligence is NOT innate, that the brain is like a muscle–the harder you work it the stronger it gets–raises math scores in underachieving minority students.

My wife is a biology teacher.  She doesn’t know it yet, but she will be teaching a segment on how the brain is like a muscle, soon.

Have you read the article yet?  What are you waiting for?  Go!

It is so easy as parents, teachers, mentors and friends to want to make kids feel good by heaping them with praise.  This is a mistake.

“I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.”

“…for college students on the verge of failing in class, esteem-building praise causes their grades to sink further….”

Kids are wise to insincere flattery–that’ll only work until they’re about 7 years old.  Then they can tell when you are full of it.  In fact, sometimes kids think that criticism is the real compliment, since the teacher wouldn’t tell you you can do better if they didn’t think you could handle it.

A personal favorite of mine, Nathaniel Branded (of Ayn Rand fame), is mentioned as the father of the modern self-esteem movement.  If you’re going to blame anyone for “kids these days”, it might as well be him.  He started it, and we as a society ran with it.

There is solid science backing this up (see the article for all those details), and I am a HUGE fan of science.  However, the rest of this entry is conjecture.

I look around and hear complaints about “kids these days” and also about “The Greatest Generation.”  Could it be that the self-esteem movement was adopted by our social institutions, and propagated throughout the population, and as a consequence we have squelched the stick-to-it-iveness of Generations XYZ?

It makes me think about Everybody Loves Raymond (my brother is Robert to a T.  You know this because he will tell you I am Raymond to a T).  Frank, the Dad, is a hard-a**.  Ray and Robbie have a problem?  “Suck it up.  Stop crying like a girl.”  If ever anyone had no regard for their kids’ self-esteem, it is Frank.  I know it is fiction, but it sure seems like The Greatest Generation didn’t molly-coddle their kids, and their kids came out alright.  Did their kinder, gentler parenting–served up with dollops of unconditional love and positive messages–squelch the fierce, can-do spirit of their kids?

The (scientific) evidence says that it did.  And what worries me is that the positive self-esteem culture is running the show now, and producing kids who don’t care, won’t work hard and just plain old aren’t trying.  And I bet a whole heck of a lot of them are getting diagnosed as ADD and ADHD, and instead of getting the training that they need in life, they are getting pills.

On a positive note, this is easy to treat.  With just 50 minuts of training, Math scores for underachieving High School students increased in just one semester after a long trend of sliding.

Take up the torch in your home, school, neighborhood and family.  This is a vital skill that kids need, can be taught, and will pay off for the rest of their lives.

Good Luck!

Allen Dobkin

Human Regeneration, real or hoax?

Posted February 20, 2007 by edukfun
Categories: astrology, critical thinking, crystals, homeopathy, medical, pseudoscience, reflexology, regeneration, Reiki, science

There is an exciting development in the world of medical science.  Using a special powder made from, of all things, pig bladder, patients seem to be able to REGROW SEVERED FINGERS!

That’s freakin’ amazing.  Full story here:

I love this story for several reasons.  First, it is exciting stuff, and TEACHERS can use this story to promote interest in science.  This is the kind of topic that children and adults find intuitively fascinating.  Interest in science is waning, in my opinion, and is causing all kinds of problems in our society.

The second reason is that this story can be used to teach CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS.  If you read the article (and you should) you will notice that even though it is strongly correlated, it is entirely possible that the pig-bladder treatment had no impact whatsoever on the regeneration.  The article specifically states that regrowth in adults is rare, but not impossible.  It could be that the treatment is worthless, but that the victim is one of the lucky few.  It also could be true that the treatment only works on certain people, and the victim is in that lucky category.

It could also be true that the whole thing is a misguided hoax.

Our students are even weaker in the realm of critical thinking, and this article can be used by teachers and parents to teach those skills.  The biggest question that jumps to my mind is that if this treatment really does work, then why haven’t the creators conducted independent studies on random samples of subjects.  The subjects don’t have to be human for the studies to be valuable.  If the claims are true, then the product is so valuable that the costs of research pale in comparison (in other words are not a valid excuse for not “proving” that it works).

Weak critical thinking skills have lead to the rise in Pseudoscience.

There are perfectly good reasons to believe in nonsense.  But most charlatans, including Reiki, Crystals, Homeopathy, Astrology and Reflexology are phoney-baloney that may be entertaining but drains people of their hard-earned cash in exchange for momentary delusion.  TEACHERS and PARENTS have an obligation to teach the critical thinking skills that protect us from quacks.

This article can help you get started.

Good Luck!

Allen Dobkin

Great news for parents: it’s not on purpose.

Posted February 14, 2007 by edukfun
Categories: add, adhd, attention, discipline, ld, learning disability, parenting, psychology, reactance, rebel, therapy

It is 7 o’clock and your child still hasn’t done his homework, or taken out the trash, or cleaned up his room. For the umpteenth time, you remind him as politely as possible. He promises to do it before bed.

The next morning undone homework, full trash bins and messy rooms are scattered all over the country, along with fistfuls of parental hair.

Is your kid trying to drive you crazy on purpose?

No. Well, not on purpose, anyway.

A new study reported this week in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reveals that there is an unconscious, automatic process by which teens—and adults—resist the efforts of people who they perceive as trying to control them. What child or teen doesn’t feel like his parents are trying to control him?

(In all fairness, I found this information at one of my favorite sites: )

All people resist being controlled: kids, teens, adults and seniors.

How many “bosses” does your child have? A child with a Learning Disability (LD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Aspergers Sydrome, or other issues has tons of bosses. Family Therapist, Social Worker, Occupational Therapist, a dozen teachers, private tutors, 1-4 parents, older siblings, School Psychologist, bus driver, you name it! To the child, every one of those people is out to run his life and nobody is asking the question, “Is Johnny having enough fun?”

The study showed that even when there is an unconscious, subliminal connection between a request and a controlling figure, the reactance occurs. Literally, when you ask your child to do his homework, his subconscious turns that into a desire to goof-off!

What the heck can you do about that?

Performance improves when the requestor is seen as wanting the requestee to have fun.

Science to the rescue! If the person making the request is perceived as wanting the subject to have fun, then the reactance is lessened or eliminated.

That is exactly what we are all about at Sparks of Genius!

Our computer lab is called The Playground. We have fun at work. We juggle in groups with our students. We talk about having fun and incorporate as many fun activities into what we do. That isn’t so hard, considering our training consists almost entirely of playing video games. The result? Our students are cooperative, look forward to their sessions, and do not see us as trying to control their lives.

Let your child have more control to lower reactance.

What this means to parents is that if reactance is high in your child, there are two things you can do to ease the tension. First, look for areas in which you can let your child have more control. Give them choices, even if the choices are stacked, like, “Do you want to go out on Saturday and do homework on Sunday, or vice versa?”

Relate requests (what you want) to what your child wants (to have fun).

Second, phrase requests in terms of what the child wants, especially in terms of fun. For example:

“I want you to have fun with your friends and not have to worry about the garbage. Can you take it out now, so you don’t have to remember when you get home?”

“I know you want to play X-Box. I’ll tell you what. Let’s get the dishes done as fast as we can and I’ll extend bed time an extra ten minutes so we can play together.”

Now I know you want to go play pinochle with your friends, but if you practice this skill right now, you’ll have more fun and less frustration.

Get started using this skill right now and save up to $100 per year on aspirin!

Good Luck!

Allen Dobkin


Posted February 14, 2007 by edukfun
Categories: Uncategorized

A typical meeting for an underacheiving student looks like this: parents, teachers, student and advisor all come together. They take turns explaining what is wrong with the student. Doesn’t study enough, not paying attention, socializes too much, obsessed with video games, etc.

Here is what you almost never hear at that meeting: what the student is great at, what his or her Spark of Genius is. If the kid is a whiz at computers or drama or sports, the teacher for that subject probably won’t even be at the meeting.

Granted, if the kid isn’t doing his part, he won’t be successful, but it is a very rare child who does not want to succeed in school. He or she may have given up hope that he can, may hide the fact that he cares, but deep down he wants to succeed.

And we, as educators, parents and mentors, often do the opposite of what the child needs.

We assume that the child isn’t pulling his weight, isn’t putting in the homework and study time needed. If we find out that in fact Jimmy is locked in his room four hours a night with 16 tons of textbooks, we then assume that he is goofing off in there, not making a real effort. We say things like, “If only he would study more”, “He needs to study with the T.V. off”, and my personal favorite, “When Jimmy tries, he does great,” which implies that since his grades aren’t great then he just isn’t trying.

Classical conditioning, scientifically validated for over fifty years, dictates that we should do the opposite: reinforce the behaviors you want, and ignore the behaviors you don’t want.

Try… Instead of…
Awesome, you’re studying! Shut off that computer!
Your Math grade went from a D to a C.
Let’s celebrate!
You failed English!
[Insert Punishment Here].

A common reaction to this is that it isn’t realistic, and by itself that is true. The struggling student needs an effective, structured plan. The plan should leverage the student’s Sparks of Genius to overcome weaknesses.

Is the student in love with his computer? Then taking away the computer is cutting his feet out from under him. Is she a Drama Queen (the good kind)? Don’t ban her from the school play, use a Dramatic Format to learn other subjects.

How do you handle effort and improvement? Respond with high praise, even for the smallest successes and efforts in the beginning. If your child makes an effort but fails, and the effort goes unnoticed, the child thinks, “Why bother?” Praise is free! Affection is free! Don’t scrimp on the free stuff.

How do you handle misbehavior? By dispassionately enforcing the guidelines built into your PLAN. No yelling, no screaming, no fighting; those are reinforcers that encourage the misbehavior.

So, if the child wants to be in the school play, but math is in the D-F region, you forge an agreement, like:

You will spend 30 minutes each night before a school day studying math at the kitchen table. The TV and radio will be off (if that is an issue). There will be no phone calls, internet, computer, chatting or distractions. All homework must be turned in on time. You must maintain B’s. If you score lower than a B on a quiz or test, the study time goes up to 1 hour, with a ten minute break, and you must stay after school three times for tutoring. You can miss two study sessions per month. If you miss more than that, you will be removed from the play without exception.

The agreement is put in writing and signed and posted on the fridge, the bedroom door, the bathroom mirror and the front door. Every time the child fulfills their end of the bargain, give heaps of praise and encouragement. That is what keeps them on track.

When they mess up, and they will, don’t get upset, or emotional or take it personally. Dispassionately enforce the agreement. Don’t let them get your goat.

Even the most stubborn, obstinate, disobedient child does not try to walk through walls. He understands that the wall is there and he has to deal with it. He tries to walk all over you because he has been able to do so in the past. When it comes to negative behavior, be as consistent as the wall, especially when you feel like beating your head against it.

Allen Dobkin