Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Soundtrack to My Life

The song “Before It’s Too Late” by the Goo Goo Dolls is a song that I’ve always loved for two reasons.  For one, it was slow song that was always played at the school dances when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, and I ALWAYS pictured myself dancing with the “hottest” boy in school to this song. Pathetic, I know. But apart from that, I always valued the meaning of this song.  The lyrics “Live like you mean it/ And love ‘til you feel it/ It’s all that we need in our lives” are an awesome way to look at life! And that’s how I try to live mine.  I also love the lyrics “And the risk that might break you/ is the one that would save/ A life you don’t live is still lost.” Sometimes you’ve just gotta take chances even if it might not end up the way you had hoped because trying is still better than doing nothing.

Deck the Halls – Mannheim Steamroller.  This is an odd one. It doesn’t even have words; but fear not, I do have a reason for choosing this song.  Ever since I can remember, my family has played the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album as we decorated the house for Christmas.  If you’ve never heard of the orchestra, I’d say it’s pretty comparable to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Anyhow, I’ve always been the one in my family who gets the most excited for Christmas.  I go nuts when it’s time hang ornaments on the tree, and songs such as this one have always been the tune to which I decorated.  To me, this song reminds me of my youth and can always put me in the Christmas spirit no matter what season it is.

Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson.  This song also holds several meanings to me. First of all, I like the lyrics, particularly the refrain: I'm starting with the man in the mirror/I'm asking him to change his ways/ And no message could have been any clearer/If you wanna make the world a better place/Take a look at yourself and then make a change.  When there’s a problem in my life, this song reminds me that rather than putting the blame on others, sometimes it’s best to just look in the mirror and own up to the fact that I screwed up. Often times, I’m the one who needs to make a change if I want to see improvements, rather than just complaining about it.  So, the reason I chose this song was because it was written by Michael Jackson. Quite honestly, I could have picked any one of his songs to be on the soundtrack and it wouldn’t have made a difference to me. The reason I say this is because prior to Michael Jackson’s death, I thought he was the creepiest, weirdest looking guy I had ever seen, just like everyone else. (I actually screamed the first time I saw him on TV when I was little – no joke). But after he died, something changed.  My mom started listening to his music more often because it was always on the radio. At first I criticized her for listening to it, but after a while I even found myself humming bits and pieces of his songs throughout the day.  Before you know it, I was hooked! My mom and I would play his music ALL the time. It’s sort of embarrassing and my friends always tease me about it, but I don’t care. I love his music and it’s a part of my life that’s here to stay.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Research Citations

“Until World War I, few women other than prostitutes ventured into saloons and barooms” (Zeitz, 2006, p. 6).

Zeitz, J. (2006).  Flapper: A madcap story of sex, style, celebrity, and the women who made America modern. New York: Crown.

Since my research topic involves the “flapper” culture of the 1920s, I thought it would be appropriate to use a book written entirely on the subject of flappers.  I t seems to be a pretty credible source, since it provides a lot of information on the topic and discusses the historical background that preceded the flapper era.  The only trouble I might have with this source is that the author quotes a lot of other sources, so I may have to try to find the original source if I want to cite something that is second-hand information.  I might use this quote when describing what life was like for women prior to the flapper era.

“The stereotypical flapper was a slender, fashionable, opinionated girl who partied hard, smoked and drank heavily, and flaunted her sexuality in ways considered shocking at the time” (DiPaolo, 2007).

DiPaolo, B. (2007, July 2). Flappers: frivolous time-wasters or America’s new liberated women? Issues & Controversies in American History. Retrieved November 21, 2011, from Issues & Controversies in American History database.

This source has a vast amount of information on flappers and the flapper era that I think could be very useful for my paper. Though it is not a journal article or book, it still appears to be a credible source because the author cites all information that comes from outside sources. The lengthy bibliography included at the end of the article might also be beneficial in finding more information relating to my topic as well.  I might use this quote when describing the typical behaviors of the common flapper.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapters 10 & 11

In chapter 10 of The Psychopath Test, Ronson suggests that the number of people being misdiagnosed with nonexistent mental disorders has been blown out of proportion. He begins the chapter by describing a strange ceremony hosted by Scientologists that he had attended in which a woman by the name of Lady Margaret McNair spoke about the outrageous mental disorders the DSM has invented. She seemed to be implying that people are increasingly being labeled as having mental disorders, though they may be displaying nothing more than complicated human behaviors. Ronson believes that the source of these newfound mental disorders lies with a man named Robert Spitzer.  As a former editor of the DSM-III, Spitzer believed that by accepting as many new proposed mental disorders and their corresponding checklists that he possibly could, he would be able to start eliminating human judgment from psychiatry. One reason he wanted to pursue this was because of an experiment that once brought about great embarrassment to the field of psychology involving a psychologist named David Rosenhan.  In this experiment, Rosenhan and seven friends traveled to mental hospitals across America where they pretended to hear voices in their heads but otherwise showed no signs of mental disorders.  All eight of them were diagnosed as insane and admitted to the hospitals.  Upon hearing that it had all been a setup, one of the hospitals bet that they would be able to detect any subsequent fakes that would be sent to their hospitals.  After a month, they claimed to have found 41 fakes; however, none had ever even been sent in the first place.  The DSM-III series proved to be a large hit among the public because it enabled people to finally be able to place a name to their formerly undiagnosable behaviors. Though it was a large sensation initially, Allen Frances, the successor of Spitzer, believed that it was creating a false epidemic in psychiatry for Autism, Childhood Bipolar, and Attention Deficit Disorder. Ronson then discusses David Shayler’s theory that Bipolar disorder is really just ADD. He also tells of Bryna Hebert and her particularly manic son, Matt, who she believes is bipolar. Finally, Ronson ends the chapter with the story of a four-year-old girl named Rebecca Riley who was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and died as a result of an overdose on medication by her parents one night.

What makes diagnosing and detecting mental disorders in psychiatry so difficult is that there is no concrete evidence that can prove whether or not someone does or does not have a certain mental condition.  In the health care field, when dealing with the physical aspects of the human body, a doctor may be able to take a blood sample and determine from a single drop of blood whether or not someone has sickle cell anemia, or cancer, or diabetes.  Physical evidence provides concrete answers. When it comes to dealing with the cognitive aspect of the human body, however, that is where the lines become much more blurry. There are no specific identifiable genes (that I’m aware of) that indicate the presence of certain mental disorders.  For instance, no “psychopath gene” has (yet) been identified. Because of this, people are forced to resort to making educated guesses – which I think is justifiable. I’d personally rather have educated professionals making educated guesses about mental disorders than having a bunch of untreated psychopaths running around without medical assistance. All I’m saying is that though errors, without a doubt, are bound to occur, a lot of good has still come out of making educated guesses. Indeed, there have been a lot of people who have been misdiagnosed and bad things have resulted from it; but overall, I feel that the benefits that we have seen through this “guessing,” such as treatment for erratic behavior, have outweighed the risks. On another note, I LOVED this book! It was very funny, insightful, and thought-provoking! Jon Ronson = new favorite author.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Psychopath Test Chapters 8 & 9

In chapter 8 of The Psychopath, Ronson begins the chapter by describing a series of events that occurred with a woman named Rachel North on July 7, 2005.  While on the line tube in North London one day, an explosion occurred in the carriage that Rachel was in, injuring and killing many of those around her.  Following this traumatic event, Rachel began blogging in an attempt to cope with what she had recently experienced.  However, this soon turned sour as a few conspiracy theorists began suggesting that Rachel was not a real person.  Rather, they argued that she was a fictional character invented by the British government and that the explosion had all been created by the government in order to cover up an accidental power surge.  Rachel’s irritation soon turned to rage as she grew tired of trying to prove her existence, and finally she decided to attend one of their meetings that was being held in a pub. There, she realized that the leader of group was actually a man whom she had previously admired named David Shayler.  Shayler was a former MI5 spy who received publicity for going on the run after passing secret information about his agency’s attempted assassination. He caught the public eye several more times over the years as he proclaimed his strange conspiracy views with the world regarding 7/7 and 9/11.  Though the public was at first intrigued with his ideas, they soon lost interest when he proclaimed to be the Messiah.  According to Ronson, this is because society is only interested in the right sort of mad – the kind of madness that’s just crazy enough that they fear of becoming it themselves.

I wasn’t particularly fond of the chapter 9 all that much, but I really liked chapter 8.  I have to admit that I chuckled to myself at some of things Ronson said and received several awkward looks from people in the quiet study room around me. For instance, I thought it was hilarious that he nonchalantly mentioned that he happened to be looking himself up on Google when he found out about Rachel North. His openly somewhat narcissistic attitude kills me. I love his writing style and I’d really be interested in reading some more of the other books he has written.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Something Borrowed

In “Something Borrowed,” Malcolm Gladwell addresses the issue of plagiarism and what constitutes it.  In this essay, Gladwell describes a personal encounter he had with plagiarism earlier in his career involving a British playwright, Bryony Lavery, who wrote the hit Broadway play “Frozen.”  Problems arose when Dorothy Lewis, a psychiatrist who studied serial killers, realized that parts of the play closely resembled much of her own life story, and found that pieces of  her own work as well as Gladwell’s were included the play without their permission.  Though Gladwell was not particularly upset about the issue, the matter prompted him to further explore the idea of plagiarism, intellectual property doctrine, and what exactly qualifies as plagiarism.  He goes on to describe various cases of plagiarism in music over time.  Gladwell wonders whether something should truly be considered plagiarism if it uses someone’s words but applies a different meaning to it.  In some respects, he feels that this form of “plagiarism” is acceptable because modifying someone else’s original idea could produce an even greater result.

My initial reaction after reading just a few pages of this essay, especially after Gladwell began talking about how he felt okay with Lavery’s use of his work, was that Gladwell would basically warrant plagiarism in the rest of the article. And to be honest, I got a little excited.  I have never personally been one for plagiarizing, nor do I ever plan on doing it intentionally, but for some weird reason I became excited when he started defending plagiarism! Overall, it was an intriguing article with an interesting perspective that made me reexamine my own beliefs on plagiarism.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just Mad Enough

In chapter 7 of The Psychopath Test, Ronson recalls a conversation he once had with a friend named Adam Curtis, who believes that journalists create stories out of fragments.  Ronson wonders what other methods exist for finding “gems”.  This leads him to a woman named Charlotte Scott, who worked on various reality TV shows that centered on broken families and twisted relationships.  Her job was to find candidates who were “the right sort of madness”; and the way she did this was by finding out what type of medication they were on.  For example, people on Prozac were “just mad enough” because they weren’t too depressed, yet were depressed enough to seek help.  The risky side to this method, however, was that it often toyed with people’s families, including their children, and resulted in destroyed family lives, and even in some cases suicide.  After hearing the stories of Charlotte Scott, Ronson concludes that his method is much better than hers. 

What I liked most about these chapters, was how the characters mentioned each referenced something that I’ve seen or heard about it my daily life.  For example, I thought it was interesting to hear about Charlotte Scott’s involvement with the shows like Jerry Springer, Wife Swap, and Extreme Makeover– shows that I watch! It was almost like a “behind-the-scenes” look at what goes on in the making of them.  I guess I never really thought about how much these families are impacted all in the name of entertainment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blog Assignment #3

What are the benefits of chocolate?

I think this would be an interesting topic to write a paper on because I know there have been vast amounts of research done on it in recent years.  For my paper, I would first explore the nutritional benefits of it.  How does chocolate help you meet your daily dietary needs?  I would then talk about the psychological benefits of chocolate.  Chocolate can be a great stress reliever…why is that?  Finally, I want to learn the health benefits of chocolate, because I know there are many.  I did a simple Google search on “what are the benefits of chocolate,” and found endless websites pertaining to that topic, so I don’t think it will be difficult finding information.  Since it has been researched so much, I also think I could probably find a few good research studies on the effects of chocolate as well. 

I think that I will probably find more health benefits than anything.  Some problems that may arise might be finding accurate sources.  Most of what is on the web is second or third hand information, so I will have to make sure that it is a reliable source.  One other thing that I might look into is how chocolate was used throughout history for nutritional, health, and psychological purposes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Psychopath Test - Chapters 4 & 5

In chapter five of The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson reflects on his experience with Toto Constant, a man from Haiti who was accused of many acts of violence in his home country and was banished to Queens, NY.  Ronson begins by describing his first interview with Toto in Queens back in the 90’s where he recalled Toto “fake crying”.  Years later, after having attended a three-day conference in which Bob Hare explained the PCL-R Checklist, a list of 20 qualities that help identify psychopaths, Ronson again interviewed Toto in Coxsackie Correctional Facility in order to test his newfound psychopath-detecting skills.  Though Toto had initially said that his main purpose for observing people was to figure out how to make them “like” him, Jon was able to uncover that his real motives involved a plan to win their affection in order to manipulate them.  Finally, at the end of chapter five, Jon discusses Bob Hare’s book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work and his theory about corporate psychopaths. This book discusses the conspiracy theory of “executive snakes” ruling the world and makes Jon wonder if there might be some way of proving it.

I found these two chapters to be the most interesting chapters of the entire book; however, as a result they have also made me become much more neurotic.  I find myself wondering how many people I pass on a daily basis walking to class are psychopaths, or wondering if anyone on my floor has any characteristics of one! I, too, feel like I have become a psychopath detective and it is quite entertaining.  Also, I realized that I am more like Jon Ronson than I thought. When he mentioned Toto living in Queens, I was instantly overcome with a flash of anxiety as I wondered how many people like Toto could be residing in Madison.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chapter 3 Abstract!

In Chapter 3 of The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson describes, in great detail, the bizarre and highly questionable therapeutic methods of psychiatrist Elliot Barker.  Eager to gain a better understanding of psychopaths and how they could be cured, Barker traveled the world visiting many locations in which outlandish treatments were being practiced.  Some of the methods, including the use of LSD and nude therapy, intrigued Barker who later applied them to many of his patients in the Oak Ridge hospital for the criminally insane, in the hopes of curing them. While Elliot Barker truly considered his methods to be therapeutic, later studies showed that 80% of his “cured” patients who were released into the outside world went on to reoffend later in life. The results of Barker’s methods brought about much criticism, and ultimately provided more reason to believe that psychopaths could not be cured.

I found this chapter to be really interesting. I certainly do not condone Barker’s methods, but I do find it interesting to hear why these methods of therapy made sense in his mind.  To us, the practice of addressing one’s genitals or staring at another’s for hours would in no way, shape, or forms, seem therapeutic.  But to people like Elliot Barker and Paul Bindrim, the psychotherapist who provided inspiration to Barker, physical nakedness was merely an outlet to emotional nakedness, and therefore it made perfect logical sense. It’s fascinating to look at things from different perspectives sometimes. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011