Saturday, April 29, 2006

Airplanes, United 93 and Phobias

Well, the movie, United 93, is now in theaters--I would love to see it but I can't. Why? I have a horrible fear of flying. Okay, I know this is stupid, but apparently I am in good company with this phobia--it seems that Isaac Asimov, David Bowie and even the Dalai Lama had a fear of flying. Wikipedia describes the causes of fear of flying:

There are many things that cause one to fear flying, including a fear of closed in spaces (claustrophobia), such as that of an airplane cabin; a fear of heights (acrophobia); a feeling of not being in control (since a passenger is not piloting the plane and can't get out at will); previous traumatizing experiences while in flight; fear of hijacking or terrorism; fear of deep venous thrombosis; fear of turbulence; etc. While most people who are afraid of flying but to whom flight is a convenient way to conduct necessary business manage their fears well enough that they are able to fly, they may spend considerable time and emotional energy thinking about the dangers that may befall them during flight.

Okay, throw me in with the group that is afraid because of a lack of control--I hate the fact that I don't know who is piloting the plane. The crazy thing is, I used to be a student pilot as a teenager. At 14, I went to work in a shoe store to pay for flying lessons. The most exciting part of my life at that point was tooling around looking at the Smoky Mountains with my instructor, Emilio, in a Cessna 150. I was never afraid. Once my grandmother visited from Iowa and watched me take a lesson. I heard her ask my mother why in the world she would let her kid take these "risky" flying lessons. My mom just shrugged and said, "That's what Helen does, she wants to fly airplanes." Just as an aside, I have to say looking back, I really admire my mom for her nonchalant attitude--it fostered my independence and taught me to ignore societal pressure from others to behave in any type of stereotypical manner. Okay, maybe today it has its drawbacks because I often ignore societal cues as to how to act, but hey, it works for me.

Anyway, back to my fear of flying, it seemed to develop over time. I used to fly often when I lived in NYC and it was easy to get a flight to Europe or the Caribbean but somewhere along the line, my feelings changed and I became more and more afraid. I hate to sound like a mom, but I think it was after my kid was born that the fear intensified and I thought of what would happen if the plane crashed and my daughter was left to grow up without a mother. I do force myself to fly, for example, after 911, I was scheduled to do a talk show in Manhattan and got myself on the plane. Luckily, I was sitting next to a retired pilot turned business man who spent the trip telling me how 911 had "inconvenienced" him while traveling on that day. He was so narcissistic that I figured if the plane was hijacked or had problems, he would just push someone aside and fly the plane just so he would not be inconvenienced by the change in plans. I made it to New York, despite my white knuckles, and flew back without any problems but my fear continues.

I am afraid that if I see United 93, my fear will intensify and I will not make it onto the next plane trip I need to take--but then again, perhaps I should engage in some implosion therapy and plunge myself into the film and a subsequent trip to Europe or Israel to squelch my fear.

Has anyone seen the film or planning to do so? If so, let me know your impressions.

Shrinkwrapped sees the movie and gives his analysis.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Interview with MENS NEWS DAILY

Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Lasalle, the editor of Mens News Daily, a news and commentary site on men's issues. I figured that the editor of a large men's news site would have his pulse on what makes (some) men tick. Here are my questions and Mr. Lasalle's responses:

1) What made you decide to start MND--was it personal, political or do you just have an interest in men's issues?

When I first encountered the divorce "system" in 1995, I observed that while women were well represented and supported as a special class within the system, men were rarely acknowledged except in their capacity as income earners.

I also discovered a network of judges, lawyers, social workers, non-governmental organizations, and court-appointed evaluators. All were called to serve the needs of Judges and their protocols, and all were dependent on the State (and each other) for referrals and new business. Virtually all of these players operated under the pre-conceived notion that the State had already assumed the role of "father" under Parens Patriae. My role - the role I was given but did not want - was to be that of a quiet surf, too proud or too shamed to raise a voice in protest.

In my experience, family court was really Trial by Ordeal - and, instead of helping my family through a difficult circumstance, the system instead seemed bent on making it much worse. Not surprisingly, I also found that support for fathers within the system was virtually absent. Using the web, I learned of many other men and fathers around the globe whose experience with family court - and other branches of the legal system - was as Kafka-esque as my own.

While my experience has acquainted me with so-called "men's rights issues", MND itself is not affiliated with any men's organizations and is solely the product of my own imagination. The site is the manifestation of my conclusion that the rules-of-engagement between the sexes is so murky and in such flux right now, you need a daily news source just to keep up with it.

2) What are the demographics of men on your site--are they married, single, divorced? What are their age ranges? What issues are the men interested in--child custody, marriage, men's rights?

It's about an 80%-20 distribution between men and women.

Our users span a range of demographic particulars - but I expect that most support what I support: liberty of expression in an free marketplace of ideas.

3) Men are marrying less and less. Do you have any insight from your readers as to why they do not want to marry? Fewer men are going to college; any insight into why not? More men between the ages of 22 and 34 are living at home--what is the general concensus from your readers as to why?

I think many men learn about the state of marriage the hard way - through painful experience. It's difficult to convey basic facts about the average man's prospects, since young men often believe they are the exceptions. But the raw facts are simple enough: the average American man is likely to be divorced at least once in his lifetime. And there's the rub: men and women across our society think marriage vows are situational. So, in place of a sacred union, marriage has become an expensive-to-dissolve legal contract whose disposition effects the children, the estate, and the future earning power of the disenfranchised party. (At least the wedding party was a blast...)

Fewer men are going to college because the fast track to education is reserved for the 'disadvantaged' sex - women. Men are thus squeezed to fit the new agenda, thereby themselves becoming a disadvantaged underclass: college graduation rates for men are fast approaching a lopsided 40% compared to women.

Title IX is a clear example of gender-conscious social engineering. The furor caused by Larry Summers' comments last year regarding women in science - and the dull apologies that followed - is another fair testament. On the other hand " slacker men" hits a nerve as a caricature because American men really do seem to be throwing-in the towel on starting a family or planning beyond their own needs in life.

Some say the evils of radical feminism are responsible for men's troubles nowadays. That may be true, but in my opinion "radical feminism" is a symptom of men's malaise, not its cause.

4) How do men on your site feel about women, feminists in particular? What would a psychologist or others working with men really need to know about their psychology to make a difference in their lives?

I think the vast majority of the men visiting MND have healthy relationships with women. I don't think American men are 'angry' at women. They're angry at the social and legal customs that sometimes place women above the rules that men must follow. (Part of my job is to highlight those disparities in the stories I cover.)

I think men's psychology is fundamental: most of us are purposeful. Most of us are idealistic. Most of us are loyal. Most of us want the best for all concerned.

I think that about covers it.

5) What is the best way to advocate for men's rights and issues? Grassroots organizations, writing to politicians, protesting in the streets?

There are many organizations out there, and a quick search of the web will put you in contact with local groups.

National organizations like ACFC are a good place to start - they can put you in touch with local chapters everywhere across the country. There are many others, of course - at both the local and international level. Most are great. Caveat Emptor, of course!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Perp or Horny--You Decide

Take a look at this video about a 36-year-old mother using to lure young men to her home for sex. It states that some of the young victims did not want to come forward because the perpetrator was a woman. What do you think--is this woman a perp or is she just horny?

Update: Here is an older article (2002) from USA Today looking at the gray area of adult-child sex. Take a look at what they say about a Dutch law that allows adults to have sex with 12-16 year olds legally if the youngster consents to it. Twelve seems too young to me--fourteen seems a more reasonable age to make that type of decision.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Podcast with Vernor Vinge

Today, we are talking with one of science fiction's most brillant and popular authors, Vernor Vinge. Vinge coined the term, Singularity, a term used to indicate a future where technological change has changed everything. We see the beginning of that change with Internet-based tools that are changing our lives--Wikipedia, Google, eBay and others. Vinge discusses his new novel, Rainbows End, the Internet of 2025, mind transfer and whether colleges will become obsolete after the Singularity.

Thanks for the three and one-half million downloads our podcasts have received so far! We had over 141,000 (141,131 to be exact) downloads just today and it seems to be growing. Who says individuals have to rely on the MSM or even cable channels to give them a platform? Podcasts are the Singularity in action.

You can listen here (no iPod needed) or subscribe to iTunes. We are asking our iTunes listeners who have not done so to please subscribe to iTunes for our podcasts to help us move up the charts. Exposure -- it's what we get instead of money!

A low-fi version for dialup users is here, and you can see all our previous episodes here.

New Theory or Excuse?

Here is an article from Inside Higher Ed on a "new take" on the gender gap in colleges. I thought this litte know factoid was relevant:

The study starts with a review of the long-term trends in gender enrollment and notes a fact that has received relatively little attention of late: Between 1900 and 1930, male and female enrollments were roughly at parity. And relatively few of the women enrolled (about 5 percent) were at elite women’s colleges. About half were at public institutions.

So, if male and female enrollments were roughly equal from 1900-1930--where is all the discrimination against women in public education that feminists keep talking about from that era? I thought women were home barefoot and pregnant.

Update: I understand very well that women were discriminated against in earlier times and had trouble using their credentials to get ahead in many professions. However, the point of this post is to reveal the hypocrisy that the researchers at Harvard are using when they use the fact that equal numbers of women and men attended college in earlier times as an excuse--oops, I mean "theory" as to why there is a gender gap in education now. In other words--nothing to worry about for men--they never attended college that much anyway so why worry if they don't now. If you really want to know how the Harvard researchers feel about men in college, take a look at this paragraph:

The other major factor they cite is also very simple: Women do better in high school. They are more likely to study hard, to take the right courses, and to do well in those courses than are their male counterparts. Male high school students are more likely to have behavioral problems.

Now, turn that paragraph around and imagine how sexist it would sound if we said men do better at high school and women have behavioral problems. The question if women were down to 40% of college students would be, "what can we do to change that?" not, how can we make it seem normal that men don't attend college so that we don't have to do anything to change it?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Get Well, Michael

One of our fellow Tennessee bloggers, Michael Silence, is having bypass surgery. Go by and wish him well.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Twelve-year-old charged with Double Murder

Here is a brief story of a twelve-year-old charged with the double murder of his mother and nine year old brother. I can only imagine the problems this family must have gone through prior to the killings. So many times, when kids this young have emotional problems with anger, people laugh, make light or think there is nothing to worry about. I once had a nine-year-old boy who threatened to kill his principal--I called the principal to warn him of the impending danger only to be laughed at and told that "no nine-year-old could be that dangerous." It was 1996. Only after the rash of school shootings started and the principal found this young student waiting for him in his office, crouched behind his chair, did he follow up to ask for my help. Sometimes, people take the violent threats of children too seriously, but sometimes, they do not take them seriously enough. The hard part is knowing the difference.Too bad no one stopped this tragedy before it happened.

Update: Several commenters have asked some good questions about why young kids kill, if they can be treated and how to tell the difference between a threat and real violence. First of all, kids under 14 do not kill often--take a look at the stats from the Office of Juvenile Justice. However, when they do, there can be a variety of reasons. Some have been abused, some are mentally ill and some are just NDG (no damn good--the more sophisticated psychological term is psychopath) or maybe they are a combination of all three.

The 12-year-old in this case was described by neighbors as "a bully" who told others not to mess with him--because he was crazy:

Ten-year-old Jasmine Williams describes the accused as "a bad kid" who would often hit people.

Sixteen-year-old Kel Taylor says the boy would say - quote - "I'm crazy. Don't mess with me."

I have found in my interviews with violent kids that many of them resort to saying they are crazy so that others will leave them alone or be afraid of them. However, in some cases, kids can just be Conduct Disordered--that is, they frequently display physical aggression towards others, have disturbed peer relationships, steal and lie. These cases are the hardest to change and those children who display persistent symptoms prior to puberty are more likely to develop adult Antisocial Personality Disorder and to possibly have more problems later in life. This is why as experts, forensic psychologists use instruments such as the Hare Psychopathy Checklist--Youth Version, to determine the extent of psychopathy. These instruments, interviews and other data help psychologists to assist the courts or agencies with recommendations on how dangerous a child might be (which is hard as violence prediction is not a hard science) and how to treat them.

So what do you do to determine if a child's threats are real or just words? Listen! Often kids will talk if they think you can stand hearing what they have to say. Case in point: kids often come in my office and say that the adults in their milieu get so upset or misunderstand their behavior that they shut down and/or just act out. If you hear kids saying upsetting things, get used to it. We are so afraid of anger in children that most adults shut down or get scared when confronted with anger that is so deep, a child will resort to murder. Some kids will talk "crazy" just to shock people but underlying this is, why is that important to the child? Find out.

If you hear a child describe feelings of hopelessness, suicidal feelings, depression or anger that lasts longer than a few weeks, contact a professional psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker who specializes in children. Get recommendations from parents at school or church etc. who have had results from the professional. As experts with children, clinical child psychologists and other specialists can use psychological instruments to help get a snapshot of a child's inner feelings and thoughts as well as if they may have suicidal or violent tendencies.

I believe that suicide and homicide are intertwined at times, especially with kids who want to kill at school or commit mass murder (again, rare) and the truth is that these kids hurt and they figure they will take down all the others who made them feel this way. The school stands for everyone who has done them wrong (whether real or imagined) and they conclude that the only way to deal with their angry feelings is to bring them to a climatic conclusion. These cognitive thoughts must be addressed in order to help the child cope with the world around them. Sometimes these children have poor interpersonal skills and view the world in a very weird and idiosyncratic way. Yes, it is fine to be eccentric and odd but to be this way and think that killing others is the answer is not a good coping strategy. The community and milieu the child is in is also important to address--is the commmunity letting the child get away with delinquent acts? Is the school allowing bullying to take place or engaging in hypocritical behavior and rules (such as all those fighting are suspended without finding out what happened?)

Finally, if you see a kid in your community who is a troublemaker and engaged in delinquent acts, do not think you are doing anyone a favor to keep it to yourself or ignore the behavior. Try calling the Juvenile Court and reporting the unruly behavior--at least there will be a record. One of the problems is that there is little recourse for parents like the mother in the above case--parents tell me all of the time that their 11 or 12 year old is threatening to kill them and no one will do anything. As a parent, you can try to get help through the Juvenile Court in your town or call and see if they have a clinic or services that you could seek out to assist with an unruly child. The best management is someone who can be a liason between home, community and school. If problems are dealt with early on, the kid and those in their path will have less chance of becoming involved in a violent act that may have consequences for years to come.

Thanks for Listening

Well, today the Glenn and Helen Show broke 3 million downloads for the past 13 episodes of our podcasts. Our most popular podcast so far has been Senator Bill Frist on the Avian Flu with nearly a million downloads (or could it be the second part of this show on bloggers at CPAC?) and our Cardiology podcast with about 515,000 downloads. If you have not done so, take a listen to these two podcasts or to one of our others. Even if you are reluctant to try this type of technology or swear you will never listen to a podcast, they can be a great way to get good information, one-on-one from politicians, authors and doctors who can make a difference in the way we view the world.