Saturday, November 30, 2013

Who are you this time? -- Tom Waits

Ah, Tom Waits knows what it is to love a Borderline...

Well, they're lining up to mad-dog(2) your Tilt-a-Whirl(3)
Three shots for a dollar, win a real live doll
All the lies that you tell, I believed them so well
Take them back, take them back to your red house
For that fearful leap into the dark(4)
Oh well, I did my time in the jail of your arms
Now Ophelia(5) wants to know where she should turn
Tell me, what did you do, what did you do the last time?
Why don't you do that?
Well, go on ahead and take this the wrong way
Time's not your friend
Do you cry, do you pray, do you wish them away?
Are you still leaving nothing but bones in the way?
Did you bury the carnival, with the lions and all?
Excuse me while I sharpen my nails
And just who are you, who are you this time?
You look rather tired, are you pretending to love?
Well, I hear that it pays well
How do your pistol and your Bible and your sleeping pills go?
Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?

Well, I fell in love with your sailor's mouth(6) and your wounded eyes
You better get down on the floor, don't you know this is war
Tell me, who are you this time?
Tell me, who are you this time?

(1) Who Are You?:
- Barney Hoskyns
(1999): You've said that you tend to bury directly autobiographical stuff. What about Who Are You? Should we know who that's about? Tom Waits: "Gee, I dunno. I think it's better if you don't. The stories behind most songs are less interesting than the songs themselves. So you say, "Hey, this is about Jackie Kennedy." And it's, "Oh, wow." Then you say, "No, I was just kidding, it's about Nancy Reagan." It's a different song now. In fact, all my songs are about Nancy Reagan." (Source: "Mojo interview with Tom Waits". Mojo: Barney Hoskyns. April 1999)
- Tom Waits (1992): "It's a cynical song; the kind of stuff you'd like to say to an old girlfriend at a party. Who are you this time? Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes? A thing you'd like to say to anybody who maybe raked you over the coals." (Source: Bone Machine press kit, Rip Rense. Late 1992)
- Waits might be paying tribute to Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" (Blonde on Blonde, 1966). Tom Waits (1991): "All of Bob Dylan's songs are carved from the bones of ghosts and have myth and vision . . . 'Desolation Row,' 'From a Buick 6,' 'Ballad in Plain D,' 'Restless Farewell,' 'Visions of Johanna,' 'Boots of Spanish Leather ,' 'Dark Eyes.'" For me, 'Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" is a grand song. It is like Beowulf and it 'takes me out to the meadow.' This song can make you leave home, work on the railroad or marry a Gypsy. I think of a drifter around a fire with a tin cup under a bridge remembering a woman's hair. The song is a dream, a riddle and a prayer." (Source: "The Impact Of Dylan's Music 'Widened the scope of possibilities', by Robert Hilburn. Los Angeles Times. May 19, 1991)
(2) To mad-dog: v. [1990s] (US Black/ prison) to stare at intensively and theateningly (cf. bad eye). [mad dog, such animals fix their targets with an unwavering, aggressive stare] (Source: "Cassell's Dictionary Of Slang". Jonathon Green. Cassel & Co., 1998. ISBN: 0-304-35167-9)
(3) Tilta whirl: A tilt-a-whirl is a standard American carnival ride. Riders are strapped to the inside of a cylindrical section, which spins at a high speed. The ride then is lifted up on a metal arm, and the whole thing tilts in different directions (Submitted by Russell Fischer. Raindogs Listserv discussion;ist. September, 2000)
(4) Leap in the dark: Thomas Hobbes is reported to have said on his death-bed, "Now am I about to take my last voyage- a great leap in the dark." Rabelais, in his last moments, said, "I am going to the Great Perhaps." Lord Derby, in 1868, applied the words, "We are about to take a leap in the dark," to the Reform Bill. (Source: "The First Hypertext Edition of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable", E. Cobham Brewer. © 1997-99 Ltd)
(5) Ophelia: Could be refering to Shakespeare's Hamlet: Ophelia, daughter of Polonius the chamberlain. Hamlet fell in love with her, but after his interview with the Ghost, found it incompatible with his plans to marry her. Ophelia, thinking his "strange conduct" the effect of madness, becomes herself demented, and in her attempt to gather flowers is drowned. (Shakespeare: Hamlet) (Source: "The First Hypertext Edition of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable", E. Cobham Brewer. © 1997-99 Ltd)

This painting by Sir John Everett Millais 1851-1852. Tate Gallery London NO1506.
(6) Sailor's mouth: common expression meaning to be foul mouthed, to be vulgar

Friday, November 29, 2013

Peggy Noonan on JFK


It is interesting that JFK was celebrated as the first modern president, the first truly hip president, and yet the parts of him we celebrate most are actually the old virtues. He lied to get into the military, not to get out of it. He was sick, claimed to be well, and served as a naval officer in the war. In the postwar years he was in fairly constant physical pain, but he got up every day and did his demanding jobs. He played hurt. He was from a big, seemingly close family and seemed very much the family man himself. What we liked most about him wasn’t hip.
And he was contained. He operated within his own physical space and was not florid or mawkish or creepily domineering in his physical aspect.
For generations after him politicians imitated him—his mannerisms, his look, his hair.  
If they had to imitate anything I wish it was how distanced, ironic and modest JFK was in the physical sphere. He didn’t hug the other pols on the platform, he didn’t give a big man-hug to the others on the dais, he didn’t kiss everyone and point at the audience and give them a thumbs-up. He didn’t act, he just was. Like a grownup. Like a person with dignity. Like a person with public boundaries who is an actor but not a phony.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Major New Development in the Treatment of Depression!


I had a queasy feeling as I read that headline. I was pretty sure I was going to read about some Dr. Frankenstein sticking electrodes into Area 25 of someone's brain, or about some drug trial involving glutamate enhancers (or antagonists, take your pick). But no, it's just this:

The therapy that Dr. Manber, Dr. Carney and the other researchers are using is called cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I for short. The therapist teaches people to establish a regular wake-up time and stick to it; get out of bed during waking periods; avoid eating, reading, watching TV or similar activities in bed; and eliminate daytime napping.

The aim is to reserve time in bed for only sleeping and — at least as important — to “curb this idea that sleeping requires effort, that it’s something you have to fix,” Dr. Carney said. “That’s when people get in trouble, when they begin to think they have to do something to get to sleep.”
This kind of therapy is distinct from what is commonly known as sleep hygiene: exercising regularly, but not too close to bedtime, and avoiding coffee and too much alcohol in the evening. These healthful habits do not amount to an effective treatment for insomnia.
In her 2008 pilot study testing CBT-I in people with depression, Dr. Manber of Stanford used sleep hygiene as part of her control treatment. She found that 60 percent of patients who received seven sessions of the talk therapy and an antidepressant fully recovered from their depression, compared with 33 percent who got the same drug and the sleep hygiene therapy.
Yup, CBT-I really is that simple, as are most cognitive-behavioral interventions. Here's the sickening part -- most doctors who prescribe antidepressants don't discuss sleep with their patients -- hell, they don't even ask if they are thinking about killing themselves. The doctor prescribing your antidepressants is only seeing you for 11 minutes, during which you will have the luxury of speaking to your doctor for 4 minutes. The typical doctor interrupts a patient after listening to them for 12 seconds.

No wonder people value psychotherapy, and no wonder it works so well. Most people have never had the experience of being listened to and feeling understood.

By the way, I do "CBT-I" with all of my depressed patients, and I have for done so for over a decade. I don't call it CBT-I, though; I call it caring enough about your patients to think about how small improvements in their lives might positively affect their mental health. I would have assumed that any psychotherapist worth his salt would already be doing this intervention as a matter of course, but then again most people are not terribly good at what they do.

I wouldn't advise going to bed while wearing so much make up.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Break Film Festival -- Psychological Thrillers

These ought to keep you distracted and insulated from your family. If you do sit and watch all 10 of these movies during break, expect adverse psychological effects.

1. Side Effects (2013). A young woman's world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.

Side Effects (2013) Poster

2. Black Swan (2010). A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette - but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan.

Black Swan (2010) Poster

3. The Machinist (2004). An industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity.

The Machinist (2004) Poster

4. Jacob's Ladder (1990). Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam vet attempts to discover his past while suffering from a severe case of disassociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own dreams, delusion, and perception of death.

Jacob's Ladder (1990) Poster

5. Memento (2000). A man, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife.

Memento (2000) Poster

6. Frailty (2001). A man confesses to an FBI agent his family's story of how his religious fanatic father's visions lead to a series of murders to destroy supposed "demons."

Frailty (2001) Poster

7. Rosemary's Baby (1968). A young couple move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) Poster

8. Identity (2003). Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rainstorm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they're being killed off one by one.

Identity (2003) Poster

9. Dead Again (1991). In 1949, composer Roman Strauss is executed for the vicious murder of his wife Margaret with a pair of scissors. In 1990s Los Angeles a mute amnesiac woman shows up at an orphanage and private eye Mike Church is called in to investigate. Under hypnosis both the woman and Church seem to have a strange link back to the Strauss murder.

Dead Again (1991) Poster

10. The Last Seduction (1994). A devious sexpot steals her husband's drug money and hides out in a small town where she meets the perfect dupe for her next scheme.

The Last Seduction (1994) Poster

Bonus film: Repulsion (1965). I haven't actually seen this, but it is by the director of Rosemary's Baby (and Chinatown), and was supposedly a big influence on Black Swan. The trailer is a hoot:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Like a Rolling Stone -- Bob Dylan

"You better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it, babe."

Here's the link to Bob Dylan's new interactive video. You can watch Drew Carey on the Price is Right lip-sync the lyrics, then flip the channel and watch a newscaster seemingly deliver the next verse. It's all very cleverly done. But because of the channel surfing feature, I think many people have been distracted from just how disturbing this video is.

The song itself is an exercise is truth-telling, an activity that is rarely featured on television. Dylan isn't preaching to one unfortunate "babe" -- the song is aimed at all of us. We can't bear to hear about how precarious our material comfort actually is, about how shallow our relations are with others, how empty our accomplishments are.

The contrast between the vapid, pretty images that we are used to anesthesizing ourselves with and the punch of the lyrics is disconcerting. It is as if we have turned on the t.v. for the usual reason -- to distract ourselves from the meaningless of our lives and the discordance between our self-image and reality -- and, instead of being painlessly "entertained," we are confronted, subtlely at first and then undeniably, by the truth.

The video is powerful because it puts viewers in the position of someone slowly going insane. You are sitting there mindlessly watching the news, or the home shopping channel, or the history channel, and you slowly realize that something is off-kilter, that the words coming out of people's mouths aren't the words that you are expecting. You change the channel quickly to a kids channel or a fashion channel, and there is no escape. You channel surf to escape the truth and it follows you wherever you go.

It reminds me of this scene from The Game, with Michael Douglas:

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Kennedy Tragedy -- Daniel Mendelsohn

Daniel Mendelsohn has written the best piece I've read on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. It's also a strong argument for an education in the classics. Read the whole thing.

The New Yorker

“My favorite poet was Aeschylus.” So said Senator Robert F. Kennedy [Portsmouth Abbey; Milton Academy], speaking to a traumatized crowd in April of 1968. Kennedy had come to a poor black neighborhood in Indianapolis to make a routine campaign speech, but learned en route that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated; it fell to the New York senator to announce the dreadful news. As he struggled to find appropriate language for the day’s carnage—which, of course, would inevitably have recalled to his mind, and the minds of his audience, the assassination of his brother John five years earlier—it was to Aeschylus’ “Oresteia” that Kennedy turned, the grand trilogy about the search for justice in a world filled with metastasizing violence. In the verse he quoted, the Chorus of city elders ponders the meaning of violence and suffering:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

Kennedy concluded his remarks with an exhortation to heed the wisdom of the ancient classics: “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” That the savageness could not be tamed was demonstrated, with a dreadful Greek irony, three months later, when Kennedy himself was murdered. The lines he cited on the night of King’s death were used as the epitaph on his own tombstone.

The pieces concludes with this reminder of the origins of drama -- the sacrifice of the king.

And, of course—the oldest tragic plot point of all, the plot that some believe to be at the root of tragedy as a genre, the reason why drama exists in the first place—that the king, the beautiful, powerful, élite, and talented figure on whose glittering figure all eyes are happy to rest, in whom we seek a model ruler, warrior, husband, and father, is, by virtue of those very excellences, conspicuous, marked out as a sacrificial victim. Hero and victim: our ambiguous relationship to the great—our need to idolize and idealize them, inextricable from our impulse to degrade and destroy them—is, in the end, the motor of tragedy, which first elevates and then topples its heroes; not coincidentally, it has characterized our half-century-long response to the Kennedy story, oscillating dizzyingly, as it has done almost from the start, between idealization and demystification.

Here's RFK's incredible speech on the night of Martin Luther King's murder, just five years after JFK's murder.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Passionate Shepherd to his Love -- Christopher Marlowe (from Richard III)

A bit of a mash-up here, a Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) poem transformed into a 1930s dance song. From the film Richard III. The singing starts at 2:22.

Here's the original poem:

COME live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.
There will we sit upon the rocks 5
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies, 10
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair linèd slippers for the cold, 15
With buckles of the purest gold.
A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my Love. 20
Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.
The shepherd swains shall dance and sing 25
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my Love.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Teach Me Tonight -- Amy Winehouse / Dinah Washington

Amy Winehouse, covering Dinah Washington. She does a pretty damn good job of it, even though the original is incomparable:

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Tough History" is coming

Peggy Noonan wrote the following back in 2005; it seemed true then and even more true today.


I think there is an unspoken subtext in our national political culture right now. In fact I think it's a subtext to our society. I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with "right track" and "wrong track" but missing the number of people who think the answer to "How are things going in America?" is "Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination."

...I believe there's a general and amorphous sense that things are broken and tough history is coming.

Only 24% of Americans think that the country is "on the right track"


A few weeks ago I was chatting with friends about the sheer number of things parents now buy for teenage girls--bags and earrings and shoes. When I was young we didn't wear earrings, but if we had, everyone would have had a pair or two. I know a 12-year-old with dozens of pairs. They're thrown all over her desk and bureau. She's not rich, and they're inexpensive, but her parents buy her more when she wants them. Someone said, "It's affluence," and someone else nodded, but I said, "Yeah, but it's also the fear parents have that we're at the end of something, and they want their kids to have good memories. They're buying them good memories, in this case the joy a kid feels right down to her stomach when the earrings are taken out of the case."

This, as you can imagine, stopped the flow of conversation for a moment.

Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies. Winter is coming.


Do people fear the wheels are coming off the trolley? Is this fear widespread? A few weeks ago I was reading Christopher Lawford's lovely, candid and affectionate remembrance of growing up in a particular time and place with a particular family, the Kennedys, circa roughly 1950-2000. It's called "Symptoms of Withdrawal." At the end he quotes his Uncle Teddy. Christopher, Ted Kennedy and a few family members had gathered one night and were having a drink in Mr. Lawford's mother's apartment in Manhattan. Teddy was expansive. If he hadn't gone into politics he would have been an opera singer, he told them, and visited small Italian villages and had pasta every day for lunch. "Singing at la Scala in front of three thousand people throwing flowers at you. Then going out for dinner and having more pasta." Everyone was laughing. Then, writes Mr. Lawford, Teddy "took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. 'I'm glad I'm not going to be around when you guys are my age.' I asked him why, and he said, 'Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.' "

Mr. Lawford continued, "The statement hung there, suspended in the realm of 'maybe we shouldn't go there.' Nobody wanted to touch it. After a few moments of heavy silence, my uncle moved on."

Lawford thought his uncle might be referring to their family--that it might "fall apart." But reading, one gets the strong impression Teddy Kennedy was not talking about his family but about . . . the whole ball of wax, the impossible nature of everything, the realities so daunting it seems the very system is off the tracks.

And--forgive me--I thought: If even Teddy knows . . .

Good luck, and, uh, sorry about the mess.


Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.

I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, "I got mine, you get yours."

You're a lobbyist or a senator or a cabinet chief, you're an editor at a paper or a green-room schmoozer, you're a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief, and you're making your life a little fortress. That's what I think a lot of the elites are up to.
Nothing says, "Keep off the lawn, peasants" like Northern Virginia real estate.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Universal Health Care Isn't Worth Our Freedom" -- Thomas Szasz

The idea that every life is infinitely precious and therefore everyone deserves the same kind of optimal medical care is a fine religious sentiment and moral ideal. As political and economic policy, it is vainglorious delusion. Rich and educated people not only receive better goods and services in all areas of life than do poor and uneducated people, they also tend to take better care of themselves and their possessions, which in turn leads to better health. The first requirement for better health care for all is not equal health care for everyone but educational and economic advancement for everyone.
Our national conversation about curbing the cost of health care is crippled by the vocabulary in which we conduct it. We must stop talking about "health care" as if it were some kind of collective public service, like fire protection, provided equally to everyone who needs it. No government can provide the same high quality body repair services to everyone. Not all doctors are equally good physicians, and not all sick persons are equally good patients.
If we persevere in our quixotic quest for a fetishized medical equality we will sacrifice personal freedom as its price. We will become the voluntary slaves of a "compassionate" government that will provide the same low quality health care to everyone.
Henry David Thoreau famously remarked, "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life." Thoreau feared a single, unarmed man approaching him with such a passion in his heart. Too many people now embrace the coercive apparatus of the modern state professing the same design.

Dr. Szasz is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. He is author of "The Myth of Mental Illness," among other books (HarperCollins, 1961).
Photo copyright by (posted with permission)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How many of your memories are false?

It turns out that even the 50 or so people who have Superior Autobiographical Memory are susceptible to errors and to false memory syndrome. There is a good article in The Atlantic about what the error-proneness of memory means for journalism and other non-fiction writing. It also discusses research with those folks who can recall what they had for lunch on the second Wednesday in February 30 years ago, and what was playing on the radio while they ate it.

Over the years, I have interviewed witnesses of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and rushed to the scene to obtain anecdotes from witnesses from a catastrophic train crash, or the Virginia Tech shooting massacre. It makes sense that the people I spoke to would have intimately remembered such shocking, emotionally charged events. Some call this “flashbulb memory.”
Even those can be unreliable. In 1977, 60 eyewitnesses to a plane crash that killed nine people were interviewed by Flying magazine. But they had differing recollections. One of the witnesses explained that the plane “was heading right toward the ground—straight down.” Yet photographs showed that the airplane hit flat and at a low-enough angle to skid for almost one thousand feet.
There is no absolute guarantee that everything in a nonfiction narrative is the absolute truth, “but you as the writer have the obligation to get as close to the truth as you possibly can,” Meyer said, “and the only way to do that is to report the living hell out of it.”
Harrington, now a professor of literary journalism the University of Illinois, once said, “Truth is a documentary, physical reality, as well as the meaning we make of that reality, the perceptions we have of it.”
A true story is always filtered through the teller’s take on it.

One of my clinical supervisors had a sign over his desk that read, "Don't believe everything you think."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Carl Jung -- OSS Agent

Image result for carl jung cape
Carl Jung, in his tower

I read the following sentence in a review of a book about Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles the other day, and learned something I never knew about Carl Jung.

"During World War II, Allen returned to the Bern embassy, putting his mistress's psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, to work for the Allied cause, recruiting a senior official of the German foreign office, tapping into the ill-fated conspiracy to kill Hitler, and playing a part in the surrender of the Nazi armies in Italy."

A little searching revealed these supporting items, and the source, a book about Jung by Deirde Bair.

The Guardian
"It has also come to light that Jung operated as a spy for the OSS (the predecessor to the CIA). He was called "Agent 488" and his handler, Allen W. Dulles, later remarked: "Nobody will probably ever know how much Prof Jung contributed to the allied cause during the war.""

Allen Dulles

"During the second world war, [Jung] also worked for the Office of Strategic Services, America's first intelligence agency, having been recruited by Allen Dulles, its Central European representative, who wrote about Jung's “deep antipathy to what Nazism and Fascism stood for”. Jung's analysis, written in 1945, of how best to get the German population to accept defeat was read by many, including General Eisenhower."

New English Review
"According to Deirdre Bair, Jung. A Biography, when Allen Dulles entered Switzerland in November 1942 he was secretly working as the “advance man” for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Switzerland. (Dulles would later be placed in charge of the CIA.) “For some time, Jung became Dulles’s ‘sort of senior advisor on a weekly, if not almost daily, basis.’” The following year, “Jung became ‘Agent 488’ in Dulles’s reports to OSS offices in Washington and London, and 488’s dispatches were considered fact and figured prominently in the agency’s operational policies.” Dulles said that Jung “[understood] the characteristics of the sinister leaders of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. His judgment on these leaders and on their likely reactions to passing events was of real help to me in gauging the political situation. His deep antipathy to what Nazism and Fascism stood for was clearly evidenced in these conversations.” In fact, Jung had constructed the first in-depth psychological profiles of political enemies, such as Hitler. “By 1945 […] Jung’s views on how best to get [German] civilians to accept defeat were being read by the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Jung’s analysis of Nazi propaganda was that it tried ‘to hollow out a moral hole with the hope of eventual collapse.’” pp. 492-494"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Many American lawmakers are idiots -- Peggy Noonan

More and more it seems obvious that the vast majority of the politicians who pushed the [Obamacare] bill in the House and Senate never read it. They didn't know what was in it. They had no idea. They don't understand insurance—they're in politics, a branch of showbiz.
After failing to read or understand the bill, members of Congress relied on briefings from some guy from the White House, some kid from the speaker's office, and whichever Ezekiel knockoff was available as an expert.
Lawmakers listened. They took notes.
The briefers thought—hoped—they themselves understood what they were saying. But they were never sure either! You can sort of think you know what you're saying when you say things like, "When each local exchange module launches it will reflect a national weighting of 'invincibles' and 'ancients' that will stabilize prevailing market realities while providing broader access not only to the poor but to those who currently have non-grandfathered or insufficient plans. So in the end it's win-win for everyone." Would they have known what any of that would mean in terms of real-world application?
The congressmen tried, in their distracted way, to understand. And gave up. And went on "Hardball" saying, "It's win-win—broader and better coverage for all!"
Most of them had no idea what they were voting for. They're as surprised as anybody at what's happened. And it's not only because so many of them are idiots. They believed what they were told and, more important, they wanted to believe it. And, I suspect, they had a magical and almost touching belief in the ability of the U.S. government to do anything. It's done anything in the past, why wouldn't it now?
She could have said "most of them are idiots," but then I suppose she would have to be ready to demonstrate that the Idiot Ratio in Congress is 51% or greater. By saying "so many of them are idiots," she is in a much more defensible position. Many people can think of a handful of dolts who happened to get themselves elected, and if you think that one idiot in Congress is too many, then you have your "so many" right there. On the other hand, "so many" could also suggest that the vast majority of legislators are idiots.
Can you think of a member of Congress who is -- as Stephen Ambrose described Eisenhower -- a great and good person? Anybody off the top of your head who seems both virtuous and wise?
I'm blanking too.
The best I can do is Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and he's been dead for a decade.
Maybe, as Plato suggested, the kind of people who are good at attaining power (e.g., winning elections) aren't so great at actually governing?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

September 1, 1939 -- W.H. Auden


I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.


Soon after writing the poem, Auden began to turn away from it, apparently because he found it flattering to himself and to his readers. When he reprinted the poem in The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (1945) he omitted the famous stanza that ends "We must love one another or die." In 1957, he wrote to the critic Laurence Lerner, "Between you and me, I loathe that poem" (quoted in Edward Mendelson, Later Auden, p. 478). He resolved to omit it from his further collections (it did not appear in his 1966 Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957).
In the mid-1950s Auden began to refuse permission to editors who asked to reprint the poem in anthologies. In 1955, he allowed Oscar Williams to include it complete in The New Pocket Anthology of American Verse with the most famous line altered to read "We must love one another and die." Later he allowed the poem to be reprinted only once, in a Penguin Books anthology Poetry of the Thirties (1964), with a note saying about this and four other early poems, "Mr. W. H. Auden considers these five poems to be trash which he is ashamed to have written."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Pour encourager les autres"


Not your typical mug shots
Last week, two admirals were denied access to classified information and placed on temporary leave as the Navy investigates allegations of corrupt business practices and bribes. Three Navy officials and the chief executive of a Singapore-based military contractor have been criminally charged, and another officer has been stripped of his command.
"We do believe there will be more Naval officers and perhaps Navy civilians implicated in this growing scandal," said Adm. John Kirby, the Navy's chief spokesman. "I don't think anyone can predict where this is going to take us; we just don't know."
The matter involves Glenn Defense Marine, a company that provides what is called "husbanding" service to Navy ships, including fuel, provisions, tugboat services and even some port security. Federal prosecutors have charged that the Singapore company's CEO, Leonard Glenn Francis, provided Naval officers with money, prostitutes, plane fare and concert tickets in an effort to learn information about ship deployments and to steer vessels to ports where the firm was in position to service the vessels at above-market rates.
So what do you think is going to happen to the admirals? My guess is retirement and a full pension. But I'm a GenXer and we are all really cynical.
One might hope for an outcome something more like this:
File:The Shooting of Admiral Byng' (John Byng) from NPG.jpg
Admiral Byng "failed to do his utmost" and paid the price
"Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres."
-- Voltaire, Candide
"In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to get into grad school for clinical psychology

This is going to be a bummer, so you might want to stop reading now. Seriously, why not check out this page from Sonoma State instead? It gives you all the basic info about applying to graduate school for a clinical psychology Ph.D. (or Psy.D.), without any of the nasty stuff that I'm about to say.

That page covers the how of applying -- but what about the how likely, as in what are your chances of actually getting in? And if you get in, what are your chances of actually finishing the program and ending up licensed?

Well, you should read this 2011 Eye on Psi Chi piece on the probabilities of acceptance. They report that clinical psychology doctoral programs tend to be even more competitive than other fields of psychology. The acceptance rates are as low as 7% for research-oriented Ph.D. programs (e.g., U. Penn, which in 2012 actually only admitted 6 out of 434 applicants (1.4%)), but as high as 50% for free-standing, Psy.D. awarding professional schools of psychology (e.g. CSPP, San Francisco). The catch is that those high-acceptance rate programs cost between $30,000 and $40,000 per year; some of them aren't APA-accredited; and, many of their matriculants end up unlicensed and in deep debt.

But wait, it gets worse!

There were 97,200 bachelor degrees in psychology awarded in 2010. An awful lot of those psych majors want to go on for a doctorate in clinical psych. In 2010, 3,889 doctoral students signed up for the APPIC internship match, which is how you get your clinical internship, the critical 5th year of a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program. Only 72.6% of those students got an internship, which means that the unmatched folks either had to scramble for some less competitive internship or add another year to their training. (This matters because if you don't get an APA-accredited internship, then you can't work for some employers, e.g., the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest employer of psychologists in the U.S.) Some folks think that the problem with the match isn't a lack of good internship slots, but rather a glut of poorly qualified grad students (mostly Psy.D. candidates from a handful of free-standing programs).

If you take the number of grad students who matched an internship in 2010 and divide by the number of undergraduate psych degrees awarded that year, you get 2,823/97,200 = 2.9%. Use the match applicant figure and you get 3,889/97,200 = 4%. Now this is rough figuring of course, and your mileage may vary, but doesn't it seem like the folks who are most likely to succeed in clinical psychology grad programs (success being defined as getting a good internship during their first matching attempt) represent the top 3% of psych majors? And maybe being in the top 4% of psych majors means that you are good enough to get into grad school, but maybe not good enough to thrive there?

Now, if you are a psych major and thinking about getting a doctorate in clinical psychology, maybe the first question you should ask yourself is: "Am I in the top 3% of the students in my major?"

In other words, of the last 100 psych majors who graduated from your program, or who are about to graduate, are you one of the three best? Is your GPA higher than 97% of your PS major peers? Were your SAT scores? Would the faculty at your college agree that you are amazing, simply amazing, and that a student as great as you comes along only, oh, once every 33 students or so?

No? Then maybe you should reconsider your graduate school plans.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Media Guidelines for Mass Murders


So...Will a graphic like this increase or decrease the risk of inspiring a copycat killer?

This is a great piece worth reading in its entirety. It's by the executive editor of The New Atlantis, an online journal that I read regularly and strongly recommend. The author suggests Media Guidelines for the reporting of mass shooting incidents, all of which seem like good sense to me. We've had media guidelines for the reporting of suicides for years and it's possible that they have had some good effect.

There is certainly a social contagion element in this phenonemon. The Virginia Tech shooter referred to the Columbine shooters in his pre-assault rants, and the Newtown shooter made reference to the Virginia Tech shooter. Here's another, earlier, article on media guidelines.

I appreciate this article's emphasis on the anger and resentment of these attackers. Most media coverage focuses on mental illness and access to firearms, which rather misses the main issue: Why are so many men in our society so angry and resentful? What sickness within our society is producing such symptoms?

The article also makes the excellent point (obvious in hindsight) that for every perpetrator, there must be hundreds of ideators (i.e. people who thought about conducting a massacre but didn't, for whatever reason). The parallel with suicide is clear: for every completer, there are 25 attempters, and thousands of ideators. How interesting would it be to find and study a large group of near-attackers? Such a study might even yield ideas about how to thwart future attackers.

How might journalists and police change their practices to discourage mass shootings? First, they need to do more to deprive the killer of an audience:
Never publish a shooter's propaganda. Aside from the act itself, there is no greater aim for the mass killer than to see his own grievances broadcast far and wide. Many shooters directly cite the words of prior killers as inspiration. In 2007, the forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner told "Good Morning America" that the Virginia Tech shooter's self-photos and videotaped ramblings were a "PR tape" that was a "social catastrophe" for NBC News to have aired.
Hide their names and faces. With the possible exception of an at-large shooter, concealing their identities will remove much of the motivation for infamy.
Don't report on biography or speculate on motive. While most shooters have had difficult life events, they were rarely severe, and perpetrators are adept at grossly magnifying injustices they have suffered. Even talking about motive may encourage the perception that these acts can be justified.
Police and the media also can contain the contagion of mass shootings by withholding or embargoing details:
Minimize specifics and gory details. Shooters are motivated by infamy for their actions as much as by infamy for themselves. Details of the event also help other troubled minds turn abstract frustrations into concrete fantasies. There should be no play-by-play and no descriptions of the shooter's clothes, words, mannerisms or weaponry.
No photos or videos of the event. Images, like the security camera photos of the armed Columbine shooters, can become iconic and even go viral. Just this year, the FBI foolishly released images of the Navy Yard shooter in action.
Finally, journalists and public figures must remove the dark aura of mystery shrouding mass killings and create a new script about them.
Talk about the victims but minimize images of grieving families. Reports should shift attention away from the shooters without magnifying the horrified reactions that perpetrators hope to achieve.
Decrease the saturation. Return the smaller shootings to the realm of local coverage and decrease the amount of reporting on the rest. Unsettling as it sounds, treating these acts as more ordinary crimes could actually make them less ordinary.
Tell a different story. There is a damping effect on suicide from reports about people who considered it but found help instead. Some enterprising reporters might find similar stories to tell about would-be mass shooters who reconsidered.

 Would that it were as simple as improving mental health care and reducing access to firearms. Anomie is a much tougher nut to crack.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nalini "Thin Slices" Ambady, RIP

New York Times


Nalini Ambady, a social psychologist whose research on the surprising accuracy of first impressions was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in “Blink,” his best-selling nonfiction book of 2005, died on Oct. 28 in Boston. She was 54.       

Her death, from leukemia, was announced by Stanford University, where she had taught since 2011.
In “Blink,” subtitled “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” Mr. Gladwell explored the psychology of intuition, snap judgments and gut reactions. The book prominently features Professor Ambady’s work, which centered on the cognitive processes underpinning intuition. Her findings are notable for upending long-held prejudices about the validity of first impressions.
To make snap judgments, Professor Ambady found, people draw unconsciously on a series of nonverbal cues, including facial expression and body language — things a poker player might call “tells” — which determine their initial response to people and situations.
In an article published in 1992 in the journal Psychological Bulletin, she and the psychologist Robert Rosenthal coined the term “thin slices” to describe these nonverbal snapshots. Significantly, they found that information gleaned from thin slices resembles information garnered from long observation to a far greater degree than supposed.
“In 40 milliseconds, people can accurately judge what we are saying with our expression,” Professor Ambady told The New York Times in 2007.
The upshot, for good or ill, helps determine a welter of daily social choices, including whom one sits next to on the bus and whom one hires for a job.
In a seminal experiment they reported in a 1993 article, Professors Ambady and Rosenthal had students view soundless 10-second videos of professors teaching. The students were asked to rate each professor, none of whom they knew, for qualities including honesty, likability, competence and professionalism.
When their responses were compared with evaluations from students who had studied with those professors for an entire semester, they correlated to a striking degree. The article, published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reported that the correlation held even when the videos were trimmed to only two seconds.
The full-text of the "thin slices" college professor ratings article can be found here.
This Psychology Today article refers to a study by Ambady and Rule that showed that college undergraduates can differentiate the faces of Mormons from non-Mormons with 60% accuracy (chance = 50%). There's also interesting stuff about gaydar, evolved mechanisms for spotting criminals, etc.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hermann Rorschach's (Belated) 129th Birthday


Today’s Google Doodle [November 8, 2013] honors the 129th birthday of Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922), who, in 1921, introduced the inkblot test, which has been used to diagnose schizophrenia and borderline personality disorders, among other conditions. He would hold up cards and ask people what the drawings look like, and the idea behind the test is that people will project their feelings onto “ambiguous stimuli”. Now Googlers can take a version of it and share their interpretations of the inkblots on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus — though you’ll have to go to a real doctor to get a diagnosis.

In a 1962 article, TIME magazine summed up the pros and cons of the method — first published in Rorschach’s book Psychodiagnostics — at a time when University of Texas psychologists developed inkblot sets to rival the Rorschach ones:
Though some critics dismiss the Rorschach as an exercise in “clinical liturgy.” most psychiatrists and psychologists still give it high marks for uncanny ability to reveal the innermost secrets of a test subject’s personality and emotional problems. But it has one drawback: interpretation of the results is a difficult job in which even experts often disagree. Rorschach testers often have to ask questions to draw out more than one response to each blot, and judgment may be colored by the interplay of personality between tester and tested.

Source: Neurocritic

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Leaden-eyed -- Vachel Lindsay

Let not young souls be smothered out before
They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride.
It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull,
Its poor are ox-like, limp and leaden-eyed.
Not that they starve; but starve so dreamlessly,
Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap,
Not that they serve, but have no gods to serve,
Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How did Ancient Greek music sound?


"Some of the surviving melodies are immediately attractive to a modern ear. One complete piece, inscribed on a marble column and dating from around 200 AD, is a haunting short song of four lines composed by Seikilos. The words of the song may be translated:

While you're alive, shine:

never let your mood decline.

We've a brief span of life to spend:

Time necessitates an end."

Totally worth it to click to the original article and listen to the 19 second clip of the Oxford University classicist performing this piece.

In case you ever wondered, here's what Book One of the Iliad sounds like in the original Homeric Greek. It's a very dramatic reading, and answers the question of why anyone would sit and listen for hours to a rhapsode sing this poem.

And here's Stanley Lombardo singing some of the Iliad [in his English translation] at Hollins University in 2009:

I recommend reading Lombardo's dramatic, fast-paced translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey first, and then reading Lattimore's more accurate, more noble, more difficult translations.

If you graduate college without having read Homer, you should feel very bad about yourself. You should also feel rather annoyed for having paid eighty thousand dollars for a third-rate education.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Reading List for Forensic Psychology

A lot of people believe themselves to be "interested" in forensic psychology. Just how interested are you? Interested enough to actually do some serious reading on the subject?

Here's the reading list for my undergraduate Forensic Psychology course. You can buy the books for less than $150, and you can access most of the articles online for free. (Too bad that the Dave Nichols article on Jeffrey Dahmer isn't easily accessible; it might be the best article ever written about a serial murderer.)

“Reading maketh a full man; and writing an exact man. And, therefore, if a man write little, he need have a present wit; and if he read little, he need have much cunning to seem to know which he doth not.”
-- Francis Bacon

Just think about how much more you will know about forensic psychology after you read all this. Exciting, isn't it? Try starting with one article a day for the next 10 days.


Capote, T. (1966/2002). In cold blood. New York: Random House.
Douglas, J. (1999). The anatomy of motive. New York: Scribner.

Ewing, C.P., & McCann, J.T. (2006). Minds on trial: Great cases in law and psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lykken, D.T. (1995). The antisocial personalities. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.



Arrigo, B.A., & Bullock, J.L. (2008). The psychological effects of solitary confinement on prisoners in Supermax units. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52(6), 622-640.

Beasley, J.O. (2004). Serial murder in America: Case studies of seven offenders. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 22, 395-414.

Beckman, M. (2004). Crime, culpability, and the adolescent brain. Science, 305, 596-599.

Dalrymple, T. (2001). Tough love. In Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that makes the Underclass, pp. 36-47. Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee.

Dobson, V., & Sales, B. (2000). The science of infanticide and mental illness. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 6, 1098-1112.

Fein, R.A., & Vossekuil, B. (1999). Assassination in the United States: An operational studyof recent assassins, attackers, and near-lethal approachers. Journal of Forensic Science, 44(2), 321-333.

Gladwell, M. (2007). Dangerous minds: Criminal profiling made easy. New Yorker, 11/12/07, 36-45.

Knoll, J. (2010). The "pseudocommando" mass murderer: Part I, the psychology of revenge and obliteration. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 38, 87-94. 

Lykken, D.T. (1998). The case for parental licensure. In T.Millon, E. Simonsen, M. Birket-Smith, & R.D. Davis (Eds.), Psychopathy: antisocial, criminal, and violent behavior (pp. 122-143). New York: Guildford Press.

Meloy, J.R. (1997). Predatory violence during mass murder. Journal of Forensic Science, 42, 326-329.

Meloy, J.R. (2003). When stalkers become violent: The threat to public figures and private lives. Psychiatric Annals, 33(10), 658-665.

Meloy, J.R. (2004). Indirect personality assessment of the violent true believer. Journal of Personality Assessment, 82, 138-146.

Menninger, W.W. (2007). Uncontained rage: A psychoanalytic perspective on violence. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 71(2), 115-131.

Morse, S.J. (2003). Bad or mad?: Sex offenders and social control. In Bruce J. Winick and John Q. La Fond (eds.), Protecting Society from Sexually Dangerous Offenders: Law, Justice, and Therapy, pp. 165-182. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Mullen, P.E. (2004). The autogenic (self-generated) massacre. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 22, 787-79311-323.

Napier, M.R., & Adams, S.H. (1998). Magic words to obtain confessions. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October, 11-15.

Nichols, D.S. (2006). Tell me a story: MMPI responses and personal biography in the case of a serial killer. Journal of Personality Assessment, 86(3), 242-262.

No author (nd). Famous American Trials: The John Hinckley Trial (1982). Retrieved from:

O’Shea, B. (2003). Factitious disorders: the Baron’s legacy. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 7, 33-39.

Phillips, R.T.M. (2006). Assessing Presidential stalkers and assassins. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 34, 154-164.

Pinizotto, A.J., Davis, E.F., & Miller, C.E. (2007 January). The deadly mix: Officers,offenders, and the circumstances that bring them together. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 1-10.

Reid, W.H. (2007, May). The insanity defense: Bad or mad or both? Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 169-172.

Schlesinger, L.B. (2009). Psychological profiling: Investigative implications from crime scene analysis. The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 37, 73-84.

Shackelford, T.K., Buss, D.M., & Weekes-Shackelford, V.A. (2003). Wife killings committed in the context of a lovers’ triangle. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 25, 137-143.

Silva, J.A., Leong, G.B., & Ferrari, M.M. (2004). A neuropsychiatric developmental modelof serial homicidal behavior. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 22, 787-799.

Slovenko, R. (2003). The insanity defense: Matricide in a French Quarter hotel. The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 31, 251-284.

Vann, D. (2008). Portrait of the school shooter as a young man. Retrieved from 



Raine, A. (2013). The anatomy of violence: The biological roots of crime. New York: Pantheon.

Satel, S., & Lilienfeld, S.O. (2013). Brainwashed: The seductive appeal of mindless neuroscience. New York: Basic Books.