Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category


Over the last few years, three close, two of them really close, friends have died of cancer and another is in remission. Two of the three died of cancer spreading after undergoing the horror of prostate removal, which did no good whatsoever — it just made their suffering worse — and my other friend died a horrible death of pancreatic cancer. A fourth still-surviving friend is in remission from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. And still another very close, long-term friend is currently dealing with prostate cancer, which is not responding to radiation treatment.

They account for over two-thirds of my close male friends — all of them a few years younger than me. It’s heartbreaking, but they’re dead or dying.

So, how the hell do you deal with this? How can you be a decent person and support your friends while they’re suffering? And not go crazy yourself?

This is all purely personal, purely observational, but this is what I’ve concluded:

  • You can’t fix it. Admit it to yourself. Accept it.
  • Do not recommend “alternative” treatments — they’re “alternative” because they don’t work. In fact, unless you’re a medical/scientific professional, do not recommend anything — I guarantee that your cancer-suffering friends have already researched it.
  • Just be there.
  • Listen.
  • Treat them normally — not as someone to be pitied or helped. Do the most mutual, joint projects you can come up with.
  • Don’t withdraw. Continue as normal.
  • Help physically, when necessary, and try not to make it obvious you think they’re an invalid. (This pm, I went over to my bud J’s place and worked in his garden for an hour while he worked for 15 minutes — the important thing is that we both worked and I was there for him.)

Some people withdraw from friends who are dying from cancer, and that’s understandable. The reasons seem to be that the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming; the fear of personal mortality, and the reminder of it, which overwhelms decent behavior. . . . Either that or they’re empathy-empty sociopaths, like Tump, who only do favors when they anticipate return.

The lesson is that when your friends have cancer, don’t withdraw, don’t try to solve things, — and above all don’t leave them feeling all alone — just be there just listen to them. That’s all you can do; it’s not enough (nothing is). but they’ll appreciate it.

 

 

 

 


At long last we have enough suitable material for another one of these “interesting and marginally useful” posts. This one is fairly heavy on the interesting (and funny) side, so we’ll start off with the most marginally useful sites we’ve stumbled across recently.

  • If you’ve ever tried to explain to an imbecile that there’s a difference between correlation and causation, you can relax; you can forego such exercises in frustration from now on: just point imbeciles at the Spurious Correlations site. No matter how dim people are, there’s at least a chance that a 25-watt bulb will flicker to life in their craniums once they see the near-exact correlation between — my favorite — Per capita cheese consumption and The number of people who died by becoming entangled in their bedsheets in the years 2000 through 2009 (statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The Spurious Correlations site features many other such correlations; a good one is that between US spending on science, space, and technology and Suicides by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation in the years 1999 through 2009.
  • You’ve probably heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is essentially the maddening phenomenon — currently on spectacular display in American politics — in which the more ignorant a person is about damn near anything, the more convinced they are that they’re knowledgeable. Psychologist David Dunning, who supplied half of the name for the effect, was recently interviewed by Vox reporter Brian Resnick. The interview bears the promising subtitle, “How to fight the Dunning-Kruger effect . . .” Unfortunately, Dunning’s advice does seem only marginally useful (those who need it most won’t take it), but it’s worth reading nonetheless.
  • We put up a post about this a month ago, but can’t resist plugging Nihilanand once again. It’s a gag/serious site concerning the criminal activity known as parenthood, and features over 100 memes, some outright hilarious. We put up one of them last month, and here’s another. (But before we go on, do check out the BBC article, “Indian man to sue parents for giving birth to him.” It’s almost as funny as the memes.)

Nihilanand meme

  • Banksy’s Dismaland is long gone, but if you missed its very limited five-week run in 2015 at an “abandoned lido” (whatever the hell that is), there are still two great photo tours of the “bemusement park”: Colossal’s “Welcome to Dismaland” and (yes) Business Insider’s “29 Photos from Banksy’s Twisted Dismaland.” (Note: “Welcome to Dismaland” is slow in loading.) Here’s one of the tour photos:

  • Finally, the Miami Herald just published (and kudos to them for not hiding behind a paywall) a piece titled “Florida is just full of weirdos,” which is a list of the supposedly ten best Florida Man Twitter posts, a Twitter feed that has over 400,000 followers, and which concerns weird news in Florida. We’d strongly disagree that these are the ten best Florida Man posts — it looks like they selected ten at random and labeled them the “best” —  though we do like the one about the dimwit who was “released from jail on an auto theft charge” and was immediately rearrested after trying to break “into another car in the jail’s parking lot . . . with a deputy behind the wheel.” If you like this sort of thing, we’d urge you to check out the Florida Man Twitter feed, which almost always has something to rival the above. The one in the current batch of tweets that caught our eye was a headline from the Florida Times-Union (in Jacksonville) reading, “Florida man kidnaps neighbor’s dog, has sex with it in his trailer,” which brings up the always pertinent question, how is it possible to kidnap a dog?

And as we’ve said before . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


Astounding front cover(Astounding, by Tim Nevala-Lee. New York, Dey St., 2018, $28.99, 532 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

While the subtitle mentions Heinlein, Hubbard, and Asimov along with John W. Campbell, this is primarily a biography of Campbell centering on his activities as editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later Analog), the largest-circulation and most influential science fiction magazine in the 1940s through the 1960s; the book has a special focus on Campbell’s relationships with the authors he published, his influence on their work, and on the authors’ relationships with each other.

The level of detail in this exceedingly well documented 500-plus-page book is, well, astounding, and the amount of work Nevala-Lee did to produce it must have been equally astounding. The dust jacket copy notes that the author drew on “unexplored archives, thousands of unpublished letters, and dozens of interviews.” It shows.

This is not, however, a dry academic history. Nevala-Lee does a fine job of bringing to life the decidedly oddball quartet listed in the subtitle, along with their wives and girlfriends (some of whom did much uncredited work) and many other sci-fi authors of the time. Nevala-Lee has not, however, produced a hagiography: the portraits of all of these figures are nuanced, bringing out both their attractive and unattractive traits. The attractive traits include. in all but Hubbard, dedication to work and writing, the authors’ and Campbell’s mutual support, and in Campbell’s case a messianic belief in the transformative power of science fiction. The unattractive traits include spousal abuse and pathological lying (Hubbard), right-wing authoritarian politics (Hubbard, Campbell, and Heinlein) and denunciations of associates to the FBI as “communists” (Hubbard). (For a good dissection of Heinlein’s most authoritarian work, see Michael Moorcock’s famous takedown of Starship Troopers, “Starship Stormtroopers.”) Even Asimov, who comes off as by far the most sympathetic of the quartet, had a serious flaw: engaging in serial sexual harassment.

For those interested in cults, there’s also a great deal of material on Hubbard’s and Campbell’s formulation of dianetics — basically a rehashing of Alfred Korzybski’s tedious and trivial “general semantics” concepts along with (though they wouldn’t have known the term) abreaction therapy (which can be quite dangerous), all with a “cybernetics” overlay — and their subsequent falling out prior to Hubbard’s coming up with the term Scientology, founding of that “church,” and installation of himself as that money-making machine’s glorious leader.

This brief summation only scratches the surface, and anyone interested in science fiction and its history should have a great time delving into this well researched, well written book.

Highly recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover


There’s a standard psychological list to assess psychopathic tendencies, The Hare Psychopathology Checklist. It’s a list of 20 traits common to psychopaths.

The traits are ranked on a scale of 0 to 2, with 0 being entirely absent, 1 being somewhat present, and 2 being strongly present. The Checklist ranks someone as a psychopath if their score is 30 or above out of a possible score of 40.

One of the points on the Checklist “revocation of conditional release” is entirely dependent on class status (doesn’t apply to the rich — they’re never in the system in the first place) — and another is almost entirely so, “juvenile delinquency” is almost entirely class-dependent (the rich get “diverted” and their records erased), so let’s disallow those two criteria. That leaves 18 checkpoints. Let’s see how Trump does, taking a score of 27 (75%) as indicative of psychopathy:

  • glib and superficial charm
  • grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulativeness
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • callousness and lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioral controls
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behavior problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • criminal versatility

My best estimate, based on abundant public evidence, is that Trump scores 33 out of 36, well up into the psychopathy range.

What’s your estimate? Why? (Please leave a comment.)

And why isn’t the press addressing the urgent matter that we have an apparent raving psychopath with his finger on the nuclear button?

 


Randolph Bourne

“War is the health of the state. . . . In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock. . . . A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naive faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily.”

–Randolph Bourne, The State (1918)


Blue Front AmazonIn 2000, my old cat and best friend Spot Bob died. (“Spot” — think Star Trek NG and “Data” — and “Bob” — think Joe Bob Briggs, or as an ex-GF who grew up in a single-wide in a junkyard put it, “Joe Bob,” “Billy Bob,” “Spot Bob”.)

After he expired in my closet on a foam mattress, I swore I’d never have another pet animal. Ever.

Less than a month later, my GF at the time got in a horrible car crash after I dumped her. She was a hardcore hidden drinker, got abusive when she drank, and I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. The afternoon I said goodbye and said “call me when you stop drinking,” she drank a pint of vodka after I left, jumped in her car, and got in a head-on crash.

She left behind a baby parrot she’d been badly abusing. (She’d also cut herself up with razor blades, as I’d found to my dismay a couple months into the relationship.)

After she crashed, her ex didn’t want the bird, and neither did her two (barely) grown kids, who were, quite understandably, severely emotionally fucked up in their own right.

So, I took the bird and gave him a home — a year-and-a-half-old Yellow Naped Amazon. I had no idea how to properly take care of him. I just let him roam the house and fed him the food PetSmart sold me. He quickly became my best buddy. The only problem was that he attacked on sight any woman who came into the house, sometimes drawing blood. He drew no distinction between my horribly abusive ex and other women: he wanted vengeance..

IM000394.JPG

So, when women came over, I’d lock him up — but I felt guilty as hell about it. But he’d physically attack them — remove flesh — if I didn’t. (Now, he’s much better with women, still conflicted but nonagressive.)

Shortly after that, I met a woman in a web design class who was a volunteer with the local parrot-rescue group, TARA — Tucson Avian Rescue and Adoption.

I did 10 to 20 hours a week volunteer work for the next decade, doing fostering, behavioral rehab of abused and neglected Amazons (dozens), and parrot-care education classes, plus the web site.

Along the way, three more abused Amazons decided they liked it here and wanted to hang around. I couldn’t turn them away, so I now have four permanent three-year-olds with large powerful beaks.

I love them. They’re a pain in the ass, and it takes me about an hour a day to take care of them physically (cutting up veggies and fruits, cleaning water and food bowls, cleaning up the shit around their cages, changing the papers in their cages, etc.) Then there’s their demands on me: “Pick me up! Pick me up! Give me scrinches!” I spend several hours a day with a parrot on my shoulder. And it feels good. I’m doing something good for other conscious, feeling beings. (And you bet they are!)

It helps me get out of myself and care for others. I never had kids because I didn’t want to put them through the same emotional torture I went through as a kid — yes, “dumbth” on my part: generalizing from a sample of one terribly messed-up family that shouldn’t have and didn’t reproduce beyond me.

Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve been hoping that someone younger than I am would fall in love with the birds and would take them on after I croak. It hasn’t happened, and probably won’t.

As Albert Ellis said toward the end of his life, regarding death, “I’m not exactly looking forward to it.” Neither am I. But what I do worry about is what’s going to happen to my birds.


“There is one thing in the world more wicked than the desire to command, and that is the will to obey.”

–quoted by Charles T. Sprading in Liberty and the Great Libertarians