29 April 2008

The myth of subliminal persuasion

If you’re in the human resources department of the Parallax Corporation you probably already know this:
Psychologists Kirsten Ruys and Diedrick Stapel of the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research at Tillburg University in The Netherlands have uncovered the first empirical evidence to suggest humans do not need to be aware of the event that caused their mood or feelings in order to be affected by it. The scientists hypothesized that, since humans have evolved to respond quickly and unconsciously to stimuli, they should be able to react to an emotional event without full awareness: “You are likely to live longer if you immediately stop moving at the sight of a growling grizzly bear and do not need full awareness for such a response to be instigated,” explained Ruys and Stapel.

The researchers measured people’s thoughts, feelings and behavior to determine whether specific emotions were induced without awareness of their causes…Participants were separated into three groups and were told that very short flashes would appear on a computer screen. They were then instructed to press the ‘R’ key if it appeared on the right side of the screen or the ‘L’ key if it appeared on the left.

In actuality, the ‘flashes’ were subliminal images selected to elicit fear, disgust or no emotion at all. The images flashed at varying speeds making it impossible for the participants to be fully conscious of their presence. In other words, the participants were unaware that they were viewing images of growling dogs and dirty toilets or even neutral images, such as horses or chairs.

The participants then underwent three tests to measure the effect of the images on their cognition, feelings and behavior...

The intriguing results, which appear in the April issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, strongly support the psychologists’ theory. Those participants who viewed only the disgust-inducing subliminal images were more likely to use disgust words in the word-completion task, to describe their feelings with the disgust words...those who viewed only the fear-inducing images…were more likely to use words related to fear...

The psychologists also found that after quick (120ms) speed exposures to emotional stimuli, a general, negative mood developed accompanied by a specific emotion, such as fear after seeing fearful pictures. After the super-quick (40ms) speed exposure, only a general negative mood was induced without a specific emotion involved. These empirical findings are the first to demonstrate that specific emotions can be evoked without awareness of the cause and that a person’s global mood can develop into a specific emotion.

23 April 2008

Flotsam and jetsam

In New Zealand a yellow-bellied sea snake washed ashore near Dargaville. Authorities say the snake is nothing to be concerned about, but the image of the black and bright yellow snake, twisted and dead on the wet sand near Dargavile, continues to haunt me.

For the second day in a row an Air Force drone washed ashore on the beach in Alabama. Authorities insisted the drones “contain no explosives” (who ever said they did?), and are “not a threat.”

Hundreds of dead fish washed ashore at Chemong Lake in Canda. Authorities say this is “normal”, and that “there's no cause for concern.” It’s widely believed the dead fish contain no explosives.

It’s not often someone regrets not finding hundreds of dead fish, but that’s probably what a Texas couple was feeling after discovering a partially decomposed human leg while strolling on a South Padre Island beach. The leg washed ashore wearing a sneaker. Authorities say they have no explanation for the leg. They also don’t say we shouldn’t be alarmed. Does that mean we should be alarmed?

Also in Texas, a leg belonging to a man washed ashore at lake. Later his head and torso washed ashore miles away at a different lake. Local authorities are investigating “the possibility of foul play”.

A dead whale with a rope tied around its tail and a steel cable in its mouth washed ashore in Jakkalsputz, Namibia. Authorities believe the whale might have been a victim of whaling, but accidental death as a result of sex games involving physical restraint hasn’t been ruled out.

22 April 2008

Comets or unusual prodigies?

Mystery lights roam the skies above Phoenix and Florida. Are they visitors from space, or portents of disaster? Or both? A boy named Brandon Puckett saw the blazing orbs, and describes what it was like:

"I looked up and it was like these two fiery balls like flying across the sky, sort of in formation. They were like flying toward each other."

(In honor of Earth Day this entry is 100% biodegradable.)

16 April 2008

Start the mewling and puking without me

Leading obstetrician Michel Odent explains why a man should never be present at the birth of his child:
For many years, I have not been able to speak openly about my views that the presence of a father in a delivery room is not only unnecessary, but also hinders labour.

To utter such a thing over the past two decades would have been regarded as heresy, and flies in the face of popular convention.

But having been involved in childbirth for 50 years, and having been in charge of 15,000 births, I have reached the stage where I feel it is time to state what I - and many midwives and fellow obstetricians - privately consider the obvious.
That there is little good to come for either sex from having a man at the birth of a child.

For her, his presence is a hindrance, and a significant factor in why labours are longer, more painful and more likely to result in intervention than ever.

As for the effect on a man - well, was I surprised to hear a friend of mine state that watching his wife giving birth had started a chain of events that led to the couple's divorce? Or another lady describing how the day after her husband had watched her deliver their child, he had fled to his hometown of Rome, and never returned again? For many men, the emotional fallout of watching their partner have their baby can never be overcome.
Odent notes:
When I was first involved in obstetrics in the Fifties, it was unheard of for a man to be present as their child was born.

Childbirth was predominately a woman's business - usually carried out at home - and while a man may be in the vicinity at the time of labour, he would usually be found in the kitchen, boiling copious amounts of water, and therefore would miss the actual event.

However, by 1970, a handful of women started to ask for their husbands to be present at the birth, a shift that began to occur in many Western countries at about the same time.
I wrote about the harm of this perverse practice three years ago:
For most of human history men would not go anywhere near women when they were giving birth, the bizarre and pointless practice of the man watching the process is a recent ‘innovation’…while it may be irrational for certain men to have “never regained the same romantic view of their wives that they had before seeing them deliver children,” romance is not terribly rational in the first place, is it? It is also irrational to risk damaging the romantic bond in order to do something that has no benefit or purpose.
While Odent traces this trend back to the 70’s, as far as I know I’m the only person to ever identify its sinister origins:
My research suggests that the notion [of husbands watching their wives give birth] originated with and was propagated by a KGB psy-op during the Cold War, with the intent of causing...trauma to the male psyche...

My investigation is in the early stages, but we know for a fact that Dr. Bradley was influenced by the work of Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze, whom he met in the late 1950’s. Lamaze “had witnessed women in the Soviet Union giving birth without anesthesia” and was influenced by a psychologist from the USSR named Velvovsky. I suspect it is only a matter of time before someone unearths a KGB file detailing the entire operation, and how Velvosky (who may have not have even been an agent himself) was used by Communist spymasters to plant the seed for this wrongheaded and debilitating practice into Western medicine. Note too that the earliest adopters and promoters of these birth practices were all on the cultural Left, which, 'coincidentally' was a movement infiltrated and compromised by the KGB.

14 April 2008

Progress being made

Libraries are innovating to attract the crucial youth demographic:
Looking for new ways to attract young people, more than three quarters of the nation's public libraries support gaming, including card games and online activities, according to a study coming out this week....most librarians believe that gaming fits an overall strategy to increase teen involvement, noting a nationwide trend of libraries forming teen advisory boards, devoting more space to teen centers and allowing teens to help with the design...Libraries have worked hard in the past decade to change their hushed image, and gaming is now a common event. In early March, about 30 teenagers attended a game night at the public library in Burlington, Iowa, playing "Guitar Hero" and "Wii Sports" among others. About 100 teens compete monthly at "Guitar Hero" at the Rochester Hills Public Library in Michigan.
Libraries have considerable room for growth in this area. While progress has been made, most of them still have shelves and shelves of musty old books that could easily be removed to make space for video gaming areas, TV lounges, and vending machines dispensing junk food, condoms, and pimple creams.

With proper funding, all libraries should be able to fully implement these improvements by the end of the decade. Local municipalities will then meet the needs of the few remaining readers by building them euthanasia centers.

13 April 2008

April happenings

Every April thousands arrive at the ancient Narsingh temple in Joshimath, India, to watch a priest possessed by the goddess Bhagwati eat pounds of butter (ghee), sugar (gur), uncooked rice, and an uncooked goat (tartare). Then he does a crazy dance (you would too). What happens after the dance I prefer not to think about. If that weren't enough, all the food is locally grown and organic.

A report from academia

The lamentations of a pseud:
“When I was getting my B.A. in English, of my eight closest friends, five were either English or Comparative Literature majors; all had taken part in an intensive humanities program freshman year that included housing all the participants together. By senior year, there was absolutely no distinction between our academic work and the rest of our time...we were writing our own manifestos, poems, and really long emails; we were drinking cheap vodka (or sometimes some new thing purchased with fledgling credit cards, like cinnamon schnapps)...”

“I’d throw a party, my friend would sit cross-legged on the floor, soliloquizing about track 13 on Exile on Main Street and then disappearing home to write a story called “Rocket Queen.” A series of intensely heated arguments about Heidegger, conducted mostly at around three in the morning, led me to an independent study on Being and Time and my first real introduction to Continental philosophy and ‘theory.’”

“In the four years since then, things have gotten much worse. This is particularly true in California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger has continually sought to cut funding for higher education, but it is true everywhere in the United States. There are practical problems: increased fees and overhead costs, shrinking budgets for grants, less guaranteed teaching, fewer tenure-track jobs. This financial squeeze is one cause of a rash of damaging wars within literary studies, and academia more generally, that illustrate how desperate the situation has become.”

“The ideological differences between Badiou and Michaels, or Zizek and Michaels, are not trivial. (Neither are the differences between Zizek and Badiou.) I am not suggesting that the well-rehearsed disagreements between Lacanians and historicists can be easily overcome. Nonetheless, my belief in the projects of universalism and equality leave me out of patience with the refusal to recognize common ground.”

“I now believe that the kind of reconciliation I hoped for…will not arrive, at least not without significant clashes coming first...I’ve watched one conversation after another in which I participated, and which I thought were cordial dialogues about academia, quickly become bitter disputes. (I should add…it has become clear that Slavoj Zizek can’t replace Derrida. His fatuous and repetitive lists of political “ironies,” e.g. that Whole Foods is just another capitalist organ, have begun to alienate even his most devoted followers.)

“It is not merely that no major theoretical school has emerged since Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, as Deresiewicz writes—it is also that one can trace the decline of that work’s meaningfulness in Butler’s persistent effort afterwards to detach her queer studies from the lived experiences of alternative lifestyles, alternative communities, and drag. It is really any wonder that our private conversations come to linger more on the films of Pedro Almodovar or on camp films like Priscilla Queen of the Desert, where drag is not merely the subject, but is also allowed to be present? Yet that arc repeats itself everywhere in the profession.”

Millionaire crime fighter

From the Sunday, August 11, 1907, edition of The New York Times:
RICHEST POLICEMAN RESTORED TO FORCE; Inspector Hunt of Chicago, Worth $1,000,000, Welcomed by Citizens. ANTAGONIZED UNION LABOR Stopped Succession of Battles with the Police at the Stockyards in the Strike of 1904.

CHICAGO, Aug. 10. -- Inspector Nicholas Hunt, reputed millionaire, and the richest policeman in the world, was reinstated on the police force by Chief Shippy last night and placed in charge of his old headquarters in Hyde Park.

The Inspector was met at his old station by hundreds of friends. His return was the occasion for an impromptu love feast, in which prominent citizens of Hyde Park and the police under his command took part.
For some reason inflation calculators don’t go back further than 1913, but $1,000,000 in 1907 would be more than $21,000,000 today. According to the Biographical History Of The American Irish In Chicago:
Among the notable murder cases with which Inspector Hunt has been connected may be recalled the capture in 1875 of Jim Allen, a desperate criminal; three years later the running down of George Purdy for the killing of Samuel Reninger; then followed the Nicole Cena, the Jennie McGarvery, the Eva Mitchell, and the recent Hiawatha flats horror, all of which were tracked out and unraveled by this indefatigable western Vidocq. Fie [sic] also took a prominent part in the great strike of 1894, where he was in command of the First and Second Regiments, with Colonels Wheeler and Moulton and General Russell, the Brigade Commander, and in connection therewith was able to do some splendid work in crushing the lawlessness then prevalent in the southern portion of the city.
Hunt was eventually promoted to Captain. I’m not sure where his money came from, he must have married into it.

07 April 2008

Scarborough donkey news

Because of new animal cruelty rules the fat children of Scarborough can no longer ride donkeys:
Anyone over eight stone will not be allowed to ride a donkey on the beach – which means that obese children may need to be turned away.

The rules have been written by The Donkey Sanctuary and the British Equine Vets’ Association to protect the hard-working animals.

Melanie Fisher, who operates donkeys on Scarborough’s South Bay beach, said: “We have always stuck to our own limit of around six stone anyway, so the new guideline won’t affect us. I think eight stone is still too much when you consider the weight of the saddle too.”

Mrs Fisher said she has had to turn away overweight children in the past but has never faced an angry reaction from parents.

She said: “People are generally fine about it. We just say the child is too big to ride a donkey and ask if they would like to help us lead it along the beach instead.

“It’s all about what’s best for the donkey at the end of the day.”
Are you listening, fat children of children of Scarborough? It's not about what's best for you, it's about what's best for the donkey. Your townspeople care more about the physical well being of beasts of burden than they do about your fragile psyches. Your status is now beneath that of an ugly and unpleasant animal.

Normally I would find this funny, but I possess a violent hatred of donkeys. I think it would be better if saddles were put on the obese children, allowing thinner kids to ride them. This would give the little fatties some much needed exercise. Then the donkeys, no longer being needed, could be sold to the Mussulmen for use as sex slaves.

In other Scarborough donkey news, a photograph of a local donkey named Patch won first prize in a national completion.

06 April 2008

Secondhand crashing

Prohibiting smoking in public places does not save lives (no one has ever died from secondhand smoke), all smoking bans do is make smokers miserable. Or at least that’s what I thought, but it turns out smoking bans kill:
According to a new study released, smoking bans have been linked to an increase in drunk driving accidents. It appears that since people cannot smoke in many restaurants and bars, they are now turning to drinking, and it is getting dangerous.

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Washington and looked at data from 2000 to 2005.

They found that instead of going to a bar for a drink and a smoke, people are now more likely to go farther away to someone’s home where they can do both without any trouble.

The longer drives put them at an increased risk of accident.

The researchers found that in communities where smoking bans are in effect, there is a 12% increase in the number of drunk driving accidents.
Don’t expect anti-smoking fanatics to relent merely because people are dying. Why would they? The claims about public health concerns have always mostly been an excuse for persecution. Anti-smokers envy the social ease of smokers, and therefore can't tolerate smoking even in places they themselves do not go.