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Friday, May 30, 2014

Sociopath alert: Somaly Mam

The NY Post just ran this article: Sex-slave crusade ousted from foundation as her tale crumbles:

One of the world’s leading anti-sex slavery activists got bounced from her own foundation because her heartbreaking tale of being sold into child prostitution and years of abuse fell apart….The Cambodian claimed she was an orphan, sold into sexual slavery and repeatedly raped and abused for years. She only worked up the courage to escape after seeing a friend killed in front of her.

But, it turned out that Mam had in fact grown up with both parents, led a comfortable middle-class life, and graduated from high school. 

Also from the article:

The 40-something Mam — whose precise age has never been stated — always knew when cameras were rolling, according to a psychologist who did volunteer work for Mam’s Cambodian charity AFESIP.

“[With donors], she’s very polished and very on and very charming … exceedingly charming,” the whistle-blower told Newsweek.

“And when people are not there, she can be tyrannical; she’s moody, she’s erratic, she’s entitled.”

It's all of a piece. All sociopaths are two-faced, and the famous ones are almost inevitably one person in front of the camera, and the opposite with their underlings. The real Mam, of course, is the tyrannical one, the opposite of the face she wore for all the celebrities she cultivated. 

Almost all sociopaths embroider their past to some extent; Mam just did so more than most. Her sad personal story (emphasis on "story") was calculated to elicit maximum sympathy, meaning that she was probably an affect-hungry sociopath -- one with a bottomless need for love from others, even while she herself was incapable of giving any.

It's also characteristic of sociopathy that she would associate herself with such a noble cause. Sociopaths seem to frequently want -- even need -- a reputation for goodness and beneficence. 

None of these despicable patterns of behavior ever exist in isolation. Once you see any of those behaviors, you should expect the others. 

All those celebrities and donors who fell for her act must have been influenced not only by the nobility of her cause but also by her delicate Asian beauty and her gracious manner (with them). 

But sociopaths come in all shapes and sizes and colors. 

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

When I mentioned the Beatles' song Run For Your Life to my son, he pointed out that they had written another song about a serial killer.

Listen to this version Maxwell's Silver Hammer, which also shows the lyrics. It not only is about a serial killer, it even works in a little hybristophilia.

I must have listened to that song at least twenty times as a teenager without every having a clue to what it was about.

The NY Times approves of vigilante-ism

The NY Times ran an interesting obituary this morning:

Storme DeLarverie, a singer, cross-dresser and bouncer who may or may not have thrown the first punch at the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, but who was indisputably one of the first and most assertive members of the modern gay rights movement, died on Saturday in Brooklyn. She was 93.

Once you find out that she is part black as well as a lesbian, it's a foregone conclusion that DeLarverie could do no wrong in the Times' eyes. 

The part that caught my attention:

Tall, androgynous and armed — she held a state gun permit — Ms. DeLarverie roamed lower Seventh and Eighth Avenues and points between into her 80s, patrolling the sidewalks and checking in at lesbian bars. She was on the lookout for what she called “ugliness”: any form of intolerance, bullying or abuse of her “baby girls.”

The final paragraph of the obit:

“She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero,” Ms. Cannistraci said. “She was not to be messed with by any stretch of the imagination.”

Does this mean that the NY Times -- which has taken a strictly anti-gun, anti-NRA stance as long as anyone can remember -- has changed its mind and now favors armed vigilante-ism? 

Would they write as affectionate an obituary for, say, an armed white man who patrolled the Upper East Side protecting his neighbors against muggers? 

(Rhetorical question.) 

Thursday, May 29, 2014


One of the most important skills a college ought to teach but doesn't is how to conduct yourself in a job interview.

A lot of college seniors think it's sufficient to be presentable and talk about their GPA and school activities -- in effect, to recite their resumes. It's not. You're competing against a lot of other students who went to similar schools and got similar grades; if you got an interview, you've already been screened for those things. The purpose of the interview isn't to screen for that; it's to get a sense of your personality.

Put yourself in the interviewer's shoes. Unless his job is in Personnel, he was probably assigned this task against his wishes. He's most likely been asked to screen interviewees for his department, so he'll have a lot of contact with whomever he helps hire. Uppermost in his mind is whether you're someone he'd want to spend a lot of time with. So one of your primary goals is getting him to like you. (No one has ever wanted to hang out with someone because of his GPA.)

One or two self-deprecating comments go a long way in that regard. You just can't criticize yourself for anything which would impinge on your job performance. ("Frankly, I'm dumb as a box of rocks, and lazy to boot." Or, "I have this little problem with ethics, but I think I've put it behind me."). Just be self-critical about something entirely irrelevant to your potential job performance.

If you're being interviewed by a large corporation, your interviewer may be talking to as many as 16 students that day. By 5 PM he's going to be bleary-eyed and will have a hard time even remembering all the interviewees. So, you have to make yourself memorable. (Yet another resume with lacrosse and Amnesty International and summer jobs lifeguarding and a 3.8 GPA is by itself not memorable.)

So say something that only you can say. There must be something unique about you that you can somehow relate to the job you would do for the company.

You also have to show that you don't have any hidden psychological issues which might emerge later on. So mention that you work well with people, and that you take rejection in stride (in most of life, let alone a job, you will lose before you win, and nobody wants to deal with someone who might crack).

I was recently asked by a friend to give his son advice on interviewing for an investment banking job. The son is smart, hard-working, tough, and a very decent guy. He also happens to be somewhat nerdy-looking. Among the things I told him to say was, "I take rejection well. Hey, when you're as geeky-looking as me, you get used to it." I have no idea whether he used that line, but if he did -- and if he said it semi-brashly, it's not a line you want to deliver hesitantly -- it would have worked for him. He would have proved he's not overly sensitive, that he has a self-deprecating sense of humor, and it would have made him memorable. It was a harsh thing for me to tell him -- I'm not even sure my friendship with his father is still intact -- but it was in fact good advice.

You must also do your homework: learn about the company you're interviewing with and what makes it successful and outstanding. This flatters your interviewer, who by extension must be successful and outstanding himself to work for such a company; it shows you want to work there; and it shows you're the type of person who does his homework.

When I was at Goldman, I once interviewed an Olympic champion swimmer. We chatted about swimming briefly, then when I asked him why we should hire him, he just said, "I have a record of success." He had nothing to say about why he'd be good at bond trading. I told him that for him to say that was like a beautiful girl walking into room and announcing that she is beautiful: it adds nothing. (In fact, it subtracts.)

You have to think about what the job you're applying for requires both intellectually and psychologically, and come up with examples of how you qualify, even if your life thus far does not include any actual experience at a similar job.

If you had outstanding SAT's, put those on your resume. There's no better proof that you're actually smart, not just a grade grubber, and most employers know this. (Employers are legally barred from giving IQ tests since they result in disparate impact.)

In 1984 I applied for work as a bond trader. I knew that among other things it was hard, pressure-filled work, and that it involved a lot of numbers. I used my LSAT's and GMAT's as proof that I worked well under pressure. I also said I had always worked hard, especially at swimming, then held open my jacket, shrugged and said somewhat disgustedly, "I went as far as this body was going to take me." That comment about my physical limitations didn't reflect on my ability to trade bonds, but did show self-deprecation.

To show my head for numbers, I said that I could remember every track and swimming world record going back to 1967. If the interviewer wasn't a fan of either sport, I asked him to give me three telephone numbers, and said I would recite them back to him at end of interview. (This tends to impress people who don't realize how easy that is to do with mnemonics, and made me stand out from the other interviewees.)

My interviewing went well -- I was offered a job at every major investment bank except First Boston. My career, on the other hand, was mediocre; I basically got out-sociopathed at the office.

So, I've been left with a middling amount of money and a lifelong interest in sociopathy.

In any case, if you're interviewing for a job, think hard about what I've said above.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Are Boy Scouts fair game?

It was recently announced that Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense, was elected President of the Boy Scouts of America.

The BSA were beset by controversy a few years ago over the question of whether openly gay scouts should be allowed to participate, and, more recently, over whether openly gay men should be allowed to serve as Scoutmasters.

Gates said he would have supported gay troop leaders when the issue came up last year, but since it was voted down democratically he didn't think it was appropriate to raise it again this year.

It's hard to find any justification for excluding gay Scouts. But having gay men in charge of young boys is a bit more complicated. "Boy Scout troop leader" has actually become almost a cliche as a job which attracts pederasts.

And while it's true that being gay is not the same as being a child molester, pederasts are not distributed proportionally. Homosexuals are roughly 2 to 5% of the population, depending on which source you believe, but between a third and a half of all child molesters are homosexually inclined.

(On the other hand, child molesters are almost never women, so there's really no reason to worry about lesbians as Brownie leaders.)

Coincidentally, a week ago the NY Post ran an article about a child porn bust which snared a Boy Scout troop leader, among others. (It also snared a police officer, a rabbi, a paramedic, an airline pilot, and an architect.)

The NY Times supports the inclusion of gay Scoutmasters. Yet they have been waxing outraged over the scandal involving pederastic Catholic priests for years. In fact, they've deemed it an issue of such significance that they've put it on their front page many times.

Would they have supported the Catholic church excluding gay priests?

If gay Scoutmasters are allowed, when the inevitable scandals and recriminations occur -- maybe years afterward, as with the church -- whom will the New York Times blame?

Elliot Rodger's theme song

The Beatles are generally associated with love, peace, and enlightenment. But early on, they were about other things, too.

The lyrics to Run For Your Life:

Well I'd rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or I won't know where I am

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end ah little girl

Well I know that I'm a wicked guy
And I was born with a jealous mind
And I can't spend my whole life
Trying just to make you toe the line

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end ah little girl

Let this be a sermon
I mean everything I've said
Baby, I'm determined
And I'd rather see you dead

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end ah little girl

I'd rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or you won't know where I am

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end ah little girl

The difference between good people and bad is not that good people don't have bad thoughts. Everybody has bad thoughts. The difference is that  good people either keep theirs to themselves or maybe sing about them, whereas bad people act on theirs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Adam Lanza II

There has been a lot of speculation over the past several days about exactly what mental disorder Elliot Rodger had.

Although what he did was despicable, he didn't give off most of the usual signals of sociopathy. If he had been a sociopath, he certainly would have been a more skillful seducer. He would have come across more confident with those who knew him. And he would have been a master manipulator.

Though all serial killers are almost by definition sociopaths, mass murderers often are not (they are more likely to be psychotic, or otherwise disturbed).

When I first saw the infamous video, I was a little surprised that (a) he was that interested in girls, because he looked awfully gay, and (b) that he was rejected by so many of them, since he was sort of pretty, if in an effeminate way. He actually reminded me a little of Rudolf Nureyev, the Russian dancer who died of AIDS in 1991 -- and whom women were crazy about back in the 60's and 70's:

Rodger did not lack for delusions of grandeur: “I am Elliot Rodger . . . Magnificent, glorious, supreme, eminent . . . Divine! I am the closest thing there is to a living god….On the day of Retribution, I will truly be a powerful god, punishing everyone I deem to be impure."

Delusions of grandeur often go hand in hand with a paranoid personality, but can also just be the ramblings of someone who is extremely narcissistic. The "living god" bit actually verges into psychotic (divorced from reality) territory.

He also said, towards the end, that he realized that the reason girls didn't get with him was not because he was inferior, but because he was a superior being.

(I too would like to believe that all the girls who ever turned me down did so because I am superior; reality, however, compels me to admit it was far more likely because I'm inferior.)

I heard somewhere that Rodger had been diagnosed with Aspergers a few years earlier. This made sense too; it certainly explained why he was unable to get any girls: they wanted nothing to do with a guy who was so awkward. (An Aspie like Rodger or Adam Lanza has ample reason to hate a world which rejects him.)

But then I read that Rodger had never been officially diagnosed with Aspergers, though his family suspected that he was on the spectrum. (I think they're right.)

Then I heard Roissy's theory, that Rodger was in fact gay and trying to cover it up with his elaborate manifesto. This too had a certain logic: it explained his femininity, and his never having been with a girl. And why would he bother to make those Youtube videos beforehand, if not to convince the world (and maybe himself?) that he was heterosexual? That was an expensive coverup, what with seven people having to give their lives  to further it.

(There was a lot of homosexual and also child pornography found on Adam Lanza's computer, though the mainstream media did their best to downplay that angle.)

Roissy also mentioned the racial angle, and refers to the fact that mixed race people are more likely to have mental illnesses. This is the link he provided to make that point (although the writer of the linked piece actually argues mildly against this thesis).

But Rodger's manifesto seems too painfully honest in too many ways to just be a coverup. He talks about his feelings of inferiority, how he hated being short, his dorkiness, his shyness, how he was bullied, his jealousy of tall blond surfer guys, and how he felt left out.

He also mentions his Eurasian heritage frequently. I can't help but think of Andrew Cunanan, the Eurasian serial killer who murdered Giorgio Armani, and Jack Abbott, the Eurasian prison writer who briefly became a cause celebrate back in 1981. (Within a month of having been freed thanks to the efforts of Norman Mailer and others, Abbott killed another man.) I don't know exactly what the numbers would have to be, but it is my impression we Eurasians are now overrepresented in the mass killing sweepstakes.

In any case, after all this, I'm still not exactly sure what to make of Rodger, other than that he was not a standard issue sociopath. He probably did have Aspergers; it's possible he was also gay. I was originally going to guess borderline personality disorder, but I don't have a good enough handle on exactly what that entails for it to have been a particularly educated guess.

He wasn't quite crazy enough to be psychotic, though his warped perspective on what his social life should have been and how people would react to his killing spree were pretty far removed from reality. But that may also have just been the cluelessness engendered by Aspergers.

The killer Rodger reminds me most of is Adam Lanza. Lanza was such an all around dweeb (to use a not strictly DSM term) that he didn't spark any copycat killings. For essentially the same reason, hopefully, neither will Rodger.

"Promises presidential candidates should make"

I started reading this editorial in the NY Post this morning without first looking to see who the author was. About halfway through, while marveling at its brilliance and dry wit, it finally occurred to me to check the byline. Sure enough…..

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Impressions of Hawaii

Two days ago we took the road to Hana, the single most beautiful drive I've ever taken. It's scary at times, whenever you're on a cliff. And there are a lot of bridges which have room for only one car, so you must yield to oncoming traffic. But the last twenty or so miles are so lovely they seem unreal. You come around a number of bends which make you think you're in a postcard.

On the way we stopped at a roadside stand for shaved ice, which is for sale everywhere. It obviously has a great profit margin, since it's just colorful sugar water selling for $5.25 or so. There was a girl at the stand with part-Polynesian features; she would have been absolutely beautiful if she weighed 40 pounds less. (Polynesians can be beautiful when young, but have a tendency to put on weight quickly.)

We stopped at the same stand on the way back to use the vending machine. The stand was closed, but the girl was still there, riding a mowing tractor on the lawn of the house behind the stand.

The few houses out there are mostly quite isolated; you have to wonder what people do with their days. You can't just admire scenery all the time. You don't get the sense that these are people who are freaking out over their children's SAT's. They mostly just make do, and watch the world go by -- without paying too close attention.

The girl's future seemed to be to spend the rest of her life in this incredibly lush setting, getting even fatter.

At one point I saw a bunch of local boys jumping off a pier into the ocean, yelling at each other and having fun. It seemed idyllic from a distance, but when I got closer and listened to the stupid things they were saying, I realized they were essentially the same crowd you'd find on skateboards in any town on the mainland.

We saw one young Polynesian couple in a restaurant. The man was a striking specimen, powerfully built (though not quite like a bodybuilder), with a handsome and masculine (but bland) face. The girl was almost as good-looking. She smiled at me; given the guy she was with, the only possible meaning of that smile was, "Aren't the two of us magnificent-looking?"

But as a rule, you just don't see as many people of Polynesian descent in Maui you would have thirty years ago. You see a lot of American tourists (all well dressed, middle-aged, white). A lot of Japanese tourists (unmistakeable by their dress and mannerisms). And fair number of local Asian-Americans. This was originally an island populated only by Polynesians, but they seem to be getting replaced. It's not dissimilar to the way the bigger, stronger Neanderthals got replaced by the wilier Cro Magnons about thirty thousand years ago.

You get the impression that a lot of the local whites came here because they were unhappy with their lives on the mainland. They tend to cluster in funky little towns like Pukalani and Paia, which have somewhat rundown-looking gift shops and art shops and restaurants. Many have leathery skin from too much sun. Most of these refugees from the mainland seem to be childless (if they were concerned about schools and the like they wouldn't have moved to Maui). Manhattan has been called an ovary graveyard; Maui seems to be one as well.

There's something sad about this island, and I've been trying to figure out exactly what for the past couple days. Maybe it's that the native Hawaiians seem to be dying out. (They really should be declared an endangered species, much like the Hawaiian monk seal we saw on the beach yesterday.) Maybe it's that the local whites all seem so burned out.

Maybe it's that my own Hawaiian dream is dying. When I was a young man I used to dream of living here; but it seems clearer now that I'd get "island fever" (the desire to escape) if I did. This state has always loomed large in my imagination, but it seems to have shrunk somehow since I was last here. Or maybe it's just my own future which has shrunk.

Of course, it's much easier to feel sad about a place so heartbreakingly beautiful. I've never had, for instance, a Newark dream. And if I was told I could never live there, or if its indigenous people were gradually being supplanted, I must admit, it probably wouldn't bother me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I'd always told my kids that the most beautiful place I'd ever been was Hawaii, and now we're finally here (in Maui).

While I have doubts about the cost/benefit of such a long trip just for the sake of the scenery, Hawaii is a far nicer destination than the Caribbean. It's of relatively recent (in geological terms) volcanic origin, so it has spectacular mountains as well as lush tropical jungles and sandy beaches. It's in the US, so it's safer than most Caribbean nations. It's probably safer than most parts of the mainland.

The safety of the islands even extends to its native fauna. There aren't even any snakes on the island, except a tiny one which often gets mistaken for a worm. 

Sadly, much of the original flora and fauna have barely managed to survive the onslaught of humans, who have introduced not only numerous invasive plant species, but also, either by design or by accident, rats, chickens, wild pigs, giant toads, mongoose, and deer. Each has ravaged the native habitat in various ways.

Nonetheless, none of these animals present immediate threats to people who hike in the forests. (The wild pigs are hunted often enough that they have learned to avoid people.) 

Yesterday we took the road to Hana and went for a hike in a bamboo grove. My son commented that it would add a certain spirit of adventure to our hike if there were the possibility of a man-eating jaguar emerging from the jungle.

He then said, "Actually, what this place needs is some Komodo dragons. If I ever get rich, I'm going to bring in some of those and just let them loose here."

I pointed out that cobras and fer-de-lances would have a much better shot at survival. 

I've often wondered, what if somebody did purposely introduce, say, cobras to Hawaii? What kind of reputation would that person have for eternity? He would be regarded as pretty much the opposite of St. Patrick, who is said to have rid Ireland of snakes.

The opposite of a saint is a devil, and if anyone did bring poisonous snakes to these beautiful islands, that reputation would be more than justified. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Elin Nordegren -- outstanding scholar

A NY Post article today described how Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods' ex, just gave the commencement speech at Rollins College, from which she is graduating.

She also received the Outstanding Senior Award.

In her speech, Nordegren said, “Education has been the only consistent part of my life for the last nine years. And it has offered me comfort — because education is the one thing that no one can take away from you.”

(That much is certainly true. Despite all the tumult in Tiger Woods' life over the past several years, no one has suggested stripping him of his Stanford BA. Money, however, is another matter: a certain gold digger was recently reported to have scored $110 million off him.)

Nordegren continued, "In the fall of 2005, I was 25 years old. I had just recently moved to America. I was married without children. Today, nine years later, I am a proud American and I have two beautiful children. But I am no longer married."

(She's leaving out one crucial detail: she's far, far richer than when she first came to the land of opportunity. Hint: she didn't get that way from her work as a nanny; it actually has more to do with her no longer being married.)

Nordegren concluded, “My hope is that today I’m showing my children, Sam and Charlie — who’s sleeping in his chair — that it’s never too late to follow your dream.”

(If Sam's and Charlie's dream is to get a college degree, Nordegren is right. If, however, their dream is to marry money, then it becomes too late all too rapidly, as one ages and loses one's looks.)

A more fitting last line might have been, "If you want to succeed in life, you have to be like me -- I had the eye of the Tiger."

(Don't mistake me for a Woods fan. I'm just disgusted that a gold-digger is lionized while an actual self-made woman is prevented from delivering a commencement address.)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Speaking truth to….what?

One of the more annoying liberal phrases is "speaking truth to power." The reason it provokes that reaction -- at least from me -- is that it is so inaccurate. Look at Barack Obama. All he did was lie to get into power. He told his constituency what they want to hear, or what he wanted them to believe, much of which was the opposite of the truth. He told us that the Jeremiah Wright we heard was not the man he knew. He told us that he would have the most open and transparent administration in history. He told us that he would be the post-partisan President. He told us that raising the debt ceiling was unpatriotic. I could go on, but this paragraph is too long already.

The point is, Obama spoke lies to power.

So what would be a more accurate phrase?

"Speaking truth to unemployment." (Just ask James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix.)

"Speaking truth to mockery and scorn." (As Darwin and Galileo found out.)

"Speaking truth to offense." How often have you heard people react to a truthful statement they can't really argue with by saying that they're really offended?

"Speaking truth to isolation." (Politically correct types usually give me the cold shoulder after reading this honest-to-a-fault blog.)

"Speaking truth to not getting laid." (As I have also found from hard experience.)

The truth is, "speaking truth to power" usually translates as, "I want what I say to be true, even though it's not, and by using this ridiculously stilted and pretentious phrase I want to appear noble as well."

Addendum, two hours later: Turns out, as per commenter Steven, that I've been misinterpreting this phrase, as explained in the comments. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014


A commenter, "Steven," gave an insightful response to Prison Pen Pals IX:

I thought it was interesting that a few of them said they were spontaneous or liked to live in the moment. That bit is probably true -- impulsive, uninhibited -- but it kind of sounds attractive so it can go in.

I replied:

You hit it right on the head: "spontaneity" generally has positive connotations, but it basically equals impulsiveness, which is one of the hallmarks of sociopathy. These inmates know that if they use the word it will be interpreted as sexually spontaneous, i.e., they're promising their prospective correspondents that they're up for sex, anytime and anywhere. But in fact the other way they've exhibited that trait in the past is by spontaneously pulling a trigger, or spontaneously smashing a bottle across someone's face.

It is striking how many inmates, both male and female, describe themselves as "spontaneous." (Look at those ads.) Society generally assigns a positive value to being spontaneous. After all, the opposite is to be a stick in the mud, a boring worrywart who is not fun to be around and who doesn't even seem to want excitement.

By contrast, a "spontaneous" person is one who is always up for adventure, and has never lost touch with his inner child. The implications, as I stated above, are sexy. But in fact, it just means having little impulse control. 

While such a person may be fun in the short term -- as a sociopath can be -- they will inevitably be trouble in the long run. They may not be able to resist having sex with you, but they won't be able to resist having sex with anyone else, either. They also won't be able to resist having just one more drink before they hit the road, or an impulse purchase (with your money), or a hit of crack. When they're angry, they won't be able to resist lashing out in the most hurtful way -- and not just verbally. They'll avail themselves of whatever's at hand, be that a knife, a baseball bat, or a gun. 

And that's why people like this end up in prison. 

We all have to make spur of the moment decisions -- like whether or not to steal that fancy car with the ignition running. For most of us, it's an easy decision. In fact, it's so easy that we never really consider the bad alternative. For someone with no impulse control, i.e., with no the inhibitions against doing the wrong thing, it's difficult to resist the temptation. 

(This is why so many inmates also say that they ended up where they are because of "wrong choices.")

Be forewarned. Although the idea of a free spirit or an unfettered soul may sound appealing, their charm will wear off very quickly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dr. Michelle Oakley

As a counterpoint to the previous post, here's a woman who will actually restore your faith in humanity: Dr. Oakley, a veterinarian based in the Yukon, the subject of a new National Geographic Channel show (on Saturdays at 9 PM).

You see a lot of people on TV who have undeserved reputations for goodness. (Certain perky and/or soulful talk show hosts come to mind.) But these people are mostly moral poseurs, who covet reputations for goodness with the same greed they have for everything else. They emote to their audiences, they dramatically lavish affection on people they barely know, and they always….. overdo it.

Dr. Oakley is the opposite. She's unpretentious, with a playful sense of humor. She obviously cares about both the animals and their owners. (If it's an act, then she's the greatest actress in the world.)

But there's nothing actressy about Oakley. You don't get the sense, as you so often do with so many "reality" shows, that there is an a role being played out for the cameras. She is the anti-"Real Housewife."

Oakley went to veterinary school and has spent her career taking care of animals in the Yukon; it wasn't as if she has spent her life chasing fame via acting auditions and the casting couch. Nor is she a social climber. (The Yukon tends not to be a magnet for such.) Somehow, someone at National Geo heard about her and said, hey, she's cool, let's make a show about her.

She's quietly attractive, in a no-makeup sort of way. And though she's not fat, she also doesn't look as if she spends all her spare time on a StairMaster, either.

One little (slightly counterintuitive) clue to her character: on the most recent episode, one of her daughters complained about how her mother was too bossy while she was assisting her with the animals. That her daughter would feel so comfortable complaining about -- and even mocking -- Dr. Oakley indicates that she feels absolutely no fear of her. That's the mark of a good mother.

Here's a three minute trailer for the show:

Here's another little clip:

And if those two grabbed you, here's a 22 minute video of her:

I challenge you not to fall a little in love, as I did.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Prison pen pals IX

For some reason, I find inmate pen pal requests fascinating. When you look through the ads, you'll see a lot of women who are in for DUI or possession, crimes which don't strike me as huge moral transgressions. They tend to write typical advertisements of the sort you might see on an ordinary singles website.

It's generally the women who have been convicted of more heinous crimes who make a big effort to tell you what good people they are.

The inmates' letters are in italics; my words are not. Some of the more interesting recent offerings:

Kristina Adkins

My name is Kristina Lynn and I'm looking for a friend.

Let me tell you something about myself. I'm 21 years old with Brown hair and eyes. I'm 5'3" weighing about 140 to 145 pounds. I'm very spontaneous and outgoing. I like to have fun and enjoy living in the moment. I love to learn new things as well as share my story in hopes of inspiring someone. I enjoy long walks at night under the stars. Also I enjoy reading and writing. As well as just relaxing and taking my time. I feel there is no reason to rush through life.

I'm looking for someone who enjoys exchanging mail as well as helping others. I'm not here to judge anyone just like I don't want to be judged. I am a true genuine and caring person. I have not and will not let my circumstances define me.

Kristina is only 21, yet she's in for second degree murder. She says in her letter that she sees "no reason to rush through life." That's understandable given that her release date isn't until 2037.

Kristina said that she loves to share her story "in hopes of inspiring someone." If you Google Kristina, and you'll find that at age 13, she stole some of the morphine pills her grandfather was taking with his cancer medication and mixed them in with her grandmother's pills in an effort to kill her.

I guess what Kristina wants to inspire people to do is kill their grandparents.

Go ahead and write her; just don't take any pills she offers.

Tabatha Brown

I am looking for a really nice and generous person to start a genuine friendship with.

I am a smart, sexy, humorous, open-minded, and affectionate full figured woman who enjoys the simple things in life, like watching the sunrise and rise, walking on the beach, quiet picnics, going to the movies, reading a good book, listening to music, and simply living life on it's terms.

Oh, and also armed robbery. Tabatha is serving a life sentence, so it's hard not to suspect that there may have been a murder that went along with the robbery she lists as her crime. (Either that or it was a three strikes situation.) 

Tabatha claims to be smart. But how intelligent can you be to get caught committing a robbery? And how genuine is your "affection" when you're the type who can threaten to blow someone's head off if they don't hand over the money?

D'Rae Henderson

I'm the rare breed of Irish/Mexican, born and raised in Los Angeles. [What's interesting about D'Rae is where the Irish expresses itself and where the Mexican does. The combination certainly gave her a cute face. Her first name, though, sounds more black than either of her ethnicities.]

I have many interests that vary from tame to wild. I'm uninhibited and open-minded. I'm also spontaneous and adventurous. I like trying new things and I'll try just about anything once-more if I like it. [In other words, whatever kind of sex you like, I'm willing to try.] With me, there is never a dull moment. I'm passionate about all that I do-I live hard, I play hard and I love hard. [In case you didn't get the message the first time.]

I'm into NASCAR, traveling, motorcycle runs & amusement parks. [The NASCAR certainly sounds more Irish, but the motorcycle runs make me wonder if she ever rode with the Mongols, a Hispanic biker gang. And if you go to any amusement park in southern California these days, you'll see many more Mexicans than Irish.] 

A few things that appealed to my intimate side includes candlelit bubble baths, scented candles, the solitude of a picnic for two, porch swing conversations, and white rose petals tossed across the bed….[In other words, either she's a bit of a princess or she's trying to imply that she's so desirable that her previous beaus have been willing to pamper her.]

I enjoy the beauty and simplicity that life brings such as: sand beneath my feet, the passing of a butterfly and the sensuality in the kiss of an ocean breeze. [What D'Rae really seems to enjoy are cliches.]

My dislikes are few: obnoxious, loud, rude, people and large crowds. [How about prison sentences?]
My likes: anything I can't have right now. [At least she's honest about that.]

Whoever you are, wherever you roam. I'll be patiently waiting for you. [Actually, it will be whoever wants her who will have to be patient.]

D'Rae doesn't list her crime or release date or date of birth, but if you Google D'Rae you'll find that she was born in 1965, making her 49 this year, which means the above photo is not a recent one. Google her again and you'll find that she's in for attempted murder, which means she's probably been in for a while, given that she could be released in December of 2014. The nature of her crime certainly lends credence to her claim of being "spontaneous and adventurous." Perhaps her target forgot to strew white rose petals across her bed.

Tracy Coxton

Are you looking for someone to begin a long-term honest friendship with no mind games? I'm looking for you!

I am a goodhearted, up front, what you see is what you get woman that happens to be doing a long sentence….

Tracy is in until 2058 for attempted murder,  robbery, and gun charges. Her release date suggests it wasn't her first conviction. Her letter was longer, but the revealing part is quoted above. Once again: it always seems to be the murderers (or would-be murderers) who feel obliged to tell us what good hearts they have. 

The first rule of prison correspondence (and really, of people everywhere): nobody ever tells you they're good if they actually are.

Emily Geller

Hey everyone! My name is Emily but I go by the name of Envy. I'm currently serving 25 years but I remain focused and positive about giving my time back. I'm 21 years old, have obtained my GED and am now focused on getting into college to study social work.

I'm a very strong minded, independent, caring and loyal lady who finds pleasure in helping people. I'm lighthearted and like to always have a good laugh, I'm always finding the positive in a negative situation….

Google Emily and you'll find that she is in jail for having lured a 57-year-old auto salesman (whom she'd had sex for money with before) to a deserted area where her boyfriend hit him over the head with a shovel. The salesman collapsed to the ground, splitting his head open. Emily and her boyfriend then took the man's wallet.

When Montgomery County Judge Joseph Dugan sentenced her, he said,"I really don't know whether or not you have a conscience. And that makes you extremely dangerous."

(Translation: "You're a sociopath.")

Evidently the judge was too obtuse to see what a "caring and loyal" lady Emily is, and how she "finds pleasure in helping people."

Eileen McLaughlin

Eileen not only didn't include any message with her ad, she didn't include any revealing answers in her information section, either. Under "Convicted of," she wrote, "Poor personal choices." 

As far as I know, that is not a crime. I've made a lot of poor choices in my life, starting with all the wrong circles I filled in on the SAT's. But, none of them resulted in a prison sentence.

Eileen was born in 1981, which means she turns 33 this year, and her release date is in 2017, so her poor personal choices probably didn't include premeditated murder. Still, one can't help but wonder what she did. (I couldn't find her on the internet.) 

But she's pretty enough that she will undoubtedly get some willing correspondents despite her secretiveness.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Is admitting your syndrome the better alternative?

After writing the post two days ago about worthwhile tattoos, it occurs to me, maybe some would be better off actually admitting to whatever their syndrome is, given that the alternative is moral condemnation.

If someone has Aspergers Syndrome, but doesn't admit it, people will inevitably peg him as a "stiff," "clueless," "temperamental," "rigid," and "charm-free." These are all, in a sense, moral judgments, since they imply that the person has chosen to be those things. But if the person simply admits he has Aspergers, not only will the moral aspect evaporate, he might even receive some sympathy.

Likewise, "moody" and "unreasonable" are both, at heart, moral judgments. But if someone admits to being bipolar, others would realize he is struggling with an organic handicap, and might try to be helpful, rather than just being frustrated with him. ("Sorry, I'm struggling with bipolar disorder. I go from my manic phase to my depressive phase, and I'm aware of the cycle, but there still seems to be nothing I can do about it.") Use of the word "struggling" is helpful, as it implies one is making an effort to be less unreasonable.

Of course, no one feels sympathetic to someone who admits to sociopathy (which is why no one ever admits to that). But if a sociopath claims to be trying "to overcome an abused childhood" -- and the chances are he was abused, or, at the very least, neglected -- the image of him as a helpless child is certainly more likely to evoke sympathy than the reality of the remorseless adult. (Then again, why am I giving useful advice to sociopaths? Never mind; ignore this paragraph.)

Likewise, "asshole," "jerk," and "pompous" are, at heart, moral judgments. But "narcissistic personality disorder" is too mild to be considered a real handicap, too common for any exotic value, and too tiresome to evoke sympathy. Plus, even though it's actually an actual official DSM term, most people just think of narcissists as conceited types who enjoy the view in the mirror. So, maybe narcissists should (falsely) admit to bipolar disorder, and claim that their boasts were uttered while in a manic phase. (What else is narcissism but a constantly manic state of egotism?) Then again, most narcissists are probably too egotistical to admit to such an imperfection.

It  might also help one's case if one invoked famous people with same condition: "I have Aspergers -- you know, like Bill Gates and Albert Einstein." Or, "I'm bipolar -- you know, like Ernest Hemingway and Friedrich Nietzsche." This could conceivably make the listener feel he's in the presence of someone special.

I'm not suggesting these things be said when first introduced; a premature admission will only have an off-putting effect. It should only be brought up after one has established a bit of a relationship; at that point it will seem more as if one is confiding in a close friend, and will serve as a convenient excuse for whatever misbehavior has just been exhibited.

It might even be worthwhile for people who in fact do not have these syndromes to lay claim to them, as they will provide a good excuse for misbehavior. One should probably stay away from the psychoses, as they are scary. ("What? I told you you're ugly? Sorry about that; I have multiple personality disorder, you know. That must have been Joe; he's a real prick.")

Better to blame a fairly common, less threatening disorder. ("Sorry about standing you up the other day; my ADD sometimes makes me forget things.")

Otherwise, one will be found wanting morally. ("You are such a selfish asshole.")

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Officially old

I turn 60 today.

No one else is throwing me a birthday party, so I'm throwing myself one -- on this blog. (Thanks for coming.)

The question that baffles me is, how'd I get so old? I dunno. Time just sorta went by. Honestly, I had very little say in the matter.

Had I had any choice, I would have stopped those dastardly hands from their relentless journey around the clock; but that was beyond my power.

It actually does seem like just yesterday I was graduating from college. I seem to be having all the usual cliched thoughts: it all goes by so fast. Seize each day. Et cetera.

But I hate giving voice to those thoughts because they make me sound so old.

So, I guess I should just shut up.

Party's over. You can all go home now.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Worthwhile tattoos

A recent commenter on the Aspergers Syndrome post, who said that it took her a while to realize what was going on with a guy she was dating, sparked a thought: how wonderful it would be if everybody who had a mental disorder had their abnormality tattooed on their forehead.

Unfortunately, almost no one is considerate enough to inform you of his disorder upon first meeting you. So you have to go through the long, laborious, and often painful process of discovering it for yourself.

It's easy to understand why no one does so. If you met someone who said, "Hi, my name is John. Just so you know, I'm bipolar," would that incline you to befriend him? Of course not. You'd immediately envision a dismal future of not only having to cheer him up when he's down, but also having to calm him down when he's in his manic phase. You'd realize that both phases would result in a lot of misunderstandings and (seemingly willful) misinterpretations on his part. So you'd avoid him. He, of course, realizes this, and so tries to hide his condition as long as he can.

It would be even better if sociopaths introduced themselves that way. "Hi, my name is Ted. I seem personable, but it's just a facade. The fact is, inside I'm a ravenous monster who wants nothing more than to destroy you. Oh, and by the way, you can't believe anything I say no matter how sincere I sound." Unfortunately, no sociopath introduces himself this way, since it would make it hard for him to ply his trade. So, we have to discover his syndrome on our own -- the hard way.

But what if all these misfits had their abnormality tattooed on their foreheads? What a time saver that would be.

This would be especially true of sociopaths: if they had to have a big "S" on their foreheads, it would make it far harder for them to exploit and betray others, and life would be much easier for the rest of us. Think about it: if Lance Armstrong had only had that tattoo, we would never have believed him when he said he was clean. If Ted Bundy had thad been marked with the tattoo, none of those girls would ever have gotten into his car. And so on.

(Schizophrenics share the same first letter, so perhaps they could be identified with an "Sc.")

If someone had a big "N" stamped on his forehead (for "narcissist"), you could know ahead of time that he would never admit he was wrong, and would overestimate himself on many fronts. And you could act accordingly -- by avoiding him. (It might even compel narcissists to behave better, i.e., by being less narcissistic.)

If someone had the scarlet "A" on her forehead (for "Aspergers"), you would know ahead of time that she would be terminally awkward, have no insight into other people, and be incapable of accepting any criticism without having a meltdown. And, you could act accordingly -- by avoiding her.

How much simpler life would be if we didn't have to wonder whether we were in the wrong when someone gets angry at us -- since he has a big "B" on his forehead (for "bipolar"). But since "B" could also stand for "borderline," those tattoos would have to consist of two letters each. Then again, both sets of people are likely to get angry at you for no good reason, so maybe one letter would suffice. With both sets, you could expect to spend a lot of time walking on eggshells. Or not, if you were warned ahead of time by a convenient tattoo.

And so on, for all the disorders.

It would also be helpful if people had their sexualities tattooed on as well. An "S," an "L," a "G", "B," or a "T." (These would have to be lower case, since most of those letters have mental disorders attached as well.) For both gay and straight, this would cut way down on guesswork and time wasted trying to charm those immune to our charms.

Frankly, it would be nice if everybody had their IQ typed on somewhere as well. That way we could all associate with others in our own stratum. We would all know ahead of time whom we could feel comfortable with, and have a rough idea what kind of conversation to expect from them. An ancillary benefit might be that someone with a "90" stamped on his forehead wouldn't be quite as willing to offer his personal opinions to a "150." Or, at least he would feel a little foolish while doing so. And maybe, just maybe, he would be a tad less vociferous.

It might even help nerds get laid. (What a wonderful world it would be if girls wanted to boast, "I scored a 150 last night.")

Or imagine a straight guy seeing an absolutely gorgeous girl with an "S" (for sociopath) followed by a "120" followed by an "s" (for straight) on her forehead. Which head would he think with? Whatever happened afterward, at least he wouldn't be able to say he wasn't warned.

In most cases, your decision will be easier. If you see someone with an "N 90" tattoo, you'd know that you should just nod at whatever he said and keep walking. It would save you from having to listen to someone who laughs at his own dumb jokes.

And if you saw an "S 160," you'd know that you should run. It could save your life.