Wednesday, July 20, 2005 · posted at 5:10 AM
Kodak moment. Karen's dad can always tell when someone else has taken a picture. Not just because all parties are included... but because photographs other people take are notoriously bad.

Inevitably every time you hand your camera over into a stranger's hands you are guaranteeing one of the following to be frozen in time forever:
  • Agape mouth in the midst of saying "just push the big button"
  • A close-up of facial pores and other skin ailments
  • Blurriness
  • 6 feet of extra space on one side
  • Half of any monumental sightseeing point of interest lopped off (e.g. Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Mount Rushmore with only 2 faces)
  • The stranger's thumb
  • Closed eyes
  • Shadowy darkness
  • A brick wall background (or other uninteresting backdrop)
  • Horizontal frames when they should clearly be vertical... and vice versa

Sure, one may blame photographic/technological inexperience... but that'd be wrong. My roommate has even "preshot" the camera and ended up with bad photos. Lack of motivation usually drives poor pictures. Your average picture taker doesn't care that your vacation to Mykonos is perfectly preserved - just that his/her vacation to Mykonos is perferctly preserved, and that usuallymeans getting back to it as quickly as possible.

While I was initially put off when a guy on the Spanish Steps declined to take our picture, I'm now thinking that may be the better alternative to getting the picture back only to find that the lighting is bad or he didn't hold his hand still enough.

Has the era of digital cameras and "previewing" functions, affected the prolificacy of bad pictures? Less then you would think. Unless your LCD screen is really good or you're not Asian, closed eyes can easily slip by. Off-center pictures cannot be remedied by pantomiming to turn the camera. Second chance shots are rare as (1) the stranger has already demonstrated poor picture-taking abilities and (2) I feel bad bothering the same person again and for insulting their picture-taking prowess (or lack there of).

Rarely, however, you will run into the awesome pinch hitter. The girl who will crouch to get the right angle (and not shoot up your nostrils)... the guy who will hand the camera back to you and say, "Looks life fire"... the guy who will tilt the camera to get a cool diagonal picture of the Tower of London... and you will want to buy them a gelato... then they will look at your weirdly and decline... and then you will think "well more for me..." but I digress...

So what's the proper picture etiquette? Decline if you're going to half-ass it. Take the picture as though the people in it are your best friends. Use the viewfinder/LCD screen to center photo - that's what it's there for (sometimes there's even a little focus box). Make sure the preview picture is satisfactory before handing back the camera or leaving.

And if all else fails? Well, hell, there's PhotoShop.

Saturday, July 09, 2005 · posted at 2:44 PM
Overheard at the bookstore:

Girl: I'm looking for a psychology book.
Employee: What's the name?
Girl: I don't know... it's a psychology test.
Employee: Do you know the name of the test?
Girl: It's the test you take to get your Master's degree.
Employee: What's the name?
Girl: Oh! It's the G-W-E. It stands for... for... oh I don't remember what it stands for. Where's the psychology section? Maybe I'll just look there.
Employee: Are you trying to study for a entrance exam? For the G-R-E? Those are in the study guide section.

Oh the humanity. Adding fuel to the fire that psychology is an easy major... Good luck on your thesis, girl.

Saturday, July 02, 2005 · posted at 12:31 AM
diatribe to Tom, part 1

It's a shame that Tom Cruise doesn't believe in psychiatry, he sure would benefit from a healthy dose of it.

For a moment, let's put aside his erratic behavior as of late. Forget about jumping on Oprah's couch.... and jumping on Letterman's couch... and jumping, well, pretty much in every interview. Forget about the awkward "Michael Jackson/Lisa Marie Presley" stage kisses. Forget about the rumors of brainwashing and hypnosis.

And Tom Cruise is still out of his mind.

In an interview with Matt Lauer that aired on last Friday's Today Show, fanatical Scientologist Tom Cruise lambasted the practice of psychiatry and denied the existence of chemical imbalances (full transcript available here). Wild-eyed, disrespectful and patronizing, inarticulate and with the occasional finger wag, Tom Cruise was simply a publicist's worst nightmare.

Good thing his publicist is a blood relative (Tom recently fired his longtime publicist in lieu of his Scientologist sister; Katie followed suit and abandoned her longtime publicist).

Among his ill-supported claims and false statements:

Cruise: I've never agreed with psychiatry, ever.  Before I was a Scientologist I never agreed with psychiatry. And when I started studying the history of psychiatry, I understood more and more why I didn't believe in psychology.

Actually, Tom, psychology and psychiatry are different fields. Psychiatry is the medical science of mental and emotional disorders. Psychology is the study of the mind and behavioral processes.

Cruise: Matt, you have to understand this.  Here we are today, where I talk out against drugs and psychiatric abuses of electric shocking people, okay, against their will, of drugging children with them not knowing the effects of these drugs.  Do you know what Adderall is?  Do you know Ritalin?  Do you know now that Ritalin is a street drug?  Do you understand that?

I imagine all psychiatrists and physicians too are against the abuse of drugs as well as street drugs. As for electric shocking people, you would be more likely to find a Wonka golden ticket than a physician who practices electroconvulsive therapy ala One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The question is, Tom, do you know Ritalin and Adderall? Did you know that Ritalin and Adderall creates a "high" only when crushed and snorted, not through its indicated oral use? That Concerta can't even be crushed or chewed due to an osmotic pump inside each pill? That, when taken as directed, are effective and non-addictive? That unfortunately, the real problem is - here we are today, where anything can be turned into a street drug or elicit a high... markers, paint, a plastic bag, even cough syrup.

Lauer: I understand there's abuse of all of these things.
Cruise: No, you see.  Here's the problem.  You don't know the history of psychiatry.  I do.
...and I know that psychiatry is a pseudo science.
...The thing that I'm saying about Brooke is that there's misinformation, okay.  And she doesn't understand the history of psychiatry.  She doesn't understand in the same way that you don't understand it, Matt.
...Matt.  Matt, Matt, you don't even — you're glib. [throughout interview]

Tom, Tom, Tom you are being completely ineffective at getting your point across and making a sound argument that's not based on the tenet of "I'm right because I'm right." If you're so passionate about people living life the "right" way as you deem it, it would probably behoove you not to call your audience (or in this case, interviewer) ignorant. One, that's rude. Two, that doesn't make your point. What, Tom? What don't we know that you do?

Lauer: It's very impressive to listen to you.  Because clearly, you've done the homework.  And you know the subject.
Cruise: And you should. And you should do that also. Because just knowing people who are on Ritalin isn't enough. You should be a little bit more responsible in knowing really —

Can you go a minute without chastising the host please? Especially when he's trying especially hard to be gracious and defuse the hostile situation you created. I'm sure Matt Lauer is thinking in his head, "this poor fuck has gone nuts."

Lauer: But a little bit of what you're saying Tom is, you say you want people to do well.  But you want them do to well by taking the road that you approve of, as opposed to a road that may work for them.
Cruise: No, no, I'm not.
Lauer: Well, if antidepressants work for Brooke Shields, why isn't that okay?
Cruise: I disagree with it.

Wow. I don't even need to rebut that.

· posted at 12:30 AM
diatribe, part 2

Cruise: There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance.
...But what happens, the antidepressant, all it does is mask the problem.  There's ways, [with] vitamins and through exercise and various things...  I'm not saying that that isn't real.  That's not what I'm saying.  That's an alteration of what I'm saying.  I'm saying that drugs aren't the answer, these drugs are very dangerous. They're mind-altering, antipsychotic drugs.  And there are ways of doing it without that so that we don't end up in a brave new world.

If there's no such thing as a chemical balance, how would vitamins and exercise, which have very chemical influences upon the body, solve the problem? That drugs can mask the problem is a valid issue, however, a physician would be extremely irresponsible to prescribe a drug such as an anti-depressant without coupling it with something such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. There are ways of using psychiatric drugs (an anti depressant is a different class of drugs from anti-psychotic drugs by the way) in an effective way. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed 4 years medical school, 3 years residency, plus any additional specialized fellowships and training. They're not just some drug dealers off the street.

You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay?  That's what I've done.  Then you go and you say where's the medical test?  Where's the blood test that says how much Ritalin you're supposed to get?

Oooh! Oooh! Pick me, I know what Ritalin is! Ritalin is the brand name for methylphenidate, a stimulant that comes in short-acting and long-acting forms. There's no blood test that says how much Ritalin you're supposed to take, in the same way there is no magical medical test that tells you how much insulin you need if you're diabetic, how much antihypertensives to take for chronic high blood pressure.

While doctors and researchers still aren't exactly sure why stimulants improve symptoms, there is strong evidence that shows stimulants increase the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in regions of the brain that previously showed poor activity. With growing research and technology (such as functional MRI studies in the brain), it won't be long before we are able to understand many disorders and diseases better. Afterall, science didn't start off knowing what Human Immunodeficiency Virus was, or why moldy bread cured colds.

Cruise: But you're saying this is a very important issue.
...It's very — and you know what?  You're here on the "Today" show.
...And to talk about it in a way of saying, "Well, isn't it okay," and being reasonable about it when you don't know and I do, I think that you should be a little bit more responsible in knowing what it is.
...Because you communicate to people.
...So, you're advocating it.
...Matt, but here's the point.  What is the ideal scene for life? Okay. The ideal scene is someone not having to take antipsychotic drugs.
...Okay.  So, now you look at a departure from that ideal scene, is someone taking drugs, okay.  And then you go, okay.  What is the theory and the science behind that, that justifies that?

Oh Tom, I miss the days when you could string words together in a coherent sentence and make sense... Of course it would be ideal if psychiatric disorders didn't exist, in the same way it would be ideal if cancer didn't exist, if poverty and discrimination didn't exist. But that's not the case.

It is very real that the way your brain functions has a direct effect on your actions, your thoughts, and your moods. Take a look at people who suffer strokes or other traumatic brain injuries and become a different person in terms of their behaviors. Do you believe in seizures - a misfiring of brain signals that result in loss of consciousness and uncontrolled body movements?

Would it be so unreasonable to believe that not every brain is equal in terms of its efficiency and effectiveness of sending electrical messages throughout the body? That perhaps sometimes imbalances in the brain result in seizures, bipolar disorder, depression, ADHD? You're telling me that that's something vitamins can fix?

Yeah, let's put you in a room with a schizophrenic who is having a break from reality and you use logic to reason with him. You use your vitamins and exercise regimes to "fix" him rather than a medical drug like Haldol. And while you're at it, do that with all the people on the streets who are homeless because their mental problems went untreated.

· posted at 12:30 AM
diatribe, part 3

Cruise: You just communicate about it.  And the important thing is, like you and I talk about it, whether it's okay, if I want to know something, I go and find out.  Because I don't talk about things that I don't understand.  I'll say, you know what?  I'm not so sure about that.  I'll go find more information about it so I can come to an opinion based on the information that I have.

Anyone can have opinions... whether they're rational or not is another matter.

At some point, every person needs to decide what "truths" to believe and what sources to trust. There is no way that one human brain can possibly understand everything about the world. Do you understand that gravity is 9.8m/s^2 because you've conducted a highly scientifically controlled experiment and measured it... or because many groups of scientists believe that and have demonstrated that finding? Do you think that your body needs water to live because you've gone without water and died? Because you've examined cell regulation under a microscope? Or do you believe it based on others' experiences and observations?

I'm not saying that the right answer to every question is found in a textbook, or to blindly follow the opinions and beliefs of the masses. I think it's good to question and criticize methods by which one arrives at a conclusion, but every conclusion will at some point in its argument, rest upon an assumption, even the seemingly simple ones...
Situation: Jane tells me her favorite color is red.
Assumption: Jane is telling the truth.
Conclusion: Jane's favorite color is red.

I think it's completely valid to base your opinion on evidence from respectable sources who use widely-accepted methods to determine their findings (e.g. studies published in scientific journals). I think also personal experiences and anecdotes such as Brooke Shields' and Matt Lauer's speak volumes. Tom, you say you don't talk about things you don't understand. I think that's false.

Some people are lauding you, for eschewing public opinion and being so passionate about something. Allow me to sing my praises as well. Congratulations on being an inarticulate, tactless prick on national television.

Everyone is going to have their own versions of the truth... and often they will conflict with each other. What it all comes down to is "he said, she said" or "it's your word against his"... and I think I'll choose to align myself with logic and the medical community, not your aliens invading the earth.

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