Chanticleer Calls #8

Chanticleer
I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 

Henry David Thoreau

December 15, 1999

“Chanticleer* Calls”, a twice-monthly newsletter for discriminating readers, thinkers, feelers, speakers, listeners, and cogitators.


BLAME IT ON RIO, BUT NOT ON Y2K

When (if?) you get up on January 1st and your newspaper hasn’t been delivered, or if your milk has soured, or your door seems to squeak – before you blame it on Y2K, consider these statistical tidbits offered by the Dallas Morning News yesterday:

  • Under normal circumstances, 1-2 percent of all ATM cash machines are down for either mechanical reasons or they’re out of cash.
  • 8-10 percent of all initial ATM transactions fail, primarily due to user error.
  • Since 1985, nuclear power plants have experienced nine weather-related events during the holiday period.
  • U.S. electrical customers average 13 hours of failure per year, not counting major storms.
  • The average length of a major storm-related power outage is 72 hours.
  • An average of 424 commercial airline flights have been delayed at least 15 minutes on the last five New Year’s days.
  • Pay-at-the-pump gas systems fail 1 percent of the time.
  • At any particular time, up to 15% of the nations 180,000 stations run out of gas.

Personally, I have a feeling that a lot of Super Bowl watching parties are going to feature leftover freeze-dried meals and bottled water.


SURGEON GENERAL ON ‘MENTAL’ HEALTH

‘Mental’ health is in the news because of the recently-released Surgeon General’s report. Some reported findings:

One of every five Americans – adults and children – suffer from “mental illness” in any given year.

Only 15% of adults and 21% of children ages 9 to 17 receive some sort of treatment (SS: I assume these percentages refer to the fraction of 1 out of 5, referred to above)

“Mental disorders” are defined as: “health conditions that are marked by alterations in thinking, mood or behavior” repeating: “health conditions that are marked by alterations in thinking, mood or behavior.”

Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit disorder are all mentioned within the context of “mental health.”

In a separate report, the drug Ritalin was determined to be “more effective than behavior-modification therapy in treating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder”. However, the report also stated that 70 percent of the children in the study also suffered from other problems, such as depression and anxiety. In those cases, behavior therapy provided significant benefits, especially when used with Ritalin.

The report does not detail what constitutes “behavior-modification therapy.”

(… striding to his soapbox ….) Chanticleer comments:

Did you see the 80’s movie “Mr. Mom”, with Michael Keaton and Terri Garr? Jack’s been laid off, and his wife takes a job, and on her first day she’s rushing out the door and trying to give him some very explicit instructions for how to get the kids to school. And he’s all, “Sure, sure, no problem, you run along, I’ve got it under control ….” And then it’s pouring rain, the kids are in the back seat screaming, Jack’s to peering out the foggy windshield through the wiper blades, trying to see his turn-in at the school, and the kids yell, “No, Dad, not here, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!” And Jack is all, “Keep it down, I know exactly what I’m doing, I’m doing it Jack’s way.” And he stops at the curb as a yellow raincoated-volunteer flags him over, and he rolls down his window against the driving rain, and the neighborly volunteer says:

Jack, you’re doing it wrong.

Would it surprise anybody if I invoked the memorable works and names of Alfred Korzybski, Irving J. Lee, S.I Hayakawa, Wendell Johnson, Abraham Maslow, Benjamin Whorf, et al, at this point? For about seventy years now, since Korzybski wrote Science and Sanity, we have had the means to not only recognize the pernicious, insidious ways in we talk ourselves into ‘unsanity’, but to also diagnose and prescribe methods to become less ‘unsane’.

Hello? We’re doing it wrong!

Now, I’m not talking about severe ‘mental’ disorders resulting from chemical imbalances, brain damage, etc. I’m talking about those instances of depression, anxiety, stress, fear, paranoia, inattention, etc., which are generally considered to be ‘treatable’ through psychotherapy.

And what is involved in “psychotherapy”? From my three years experience, I can say that mine involved a lot of straightening out how I talked to myself. What was yours like?

At some point, SOMEBODY has got to catch on that Korzybski, et al, have some very relevant things to say about our language hygiene – not only for those fortunate 1 out of 5 who know they have impairments, but especially for the other 80% who, in all likelihood, have significant impairments but don’t know it!

Just as one example … for our first 10 or so years, or about 13% of our lifetimes, we are systematically, deliberately and thoroughly taught to believe – hook, line and sinker – in known falsehoods. Now it’s done primarily out of ‘love’, and generally out of compassion, and from good memories on the part of parents, yet still – almost every parent teaches his/her child to believe in things that don’t exist. Yeah, old ChantiScrooge here is talking about Santa Claus.

And you’re thinking, “Woah! Let’s not go overboard here, guy. You’re talking about … (revered hush) … Santa Claus! The Spirit of Christmas, Red-Nosed Rudolph, and Jimmy Stewart. The glittering sparkle of a child’s wondering eyes reflecting the lighted icicles of the family’s tree.”

To which I respond: If it were just Santa Claus – okay. Let’s spend the first ten impressionable years of a child’s life indoctrinating her to believe, and not even for one moment to doubt, that this fat guy from the North Pole will reward her once a year with gifts – only if she’s been nice, and not naughty – and then after the tenth Christmas, we just say, “Kings X – we were just kidding! Your mom and I bought the stuff at Wal-mart, put it together and put it under the tree while you were asleep. Nope, we didn’t drink the hot chocolate because it was always cold after sitting there for three hours. And yeah, I’ll take the blame that the second gear on your first bike never worked.”

No harm, no foul. Ollie-ollie-in-free.

But it’s NOT just Santa Claus. I’m talking about the Easter Bunny. And the tooth fairy. And since Charlie Brown, the Great Pumpkin. And I’m talking about fairy tales, and ghosts and goblins and unicorns and talking animals. And as we grow older, I’m talking about myths, and old wives’ tales, and superstitions, and jinxes. And psychic hot lines, and horoscopes, and Tarot cards. And then we’re adults and we’re listening to relentless, indiscriminate, unaccountable, incessant advertising claims and we hear, “Better ingredients, better pizza”, and we just shrug and we never, never, never even think to stop and demand, “Oh yeah? Prove it!”

You think I’m over-reacting? Do you think every fifth person you see on the street is a Forrest Gump or an R.P. McMurphy, or a Sling Blade?

I cannot help but believe that there are ultimate consequences from indoctrinating each successive generation to believe in things for which there is no evidence of existence, and that these consequences might correlate to the twenty percent of the U.S. population referred to in the Surgeon General’s report.


LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX: “Don’t!”

Headline in the DMN:

“A third of schools use abstinence-only sex education, studies say.” It goes on to say that a third of U.S. schools teach “just say no” as the only appropriate form of birth control. Janet Parshall of the Family Research Council: “We need to communicate the same no-excuses message with regard to premarital sex that we do with alcohol and drugs.” Sarah Brown, National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy: “Most Americans would prefer that high school-age teens should not be sexually active. At the same time, most Americans also believe that teens who are sexually active should have access to contraception.” Texas governor, and presidential candidate, George W. Bush, Jr., “touts” abstinence-only education abstinence-only teaches students they should “wait to have sex until marriage or at least until they are older”. This approach does not discuss birth control, except to address its “shortcomings”. 55% of public school districts in the South require abstinence-only education in the Northeast, 20%; Midwest, 35%; West, 28% in 1996, Congress appropriated $250M over five years to promote sexual abstinence until marriage a 1997 poll by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that 22% of Americans believed that teens should not have access to birth control.

Chanticleer comments: Of course George Bush advocates abstinence…. now. I wonder what bounds, limits, qualifies, or otherwise constrains “…or until they are older”? 20? 30? 40? 60? I have some friends who are my age (45) and have never been married. I also have a daughter who’s 16, and so far as I know, not sexually active, which of course is alright by me. However, if for whatever reasons, my daughter doesn’t marry by the time she’s the age of my friends, would I want her to have abstained from any sexual activity for the next 29 years? Would you really want your daughter to be a 45 year-old virgin? Like many of our contentious, divisive issues, we have two groups that share a common, admirable, in-the-best-interests-of-all-of-us goal: We don’t want our (unmarried) teenaged girls getting (accidentally) pregnant. The rub is in the means, which result from basic value presumptions and premises. One group’s premise evolves from a moral mandate; the other’s from a pragmatic assessment of ‘human behavior’ and realistic expectations regarding those behaviors. One problem with some moral-based premises is that they allow no room for exceptions, no conditions, no gray areas.

If premarital sex is wrong just because it’s WRONG!, then it’s WRONG! all the time, no exceptions, no waivers, no deviations. Now, compare and contrast …. from the same section of the same paper …
“France unveils strict rules for ‘morning after’ pill in schools” school nurses may now administer the Norlevo ‘morning after’ birth control pill “only in exceptional cases and only if a doctor or family planning center cannot be reached immediately” 10,000 French girls under 18 get pregnant each year; 6,000 have abortions Norlevo consists of two pills, one taken within 72 hours of intercourse, the other 12-24 hours later Norlevo is available over-the-counter in France, and can be “bought easily because of the lack of side effects” Norlevo works by preventing the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus, which opponents contend amounts to ‘abortion’ The French government contends Norlevo is NOT ‘abortion’ since it “intervenes before the egg is implanted in the womb.”


QUOTE FROM EINSTEIN’S BULLETIN BOARD

Purported to have been tacked on Albert Einstein’s wall: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.


MASTER OF WHOSE DOMAIN?

From a Washington Post story, printed in the DMN … advocacy groups such as the NAACP and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) are “racing to secure Internet address names that contain some of the most racist words in the English language in order to keep them away from hate groups. The NAACP has registered several address variations on anti-black slurs. Likewise, the Anti-Defamation League has purchased rights to numerous addresses that contain anti-Semitic epithets.”

(The article claims a seller with the handle “animius” was using eBay.com to auction off the domain name which includes the “n-word” for $1M. However, your ever-diligent Chanticleer scratched around the eBay site and could find no evidence of the “n-word” or “animius”. In case you don’t know, it costs $70.00 to register domain names, and fortunes have been made by ‘cyber-squatters’ who staked claims several years ago to certain high-value words and phrases.)

Words ….. words …… words ….. when we will ever learn?
(sigh)


AND FINALLY – “ART”

I had the thoroughly enjoyable privilege of seeing the Tony award-winning play “ART” recently. Judd Hirsch, from TV’s “Taxi”, starred as one of three middle-aged men in Paris whose friendships begin to unravel when one of them pays an outrageous amount for a white-on-white painting. One of the three, Yvan, has been seeing a therapist in advance of his approaching marriage. In an effort to quell the rising tension among the three, Yvan shares this wisdom offered by his therapist to his friends, Marc and Serge: (from the script, written by Yasmina Reza and translated by Christopher Hampton)

If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you are who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are.

READERS REACT

Great issue (IMO). Ever since the Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Catholic Bashing as become a definite favorite movie theme of mine. I can’t wait to see Dogma now. I would like to know how you handle the following (and I believe most predictable scenario. I too believe I have integrated the concept of me as the observer for any event. For example if I have felt “jealous” at a party when my girlfriend has spent time “flirting” with other men, I tell her that I am feeling jealous and I realize it’s just me. (I know (or at least I make that strong assumption) that my brother’s threshold for jealousy is a lot more tolerant than mine so her behavior would probably go un-noticed by him in a similar situation). I find however that most of the time people skip past that distinction and get offended. Often I have been accused of playing semantics. In your opinion is it possible to explain that distinction without handing the person a copy of Science and Sanity (rather unsightly in formal attire don’t you think?) and wait for a few months while the distinction is made clear? – in Plano