Imagine two guys looking up at a big sign that says STOP
AND THINK. One fellow says to the other:“Sorta makes you STOP AND THINK.”The reaction of these two fellows is exactly
what the cartoons in TheNew Yorker Magazine make youdo –
cartoons that are better described as life drawings requiring you to think
about life’s predicaments and ambiguities, facing the dangers and excitements
of being alive.
Mankoff, cartoon editor for The New
Yorker (TNY), has written a memoir
about his life in cartoons. The topics of TNY cartoons draw on humor from sex,
love, death, parenting, marriage, family, cruelty, fear, jealousy, envy, hate,
identity, character, conscience, desire, mourning and more --- the same topics
that psychologists are up to their ears in.
Mankoff left psychology graduate school to seek his fortune
in drawing cartoons. He started selling cartoons in 1977, and started working
for TNY in 1980. He says he knows all about rejection, being booted out of
psychology graduate school, and submitting thousands of cartoons to TNY before
getting his first cartoon published.
became the cartoon editor in 1997, about 20 years after selling his first
cartoon. As editor of the magazine, he evaluates more than 500 cartoons every
week, selecting about 10 - 15 for each magazine issue
Mankoff is most famous for creating the cartoon bank, and
for the following best-selling cartoon:
An executive is at his desk,
on the phone, and looking at his calendar says, “No, Thursday’s out. How about
never?” Is never good for you?”
title of his memoir is taken from what might be the most popular cartoon in the
history of TNY. Mankoff remembers how he got the idea for this cartoon. He was
trying to get on the phone with a friend who he wanted to see. That friend kept
saying, “Can we meet this time? Could we do it that time?” And finally Mankoff
says to his so-called friend, “How about never? Is never good for you?”
Mankoff traces this snotty retort back to his Queens and
Bronx New York Jewish background. The Chapter 1 title is:“I’m Not Arguing, I’m Jewish.” During
childhood, whenever he complained to his
mother he was bored, she told him to bang his head against the wall, Mankoff
quips. She taught him boredom was a luxury.
He describes his never-boring cartoon editor job as
evaluating humor, a much different process from enjoying humor. He gives an
example of a cartoon with 10 possible captions --- and this is the format of
the cartoon caption contest that runs every week in TNY. The readers submit
captions to a cartoon on the page, and the winners of the caption contest are
printed. His editing job consists of picking cartoons with the best captions.
To evaluate cartoons, Mankoff reports that he is faced with
the paradox of choice, which automatically brings the interference of the
judgment process, short-circuiting the laugh response. So instead of laughing
at the cartoon, he has to judge it.
In analyzing humor, Mankoff comments about what comics call
“the magic of three.” He says you need a sequence for surprise to make a
is an example of a cartoon with the element of triplets in humor --- a one,
two, and then boom.
A woman is saying, “I
started my vegetarianism for moral reasons, then for health concerns, and now
it’s just to annoy people.”
cartoons in TNY, show the very widespread humor taking place in New York, the
circus of the world. Humor makes fun of what’s in the public mind.
Here are two examples of cartoons about same-sex marriage:
A couple is looking at TV,
and the guy is saying, “Gays and lesbians are getting married. Haven’t they
A couple is in bed, and the
guy is saying to the woman, “What’s your opinion of some-sex marriage?”
Mankoff appreciates humor that is benign, not speaking
truth to power, but humor directed back at the people who are reading the
He describes a theory of humor he calls, “Just the Right
Amount of Wrong.” He says this view emphasizes that humor is different in
different contexts. He says that the mother’s milk of humor is anything that’s
embarrassing, guilt- or anxiety-filled. Mankoff has learned that humor comes in
almost endless varieties:humor based on
reality, observational humor, silliness, and playful incongruity or absurdity.
An example of an absurd cartoon is:
It’s a cowboy at a desk. The
person sitting in front of him is a cow, and he’s reading his resume. And the
cowboy is saying, “Very impressive. I’d like to find 5,000 more like you.”
One cartoon, apparently not for everybody’s taste, shows a
rodent in a cage, and then another picture of a rodent who hung himself. The
caption is: “Discouraging data on the antidepressant.” Mankoff tells about
readers who send in letters saying they don’t like cartoons where animals
suffer. Mankoff’s response:“We use
anesthetic ink.” A wise-guy he is.
Some people are hypersensitive to humor, and some people
have little or no humor. I make it a rule never to use humor with people I
don’t like ---- it is hard to keep my unconscious slips from showing.
Mankoff notes there have been many cartoons in TNY about
the Grim Reaper because humor is an important way we cope with death, anxiety,
suffering and illness.
An example of Grim Reaper humor:
The Grim Reaper is taking
away her husband, and the wife is at the apartment door, and she is saying,
“Relax, Harry. Change is good.”
Cartoons about marriage are another staple of TNY cartoons.
Mankoff mentions he is happily married to his third wife. He says humor is indispensable
in our attempts to understand our partners and for our partners to understand
He cites a cartoon on marriage:
A man is talking to a woman
in the living room and he says, “Believe me, Janet, I consider you an important
part of our marriage.
Mankoff focuses on
the links between creativity and humor. He mentions Arthur Koestler’s book,
“The Act of Creation,” (1) in which he connects humor, science and art.
without a sense of humor is life without any sense of proportion or
Where laughter stops,
so does common sense.
As William James noted, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same
thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense,
Koestler, Arthur. “The Act of Creation.”New York:Macmillan, 1964.
..."Trigger warnings logically follow from the recent history of American academic life. This is a history in which demographic diversity has triumphed over intellectual standards and the display of virtue over the search for truth."...
One Pope, in the Dark Ages, decreed that all Jews had to leave Rome. The Jews did not want to leave, and so the Pope challenged them to a disputation to prove that they could remain. No one, however, wanted the responsibility... until the synagogue janitor, Moishe, volunteered.
As there was nobody else who wanted to go, Moishe was given the task. But because he knew only Hebrew, a silent debate was agreed. The day of the debate came, and they went to St. Peter's Square to sort out the decision. First the Pope waved his hand around his head. Moishe pointed firmly at the ground.
The Pope, in some surprise, held up three fingers. In response, Moishe gave him the middle finger.
The crowd started to complain, but the Pope thoughtfully waved them to be quiet. He took out a bottle of wine and a wafer, holding them up. Moishe took out an apple, and held it up.
The Pope, to the people’s surprise, said, "I concede. This man is too good. The Jews can stay."
Later, the Pope was asked what the debate had meant. He explained, "First, I showed him the Heavens, to show that God is everywhere. He pointed at the ground to signify that God is right here with us. I showed him three fingers, for the Trinity. He reminded me that there is One God common to both our religions. I showed him wine and a wafer, for God's forgiveness. With an apple, he showed me original sin. The man was a master of silent debate."
In the Jewish corner, Moishe had the same question put to him, and answered, "It was all nonsense, really. First, he told me that this whole town would be free of Jews. I told him, Go to Hell! We’re staying right here! Then, he told me we had three days to get out. I told him just what I thought of that proposal." An older woman asked, "But what about the part at the end?" "That?" said Moishe with a shrug, "Well, I saw him take out his lunch, so I took out mine."
difference between men and women is that, if a woman has to choose between
catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the
infant's life without even considering if there are men on base."
cigar is as great a comfort to a man as a good cry to a woman."
sex-war thoughtlessness is the weapon of the male,
of the female."
women belong to different species,
communication between them is a science still in its infancy."
men think. Sex, work --
and those are reversible, depending on age -- sex, work,
food, sports, and lastly, begrudgingly, relationships. And here's how
women think. Relationships,
relationships, relationships, work, sex,
shopping, weight, food."
motivated and empowered when they feel needed....
motivated and empowered when they feel cherished."
symptom of true love is a young man is timidity,
in a young
speak because they wish to speak, whereas
a man speaks
only when driven to speech by something outside himself -- like, for
instance, he can't find any clean socks."
falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her imagination,
and then they
both speak of it as an affair of 'the heart'."
might be able to fake orgasms.
But men can
fake whole relationships."
hate waiting while their wives shop for clothes and trinkets;
how women hate
waiting, often for much of their lives, while their
husbands shop for fame and glory."
face is his autobiography. A woman's face
is her work of fiction."
Review:Hinshaw, Stephen P., and Scheffler,
Richard M. The ADHD Explosion. Myths,Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for
Performance.New York:Oxford University Press, 2014.
Myths about ADHD persist. Too many
people continue to believe it’s a cop out, an unvalidated condition related to
society’s penchant for overmedicalizing defiance or a convenient label intended
to cover over social problems. These myths destroy any hope of providing
systematic educational, behavioral, and medical care for the youth, families,
and adults who desperately need help. Medications are still viewed suspiciously
for behavioral and psychiatric conditions, a position unfortunately fostered by
the ease of getting an ADHD diagnosis and securing pills for performance
enhancement in too many quarters of society – and by overreliance on medication
as the only treatment worth pursuing. To deal with ADHD better than we do now,
we must alter our attitudes as well as our educational and healthcare practices (Hinshaw & Scheffler, page 168).
This book, written by Stephen P.
Hinshaw, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of California,
Berkeley, and Richard M. Scheffler, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Health
Economics and Public Policy in the School of Public Health and the Goldman
School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, could not
have come at better time.
For the past two years, the media
--- the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal --- have been awash with
articles attacking the validity of ADHD, and slamming the medication treatment
for this serious psychiatric disorder. The following are some headlines of these
Gone Wrong.” Sroufe, L. Alan. The New
York Times, January 28, 2012.
Rise of the Good-Grade Pill.”Schwarz,
Alan. The New York Times, June 9,
“Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions.” Schwarz,
Alan. The New York Times, February 2,
Nation of Kids on Speed.” Cohen, Pieter. Rasmussen, Nicholas. The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2013.
Now these exposes about ADHD are
nothing new. Some of these reports are critically examined in “The ADHD
Explosion,” with some surprising results.
Scientologists, where their founder L. Ron Hubbard
lectures us about the between-lives period, when thetans are transported to
Venus to have their memories erased, have waged a 40 year war against Ritalin –
and against psychology and psychiatry, along with sympathetic mental health
clinicians through the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Los-Angeles based
nonprofit organization formed by the church in 1969 to investigate mental
health abuses. Scientologists have used their considerable fortune to sue drug
companies and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, among
others. When Scientologists announce their legal challenges to protect
children, the media shines a bright light on these efforts. When all the
lawsuits are dropped because of no merit, not a word their dismissals reach the
Hinshaw and Scheffler’s book has
four fundamental messages:
ridiculed, ADHD represents a genuine medical condition that robs people of
major life chances. Its economic consequences are huge, totaling hundreds of
billions of dollars annually in terms of special education services, juvenile
justice and substance abuse costs, plus low work productivity and employment
lapses in adults.
Only diligent and
thorough assessment can distinguish ADHD from other mental health conditions,
chaotic home environments, or the aftereffects of maltreatment. Yet, ADHD is
too often diagnosed in extremely cursory fashion. This lack of careful
evaluation, fueling both overdiagnosis and underdiagnosis contributes to a
are effective in reducing the condition’s core symptoms, at least in the short
run, but the most genuine gains are achieved by combining medication with
4. Rates of ADHD and
medication treatment vary dramatically across states (and, for treatment,
across the world), related to family and cultural values, health care systems,
medical portrayals and advertisements, and, in particular, variations in school
policies linked to demands for achievement and performance.
The authors list ten major goals for
improving the science and practice related to ADHD in the future. Each of these
goals roughly corresponds to a chapter in the book:
that ADHD is recognized as both biological and cultural and contextual in
that ADHD be diagnosed carefully by professionals who know their business.
that ADHD be treated by clinicians (and paraprofessionals) who are versed in
realistic national quotas for stimulants, balancing the need for prescriptions
for legitimate cases of ADHD with the reality of ever-greater diversion of the
medications for neuro-enhancement or pleasure.
educational practices to promote more individualized approaches.
partnered systems of cure, and coordinated payment mechanisms, across insurers,
schools, and employers.
a different set of media images about ADHD, emphasizing the reality of daily
struggles and triumphs.
information exchange across scientists and clinicians internationally.
to recognize that ADHD exists well beyond white, middle-class boys, revealing
itself across gender, race and ethnicity, and the age span.
(10)Recognize that fostering human potential,
reducing stigma and enhancing economic productivity
go hand in hand.
This book provides a corrective
emotional and cognitive experience through an even-handed discussion about the
controversies surrounding ADHD. The authors make clear what is known about
ADHD, and distill the complexities about the personal and social costs of people
who suffer with the chronic and pervasive problems of ADHD.
Going Clear. Scientology, Hollywood, and
the Prison of Belief. New York:Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
Yes. My current view is that human nature is deeply woven with contradictions, conflicts, and discontents. Genetics and environments are equally important contributions to understanding human nature. The proper use of reason is to recognize reason's limitations. Reason is the "rider" holding the reins on the "elephant" of unconscious desires and values. Understanding human nature springs from the mystery of the generation of consciousness, the basic experience of humans on which our social and personal relationships rest. We do not understand how consciousness is produced, nor do we understand its full potential. There is little science that applies to our understanding of human nature. So our understanding of human nature takes the form of stories, religions, ideologies, and beliefs.
In one guise, as the extremely far-out jazz saxophonist Progress Hornsby, he explained that his new record was in a special kind of hi-fi: "This is the highest they've ever fied. If they fi any higher than this, they're gonna foo!
2/13/14. The war on treatment for ADHD continues. After 50 years of intensive study, some claim we are finding out that medication for ADHD is not effective.
To believe that medication for ADHD cures all ills is unrealistic.
Medication adjusts a patient's steering wheel and brakes, and cleans off her windshield (I am from Motown). Medication does not instill purpose, meaning, or values to determine where the patient wants to drive to, or even whether she wants to get into the car.
Treating ADHD is never as simple as just giving somebody medicine.
1/29/14. Sally Satel reviews E. Fuller Torrey's book "American Psychosis." Since the 1960's, political liberals and conservatives have contributed to the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients. Some liberal ideologues have helped the severe mentally ill kill and die with their rights intact. Some conservative ideologues, authors of such classics "The Myth of Mental Illness" have defunded hospitals treatment.
Some liberal ideologues were too optimistic about the benefits of community mental health treatments.
Some conservative ideologues were too pessimistic about the benefits of inpatient mental health treatments.
Many liberals and conservatives remain skeptical that severe mental illness is a disease.
Until we have biological tests of such mental maladies, the horror will continue.
A few years after I began teaching, it
occurred to me that being a teacher - not being a student - provides the best
education. "To teach is to learn twice," wrote Joubert, in a
simple-sounding maxim that could have several different meanings. It could mean
that one first learns when getting up the material one is about to teach and
then tests and relearns it in the actual teaching. It could mean that being a
teacher offers one a fine chance of a second draft of one's inevitable
inadequate initial education. It could mean that learning, like certain kinds
of love, is better the second time around. It could mean that we are not ready
for education, at any rate of the kind that leads to wisdom, until we are
sixty, or seventy, or beyond. I favor this last interpretation, for it accounts
for the strange feeling that I have had every year of my adult life, which is
that only twelve months ago I was really quite stupid.
Teaching and Learning Positive
Psychology:Other People Matter
In 2006, the MPA Program Committee invited Dr.
Christopher Peterson (1950 – 2012) to talk at Madonna University on the emerging
field of Positive Psychology. Dr. Peterson (1950 – 2012), was the Arthur F.
Thurnau professor of psychology and former chair of the clinical psychology at
University of Michigan. Dr. Peterson was well-known for his psychological
research in health and optimism, learned helplessness, and in the
classification and measurement of human strengths and abilities. He won the
2010 Golden Apple Award – the most prestigious teaching award at the University
Back to 2006 at Madonna University, when
Dr. Peterson walked up to the podium to give his lecture at the MPA conference,
he said, “I have heard of Madonna --- but I didn’t know she had a college.”
Dr. Peterson’s wit, humanity and
wisdom runs through his teaching, research, and writings.
To get some sense of Dr. Peterson’s
values, scientific sense, and virtues, I recommend you turn to two of his
Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology.
New York:Oxford University Press,
Christopher. Pursuing the Good Life. 100
Reflections on Positive Psychology. New York:Oxford University Press, 2013.
Chris dedicates A Primer in Positive Psychology to his parents “with love and
gratitude…who taught me to love learning, to work hard, and to get along with
His book starts to fill in the periodic table of
elements that makes up the science of positive psychology under the following
Pleasure and Positive Experience
Interests, Abilities, and Accomplishments
Positive Interpersonal Relationships
The Future of Positive Psychology
Each chapter provides guidelines from research
findings about how to live when you are alive --- deepening our sense of
pleasure, engagement, and meaning.
Since 2008, Chris has written a blog
titled “The Good Life,” for the Psychology
Today Web site, discussing the elements of what makes life worth living.
Chris writes that his readers have told him they like blogs that have research
findings, are terse, sprinkled with a bit of humor, and offer practical
implications about pursuing the good life. The 100 reflections are taken from
Chris’ Psychology Today blog, revised
and updated for this book.
There are eleven broad categories of
Psychology and the Good Life
Emotions and Experiences
Part III:Positive Traits and Talents
Part VII:Enabling Institutions:Schools
Part VIII:Enabling Institutions:Sports
the Good Life
In the first reflection, Dr. Peterson
lists what we have learned in recent years about the psychological good life (I
Most people are
Happiness is a
cause of good things in life and not simply along for the happy ride.
People who are
satisfied with life eventually have even more reason to be satisfied, because
happiness leads to desirable outcomes at school and work, to fulfilling social
relationships, and even to good health and long life.
Most people are
strengths of character, and good social relationships are buffers against the
damaging effects of disappointments and setbacks.
matter mightily if we want to understand what makes life most worth living.
Work matters as
well if it engages the worker and provides meaning and purpose.
Money makes an
ever-diminishing contribution to well-being, but money can buy happiness if it
is spent on other people.
As a route to a
satisfying life, eudemonia trumps hedonism.
matters more than the ‘head.’ Schools explicitly teach critical thinking; they
should also teach unconditional caring.
Good days have
common features:feeling autonomous,
competent, and connected to others.
The good life can
In another reflection, Chris asks the question:“Is positive psychology bullshit?” (I meet
people who ask the same question but leave out “positive”). To answer, he
quotes from Harry Frankfort’s (2005) essay “On Bullshit.”Frankfort defines bullshit not as a lie but
as an indifference to truth. Because Positive Psychology is based on research
published in peer-reviewed journals, this scientific focus exempts it from the BS
category.Chris is quick to point out we
should all develop a BS detector for anyone who promises the secret to
happiness or bliss in six easy steps.
The following are some of reflection
titles, quotes, and delightful digressions, aimed to lift our spirits:
What Do You Think About in the Shower?
Who Most Enjoys the Small Things in Life?
“I’d like to live
as a poor man with lots of money.”
--- Pablo Picasso
Fast Food and Impatience
There Are No Saints
“There are two
kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people
in the world and those who don’t.”
“Inside the ring
or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”
Other People Matter
“I say that in
every positive psychology lecture I give and every positive psychology workshop
I conduct. It sounds like a bumper sticker slogan, but it is actually a good
summary of what positive psychology research has should about the good life
broadly construed. It is in the company of others that we often experience
pleasure and certainly how we best savor its aftermath.”
Frankfurt, H.G. On bullshit. Princeton NJ:Princeton University Press, 2005.
Peterson, Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology. New
York:Oxford University Press, 2006.
Peterson, Christopher. Pursuing the Good Life. 100 Reflections on
Positive Psychology. New York:Oxford University Press, 2013