The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'despair'
When testing drugs for treating depression on lab mice, it is important to have ways of determining whether or not a mouse is depressed, or suffering from the mouse equivalent of depression. Not surprisingly, mice deemed to be depressed are the ones which give up and stop struggling when faced with difficulty, and which get little joy from life:
Forced swimming test. The rat or mouse is placed into a cylinder partially filled with water from which escape is difficult. The longer it swims, the more actively it is trying to escape; if it stops swimming, this cessation is interpreted as depressionlike behavior, a kind of animal fatalism.
Sugar water preference. The preference an animal shows for sugar water is taken as an indication of its ability to derive pleasure, a quality that is missing in depression. Most rodents, when given two identical-looking sources of water, will drink much more of the sweetened water than the plain water. Rodents exposed to chronic stress or whose brains have been manipulated show no such preference.(Previously: Scientists create a mouse that's permanently happy.)
(via Boing Boing)
A new quality-of-life survey has named the UK and Ireland the worst places to live in Europe, due to long working hours and high costs.
The UK has the 4th highest age – 63.1 – at which people choose or can afford to take retirement, and one of the lowest holiday entitlements. Net household income in the UK is just £2,314 above the European average, compared with £10,000 above average last year, falling behind Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
UK workers enjoy a week less holiday than the European average and three weeks less than the Spanish, while the UK's spend (as a percentage of GDP) on health and education is below the European average and UK food and diesel prices are the highest in Europe. Unleaded petrol, electricity, alcohol and cigarettes all cost more than the average across the continent.("Europe" presumably means the EU; I imagine that, for example, the people of Transnistria would have somewhat more to complain about than a miserly four weeks of leave a year and high prices at the supermarket.)
The best place to live in Europe is right across the Channel, in France.
An article in The Guardian (which, incidentally, has a paid online dating site) claims that online dating is now socially acceptable, to the point where people who met on dating sites no longer lie about having met in a pub.
Meanwhile, OKCupid's excellent stats blog claims that paid-for online dating is a losing proposition, and puts forward a theory backed with numbers on why it's so. Behold: the Desperation Feedback Loop:
The Desperation Feedback Loop is exacerbated by the economics of paid-for dating sites, 93% of whose profiles (by OKCupid's reckoning) are inactive and which make higher profits by presenting these inactive profiles to customers. (Doing so keeps subscribers signed up longer.) Meanwhile, the punters flirting into the void get no replies, and slump into the feedback loop of sending out more, lower-quality, messages. Meanwhile, the recipients of these messages, confronted with a higher signal-to-noise ratio, stop reading their messages, further reducing the number of active profiles.
Of course, it's in OKCupid's interests to tell you this because they're an unpaid dating site who compete with the paid dating sites. The implication is that their model works better.
Life imitates New Waver lyrics yet again: A psychological study at Leeds University has found a connection between depression and heavy internet use:
The authors found that a small number of users had developed a compulsive internet habit, replacing real life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.
They classed 18 respondents - 1.2% of the total - as "internet addicts". This group spent proportionately more time on sex, gambling and online community websites... The internet addicts were significantly more depressed than the non-addicted group, with a depression score five times higher.Of course, the whole concept of "internet addiction" is a dubious one, and often tinged with tabloid-style moral panic, so there's a danger that the advocates of the "internet addiction" industry will wave this around as proof, ignoring the fact that the addictive behaviours there are more usefully described as gambling and/or pornography addiction.
The report does not put forward any causal links between heavy internet use and depression. Do specific patterns of internet use weaken social contacts, contributing to depression, or do depressed people use the internet to self-medicate?
Also, the inclusion of online community websites along with sex and gambling websites seems somewhat dubious; while the latter are masturbatory replacements for natural stimuli, especially those one leading an impoverished life may lack, can one really imply that social community sites substitute for and weaken social ties rather than facilitating them? I recall a study from a few years ago which showed that users of social web sites actually have stronger social connections, and improved wellbeing as a result of those. Though it is always possible that various characteristics of particular social websites (which may be influenced by their design and/or emergent from organic patterns of use) influence their ability to facilitate psychologically useful social ties.
Psychoceramic artefact of the day: "Man For Young Girl To Become My Wife", the web page of a 53-year-old man looking for a wife to meet his exacting requirements:
Hello, thanks for visiting my profile (This Blog), however, so as not to waste your time, if you are not a girl (born female) who wants and is ready to marry a man in his fifties then don't bother reading this profile and move on. I am not accepting any more friends on here, I have plenty already. Besides, when I find and marry the one I'm looking for, I will delete all my Yahoo accounts and no longer visit here, for instead, it will be my wife my time will be spent on.And it goes on at length; the author outlines his requirements (his wife must be under 30, must match exacting physical criteria, be educated and have financial means, and willing to give up everything and totally submit to her new husband; also, being a vegetarian or going to the toilet too often on a date will result in immediate disqualification), and lays down a rigidly defined procedure by which hopeful applicants can request an interview with him and a chance to prove their worthiness of his firm hand, as well as a marriage contract they must agree to prior to the interview. Further sections are devoted to stern, almost Biblical, prohibitions against lying, and the author's professions of "True Christianity" and denunciations of "rebellious witch whores" (such as women who withhold sex from their husbands), a few paragraphs at his disappointment with the BDSM scene, as well as a commandment not to fall in love with him until he says so. Though this summary doesn't come close to describing the psychotic quality of the actual text; some have described it as the romantic equivalent of Time Cube or Francis E. Dec, Esq.
And as amusing as such screeds are to connoisseurs of the psychoceramic, there is an undercurrent of tragedy and human despair beneath the surface. Upon reading it, one pieces together a likely narrative of the author's life: his marriage and divorce (though one does wonder how he managed to marry in the first place, or why his wife waited until they had had four children to leave him). His hidebound, inflexible mindset, further rigidified by the certainties of absolute religion, having left him unprepared for dealing with real women on equal terms, subsequent attempts at dating were failures, each one prompting the addition of more denunciations and proscriptions to his list of requirements. (Certainly, some of the "disqualifications" hint at traumatic failed dates.) And he doesn't seem to have the people skills or historical insight to recognise that his vaunted strict Biblical values would only work in a world where one could buy a bride from her family without her getting a say in it.
There is a definite whiff of despair emanating from this document; on one hand, one feels pity for the poor, trapped wretch chronicling his futile struggle, knowing where this is likely to end in a way that he lacks the insight to. On the other hand, one hopes to God (literally or metaphorically) that he doesn't get to crush another human being beneath his rigid rules.
A graduate arts student named Drew Burrows has created a holographic virtual sleeping partner. Titled "Inbed", the installation consists of a bed with an infrared camera and projector positioned above it, and a computer which recognises the sleeper's position and projects one of several images of a sleeping woman onto the bed, so as to interact with the sleeper. Burrows says that the piece aims to "speak on the feelings of loneliness, affection, and intimacy", a point lost on the New York Magazine article which beat this up as "weirdo student builds a virtual girlfriend because he's `too busy' to find a real one".
(via Boing Boing)
Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has a beautifully poetic and thought-provoking article about the death of a recluse, found in his Helsinki apartment some three years after his death:
The odd invoice arrived, followed by their reminders, and then not even them.
Direct debit arrangements handled most of the bills, including the maintenance charge on the apartment.
The guy who comes to read the electricity meter didn’t ring the doorbell, because he didn’t need to: the meter is in the basement.
The man lay in the bathroom doorway.
At some point the bathroom lamp gave up the ghost, as they do, and he was left in the dark.
Read: Mister Wonderful, a graphic story by Daniel Clowes, dealing with modern alienation, though this time in middle age.
Interestingly, the PDF files contain the unrasterised line art; when OSX Preview shows the pages, it draws it in layers, first the neat shapes of colour, then outlines and shading, then speech/thought bubbles and text.
(via Boing Boing)
From Something Awful's Choose Your Own Adventure cover photoshopping contest:
(via Boing Boing)
Today is Hallmark Day, um, Valentine's Day, but tomorrow is the as yet mercifully uncommercialised Singles Awareness Day, for the snarkyalone in all of us.
The goal of Singles Awareness Day is to let singles have celebrations, get-togethers, etc. and to exchange gifts with their single friends. The awareness day was established by single people who were just sick of feeling left out on Valentine's Day, and support of the day is growing every year.
Suggested activities for this day are sending yourself flowers, planning parties for other singles to mix and meet and to participate in some sort of single's event. This is especially recommended if you don't WANT to be single. Of course, for those who kind of like being single it's a blessing and a reason to have some fun!
Originally, most singles referred to February 14 as Single's Awareness Day (acronym: SAD) until it just became too depressing! Choosing the next day allowed single people a chance to turn this into a celebration rather than a festival of self-pity or whatever they were doing before. It seems like a refreshing change of pace to know that you can survive Valentine's Day and move on to YOUR day, doesn't it?(Not to be confused with Shingles Awareness Day.)
A 26-year-old Oregon man has been arrested for organising an Valentine's Day suicide pact, using a chat room. Had he succeeded, as many as 32 users of a chat room, presumably all strangers brought together by a shared sense of hopelessness and disaffection, may have committed suicide on 14 February.
The authorities are busy trying to track down all chat room participants in order to prevent them from communicating on Valentine's Day, and thus from carrying out the synchronised mass suicide. Meanwhile, across the interweb, a thousand lonely misanthropes are probably kicking themselves for not having thought of it first. Though, given the existence of the Werther effect, i.e., the tendency of reports or fictional accounts of suicides to inspire waves of copycat suicides, one wonders whether the news of this foiled plan will be, in itself, enough to kick off a tradition of Valentine's Day online mass suicides.
A DIY enthusiast in Sheffield spent weeks building a guillotine, with which he decapitated himself. Kevin Brunie, 42, told relatives that his secret project was a toy car. He was unemployed and was thought to have recovered from depression, and was reported to have been in good spirits days before he died. (A lot of suicides are reported to have been uncommonly cheerful just prior to doing themselves in; take Ian Curtis, for example.) (via Die Puny Humans)
Gibson's Law update: Imaginary Girlfriends, a website connecting gamma-and-below males desperate to prove that they're not losers with pretty girls (or perhaps sweaty middle-aged men pretending to be such) willing to play along, for a fee. The "girlfriends" on the site (all three of them) have that well-scrubbed, wholesomely all-American look reminiscent of teen-slasher movie characters. (via 1.0)
Just in time for Valentine's Day: virtual girlfriends for sale on eBay; i.e., for a fee, someone will pretend to be your absentee girlfriend, and hopefully make you look and/or feel like less of a pathetic loser. (Because, as everybody knows: having a girlfriend/boyfriend is essential to being a valid human being.) (via TechDirt)
I picked up a copy of New Waver's The Defeated. It's basically techno (in the casual sense of the word) with spoken-word samples from suicide hotlines, medical reports, documentaries about natural selection, football commentary and self-help tapes on how to be a winner; some of it sounds like some of SNOG's early interludes.
Words don't do justice to how profoundly depressing a listen it is; in fact, it is probably the most depressing thing I have ever heard. Compared to New Waver, Thom Yorke is a veritable Pollyanna and Ian Curtis' bleakest lyrics are positively life-affirming. Much has been said about the existential-crisis-inducing potential of post-rock, but this even outdoes A Silver Mt. Zion in that department. Perhaps it's the way the bleak realities of the words subliminally penetrate your consciousness under the repetitive techno beats that does it. Anyway, I was feeling quite cheerful last evening; then I listened to the whole thing, and by the end, I went away with the feeling that life is a pointless, Sisyphean ordeal from which the only reprieve is death.
And then I put on Stereolab's People Do It All The Time and felt a lot better.
Update: And here is New Waver's Kraftwerk tribute MP3 album.
Alone and unloved? Fool your friends into thinking you're less of a loser with the Instant Girlfriend Kit; contains a love letter, a photo, a lipstick (for applying lipstick smears to your face) and various items of feminine paraphernalia to stash convincingly around your grotty bedsit. (via Gimbo)
The Onion draws another spot-on sketch of human despair: Goodwill Toy Section Most Depressing Thing Ever. (I think "Goodwill" is the US equivalent of the Salvation Army Family Stores or something like that.)
"The toy area has its own distinct odor: sort of a musty, mildewy, plastic, sour-milk, baby-vomit, metallic, rotting-cloth smell," Robichaud said. "It isn't quite the smell of evil--just despair."
Also from the Onion, this examination of hope and despair: Best Years Of Area Man's Life Apparently Never Going To Happen:
"I guess I always just figured the really good years were right around the corner," Videk said. "What a pantload. I remember in high school, thinking that as soon as I got a car, the best years were really gonna kick in. I'd be able to go anywhere, get girls, maybe get laid, and people would think I was cool. Then, when I finally got a car, it was such a shitheap, I figured that once I got a better car, then everything would be fine. Well, you know what? I've owned 11 cars in my life, and I thought the same exact thing about each one of the fuckers. Not one in the succession of cars I've bought since I was 16 has ever done anything for me but drag my sorry ass to and from work every goddamn day of my life. That's it."
"It's like you're thinking, 'The world's my oyster and anything is possible,'" Videk said. "'As soon as this next immediate obstacle to happiness is cleared, I'll be able to do anything I want.' Then the goals become less and less realistic as you pass 35, and you start to set more modest goals for the best years of your life, like making shift supervisor at the goddamn screen-door factory where you work. Eventually, even these pathetically scaled-down fantasies prove unworkable, since some asshole named Glenn Harrigan has seniority at the plant and obviously isn't going anywhere. Suddenly, you're 51, and at long last, you figure out that whatever it is you're hypothetically still waiting for, it's pretty much irrelevant. Then you go to bed and have to work at the screen-door factory for another nine hours the next day, and that's pretty much that."
April is the cruelest month: Staying in the morbid vein for a while, statistics have shown that spring is the peak season for suicides. Apparently the popular notion about the Xmas-New Year period being peak suicide season is just an urban legend. (via Plastic)
The Onion's back in fine form, with pieces like Area Man Not Exactly Sure When To Take Down American Flags:
"I don't want to be the first to take one down and look like an ass," Wenger said. "When I put the flags up, I was saying, 'I support America.' If I take them down, some people will probably think I'm saying, 'I no longer support America.'"
And then there's this ever-helpful collection of Dating Tips:
- Ladies: Your date's salary divided by your own equals the base you should let him get to on the first date.
- If you are overweight and socially awkward, consider "online dating." You can go on a dragonslaying adventure instead of to a movie, play games on Pogo.com instead of dancing, and masturbate instead of having real sex.
The Onion in classic form: Man Dies After Long And Painful Battle With Life.
Life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it: According to a recent survey, Britain is a dismal place, with 1/3 of the population feeling "downright miserable", 1/4 believing that life is unfair, and one in 10 believing that they would be better off dead. Then again, is that really saying anything that numerous British indie bands haven't already said in many ways?
Brutal Truth Toys revisited: Ant farm teaches children about toil, death: (The Onion)
Billed as "the fun way to teach your kids to accept their miserable fate stoically," the ant farm retails for $14.95
"At some point, the Playscovery Cove ants become cognizant that their hierarchical structure has been stripped away, rendering their already near-meaningless existence totally futile. There seems to be a breaking point at about the 22-day mark when the dejected ants begin to die off en masse."... the ant farm enters what is known as the "death-pile phase." A spot is chosen by the worker ants to deposit their dead, and the burial mound steadily grows as the few remaining ants devote more of their time to gathering and burying others.