Writing Your Way To Happiness

Writing

Tara Parker-Pope discusses how writing down our thoughts may help lead us to healthier physical and mental lives:

Much of the work on expressive writing has been led by James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. In one of his experiments, college students were asked to write for 15 minutes a day about an important personal issue or superficial topics. Afterward, the students who wrote about personal issues had fewer illnesses and visits to the student health center.

“The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go,” said Dr. Pennebaker. “I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.”

At the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, life coaches ask clients to identify their goals, then to write about why they haven’t achieved those goals.

Once the clients have written their old stories, they are asked to reflect on them and edit the narratives to come up with a new, more honest assessment. While the institute doesn’t have long-term data, the intervention has produced strong anecdotal results.

This blog sort of helps me develop my train of thought on a certain topic, whether it be political, sports, pop culture, or something personal. Getting started to write usually is the biggest challenge for me, but once I start, I can’t stop.

I can see where these experts see the benefits of writing. It allows you to step back, formulate your thoughts, and then present them in a more articulate way than you probably would by talking or arguing. Even though I’m a broadcaster, I still find that I can be more persuasive, or can be more relatable, when I write. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll say something on-the-air that has elicited an angry response from a listener. It’s when I can engage that listener via email that tempers can subside, and we can have an adult conversation.

The benefits of writing can never be understated. I hope in the days of standardized testing, the art of writing doesn’t fall by the wayside.

pat@wsgw.com

It’s Still Just A Sport!

Sports OfficialYes, I had quite the little tirade after the controversial non-pass interference call in the Detroit Lions-Dallas Cowboys playoff game a few weeks ago. And yes, I have many problems with the officiating in all professional sports! That’s part of being a sports fan.

So, I have my issues with sports officials, but they are professional sports officials. They get paid good cash to get criticized.

That shouldn’t be the rule when it comes to little league officials, which I once served as one.  I refereed basketball and umpired baseball while in high school. We received a little spending money to help purchase some snacks or go on a Saturday night date…if I could get one.  I enjoyed my officiating days and strove to be good as could be. I can’t tell you how humiliating it could be if you missed an obvious call. Not only did you hear it from one of the adult coaches, but you heard it from the parents!

If you called a third strike on their little boy, they thought you had a personal vendetta against their child!

I had some uncomfortable memories as a little league official, which included being followed into the parking lots, or being followed while riding home on my bike. There’s nothing like intimidating a 16 year old!  (It probably didn’t help that in order to hide my nervousness, I wouldn’t mind arguing back with the coaches occasionally.)

It’s because of those unpleasant memories that I hope the Michigan Legislature will pass a bill designed to protect little league officials:

State Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit, decided to sponsor the bill after refs from Southeast Michigan approached him following an incident in Livonia where soccer referee John Bieniewicz died days after being punched during an adult match.

“They were concerned about having some protections and that had to be a part of it,” Hood said. “They had been followed out to parking lots and harassed during games. They’ve been followed home and gotten threatening e-mails and (tweets).”

The bill would make assaulting a referee a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It wouldn’t preclude a person from being charged with another crime as well — such as assault or even murder — but would just add another criminal statute that could be used.

Michigan would join 23 other states that have laws on the books regarding assaults on referees, according to the Wisconsin-based National Association of Sports Officials, which has been advocating for such laws since 1984.

It’s a sport. No one should die at a sporting event. No one–especially an amateur official–should be assaulted over a sport.

How some adults can act completely insane over little league sports is simply beyond me.

pat@wsgw.com

P.S. True, some people die at soccer games, but as I said, no one should ever die at real sporting events.

Palin Has Become A Fad?

Sarah PalinFormer Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin gave a painfully-hard-to-watch speech in Iowa last week has forced some conservative activists to leave her, once and for all.

The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis–a fervent Palin supporter since 2008–is one of those activists regretting ever backing her:

I still say she was an incredibly talented political force, but she squandered her opportunity for greatness, and instead became a fad. And it’s worth considering that maybe her early critics saw some fundamental character flaw—some harbinger of things to come—that escaped me.

It’s probably time to concede that the early critics of Sarah Palin had a point, and that they shouldn’t have been tarred and feathered and (in some cases) nearly purged from the conservative movement. I’m not excusing the vilest attacks, of course, but for a long time, there was close to zero tolerance of anything remotely critical of Palin (or, at least, even mild criticism would evoke stern rebukes), and that was wrong. And, as evidenced by the spate of articles coming from conservative venues this week, it’s also over.

Lewis contends that Palin’s liberal and conservative detractors led to the radicalized Palin we see today.  Perhaps he’s correct to a point. The more and more people lobbed grenades at her, the more Palin chose to hunker-down and harden her views on certain issues and people.

Let’s keep it real, though: Palin became of a conservative celebrity rather than a serious politician because she knew she could make lots of money! That’s why she got out of the governor’s mansion as soon as should could after the 2008 election. There’s no money being governor of Alaska, but there is money to be made by being a TV political persona, a reality TV star, and an online political activist.

Palin was never a serious political mind. I thought that in 2008, and that opinion never changed. There are many other conservatives I regard as serious political thinkers even if I disagree with them. If there’s one decision I’m certain John McCain will regret making on his deathbed, I’ve got to believe selecting her to be his vice presidential pick is the one.

Jack Kemp was a strong choice for VP in 1996. Kemp was someone interested in policy-making. Kemp had ideas. Palin was a swing for the fences. Now that some conservatives are getting to know her, many are relieved the ball never made contact with the bat.

UPDATE: The American Thinker’s Selwyn Duke concedes that while he agrees with a lot of what she says, Palin doesn’t offer any fresh ideas:

Question: can you cite for me one novel or unusually insightful thing Palin has ever said?

Just one.

Anyone?

Politics wonk that I am, I can’t think of anything. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with most of what she does say; it’s conservative boilerplate, and that’s where you generally start. But that again is the point.

Palin says nothing 1000 politicians haven’t said before her.

So I ask, what’s her true appeal, really?

pat@wsgw.com

Fox News Is Not Serious News

CableNewsColumnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. writes about how the French and British forced Fox News to do something rarely seen here in America: Apologize.

Fox News did apologize after it erroneously reported about “no-go” zones existing in Europe. One of the network’s “terrorism analysts” claimed there are parts in Europe where non-Muslims aren’t allowed and Shariah Law is in full effect.

After it was proven to be false, Fox did apologize for its days-upon-days coverage of this complete falsehood.

Pitts concludes that Fox stepped-back because our European friends aren’t accustomed to Fox’s kind of reporting:

It’s amazing, the things you can get used to, that can come to seem normal. In America, it has come to seem normal that a major news organization functions as the propaganda arm of an extremist political ideology, that it spews a constant stream of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, paranoia and manufactured outrage, and that it does so with brazen disregard for what is factual, what is right, what is fair, what is balanced — virtues that are supposed to be the sine qua non of anything calling itself a newsroom.

If you live with aberrance long enough, you can forget it’s aberrance. You can forget that facts matter, that logic is important, that science is critical, that he who speaks claptrap loudly still speaks claptrap — and that claptrap has no place in reasoned and informed debate. Sometimes, it takes someone from outside to hold up a mirror and allow you to see more clearly what you have grown accustomed to.

This is what the French and the British did for America last week.

For that, Fox owed them an apology. But serious people owe them thanks.

I’m someone who has major issues and qualms with Fox News, and I’m sympathetic with a lot of Pitts’ criticisms with the channel.

His condemnation, though, shouldn’t just lie with Fox News. Yes, it’s a network with an obvious conservative slant that’s bent on stoking anger and fear.  However, because of Fox’s popularity, other TV news networks have sort of followed its blueprint.

CNN covers stories bent on sensationalism and fear. MSNBC completely changed its format during the early Bush years of being a center-right news network to what is now a left-of-center outlet. Yes, it does have Joe Coffee for three hours in the morning to make conservatives happy, but it’s mostly a left-of-center outfit. And while I like some of MSNBC’s programming, I’ve had to go elsewhere if I wanted to find critical pieces on the Obama administration. Maddow and Hayes will sometime venture in that area, but that’s about it (again, except for Joe Coffee).

I’m not trying to do a false equivalence here because I think Fox News is far more egregious in what or how it covers “events,” which is why Jon Stewart has a ball with them on a nightly basis.

What I’m trying to say is that entertainment is first and foremost on the minds of all cable news networks. Fox isn’t the only one. Stoking anger and fear is the goal. The more fear that’s drummed-up, the more anger it producers. The more anger it produces, the more eyeballs it gets.

That’s why I enjoy guys like independent foreign affairs reporter Jeremy Scahill. He calls everyone out for their failures: The Obama administration, the Bush administration, military leadership, and most of all, the press!

I leave you with Scahill on CNN from a few weeks ago, in which he lambasts the cable news coverage of the Paris massacre:

Why can’t we have more reporters like him!!!

pat@wsgw.com

Wednesday Indie Music Day–Chromatics

For the second time on WSGW’s First Day, I played a portion of another fantastic Chromatics track.

Chromatics

“Cherry” from the group’s new album, Dear Tommy, is like pure silk. Seriously, if you’re sitting by the fire with a glass fine red wine and your favorite tunes are playing, I’d suggest adding “Cherry” to the playlist.

Even though it’s perhaps a breakup song, you won’t turn depressed. As Pitchfork said:

The whole song plays out like a bittersweet epiphany, but one tinged with the subtle sense of euphoria…

Visit them on Facebook or on their website.

Enjoy!

Let Kids Be Kids

KidsClick the link to hear this week’s “Pat Political Point” from WSGW’s First Day.  The very rough transcript is below. As you’ll hear, I deviated from my original thoughts.

Pat Political Point–1/25/15 Edition of WSGW’s “First Day.” “Let Kids Be Kids.”

*********************************************************************************************************************************

Let me begin my political point by stating something very important: I’m not a parent.

That was a decision Dr. Heather and I made quite early-on in our relationship. While kids are great for many other marriages out there, it’s just a responsibility we never wanted to tackle. We’re not anti-kid at all! We very much like them. They just weren’t in our future–despite efforts from some close friends throughout the years.

So, with that disclaimer, of course it makes sense for me to have an opinion on parenting, right?

Many of you have probably already heard the story where these two parents from Maryland were being investigated by police and social workers because they allowed their 10-year old and six-year old children to walk to the playground…by themselves!

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv believe in raising free-range children, in which their kids don’t need 24-hour supervision. You know, how it used to be when I was a kid.

Apparently, concerned citizens had contacted authorities when they saw these two kids walking back home from the playground. For some reason, kids walking around without parental supervision is such a rarity, nowadays.

So, police officers picked-up the Meitiv’s kids and drove them home. The officer requested the father, Alexander, to present some I.D., and when he refused to do so, police called for six backup officers! And then, they told Alexander he’d be shot on the spot if he had anything but the I.D. in his hand. Yes, they said this in front of the children.

After police could confirm that Alexander was indeed their child, child protective services advised the Meitiv’s not to allow their kids outside without supervision for the next week until it could be determined they were fit parents. If they had not agreed to those terms, CPS could’ve taken their kids into their own custody!

I’m not blaming police or CPS for this particular story. They’re doing the jobs the are asked to do. Laws are in place, and they’ve got to follow them.

I am blaming this whole new phenomenon of constant parental supervision–or helicopter parents–on fear.

Due to news coverage of kidnappings or child predators, many are led to believe that we live in a world of constant danger. I’m not trying to belittle the point that danger is absent in our world. Of course, I’m not.

But we should take the viewpoint that the Meitivs correctly held when they told Maryland state officials that the world isn’t as bad as we’re led to believe.

As MLive columnist Susan Demas noted in a piece about this topic, violent crime dropped again in 2014, and is now down to when President Kennedy held office!

That’s true!

You wouldn’t know that with all of those scary stories out there of child abductions.

The problem is that with helicopter parents, we run the risk of raising kids in a society in which they won’t be able to cope with real life problems. They won’t learn to deal with adversity. They won’t learn how to deal with failure.

While reading that story about the Maryland family, I remembered when I was a kid. My parents allowed my brother and I to wonder away from the house. I recall being about seven years old, and I was able to tag along with my older brother and play at the park down the street from us.  I was allowed to ride my bike–without a helmet!–many blocks away from our house. And that’s when I was about 7-8 years old.

That’s how life was in my neighborhood back in the day.

Helicopter parents run the risk of forever hovering over their kids. It can be so bad at times that I’ve heard and read stories of how college professors have a difficult time teaching students with helicopter parents. College is a time when students learn to become adults and take responsibility for their actions, but helicopter parents can impede on that growth by always interfering.

That doesn’t mean their can’t be a fine line between supervising a child, and letting that child be on their own for a little while. A close friend of mine, Meredith, wrote me last week discussing that “fine line.” She pretty much said that it’s not a uniform line for all parents to use. Actually, it’s a line that’s developed over time between parent and child. You must work at it.

In conclusion, as a non-parent, please allow your kid a little free-range from time-to-time. You won’t regret it. You’ll feel better in the end.

At the very least, can we also bring back dodge ball for these kids?

pat@wsgw.com