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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Apes, Humans Share A Happiness Dip Mid-Life

Host Scott Simon talks with University of Edinburgh professor Alex Weiss about his new study on ape well-being. He found that apes, like humans, experience a U-shaped pattern of life satisfaction that dips in middle-age, commonly known as a mid-life crisis.


1. Money cannot buy happiness but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than on a bicycle.
2. Forgive your enemy but remember their name.
3. Help someone when they are in trouble and they will remember you...when they're in trouble again.
4. Many people are alive only because it’s illegal to shoot them.
5. Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then again neither does milk...

Hollywood's History Of Putting Gay Rights On Trial

Teachers Karen and Martha (Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine) find the extent of their relationship questioned in the courts of public and private opinion in 1961's The Children's Hour.
Teachers Karen and Martha (Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine) find the extent of their relationship questioned in the courts of public and private opinion in 1961's The Children's Hour.
John Springer Collection / Corbis
With the Supreme Court hearing arguments this week on same-sex marriage, I'd like to point out a parallel evolution in what I see as a Hollywood mini-genre: films in which gay characters are either taken to court or seek redress in court for issues involving their sexuality.
Arguably the most famous question ever asked in a courtroom about a line of poetry — "What is the love that dare not speak its name?" — was originally put to playwright Oscar Wilde in 1894 by a British prosecutor. It was an attempt to trap Wilde into admitting to then-illegal homosexual conduct.
His impromptu answer, while eloquent, reinforced his guilt in the eyes of the court, an outcome that actor Peter Finch seems determined to avert in 1960's The Trials of Oscar Wilde, as he fairly rattles it off in a speech taken verbatim from the court transcripts. Briskly businesslike, forceful and assertive, Finch is not just addressing the court but also seeking to allay worries about unmasculine behavior in a buttoned-down, post-war era audience.
Three decades (and many Oscar Wilde films) later, actor Stephen Fry took a far different approach to that same speech in the film Wilde. Tremulous, soft-spoken and lingering almost sensually over phrases, he delivers his defense in the full expectation that 1990s audiences will empathize with Wilde. The words remain the same, their impact is altogether altered.
Hollywood's long-term obsession with another real-life case required different strategies from filmmakers. Teen thrill-killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb inspired both "the trial of the century" and multiple movies. But early ones had to be heavily fictionalized. Alfred Hitchcock made up a whole new murder case inRope, which dealt with gay themes only as subtext and seized on the pair's interest in Nietzschean theory in 1948.
A decade later, the movie Compulsion allowed a defense attorney played by Orson Welles to hint a bit about "immature boys of diseased minds," but he mostly asserted that the trial's sensationalism stemmed from the wealth, rather than the sexual orientation, of his clients.
Three decades later, Swoon showed no such reserve, focusing on the killers' sexuality almost to the exclusion of all other motives.
As embattled, closeted lawyer Andrew Beckett, Tom Hanks brought gay rights to trial in 1993's Philadelphia.
Bureau L.A. Collection / Corbis
Until recently, let's note, most real-life court cases have mirrored those two infamous trials in not turning out well for lesbian and gay defendants, a fact that necessarily colors film depictions of them. And if fiction offered a little more latitude, it still had an obligation to appear plausible, so social prejudices figured strongly in them.
In Lillian Hellman's midcentury drama The Children's Hour, for instance, schoolteachers Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn, falsely accused of being lovers, could find so little support that they never got their day in court to prove their innocence. But even if a court had heard their case fully, things likely wouldn't have gone well for them for reasons movie characters have spent decades beating around the bush about. That is, until attorney Denzel Washington laid them out clearly in the AIDS-trial drama Philadelphia.
"Let's talk about what this case is all about," he declaimed, while defending the AIDS-stricken lawyer played by Tom Hanks. "The general public's hatred, our loathing, our fear of homosexuals, and how that climate of hatred and fear translated into the firing of this particular homosexual, my client."
Washington is playing a deeply homophobic man whose opinions evolve on gay issues during the course of the film — evolve way past where many audience members were at that point. Philadelphia was released in 1993, four years before Ellen DeGeneres came out on TV, five years before the first episode of Will & Grace and 12 years before Brokeback Mountain. The judge's response, that justice is "blind to matters of race, creed, color, religion and sexual orientation," was almost startling to audiences in a time when homosexual activity was still outlawed in many states.
"With all due respect, your honor," replied Washington, "we don't live in this courtroom though, do we?"
Today, in a limited but evolving sense, we do — at least judging from this week's cases before the Supreme Court. And that means that the movie Philadelphia — the product of an industry that, for business reasons, worries, much as the court does, about getting out in front of public opinion — is starting to seem just as much a period piece as any film about Oscar Wilde.

Nonverbal Communication


By Vicki Ritts, St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley
and James R. Stein, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. 

It is not only what you say in the classroom that is important, but it's how you say it that can make the difference to students. Nonverbal messages are an essential component of communication in the teaching process.Teachers should be aware of nonverbal behavior in the classroom for three major reasons:

  • An awareness of nonverbal behavior will allow you to become better receivers of students' messages.
  • You will become a better sender of signals that reinforce learning.
  • This mode of communication increases the degree of the perceived psychological closeness between teacher and student.
Some major areas of nonverbal behaviors to explore are:
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Gestures
  • Posture and body orientation
  • Proximity
  • Paralinguistics
  • Humor
Eye contact:
Eye contact, an important channel of interpersonal communication, helps regulate the flow of communication. And it signals interest in others. Furthermore, eye contact with audiences increases the speaker's credibility. Teachers who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth and credibility.

Facial expressions:
Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits:
  • Happiness
  • Friendliness
  • Warmth
  • Liking
  • Affiliation
Thus, if you smile frequently you will be perceived as more likable, friendly, warm and approachable. Smiling is often contagious and students will react favorably and learn more.

If you fail to gesture while speaking, you may be perceived as boring, stiff and unanimated. A lively and animated teaching style captures students' attention, makes the material more interesting, facilitates learning and provides a bit of entertainment. Head nods, a form of gestures, communicate positive reinforcement to students and indicate that you are listening.

Posture and body orientation:
You communicate numerous messages by the way you walk, talk, stand and sit. Standing erect, but not rigid, and leaning slightly forward communicates to students that you are approachable, receptive and friendly. Furthermore, interpersonal closeness results when you and your students face each other. Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided; it communicates disinterest to your class.

Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with students. You should look for signals of discomfort caused by invading students' space. Some of these are:
  • Rocking
  • Leg swinging
  • Tapping
  • Gaze aversion
Typically, in large college classes space invasion is not a problem. In fact, there is usually too much distance. To counteract this, move around the classroom to increase interaction with your students. Increasing proximity enables you to make better eye contact and increases the opportunities for students to speak.

This facet of nonverbal communication includes such vocal elements as:
  • Tone
  • Pitch
  • Rhythm
  • Timbre
  • Loudness
  • Inflection
For maximum teaching effectiveness, learn to vary these six elements of your voice. One of the major criticisms is of instructors who speak in a monotone. Listeners perceive these instructors as boring and dull. Students report that they learn less and lose interest more quickly when listening to teachers who have not learned to modulate their voices.

Humor is often overlooked as a teaching tool, and it is too often not encouraged in college classrooms. Laughter releases stress and tension for both instructor and student. You should develop the ability to laugh at yourself and encourage students to do the same. It fosters a friendly classroom environment that facilitates learning. (Lou Holtz wrote that when his players felt successful he always observed the presence of good humor in the locker room.)

Knowledge Communicated:
Obviously, adequate knowledge of the subject matter is crucial to your success; however, it's not the only crucial element. Creating a climate that facilitates learning and retention demands good nonverbal and verbal skills. To improve your nonverbal skills, record your speaking on video tape. Then ask a colleague in communications to suggest refinements.