Category Archives: Lizzy Sebuck

My Life, The Movie: An Interview with Patrick Muldoon

By Lizzy Sebuck

Sometimes the staff at Occam’s Taser just gets really, ridiculously lucky (it’s probably because of our dashing good looks). This week we were fortunate enough to speak with Patrick Muldoon, a Chicagoan who works in the film industry. For this interview we picked at Patrick’s noggin about his experiences helping to create some of the most known films of the past ten years. Working as a Locations Manager, Patrick has worked on the sets of major blockbuster films including the masterpiece The Dark Knight. Want to know how Patrick got into the film industry? Would you believe us if we told you paper products and copy machines played a small role? Read on.

Occam’s Taser: So what exactly is your job, Patrick?
Patrick Muldoon:  I am a Location Manager in Chicago. I work as a freelance employee and I work with the Illinois Film Office on some projects.

OT:  Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
PM: I graduated from Loyola University and worked at Xerox right out of school selling copiers. I ended up going back to school to get a 2nd degree in television from Columbia College and from there I started working on independent films here in Chicago.

OT: What have been your favorite projects?  A little birdie told me you’ve worked on some pretty cool sets…
PM: I was fortunate enough to work on projects such as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Public Enemies, and most recently Transformers 3.

OT: Xerox to The Dark Knight? Awesome transition. So what was your role in producing those films?
PM: Basically, when a studio plans to do a movie in Chicago they put together a crew and the Location Department is the first on the project. They send me a script and I breakdown the locations and start scouting for them. I will give the Production Designer and Director pictures of various locations and they pick a few possibilities. For example if a scene calls for a house I will scout 10-20 houses and send them pictures. They would pick a few to see in person.  I would take them to the locations and they would decide which one to film in. From there I negotiate a legal agreement and location fee with the owner. During these negotiations I develop a relationship with the owner which will help when the preparation and filming of the location occurs.

OT: Whoa! Your job is all over the place. Any other responsibilities?
PM: Many times it will take weeks for the Art Department and Set Decorators to make a location ready for filming. When it gets close to the shoot day I am responsible for obtaining permits from the city, hiring security to watch the trucks and equipment and hiring Police to assist with the shoot.  I also have to find a place for the crew members to park and rent out a nearby space for the caterer to set up for lunch. As you can see there is a lot that goes into my job and I am usually part of a department (5 or 6 of us split up the work). There are many other things that come up that are unique to each location.

OT: What do you consider to be the best part about your job?
PM: It’s interesting to be part of the creative process and scouting the city with different directors. They all have different styles and processes. The most rewarding part of my job is to see a movie I worked on and see the different locations I found.

OT: Patrick, you have the coolest job ever. Any current projects you want to let us know about?
PM:  I am currently working on a television series called The Chicago Code.  It is shot entirely in Chicago and will begin to air on Fox in February.

Working in the film industry isn’t reserved for the Landsberg-theorists of the world. Patrick Muldoon has done a pretty awesome job making a career out of something he clearly loves to do. From helping pick out set locations, to working with the Art Departments on designing the ideal atmosphere for each scene, Patrick Muldoon has helped shape some of the highest grossing films of the past decade. Let’s just hope that he’s not left with any twisted prosthetic memories from his work on films like The Dark Knight keeping him up at night. “Why so serious?”, you ask? We have a hard enough time sleeping at night remembering Heath Ledger’s performance, let alone the repressed memories of him in a nurse’s outfit.


It’s More Than a Movie: Prosthetic Memories

By Lizzy Sebuck

Have you ever wandered off into a day dream during class? Oh, no, no, no! Not YOU, you studious student, you, but surely you’ve heard of this happening to others. What happens when you reflect? Do you think about your dog? Your family? Your journey from adolescence to adulthood? The accomplishments you’ve made and what you have left to overcome? Are you sure you’re not just thinking about the plot to Homeward Bound?

The Theory of Prosthetic Memory states that humans often substitute memories or ideas they have seen in media entertainment in place of memories from their own reality. In Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture the argument is made that modernity makes new forms of public cultural memory possible. Alison Landsberg, the theorist behind prosthetic memory, reviews the effects that mass media, marketing, and visual art can have on a person. Landsberg’s point is that when you observe visual media, the short-term effects may be the shedding of a few tears or leaving  the theater joyful from comedy, but the long-term effects are as complex as the shaping of character and personal development in the individual viewer. Think about it: your growing appreciation and respect for your elders could be a deeply-rooted instinct you picked up from watching Chance, Sassy, and Shadow work it out from way back when.

“Prosthetic memories are adopted as the result of a person’s experience with a mass cultural technology of memory that dramatizes or recreates a history that he or she did not live” (Landsberg, 29).

The development of graphic design technology and the enhancement of visual effects has played an enormous role in aiding the cinematic experience to make movie-watching more realistic than ever. It’s the development of these cinematic advances that helps audiences gather a thorough understanding of the themes and emotion in films. The almost touchable reality that James Cameron created through the introduction of new 3D visual imaging in the widely famous Avatar has affected audiences so intensely that in some it has brought on a new level of film inspired depression because the colorful wonderland depicted in Avatar does not actually exist.

Landsberg suggests that the technologies of mass media not only change the concept of an authentic experience to the individual audience member (48), but also the vividness of the film and the created alternate realities achieved through technology creates a “suspension of disbelief and identification with the protagonist” which might affect [audiences] so significantly that the images would actually become part of their own archive of experience” (30). Essentially, Landsberg is saying that audiences adopt memories and experiences because of the alternate realities they see on the screen, then convert them into their own authentic memories.

The notion of the Prosthetic Memory brings on a slew of unsettling thoughts. Prosthetic Memories make us ask ourselves questions such as “What is real?”, “Which of my memories are real?”. This concept of Prosthetic Memory gives humans a reason to re-evaluate the development of their own personalities. Memories shape the person that we become with age. Memories based off visual media can stem from viewing all types of media. This includes films, Vlogs, YouTube clips, and Vimeos we’ve seen and the visual concepts that have affected us. Is this why some have become so obsessed with Hollywood love? Is this why so many young men and women turn into such hopeless romantics in the pursuit of happiness? Those who were raised on Breakfast at Tiffany’s generally swoon at films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and (500) Days of Summer and whisper to themselves “why not me?”. Have these prosthetic memories left audiences with an idea of what love is supposed to be versus what it actually is?

More so, consider horror and scary movie genres. The reason that so many of our twenty-something peers still sleep with their bedroom doors locked may be because of a cultured notion  they were raised on. We have been cultured to believe through the Scream series that someone is going to burst into our rooms in the middle of the night and murder us! Thanks a lot Prosthetic Memory & Nev Campbell, thanks a-freaking-lot.

Prosthetic Memories are able to shape personality, morals, and character even though they’re not real. Visual memories we obtain through film and popular culture in our youth are repressed and stay with us throughout our adult development, forming our passions, fears, and aspirations. Audiences identify with the characters they see on the silver screen and envision themselves as the hero or heroine; they take on their hardships as if they were their own. Here are the hard facts:

1: Chances are the guy from Scream is not gonna pop into your room tonight and bust out a can of whoop-ass.
2: There is no way Jim Carrey is that sweet in real life. You can be hopeful that Joel Barish is out there somewhere, but don’t hold your breath for some guy who will go through reverse memory erasing for your love.
3: No, Jack from Titanic didn’t make it, but whether you want to believe it or not, he was never your real-life lover and you really have no reason to keep crying about it 13 years later. We know through Prosthetic Memory that you really felt it with the words “I’ll never let go”, but really, it’s time.


Cinephile: The University of British Columbia’s Film Journal

Psychology Today

Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture
by Alison Landsberg, 1993, pg29-50

New Vitamin D Intake Recommendations Released By Medical Panel

By Lizzy Sebuck

What a coincidence! During our weekly topic focusing on Vitamin D and health, new recommendations for Vitamin D intake have been reviewed and released by The Institute of Medicine Panel. As of November 30th, the institute’s research states that many people already get sufficient levels of Vitamin D intake from their usual diets. The new Vitamin D recommendation is based off of how much Vitamin D people need to support their calcium levels. While maintaining sufficient levels of Vitamin D can do wonders for your overall health, the panel concluded the newly released intake levels will specifically benefit bone health. Below are the new levels of Vitamin D intake recommended by the panel to support calcium levels in the body:

Infants – 400 units
Children/Adults – 600 units

Translation? 600 IU (units) of Vitamin D amounts to 5 cups of milk, or 5 oz of salmon. The reports say that this is a large improvement over previous years of Vitamin D diet regulations. So if you’re not much of a pill popper and want to steer clear of the supplements we previously referred you to, then try salmon for spin to get your Vitamin D. This research claims that taking too many Vitamin D supplements can have a negative effect on your health. According to this research, a healthy diet and some sunlight could just do the trick.


So grab that grocery list off the fridge and jot down milk and salmon, we know what you’ll be eating for dinner this week.

Good Morning America

Internet Killed The Radio Star

By Lizzy Sebuck

Remember LimeWire? Back in the day LimeWire was the go-to network application free music. LimeWire was a free peer-to-peer file sharing program that is typically associated with the downloading of music and video in a few simple clicks. Now-a-days, if you want to download some large files, BitTorrent is the way to go (*not to say that the Occam’s Taser staff uses this technology. We’ve wised up since high school). Up until now, LimeWire provided quick and easy music downloads for those killer dance parties.

Turns out that, while LimeWire greatly assisted in the production of precious moments and slow dances everywhere, it wasn’t so awesome in terms of legality. On October 26, 2010 a U.S. federal court judge issued an injunction forcing LimeWire to prevent “the searching, downloading, uploading, file trading and/or file distribution functionality, and/or all functionality” of its software. Because of this injunction newer versions of LimeWire 5.5.11 and onward have been disabled from use by all who have downloaded the program. While older versions of the program have not been affected, it is strongly advised that music downloaders use caution in their entertainment endeavors. Today when visitors go to the LimeWire website, the following warning appears and prohibits use of the rest of the website content,


LimeWire is under a court order dated October 26, 2010 to stop distributing the LimeWire software. A copy of the injunction can be found here. LimeWire LLC, its directors and officers, are taking all steps to comply with the injunction. We have very recently become aware of unauthorized applications on the internet purporting to use the LimeWire name. We demand that all persons using the LimeWire software, name, or trademark in order to upload or download copyrighted works in any manner cease and desist from doing so. We further remind you that the unauthorized uploading and downloading of copyrighted works is illegal.

It’s obvious that the LimeWire network is now facing some serious punishment for facilitating illegal file sharing among its millions of users. Corporations aren’t the only ones who can face charges for illegal file sharing though. Individuals who download files illegally can also receive some pretty harsh punishment. So STOP! in the name of music.The law shows no love.

Not convinced that you could end up in a pickle because of illegal file sharing? The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lays down the law when it comes to music entertainment and piracy on it’s website. We suggest you click around their site to see the trouble illegal file sharing can lead to. Within this past year alone not only has the major LimeWire network been asked to do the time for the crime, but individuals have also been asked to pay up! Earlier in November a single mom from Minnesotan was ordered to pay $1.5 million in damages for sharing 24 songs on the Internet. Sheesh! That’s less than three Spice Girls CDs! Moms aren’t the only ones being grounded for once, a grad school student in Boston was fined $675,000 for his illegal downloading. So if I were you, I’d hit the ‘stop sharing’ button on that Glee Soundtrack you’ve been dying to share with your friends. Tell them to spend the measly fourteen bucks themselves.

Illegal downloading no longer your cup of tea?

So you’ve decided you’re not going to use illegal downloading programs anymore? Good for you. Don’t worry though, you’re not S.O.L., we can help you get your music fix and avoid the long arm of the law. It’s obvious through LimeWire’s example that sometimes technology can land you in trouble with “The Man”, but new music entertainment technology also allows for some pretty convenient alternatives to piracy fines.

For those of you who haven’t head of Pandora , it’s a pretty cool streaming radio network that allows users to listen to their favorite bands for free! Pandora also introduces users to bands that are similar to the genre of music they are looking for. Pandora is also available as a free application on the iPhone, and can come in handy providing you with pump-it-up jams for your morning commute. Are you more of a ‘right here, right now’ kind of person? If you want to hear a specific song right away, then maybe Pandora isn’t for you.

Grooveshark is like Pandora in the sense that you can use it on both your laptop or as an App on your iPhone, but a little better. Grooveshark allows users to pick the exact song they want to listen to, right then and there, rather than directing them to a band that might sound like what they want to hear. Grooveshark also has the radio streaming option just in case users are open to hearing some music suggestions.

File downloading isn’t dead though! You don’t just have to temporarily lease your tunes through a streaming website to rock out. With online radio streaming programs, users essentially borrow the tunes they want to hear for a temporary fix. Jamendo offers free music for download and sharing for it’s users. This means that Jamendo users can keep the music files on their computer to enjoy whenever they want. The Jamendo website cites that “Jamendo is a community of free and legal music published under Creative Commons licenses”, which is how they escape through the legal loophole. This license is a more flexible option unlike the “All-Rights Reserved” copyright licenses. Unlike an All-Rights reserved copyright, Creative Commons was established using a more flexible model, “some rights reserved” instead of “All Rights Reserved”. Users can also review and rate the music they hear, as well as donate to the artists they feel deserve their cash.

For those of you who do have some spare change , there are also music entertainment programs that allow you to download, keep, and pay for the songs that you want. One option is through Rhapsody, an online music service that has been around for the last decade. Ten years ago may seem prehistoric to some, but don’t ignore the great deals that this service provides. Rhapsody offers users unlimited music downloads for a mere $10.00 a month! Pretty sick deal compared to what could be a $750.00 piracy fine.

For those of you who want to stick to a more well-known brand, Apple created iTunes as a compatible music service for all of its Apple products. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and you don’t already know this, you don’t have to work off of a Mac to use iTunes though (Jobs & Wozniak don’t really care which computer users are giving them money). iTunes offers users TV show rentals for just 99¢ an episode , songs are priced at 69¢, 99¢, or $1.29, and full albums are usually under $15.00. With the Beatles as a new artist available on iTunes, users can purchase The Beatles Revolver for only $12.99.

So, LimeWire may or may not be dead. It’s going to be okay, gang! You have alternatives to piracy to get your music fix. Maybe if you download legally it will make you feel just as happy as your closet Cher infatuation.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Single Mom Ordered to pay 1.5 Million
Illegal music download fine

Emotional Intelligence: How Developing Your EI can Help You In and Out of the Bedroom

by Lizzy Sebuck

Getting in touch with your feelings won’t just give you an edge in the workplace, but improving your emotional intelligence can help your relationships and your more intimate moments too! Is your girlfriend saying you just don’t understand the way she feels? You jerk! Guys, you don’t need to sit down with a season of Sex in the City to get in touch with your feelings. Ladies, step away from the Braveheart DVD, there’s another way! Today at Occam’s Taser we’re here to educate men and women alike on how to express your feelings and emotions to your partner. This will allow for a stronger chance that your significant other will actually pay more attention to what you’re saying and less to distractions. Men have trouble interpreting the subliminal messages that women send through gestures and facial expressions, while women struggle to extract and understand emotions from their man. Strengthening your emotional intelligence can benefit your intimate relationships through increasing empathy and understanding, and can potentially lead you to find more compatible mates in the future.


Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, right? Wrong. We’re not actually from different planets (although at times it may seem that way). Researchers cite that men and women have different cognitive processes of the brain that cause them to interpret and demonstrate emotions differently. Generally, women have a stronger emotional intelligence quotient than men because women are seemingly more in touch with their feelings. Emotional Intelligence, or lack thereof, can lead to lack of communication in the relationship. Emotions tend to remain uncovered and sometimes never discussed. So why do guys have a harder time getting in touch with their emotions? Some research says that its biological.

“Men are hard-wired differently,” says David Powell, PhD, president of the International Center for Health Concerns, who explains that the connection between the left brain, home of logic, and the right, the seat of emotions, is much greater in women”… “Women have the equivalent of an interstate highway, so they move readily between the right and left brains. For men the connection is like a meandering country lane, so we don’t have such ready access to feelings.”

The first step is admitting you have a problem, fellas. As soon as you accept and acknowledge the possibility that your girl might be right about your stone cold silence, you can learn to open up and express just how pissed you are that she ate that last slice of pizza.


Sorry girls, just because you might have a higher level of EI don’t think you’re off the hook. Women generally broadcast their emotions whenever they feel like expressing them. While women do have a stronger, higher emotional intelligence than men, they don’t always express this emotional intellect in the most productive way.

Women don’t need a study or a blog to tell them that talking about their problems will make them feel better. No shit. However, in communicating and expressing your emotional intelligence with your man, its a two-way road. You may want to talk about your feelings til the sun comes up (aw), but you can’t force your guy to feel the same way. A part of the reason men and women have a hard time understanding one another is not only because of differing emotional intelligence quotient levels, but also because they communicate very differently.
When men decide to express their emotions they get to the point. Men are very literal in their speech and make sure to quickly state the issue. Women tend to be less point-blank, as they generally sensationalize conflict in relationships, while in the process losing their audience in conveying emotion. This can lead to a woman’s voice turning into the droning Charlie Brown teacher your male counterpart may otherwise hear when you speak. Try to take the opportunity to let your significant other talk, in the event that he does have something he wants to share. Listening is key in a mutually exclusive relationship. Even women have room for improvement when it comes to assessing emotions, but the first step is allowing those emotions from others to be expressed in the first place, so try to listen and allow for both parties to express their feelings.

There’s more than a few positive aspects to having highly developed emotional intelligence. Yes, your relationship will be stronger because of more communication and understanding. Yes, you may finally learn WHY your boyfriend shed a few tears during Field of Dreams. But the greatest benefit of them all is that studies actually show that having a higher emotional intelligence can lead to a better time in the bedroom. In a research study on emotional intelligence and sex, the results found a positive relationship between the female orgasm and high emotional intelligence.

“We found emotional intelligence to be positively correlated with both frequency of orgasm during intercourse … and masturbation …. Women in the lowest quartile of emotional intelligence had an approximate twofold increased risk of infrequent orgasm.”

Hallelujah. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Hallelujah. Note the negative side of this study though: “Low emotional intelligence seems to be a significant risk factor for low orgasmic frequency.” You know what that means? The research shows that having a low emotional intelligence may be the cause of fewer orgasms amongst women. Haven’t exactly experienced fireworks in the bedroom lately, ladies? It’s not just the guys here who have room for emotional intelligence improvement! The better emotionally connected you are to your partner, the more likely you will enjoy each other better in that intimate way.

Now, I’m no “Dr. Love” but I can tell you that communication is key for success in relationships. Developing your Emotional Intelligence Quotient can be accomplished in a few simple steps, and through this, better communication can be achieved. By improving your EQ, you will be better able to identify, assess, and control emotions and, from there, your relationships can significantly improve! First, learn what your Emotional Intelligence is by taking a simple test. From there, you can see the areas which you need improvement. Take note from your childhood crossing guard when it comes to love: Stop (and think about it), Look (and analyze your relationship), and LISTEN (to your partner). Your relationship will grow stronger, and hey, you may be able to test if the sex study is accurate. If you don’t want to listen to me, take a page from MensHealth:

“The moral of the story: when she talks, you listen (listen does not mean hearing her in the background. It means you are actually listening to what she has to say). This way she won’t have to keep repeating herself. But make sure that when you talk, she is also listening to you. Get it on!”

Big Boys Don’t Cry — and Other Myths About Men and Their Emotions:The truth about men, their emotions, and ways men can become more emotionally expressive.
Readers Digest: Dianne Hales
Love on the Line
Truity Williams
Emotional Intelligence and Its Association with Orgasmic Frequency in Women Journal of Sexual Medicine DOI: Burri, A., Cherkas, L., & Spector, T. (2009).
Women Who Talk Too Much

Drama & Trauma: Texting Can Cause Both

By Lizzy Sebuck

Text-slang and your education isn’t the only combination that might not be a match made in heaven – combining texting with other aspects of your life can be dangerous too. I know every time I pick up my ma for a ride in the Crown Vic she is constantly slapping at my hands for me to put down my iPhone and keep my eyes on the road. We’ve come to find that texting and text-slang can do more than damage your grade in English classes, it can actually cause massive trauma to not only your social life, and also be physically damaging. The combination of texting and driving has become such a serious issue that state governments are altering some of their rules of the road as people pay less attention to the traffic ahead of them and more to their Twitter feed. Those who engage in texting while driving are not only a hazard to themselves, but a threat to the unsuspecting drivers around them.

The trouble with texting is not restricted to the road, but often occurs in every day conversations amongst many teenagers as well. Invasions of privacy, sexting, bullying, and text-abuse have become a reality with the teenage use of texting. Text-abuse is a harmful way to bully because many teens keep it to themselves. Harassing someone via text is very different than bullying in the hallway. Harboring negative emotions caused by abuse has lead to instances of teen suicide in the U.S., a growing result of text-abuse.  In recent years there have been numerous social media campaigns urging youth to put down their tech-savvy phones and use caution when utilizing instant messaging technology (but don’t think you’re out of the doghouse either, Gramps). Today at Occam’s Taser we’re piggybacking on these campaigns to let you know the importance of their missions. A summary? Wise up young fools.

Text abuse has become a huge issue amongst teens in recent years. In an effort to inform the youth about the harmful effects of their words (in a digital form or not) MTV’s A Thin Line campaigns on sexting and text- bullying has been backed by celebs such as Buffy’s Michelle Tratchenberg and even Jersey Shore’s Vinny Guadagnino speaking out on these issues. With the development of more expedient instant messaging capabilities, humans can communicate with one another in a way that previous generations could not imagine. This new technology opens up a million possibilities for danger. Although students try to avoid bullies in the hallways, they won’t be able to escape this new medium which could compromise privacy with one tap on the share button. The creators of A Thin Line campaign declare their mission statement as follows:

“A Thin Line campaign was developed to empower you to identify, respond to, and stop  the spread of digital abuse in your life and amongst your peers. The campaign is built on the understanding that there’s a “thin line” between what may begin as a harmless joke and something that could end up having a serious impact on you or someone else.”

Their infamous commercials generated buzz within the teen scene when they started to screen in between popular MTV programming. These commercials broadcast images of what could happen to bullies if caught in harassment, or furthermore the harmful mental toll a person who is bullied experiences. Though somewhat outlandish, their commercials make a strong point; text abuse can be devastating for both parties involved.

This campaign not only covers bullying though, the A Thin Line campaign educates its audience on the dangers of sexting and spying through the digital screen as well. Teens have found sexting to be a thrilling way to get their crush to notice them, but it certainly doesn’t reflect too well on their image after the damage is done. The Sexting campaign informs its audience on the harsh facts, such as  “more than 50% of those who shared a sext have shared it with multiple people.” One risque picture or raunchy text meant for one person can quickly spread to the entire school with the click of a button. A Thin Line urges teens not to feel pressure to sext and reminds them that even if the receiver of a sext doesn’t share it with the whole class, that person will now think the sext-er will compromise themselves to send dirty texts anytime, or with anyone. Not the best look for a teen just trying to survive high school. In their Spying campaign, A Thin Line cites that “over 25% of young people say their BF/GF have read their texts without permission.” Going through someone elses phone history leads to nothing but negative consequences. Dating or not, when the other party discovers that their privacy has been invaded trust no longer exists and the relationship is compromised. What if the phone owner isn’t guilty of any looming suspicions?  The revelation that trust, or furthermore respect, is not a priority in the relationship will unravel the bond of that friendship.

A Thin Line lets audiences know that (watch out hackers) even if something incriminating to the relationship is found through snooping, calling out your partner on their actions may land YOU in trouble.  Sneaky acquaintances risk the loss of Facebook account access when reported to the site based off of their privacy policy, and phone invasions of privacy can even result in lawsuit! The goal behind the A Thin Line campaign is to let those involved know what could happen and furthermore, how to draw their line and put an end to textual-abuse such as sexting and spying.

Oh, Oprah. Your hypnotizing ways of doing things always seem so right, and copying you makes me feel like I too am doing good for society, like signing a pledge to not text and drive.  Oprah not only made a huge impact on American youth, but on parents who are naive to the text generation as well. Her No Phone Zone Campaign asked drivers to sign a pledge to swear to never text and drive at the same time, citing that 16 people a day die from texting-and-driving related accidents. The No Phone Zone campaign works to prevent the senseless deaths that result from reckless drivers who text and make calls while driving. As a nonprofit organization, the No Phone Zone campaign uses a newsletter, stories, and updates of new state laws regarding phone use to educate audiences on the dangers of phone use and driving. Oprah drew awareness to her program through a daily reference to it on her wildly popular talk show The Oprah Show, as well as asking each audience member in attendance to sign the pledge before taking their seat. Look at that, now Oprah’s gonna go save your life. At least Oprah kept it mostly PG rated, this PSA from the UK made headlines with how graphic it is. Gory? Yes. But it sure as hell makes the point.

If the gospel of Oprah wasn’t enough to bring awareness to the issue, a recent celebrity death drew much media attention to the risk of texting-and-driving. Celebrity Plastic Surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan (most famously known for performing 10 surgeries on Heidi Montag in 1 day) was allegedly tweeting from his cell phone as he was driving around California when he accidentally drove his car off of a cliff. You read right, drove his car off of a cliff. Celebrities such as Janice Dickinson, Gary Busey, and Lisa Rinna who knew and had work done by Dr.Ryan gathered at a candle light vigil after he died and spoke to the media about the tragedy and the unnecessary death of their friend, thus igniting a fire within entertainment nightly television to urge their audience to put the phone down. The following picture is the last thing Dr.Ryan tweeted before he died.

Your adorable Twitpic may not be worth the risk.

Texting can be more dangerous than you think. Text abuse such as sexting, bullying, or spying can lead to depression and death amongst teenagers, who are the primary users of text messaging devices, but just about every age group can be impacted by this harassment. The least significant negative outcome of text-abuse may result is a loss of credibility and the destruction of a once-spotless image. So please use some morals and ethics when texting. When driving, you can worry about changing your Facebook status from “0MG T0T4LLY 4L!\/3!!!” to “UGH ded “ at some other time, keep your eyes on the road.  So if you’re gonna text, try it out while being grammatically correct, have some respect, and keep your hands on the wheel and off your phone (thanks, ma).

To Shop, Or Not To Shop: An Interview with an Expert

by Lizzy Sebuck

We all go a little crazy during the shopping season. Have you been wondering why you felt like you needed to spend $400 on that hot pair jeans last week? There really is no excuse for spending that much, and we’re here to tell you why. If you need an intervention, you’re about to get one; meet Nicole Tarandy-Whalen; a school psychologist with over twenty years of experience in the field of Psychology. Nicole took the time to sit down with Occam’s Taser and discuss Cohen-Zada and Sander ‘s research findings in their study about the relationship between materialism and unhappiness. In this special interview, we get a further understanding of why our emotions go into a frenzy as soon as we start swiping that Mastercard, or better yet, why we can’t stop swiping. In this interview, Nicole explains why shopping can be destructive to the psyche and how the holiday season can effect moods and behaviors.

Occam’s Taser: What kind of emotions do people experience when they shop, or furthermore, when they earn and spend money?
Nicole Tarandy-Whalen: I think people feel a great deal of pride and accomplishment when they earn money and spend money. People feel generally happy to be able to buy the things they need or want. On the other hand, many people buy things they can’t afford and often end up in debt. This can cause negative feelings due to anxiety and stress from owing money and not being able to pay bills.  This is a two sided question with no correct answer as some people just LOVE to shop and would go shopping everyday if they could, while others HATE shopping and avoid it at all costs.  So I guess it really depends on the personality of the shopper and if they generally enjoy the task or dread it.

OT: Are the findings by Cohen-Zada and Sander just a unique case or is there really a correlation between money and unhappiness? Why/Why not?
NTW: I don’t believe there is truly a correlation between money and unhappiness. First of all, people who do a lot of shopping don’t necessarily have lots of money. If they just looked at net income and overall happiness then they might be able to conclude the correlation between money and unhappiness.

OT: So is it more so money and/or materialism that brings unhappiness or is it other behaviors that stem from having money that leads to unhappiness? ‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right.
NTW: I believe that materialism is what leads to unhappiness not necessarily money. By and large, money buys happiness only for those who lack the basic needs. Once you pass an income of $50,000, more money doesn’t buy much happiness.

In fact, the more money you make doesn’t necessarily make you happier.  It is extremely difficult to escape materialism in our society. Often people purchase items they can’t afford.  There are so many loan stores and so many living on credit no wonder those who shop (and appear to have money) are unhappy. Most people are living way beyond their means which is extremely stressful leading to unhappiness and depression.  (There are some good tips in the link above to help one escape materialism. )

If a study really wants to look at the correlation between money and happiness they need to look at how much money one has (not how much shopping they do) and determine how happy they are.  I like this study because it does just that AND it looks at 2 types of happiness, day to day happiness and happiness with overall life satisfaction.

OT:What about shopping for others and not for yourself (it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas), does that influence the shopper’s individual moods and behaviors?
NTW: Well it depends. There is no simple answer and differs from person to person.  Some who feel content with their bodies love to shop and get new and fun clothes. Others who are not so happy with their bodies dread shopping.  Some people are inclined to shop and LOVE to shop for others. They enjoy trying to find the perfect gift that another would just love and appreciate. Again others dread having to shop for others as it is a burden.  If you are shopping for a spouse or boy/girl friend, one might enjoy shopping. Yet that same person may hate shopping for an office mate or family member.  So depending on who and why you are shopping your mood and behavior is definitely effected.

OT: Most women love to shop, is shopping more negative when it is done alone or in a group? Are there any emotional pros/cons to shopping alone or with a friend? (Say shopping again. Shopping.)
NTW: I think it could be more negative when done as a group. If you are alone, you can go where ever, when ever and take your time without someone rushing you or taking extra time in one store when you just want to move on.  Sometimes others will give you their opinion when you really don’t want it. I think shopping alone is best so you can “worry about yourself” and no one else. If you want another opinion then you could bring someone back another time to get their opinion. Group shopping could be fun for younger people as it is a social activity but when you have a purpose and an idea of what you are looking for, a friend or a group can slow you down and actually disrupt the situation. Although there could be some bonding especially with young girls/women, there are more cons to shopping with a friend or a group than there are shopping alone. If you are alone, you can do exactly what you want.

OT: So can a person have a lot of money and still be truly happy? What is the difference between this kind of person and the unhappy shopper Cohen-Zada and Sander researched?
NTW: Definitely a person can have a lot of money and still be truly happy.  Also, there are people with very little money who are truly happy, right?   It seems in the study those who were truly happy attended church more often and those who were unhappy attended church less and possibly shopped instead.  Just because they shopped doesn’t mean they had lots of money either.  Often people who shop and buy lots of things, shouldn’t as they don’t have the means to pay for their purchases, often causing more stress and unhappiness.  Also, I think they said or something I read said that purchasing things and shopping may cause happiness for the moment/day (immediate gratification) whereas going to church and not shopping lead to more sustained happiness in the long run.
OT: So what they say is true, money can’t buy you happiness?
NTW: I would have to say NO money can’t buy happiness.  Think of one of your not-so-joyous negative friends.  Now think of them with lots of money.  Either way, they are still your not-so-joyous negative friend just with some money now.  That may boost their spirits for a bit but if they don’t change their thoughts and behavior, money won’t change it either. I wonder if “money can’t buy you love”.  Now I am going to look at some research about that

OT: With the holidays approaching, do you think a person’s emotion, mood, or behavior could have a heightened effect with extra shopping looming ahead?
NTW: The holidays definitely have an effect on a persons emotions, mood, and behavior.  Although the holidays seem to be associated with happiness, especially in children, stress also is prevalent primarily in adults.  The “holiday blues” often refers to feelings many adults feel around the holidays.  Stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over commercialism, inability to be with family and friends (or even the ability TO be with your entire family), and inability to be two places at the same time, all effect ones emotions and feelings.  This definitely has a physiological effect on your thoughts and your body responds.  These thoughts and situations directly change your bodies chemistry.

OT: So Nicole, how can we survive the holidays and the mayhem that is holiday shopping?

  • Set realistic goals for the holiday like what you can feasibly do and can’t do.
  • Leave “yester-year” in the past and look only toward the future.
  • The holidays aren’t always about being with people but also spending time for yourself. “Worry about yourself”, I love that saying!
  • Limit drinking and overeating to keep your mind and body fresh and healthy.
  • Sleep consistently and enough but not too much.  Get up at a regular time on the weekends even if you don’t have to work to keep your body’s clock regulated.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people and avoid those who bring you down.
  • Meet a new friend or contact some old friends you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Find some time to relax.  Everyone is so busy especially during the holiday season.  We need to put the to-do list away for a bit and find some time to just relax.
  • Focusing on your social, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being is the key.

So there you have it. Nicole believes that the research regarding happiness and shopping don’t exactly go hand in hand. Shopping can be an enjoyable activity, but it is pre-developed personality traits that determine how a person will react to wealth and material goods. To really be happy and survive the holidays you’ve got to take care of yourself physically and mentally to maintain sanity Sorry ladies, but if one of your biggest worries is that you’re just in like with your Sketchers, but in love with your Prada backpack, we’re here to tell you that neither will really bring you happiness anyways.This time of year can make just about anyone a little loopy, and at Occam’s Taser we’re here to remind you; try not to turn into a greedy Grinch this holiday season and to just keep it cool; it’s the best way to stay smiling.