Previous month:
November 2004
Next month:
January 2005

My Top 5, OK 8, books of 2004

In 2004, I read 36 books cover to cover, 18 fiction and 18 nonfiction. I started or read parts of as many again for sure. I would quickly add that any book I finish is probably worth reading because there are so many that I start and then put aside because I find something better.

First the list and then scroll down for my top five.


Three Junes by Julia Glass

The Appointment by Herta Muller

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz

Bless me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano: The Deadly Seducer by Ann Rule

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne

Every Man A King by Bill Kauffman

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Lord of The Flies by William Golding

Bleachers by John Grisham

The Cave by Jose Saramago

The Heartsong of Charging Elk by James Welch

The Last Juror by John Grisham

Eventide by Kent Haruf

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 


The Fabric of the Future, edited by M.J. Ryan

No More Victims by Frank Peretti

Dead by Sunset by Ann Rule

If I Live To 100 by Neenah Ellis

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Terry by George McGovern

Another Country by Mary Bray Pipher

Out of the Rough by Laura Baugh

Letter To A Great Grandson by Hugh Downs

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman

Letter To A Great Grandson by Hugh Downs

Will They Ever Trust Us Again? By Michael Moore

America by Jon Stewart

Bushworld by Maurren Dowd

Goat by Brad Land

Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky

The Next Better Place by Michael C. Keith

Here is my top five books of 2004 which includes both fiction and nonfiction.

Eventide by Kent Haruf

If I Live To Be 100 by Neena Ellis

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

And if I could pick three more for extra credit it would be

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

The Heartsong of Charging Elk by James Welch

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman

I reviewed most of these books on this blog. You can click on "books" under "Categories" on the right hand side bar and scroll down for the article on the book you are interested in.

Smoker wins coupon for a free lung

Free_lung The Weekly World News tabloid reported on December, 21, 2004 that a man in Australia hit the jackpot when he bought a pack of Camel Lights that contained a coupon for a free lung.

"An Australian smoker found the coupon of a lifetime in a pack of cigarettes -- good for one free lung.

Bob Zebriski, 42, the lucky recipient, has been a smoker since he was eight years old. "I was out one day, looking for work, when I stopped by my local convenience store to buy a pack of smokes," says Zebriski. "After making ten bucks from buying beer for some punk kids hanging around outside the store, I went back in and bought a pack of my usual brand -- G'day, Mate cigarettes. I opened it and this golden ticket that said 'One free lung' popped out. For a minute I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

Thanks to medpundit blog for the referral.

Link: Weekly World News.

The film industry's mental problem

There is an interesting article in today's, 12/31/04, issue of the Washington Times about the way that Holleywood portray's the problems that psychiatric disorders cause for people.

Are psychiatric disorders biochemically caused or psychosocially? Taking a pill does not make for a good screen play. Blaming your mother does. So what is a successful screen writer and director to do?

"Just as bad as the confusion over root causes, say critics, is Hollywood's tendency to mock mental illness as well as sentimentalize it.

The latter is why Dr. Sally Satel, a D.C.-based psychiatrist, avoids movies that depict mental illness.

It's bad enough to watch mentally ill characters being mistreated by others or by the mental health profession, she says; it's even worse when "those episodes of mistreatment are often used as an artistically cheap way to manipulate the audience.

"Directors or writers often use it as a shortcut to generate sympathy without fully developing the character."

While Holleywood does a poor job of depicting people with psychiatric disorders and tells a poor story about their effects and influences, I think movies are a very powerful way of learning more about life, ourselves, and other people. That's why I review the movies I find enlightening and worthwhile on this blog. If you would like to see some of my reviews click on the category "film" on the right hand side bar under "Categories".

Thanks to medpundit blog for the referral to this article.

Link: The film industry's mental problem / The Washington Times INSIDER.

Corpses not a risk to health

Corpses United Press International carried a story yesterday, 12/30/04, quoting a World Health Organization official as saying that corpses pose little threat to the public health.

"Rotting corpses pose little threat to the health of survivors, an official for the World Health Organization has said.

There is no need to rush to bury or cremate corpses, Dr. David Nabarro, the organization's executive director for sustainable development and healthy environments, told CNN Wednesday.

A person who dies is not necessarily a health threat to others, Nabarro said. "After a number of hours, the pathogens inside the dead person's body become not dangerous. They usually decompose and die."

Exposure to feces or other contaminants produced by live people is much more dangerous, Nabarro said. Providing survivors with clean drinking water and sanitation facilities "must be given priority," he said.

The mistaken belief that decomposing bodies cause outbreaks of disease often leads authorities to undertake mass burials or cremations, which can add to the suffering of survivors, said Dr. Dana Van Alphen, an adviser to the Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of WHO.

"In too many cases, authorities rush to bury victims without identifying them, under the false belief that bodies pose a serious threat of epidemics. It is just not true," Van Alphen said."

Link: MedlinePlus: WHO official: Corpses not a risk to health.

Price of Bush Inauguration Party Is Too Rich for Some

Inaugural_ball The price of democracy involves having the money to gain access to the hallways of power. Maybe, instead of the ATV, or the week's vacation to Disney World, you would prefer the inaugural ball?

There is an article in yesterday's, 12/30/04, New York Times describing the "privatizing" of the inaugural festivities. It is interesting how a public event has been turned into a private party.

Planners for President Bush's inauguration next month have scheduled a full lineup of exclusive parties and receptions for top Republican fund-raisers. But some of those V.I.P.'s say the perks come with a price tag they cannot afford.

Attending the entire slate of events during the three days of inauguration festivities could easily top $10,000 in tickets and other expenses for a fund-raiser bringing a spouse or guest. Some who helped bankroll the president's campaign, particularly young fund-raisers or those participating for the first time, are looking for ways to economize or are just planning to skip official events entirely.

If this were truly a private event like the Superbowl, or some other entertainment or recreational opportunity, then I wouldn't have a problem with the fact that some people could afford it and others can't. But this is a governmental celebration and when the governmental administration starts behaving like a private corporation instead of "for the people and by the people", then I start to wonder about the values being acted out.

Good mental health involves "congruence", meaning that we say what we mean and we mean what we say, something that the Bush administration has prided itself on. So when the people's government celebrates its newly elected administration with festivities so financially exclusive that only the wealthy can participate, it makes you wonder what the real values of the administration are. On the other hand, I suppose, President Bush would say that he is "appealing to his base" and with the tax cuts he has provided for them, they ought to be able to pony up the 10K to celebrate.

Link: The New York Times > Washington > Price of Bush Inauguration Party Is Too Rich for Some.

Living large in the U.S. of A.

I am continuing my reading of Gregg Easterbrook's book, The Paradox of Progress, and continue to find out amazing things about our American way of life that I was not aware of before. For example, did you know that since 1995 Americans have purchased more than 3 million all terrain vehicles, which are used almost exclusively for recreation, and continue to buy about 750,000 per year?

According to the 2000 United States census, almost 23% of American households had incomes of at least $75,000.00 per year. Easterbrook points out that in terms of "work hours", of important goods and services, only health care and college education cost more than they did in the 1950s.

Most Americans are rich beyond their wildest dreams only two generations ago. The middle class now lives like the upper class then with air conditioning in their homes, eating out 3 or 4 times per week, taking vacations in resort areas in the U.S. and abroad, owning a couple of homes, multiple cars, recreational vehicles, with the best health care in the world.

Most of us have come to take all this for granted even if we are up to debt to our eyeballs. So why aren't we more happy? Or are you happy with all this stuff?

Mother Teresa made a comment one time that Americans are the richest country on earth when it comes to money and material things, but the poorest when it comes to love. Whatever did she mean? And is she right?

I am reminded of the cynical but witty statement that money can't buy you happiness, but it helps.

Talk Therapy Network Blog

Ever wonder how to find a good psychotherapist? Over at the Talk Therapy Network blog there is a good article posted on 12/28/04 by Kevin Kervick which describes the seven tips to find a good talk therapist from Barry Duncan. The seven tips are excerpted from Barry's new book, What's Right With You: Debunking Dysfunction and Changing Your Life, which is coming out in April, 2005. Barry is the co-director of the Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change.

Link: Talk Therapy Network Blog.

Parental Alienation Syndrome - is it real?

Is there really such a thing as "Parental Alienation Syndrome"? Child Psychiatrist, Richard Gardner has popularized this concept and it has been controversial.

In today's, 12/29/04, Houston Chronicle there is an interesting article about a situation in which a 10 year old boy has shot and killed his father.

"A 10-year-old child accused of fatally shooting his father this summer has become a national poster boy for a controversial and unofficial psychiatric disorder: Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Parents and others seeking formal recognition of the so-called syndrome have latched onto the death of 41-year-old Rick Lohstroh, who was killed on Aug. 27 outside his ex-wife's Katy home.

After a bitter divorce in 2003, Lohstroh was picking up his two sons for a visit under a joint-custody agreement when the 10-year-old shot him from the back seat of the car, police said.

Since then, advocates have pointed to Lohstroh's death to illustrate that acrimonious divorces can prompt an angry parent to turn a child against another parent.

"He's become a martyr for Parental Alienation Syndrome," said Dr. William Narrow, who heads the American Psychiatric Association's research and classification division, which determines whether disorders are formally recognized as legitimate mental illnesses."

These cases, while rarely leading to death, are common in my clinical experience. Last year we had a similar case where a 14 year old 8th grader killed his father in the county where I work in Western New York state. We also had a case where a kid was shuffled back and forth as the parents fought. Multiple family court visits seemed not to resolve things, and the kid killed himself to the shock of every one in the village in which he lived.

While I am not sure that it is a psychiatric diagnosis that belongs in the DSM-V, I do believe that the dynamics are observable, and patterns are very destructive for all parties concerned. As these cases suggest, the escalating quality of the conflict sometimes leads to homicide or suicide as surely as domestic violence situations do.

Other systems of care in our society seem ineffective in dealing with these situations, and perhaps approving a psychiatric diagnosis would be a tool for professionals to use to structure situations that are in the better interests of the child. In my clinical experience PAS is real and labeling this pattern of interaction is the first step in managing it constructively.

Thanks to Mental Notes blog for the referral to this article.

Link: - Boy accused of shooting dad becomes cause.