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Archive for December, 2014|Monthly archive page

Creative people are not predisposed to mental illness.

In Entertainment, Health, National News, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, State News, Uncategorized on December 12, 2014 at 2:12 pm

When it happened, I did not want to be one of the millions of journalists writing about the tragic death of comedian Robin Williams. I wanted no part of the relentless armchair quarterbacking of commentators who so easily claimed to have the man, “figured out.” No one knew what was in his head or heart and pretending to in order to secure 15 seconds of publicity on the morning talk shows is disrespectful on countless levels.

As a kid, “Mork & Mindy” was a favorite television show of mine. Naturally, I was too young to understand that Williams’ extra-terrestrial comic genius may have originated from a man with deep, emotional fragility in a constant struggle with personal demons. However, Williams’ death led to interesting dialogue about whether brilliantly creative people have a higher tendency toward mental illness.

Psychologists have long debated the relationship between the creative mind and various mental illnesses, particularly bipolar disorder.  Personally, I reject the psychobabble that suggests creative people innately suffer from a myriad of mental and emotional disorders.

I’m not a psychiatrist or a physician but I am one of those creative people, albeit that I walk the line to the other side of the brain as well. I can rebuild an engine, write this article, and produce a television segment, all in the same day. But am I, by nature, mentally ill?

Benjamin Franklin was one of the most creative and inventive people in American history. He was a statesman, a writer and an inventor, and there is no evidence to suggest he had any sort of mental illness.

But in today’s era of mass publicity, there are other pressures that can affect the creative mind’s health besides that to produce new work. Anyone who becomes successful or is thrust into the public eye at any level has an entirely different set of stresses to deal with.

From my own, small experience, I can tell you first-hand that, as a public figure, you are expected to be “on” all the time. Because of your public work, people believe they know “you,” and anticipate you to behave a certain way to meet their expectation.

When you don’t, they are disappointed and react negatively. The pressure of not being able to meet those expectations can take a toll on someone who already suffers from self-doubt, depression and other areas where a negative personal image is already prevalent.

Most creative people are in the business they love in order to do a good job at work then go about their lives as normally as possible. Often, however, the public won’t allow it.

Williams’ death serves as a reminder that every creative person is just that, an individual, whether working from their garage or signing million-dollar movie deals. Every day they struggle with the same concerns as you and I, it’s just that the scope of view might be a bit larger or different.

Has anyone considered the possibility that people who already have mental illnesses choose to go into a more creative line of work because it fits their “disability?” It’s no secret that actors and writers tend to be introverted, keep to themselves and often reject the idea of the 9 to 5 job and even general social conformity. Since mental illness isn’t something a person just contracts, like the flu; it’s logical to conclude that it’s got to be in the genetics somewhere waiting for a trigger. Depression and other illnesses can also be affected by the lifestyle of the individual through alcohol and drug use, exacerbating the problem.

Therefore, it is entirely likely that those with mental issues actually choose the more fluid existence of the creative lifestyle early on.  The common absence of structure and responsibility probably plays well into their ever fluctuating mental state.

In other words, it’s a chicken or the egg problem. Are creative people mentally ill (as a generalization), or do the mentally ill choose the more creative path? A great talent was lost in Robin Williams and he was by no means the first. Sadly, regardless of how it comes about, it is unlikely he will be the last.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and contributor to WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton program



Drone use regulation has a long way to go

In Dayton Ohio News, Education, history, National News, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on December 1, 2014 at 2:24 pm

DIH LOGOFor the last several years unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have become a popular tool for everything from wildlife tracking to disaster response. But the wide application of these devices has become a hot button issue for many state lawmakers and in some cases legislation has already been put in place to regulate their use. But there’s still a long way to go.

Also known as unmanned aerial systems, or by the more colloquial term, “drones,” UAS devices are becoming more widely used around the United States by government and law enforcement agencies, commercial business and also private citizens. As the technology becomes more affordable, these devices are turning up everywhere; over residential areas, aerial photography of sporting events, even delivering packages. All of these activities raise questions of privacy invasion and how much is too much.

At the time of this article, Ohio still has no specific laws governing the use of drones but, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Ohio enacted HB 292 creating the aerospace and aviation technology committee. One of the committee’s duties is to research and develop aviation technology including unmanned aerial vehicles.” So, there’s a committee; great.

At present, police departments can use drones in most states to snoop pretty much anywhere they want, and in many regions without the pesky bother of obtaining a warrant first. Drones can also be used by the federal government for the purposes of gathering domestic intelligence. Up to now, there are few “official” limitations on U.S. Government (and military) use of UAS devices to spy on its own citizens, without cause or due process of any kind.

dronesSo until there are clear areas of regulatory legislation, what rights do individual citizens have to protect themselves from the prying robotic eyes of a drone? The answer to that is murky at best, and property law is extremely complicated so it’s tough to know who actually owns the airspace above.

A Slate.com article from October 2014 reports that man-on-drone violence is actually on the rise; that means people are actually shooting the machines right out of the air, sometimes just for the sport of it.

The article shared one story about a New Jersey man who was brought up on unlawful weapons charges for shooting down a drone over his property. The article was unclear about whether the area where the incident took place was rural, commercial or residential. There was also no mention of charges related to what he shot down.

As some states enact technology-related laws and regulations, others have done nothing. Many of the laws that have been enacted are also confusing as to personal responsibility or liability.

In Tennessee for example, SB 1777 makes it a class C misdemeanor for any private entity to use a drone to conduct video surveillance of a person who is hunting or fishing without their consent. So to illustrate how ridiculous this is: if Bob is hunting on Bill’s property without permission and Bill uses a drone to monitor Bob’s activity, Bill is guilty of a crime, but Bob is not?  How’s that for pointless?

Drones and other UAS devices bring about yet one more issue where the technology has advanced faster than the wisdom of the people and the legislators. But what about personal rights until laws are enacted? Do private citizens have the right to take matters in to their own hands? Is it OK to shoot down a drone in an area where firearm use is legal? What if it’s brought down with a slingshot, a boomerang, a whip (sorry, had to include that one) – or even another drone?

It seems likely that if someone destroyed a drone its owner would have some kind of civil litigation options to recover damages. However, UAS operators should keep in mind that, for the most part, firearms are still legal to use in rural areas and an intrusive drone might just go the way of Amelia Earhart.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer and CNN.com iReports contributor. More at deerinheadlines.com.