Out Of The Ordinary

A new documentary series uncovering stories from the left field.

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01012013031820140916

In a new documentary series uncovering stories from the left field, Jolyon Jenkins reports on the extreme treatments bald men are putting themselves through. They are commissioning laboratories in China to manufacture unproven, untested, and potentially dangerous drugs to cure their hair loss. Is it a hiding to nothing or will they succeed where the drug companies haven't?

Men have always gone bald but now they're not putting up with it. An explosion of online forums has created a "hair loss community". "It's a silent epidemic", says Spencer Kobren, founder of The Bald Truth forum. "Hair loss doesn't physically hurt, but we liken it to a cancer of the spirit". Kobren runs a weekly radio show in which callers express their pain and frustration. Joe isn't sure whether it would be worse to have actual cancer: "I'd rather have one or two good years of hair," he says. "I want to hear the birds sing, I want to walk on the beach, I want to be free of this terrible disease."

In an attempt to deal with encroaching baldness, some young men are reading up on the latest medical research into hair loss and seeking out chemists to manufacture molecules they hope will work. There's no guarantee that the chemicals they are buying are pure, and the buyers have no real idea of the correct dose; but it speaks to their desperation. Some of them report unpleasant side effects. Few of them can show convincing hair regrowth.

Presenter Jolyon Jenkins, a "hair loss sufferer" for two decades, investigates this subculture. Along the way he has a consultation for a hair transplant (£10-£15,000) and looks into "hair systems" - or as some call them, wigs. Does loss of hair really decrease a man's attractiveness significantly? And how did a normal part of being a man become a debilitating disease?

010120130318

Jolyon Jenkins reports on the extreme treatments bald men are putting themselves through. They are commissioning laboratories in China to manufacture unproven, untested, and potentially dangerous drugs to cure their hair loss. Is it a hiding to nothing or will they succeed where the drug companies haven't?

Men have always gone bald but now they're not putting up with it. An explosion of online forums has created a "hair loss community". "It's a silent epidemic", says Spencer Kobren, founder of The Bald Truth forum. "Hair loss doesn't physically hurt, but we liken it to a cancer of the spirit". Kobren runs a weekly radio show in which callers express their pain and frustration. Joe isn't sure whether it would be worse to have actual cancer: "I'd rather have one or two good years of hair," he says. "I want to hear the birds sing, I want to walk on the beach, I want to be free of this terrible disease."

In an attempt to deal with encroaching baldness, some young men are reading up on the latest medical research into hair loss and seeking out chemists to manufacture molecules they hope will work. There's no guarantee that the chemicals they are buying are pure, and the buyers have no real idea of the correct dose; but it speaks to their desperation. Some of them report unpleasant side effects. Few of them can show convincing hair regrowth.

Presenter Jolyon Jenkins, a "hair loss sufferer" for two decades, investigates this subculture. Along the way he has a consultation for a hair transplant (£10-£15,000) and looks into "hair systems" - or as some call them, wigs. Does loss of hair really decrease a man's attractiveness significantly? And how did a normal part of being a man become a debilitating disease?

01022013032520140923

Jolyon Jenkins reports on the world of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) - the community of people who believe that the dead can speak to us through radio transmissions and white noise. The technique was introduced to the English speaking world by a mysterious Latvian, Dr Konstantin Raudive, who travelled to Britain in 1969 with recordings of Hitler, Churchill and Stalin speaking from beyond the grave. The method is now a mainstay of paranormal investigators. Jolyon unearths tapes from 40 years ago made at a key séance held by Dr Raudive in Gerrards Cross. Raudive eventually came to believe that a budgerigar called Putzi was passing on messages from a dead 14 year old girl. Jolyon speaks to EVP current practitioners, and to a man who believes that his recordings of animal noises also contain messages.

The claims are improbable, but they tell us interesting things about human perception: about our ability to construct meaning from meaningless sound, and about how our brains naturally fill in the gaps where information is incomplete. Optical illusions are well known, but we are equally prone to being fooled by audio illusions. Sound artist Joe Banks suggests that, while EVP researchers may be carrying out parapsychology experiments, they are unwittingly doing conventional psychology experiments.

010220130325

Jolyon Jenkins reports on the world of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) - the community of people who believe that the dead can speak to us through radio transmissions and white noise. The technique was introduced to the English speaking world by a mysterious Latvian, Dr Konstantin Raudive, who travelled to Britain in 1969 with recordings of Hitler, Churchill and Stalin speaking from beyond the grave. The method is now a mainstay of paranormal investigators. Jolyon unearths tapes from 40 years ago made at a key séance held by Dr Raudive in Gerrards Cross. Raudive eventually came to believe that a budgerigar called Putzi was passing on messages from a dead 14 year old girl. Jolyon speaks to EVP current practitioners, and to a man who believes that his recordings of animal noises also contain messages.

The claims are improbable, but they tell us interesting things about human perception: about our ability to construct meaning from meaningless sound, and about how our brains naturally fill in the gaps where information is incomplete. Optical illusions are well known, but we are equally prone to being fooled by audio illusions. Sound artist Joe Banks suggests that, while EVP researchers may be carrying out parapsychology experiments, they are unwittingly doing conventional psychology experiments.

010320130401

01032013040120150511 (R4)

Who do you want to be able to read your old emails when you die? Are the dead entitled to privacy? Jolyon Jenkins reports on the increasingly contentious issue of our digital legacy.

As we lead more of our lives online, we leave behind an ever bigger digital footprint when we go. There are the public parts - the blogs, the tweets, the forum posts - but also the private things such as the emails stored on servers owned by companies like Google. Sorting out the digital legacy is becoming as onerous as being a traditional executor.

But it brings entirely new problems: in the case of people who have died suddenly or mysteriously, relatives sometimes feel that they are entitled to get access to the email accounts of dead person to try to find a clue to what was happening in their lives. But many email providers resist handing over this material because of a confidentiality clause in their terms and conditions. Jolyon Jenkins talks to the Stassen family in Wisconsin who took both Facebook and Google to court to gain access to the accounts of their son Benjamin who committed suicide. He also talks to Esther in Kenya who similarly would like to get into her dead sister's email account to try to find a clue to her unexplained death. But unlike the Stassens, Esther has had no luck.

These are uncharted waters, where analogies with old technology quickly break down, where the principles are unclear, and where important private and personal matters seem to be left to the discretion of big corporations.

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0103 LAST20130401

Who do you want to be able to read your old emails when you die? Are the dead entitled to privacy? Jolyon Jenkins reports on the increasingly contentious issue of our digital legacy.

As we lead more of our lives online, we leave behind an ever bigger digital footprint when we go. There are the public parts - the blogs, the tweets, the forum posts - but also the private things such as the emails stored on servers owned by companies like Google. Sorting out the digital legacy is becoming as onerous as being a traditional executor.

But it brings entirely new problems: in the case of people who have died suddenly or mysteriously, relatives sometimes feel that they are entitled to get access to the email accounts of dead person to try to find a clue to what was happening in their lives. But many email providers resist handing over this material because of a confidentiality clause in their terms and conditions. Jolyon Jenkins talks to the Stassen family in Wisconsin who took both Facebook and Google to court to gain access to the accounts of their son Benjamin who committed suicide. He also talks to Esther in Kenya who similarly would like to get into her dead sister's email account to try to find a clue to her unexplained death. But unlike the Stassens, Esther has had no luck.

These are uncharted waters, where analogies with old technology quickly break down, where the principles are unclear, and where important private and personal matters seem to be left to the discretion of big corporations.

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

0201Pick Up Artists20140224

In a new series bringing stories from the left field, Jolyon Jenkins investigates the underground brotherhood of "pick up artists" - men who claim to have have turned the art of seduction into a science.

It all started with a best-selling book written ten years ago called The Game, which revealed the existence of a band of men who had incredible success with women, not because of their looks, but because they had apparently deconstructed the mystery that is the feminine psyche. As a result of the book, men around the world formed pick up artist societies or "lairs". There are trainers, coaches, videos and forums. They have their own vocabulary and acronyms. The central tenet of their faith is that men can approach random women out of the blue and, provided they structure the interaction right, success is virtually guaranteed.

Jolyon spends an afternoon roaming the West End with members of the "London Seduction Society", and then joins a weekend boot camp in which four unconfident, inexperienced men are trained by expert seducers in how to pick up women in Oxford Street. Is it all deeply misogynistic or just another form of self-help?

Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins

0201The Secrets Of Picking Up Women In Public2014022420140930

In a new series bringing stories from the left field, Jolyon Jenkins investigates the underground brotherhood of "pick up artists" - men who claim to have have turned the art of seduction into a science.

It all started with a best-selling book written ten years ago called The Game, which revealed the existence of a band of men who had incredible success with women, not because of their looks, but because they had apparently deconstructed the mystery that is the feminine psyche. As a result of the book, men around the world formed pick up artist societies or "lairs". There are trainers, coaches, videos and forums. They have their own vocabulary and acronyms. The central tenet of their faith is that men can approach random women out of the blue and, provided they structure the interaction right, success is virtually guaranteed.

Jolyon spends an afternoon roaming the West End with members of the "London Seduction Society", and then joins a weekend bootcamp in which four unconfident, inexperienced men are trained by expert seducers in how to pick up women in Oxford Street. Is it all deeply misogynistic or just another form of self-help?

Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0202Asperger's Syndrome or Not?20140303

0202Asperger's Syndrome Or Not?2014030320150512 (R4)

Why do so many women think their men have Asperger's syndrome? Is there a hidden mental health epidemic, or have the rules of relationships changed? Asperger's only entered the textbooks in 1994, but since then there's been an explosion in the number of people diagnosed. Mostly it's male children, but increasingly, women seem to be diagnosing their adult partners as being "on the spectrum".

But the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's are vague and, some argue, arbitrary. One criterion is that the person is bad at social interaction. The other is that they have to have restricted interests. In the case of the mature male, it's hard to work out what distinguishes Asperger's - which is in the textbooks as a "mental disorder" - from the behaviour of a "neurotypical" man who tends towards shyness, introversion, or selfishness. Today's men are required to be more emotional in relationships than their fathers and grandfathers. Does the fact that some struggle in this respect mean that Asperger's is being uncovered where previously it would have been hidden?

Jolyon Jenkins talks to women frustrated at their husbands' lack of empathy, sociability, and romantic impulses, and to clinicians who specialise in the diagnosis and counselling of people with Asperger's. He also talks to the man largely responsible for getting Asperger's into the psychiatric textbooks, who now regrets his role and believes that it had led to the "pathologising of normal behaviour".

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0202Asperger's Syndrome Or Not?20140303

Why do so many women think their men have Asperger's syndrome? Is there a hidden mental health epidemic, or have the rules of relationships changed? Asperger's only entered the textbooks in 1994, but since then there's been an explosion in the number of people diagnosed. Mostly it's male children, but increasingly, women seem to be diagnosing their adult partners as being "on the spectrum".

But the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's are vague and, some argue, arbitrary. One criterion is that the person is bad at social interaction. The other is that they have to have restricted interests. In the case of the mature male, it's hard to work out what distinguishes Asperger's - which is in the textbooks as a "mental disorder" - from the behaviour of a "neurotypical" man who tends towards shyness, introversion, or selfishness. Today's men are required to be more emotional in relationships than their fathers and grandfathers. Does the fact that some struggle in this respect mean that Asperger's is being uncovered where previously it would have been hidden?

Jolyon Jenkins talks to women frustrated at their husbands' lack of empathy, sociability, and romantic impulses, and to clinicians who specialise in the diagnosis and counselling of people with Asperger's. He also talks to the man largely responsible for getting Asperger's into the psychiatric textbooks, who now regrets his role and believes that it had led to the "pathologising of normal behaviour".

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

0203 LASTThe Power Of Prayer2014031020141007 (R4)

Jolyon Jenkins meets those who think the sick can be cured through the power of prayer. Could there possibly be anything in it? For over a century, people have been trying to prove it - or disprove it - through science, but firm results are elusive, and some scientists get cross at the whole idea. One study suggests that sick people might actually get worse if they discover they are being prayed for. But over the last 20 years, belief in the miraculous has been growing in Pentecostal circles, not least because miracles seem to be an effective way to gain new recruits. And the claims go far beyond any possible placebo effect: people are claiming to have received new gold teeth through prayer, to have had internal organs grow back after they have been surgically removed, and even to have raised people from the dead through prayer.

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0203 LASTThe Power Of Prayer20140310

Jolyon Jenkins meets those who think the sick can be cured through the power of prayer. Could there possibly be anything in it? For over a century, people have been trying to prove it - or disprove it - through science, but firm results are elusive, and some scientists get cross at the whole idea. One study suggests that sick people might actually get worse if they discover they are being prayed for. But over the last 20 years, belief in the miraculous has been growing in Pentecostal circles, not least because miracles seem to be an effective way to gain new recruits. And the claims go far beyond any possible placebo effect: people are claiming to have received new gold teeth through prayer, to have had internal organs grow back after they have been surgically removed, and even to have raised people from the dead through prayer.

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

0301Desperately Seeking Sperm20150119

0301Desperately Seeking Sperm2015011920150513 (R4)

Annie, 35, wants a baby, but she doesn't have a partner. If she could afford it, she could go down the official and regulated route to a fertility clinic and get pregnant using donor sperm. But that could cost thousands of pounds. So instead, she's gone online and entered the world of unregulated sperm donation.

Jolyon Jenkins investigates this shadowy world. It's illegal to sell sperm, but some men are making a living doing so. Others offer free sperm in return for "natural insemination", i.e. sex. Some women report that men who start by appearing to offer free sperm, gradually exert pressure on them to have sex.

But what of those who want neither money nor sex in return for their sperm? Jolyon discovers the world of the "super donor" - men who compete to inseminate as many women as possible, in an acknowledged bid to spread their genes as widely as they can. Their activity can border on the obsessive."It is a bit like stamp collecting really," says one. "I devote three hours per day to it, through travelling to donate or arranging my spreadsheets or doing my photo albums of the children".

The risks to women and their children are obvious - sexually transmitted infection, hereditary conditions unwittingly passed on, and accidental incest between half-siblings. If women could afford to use the official channels, they would be much safer. Instead, they are being driven into the hands of sexual adventurers, serial liars, and hobby eugenicists.

Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0301Desperately Seeking Sperm20150119

Annie, 35, wants a baby, but she doesn't have a partner. If she could afford it, she could go down the official and regulated route to a fertility clinic and get pregnant using donor sperm. But that could cost thousands of pounds. So instead, she's gone online and entered the world of unregulated sperm donation.

Jolyon Jenkins investigates this shadowy world. It's illegal to sell sperm, but some men are making a living doing so. Others offer free sperm in return for "natural insemination", i.e. sex. Some women report that men who start by appearing to offer free sperm, gradually exert pressure on them to have sex.

But what of those who want neither money nor sex in return for their sperm? Jolyon discovers the world of the "super donor" - men who compete to inseminate as many women as possible, in an acknowledged bid to spread their genes as widely as they can. Their activity can border on the obsessive."It is a bit like stamp collecting really," says one. "I devote three hours per day to it, through travelling to donate or arranging my spreadsheets or doing my photo albums of the children".

The risks to women and their children are obvious - sexually transmitted infection, hereditary conditions unwittingly passed on, and accidental incest between half-siblings. If women could afford to use the official channels, they would be much safer. Instead, they are being driven into the hands of sexual adventurers, serial liars, and hobby eugenicists.

Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0302Esperanto20150126

0302Esperanto2015012620150514 (R4)

Jolyon Jenkins explores Esperanto, the language designed to bring world peace and harmony.

Invented in the late 19th century, Esperanto is simple to learn, with a logical grammar, a vocabulary drawn from European languages, and no irregularities. Its creator, Ludovic Zamenhof, hoped that it would become a second language that everyone could speak, eliminating international misunderstandings. For a while, Esperanto flourished, and there was even a tiny Esperanto-speaking state in what is now Belgium, but both Stalin and Hitler saw it as subversive and tried to crush it.

Jolyon tries to learn the language and to discover what remains of those early ideals. He finds elderly Esperantists playing word games in a Cardiff pub, Brazilian spiritists who believe that Esperanto is the language in which the dead converse, and a small Esperanto-speaking enclave in Goma, in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (some of whom learned it under the misapprehension that Esperanto was an organisation that handed out money). Is Esperanto a blindingly obvious and sensible idea, or a ludicrously utopian one?

Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0302Esperanto20150126

Jolyon Jenkins explores Esperanto, the language designed to bring world peace and harmony.

Invented in the late 19th century, Esperanto is simple to learn, with a logical grammar, a vocabulary drawn from European languages, and no irregularities. Its creator, Ludovic Zamenhof, hoped that it would become a second language that everyone could speak, eliminating international misunderstandings. For a while, Esperanto flourished, and there was even a tiny Esperanto-speaking state in what is now Belgium, but both Stalin and Hitler saw it as subversive and tried to crush it.

Jolyon tries to learn the language and to discover what remains of those early ideals. He finds elderly Esperantists playing word games in a Cardiff pub, Brazilian spiritists who believe that Esperanto is the language in which the dead converse, and a small Esperanto-speaking enclave in Goma, in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (some of whom learned it under the misapprehension that Esperanto was an organisation that handed out money). Is Esperanto a blindingly obvious and sensible idea, or a ludicrously utopian one?

Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0303Brain Hacking20150202

0303Brain Hacking2015020220150515 (R4)

Jolyon Jenkins meets the people zapping their brains with DIY electrical devices, lasers and electromagnets. They want to learn faster, dream better, and even have spiritual experiences.

Some of it might even work. There's evidence that putting a weak electric current through your skull can help you learn, and induce a "flow" state. The US military is experimenting with devices that seem to help snipers improve their marksmanship. One woman who tried it says that what she found was that "electricity might be the most powerful drug I've ever used in my life."

Such talk is just what the garage experimenters want to hear. Real drugs are hard to get licensed, but many of the experimenters hope that a strap-on electrical head gadget will be able to give the same kind of effects, but without having to go through the regulatory hoops. There's money to be made, they hope, from early adopters who see their brains as just another device that can be improved through a bit of hacking.

Producer/presenter: Jolyon Jenkins.

0303Brain Hacking20150202

Jolyon Jenkins meets the people zapping their brains with DIY electrical devices, lasers and electromagnets. They want to learn faster, dream better, and even have spiritual experiences.

Some of it might even work. There's evidence that putting a weak electric current through your skull can help you learn, and induce a "flow" state. The US military is experimenting with devices that seem to help snipers improve their marksmanship. One woman who tried it says that what she found was that "electricity might be the most powerful drug I've ever used in my life."

Such talk is just what the garage experimenters want to hear. Real drugs are hard to get licensed, but many of the experimenters hope that a strap-on electrical head gadget will be able to give the same kind of effects, but without having to go through the regulatory hoops. There's money to be made, they hope, from early adopters who see their brains as just another device that can be improved through a bit of hacking.

Producer/presenter: Jolyon Jenkins.

0401The Red Pill20160309

0401The Red Pill20160309
0401The Red Pill20160309

Jolyon Jenkins reports on the men fighting a liberation war against what they see as female tyranny, and the separatist "men going their own way" - who've given up on women.

Such men take their principles from the film "The Matrix", in which only those who take the "red pill" see the true nature of reality, while those who take the "blue pill" live in ignorance of the true state of affairs - which, in this case, is that society is organised for the benefit of women, and that men are seen as disposable and worthless. We live, they think, in a "gynocracy", thanks to the remorseless march of feminism.

But the movement is split. Some of them think that there is still time to organise and fight back. They think that the system can be changed, and that relationships between men and women recalibrated. But others are more radical. They believe that male/female relationships are inherently toxic, the system is unbeatable, and that the only sane strategy for a man is to exit from the gynocracy while he still can, even if this means "living as a ghost" within broader society.

Producer/presenter: Jolyon Jenkins.

0402Mindfulness And Madness20160316

Jolyon Jenkins investigates whether meditation could do you more harm than good. Mindfulness is being promoted to everyone as a kind of mental detox, but he speaks to people have had disturbing experiences, including being hospitalised and sectioned under the mental health act after going on meditation retreats.

Even less extreme forms of meditation have proved challenging for some people; rather than being a liberating experience, they find their sense of identity and grasp on reality dissolving as they meditate. These problems are well known in some spiritual traditions where they are seen as necessary milestones on the road to enlightenment. But western medicine seems keen to take on board the supposed benefits of meditation without understanding the risks.

Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

0403A Better Mousetrap20160323

Build a better mousetrap, so the saying goes, and the world will beat a path to your door. But is it true? There are over 4,500 mousetrap patents but this doesn't stop inventors coming up with new designs - even though the basic spring-loaded trap was designed in the nineteenth century and, you might think, is unimprovable. Jolyon Jenkins talks to people who dream of riches from mousetraps, and one who has even managed it. And he invents his own, ultra-humane, hi-tech trap. Will it impress the professionals?

Presenter/Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.