Just things noted from today:
- I think one of the things that gets libertarians into so much trouble, PR-wise, is that so many muddle-headed uses of the idea that people are free-to-whatever get used when they clearly don’t make sense. For example, yes, people are free to kill themselves, but anyone who’s talked to someone who was talked out of suicide knows that usually, the ostensible desire to die often evaporates and people are glad they were talked out of it.
An analogy popped into my head this evening, marking a student’s defense of plastic surgery, which was about plastic surgery and how we should accept it because women want it, because women often attain more success after getting it, and because it’s people’s own business when they choose to have plastic surgery despite the side effects. Nowhere was the question raised about WHY these particular facts are true — why mostly women want it, why women who have it get more material success in not only the entertainment field but in professional fields as well, and why people would be willing to face the side effects. Nowhere was it asked whether this might trace back to a natural imbalance in the valuation of appearance that has been unnaturally pushed to extremes in particular societies.
It made me think of a machine that some imaginary Canadian invents, called Mr. Sawchuck’s Whitener. It’s made to “help” Aboriginal Canadians, and it works like this: when they walk into the machine, it does it’s thing, and flash-boom-bam, they walk out looking exactly like white people. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Well, while not all Indians want to use it, among those who do want to, it’s mostly nonwhites seek it out; they tend to enjoy much greater success after they use it; and they’re willing to take risks such as the melting flesh, loss of family relationships, and a change in political status. So, hell, the machine’s a great invention, right?
There’s something deeply wrong — deeply superficial, and deeply unbalanced, and one would even say deeply ill — with the society that embraces such a machine. But the machine is really a pretty close analogy to plastic surgery, isn’t it? Except that instead of race, gender is the dividing line between those pressured and those who seem not to be?
- Some people really, truly believe that kimchi can cure cancer, SARS, AIDS, and anything else you throw at it. So much so that it’s the first thing they think of when asked to outline an essay. I warned this guy that he’s going to (A) need to explain how, in each case, it works, and (B) find supporting research that backs up the case, which (C) explain the difference in rates between, say, and obvious case like stomach cancer occurrence in Korea and, for example, Mongolia (where people are genetically the same, but don’t tend to eat such spicy food, like kimchi). Which isn’t going to be fun, because the rate of cancer is higher in Asia — including in Korea — than almost anywhere else in the world.
- There’s a kind of high that certain people get just from arguing about something with someone. I’ve been arguing with someone in the last day in the comments section to an obscure post on this very blog, and it’s been shifting gears into something increasingly potentially nasty. But though I keep meaning to just ban him and delete the comments that make up the argument, since I think both of us are just arguing more for the high of arguing than in the hope the other is listening or thinking things through, I keep leaving it open and letting him get his little attempted snipes (more of that libertarian muddle-headedness), so I can chop his comments to bits with my own fiery, viciously sensible rhetoric.
I suspect that there’s probably something very deeply ingrained in the human mind that predisposes us to this kind of behaviour — some deep sense that pecking order must be established and that shows of power — cerebral, as much as physical — are the way to do this. So, we pummel people into submission when they transgress, such as by posting snipes on our websites.
- Blogging is a really tempting distraction from real work. Time for dinner and more outline-checking.
- R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet is really, really awful. Like, verging on amusing, awful. I got curious after I watched the South Park episode mocking Scientology, and so I watched the first 6 sections of it. Well, actually I sort-of watched, and sort of did other things at the same time, only glance to the window when things got vaguely more interesting (read: outrageous). I am not sure I want to see the rest of it, my mind is still hurting from the bits I’ve already seen…
- Another common writing error, one I remember seeing sometimes in Montreal, though less than I see here, is the “outline-as-shopping-list”. After a week of concentration on explaining how essays must be focused on a single clear thesis, and that paragraphs in the body support that thesis, and then some explicit work on constructing outlines, you still get a number of kids who just write shopping lists of things that pop into their heads when they are preparing the outline… no flow, no connection, no thesis, not an opinion in sight. It’s very likely not a second-language issue, since tons of people start out writing that way. In my own way, so did I, way back when I was younger. But it’s still a bit frustrating to see, after so much time spent on that one simple principle, and after most of the class gets it. It must be frustrating for the kids who just don’t get it, too…