Monday, October 31, 2011

Something Borrowed

In “Something Borrowed,” Malcolm Gladwell addresses the issue of plagiarism and what constitutes it.  In this essay, Gladwell describes a personal encounter he had with plagiarism earlier in his career involving a British playwright, Bryony Lavery, who wrote the hit Broadway play “Frozen.”  Problems arose when Dorothy Lewis, a psychiatrist who studied serial killers, realized that parts of the play closely resembled much of her own life story, and found that pieces of  her own work as well as Gladwell’s were included the play without their permission.  Though Gladwell was not particularly upset about the issue, the matter prompted him to further explore the idea of plagiarism, intellectual property doctrine, and what exactly qualifies as plagiarism.  He goes on to describe various cases of plagiarism in music over time.  Gladwell wonders whether something should truly be considered plagiarism if it uses someone’s words but applies a different meaning to it.  In some respects, he feels that this form of “plagiarism” is acceptable because modifying someone else’s original idea could produce an even greater result.

My initial reaction after reading just a few pages of this essay, especially after Gladwell began talking about how he felt okay with Lavery’s use of his work, was that Gladwell would basically warrant plagiarism in the rest of the article. And to be honest, I got a little excited.  I have never personally been one for plagiarizing, nor do I ever plan on doing it intentionally, but for some weird reason I became excited when he started defending plagiarism! Overall, it was an intriguing article with an interesting perspective that made me reexamine my own beliefs on plagiarism.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just Mad Enough

In chapter 7 of The Psychopath Test, Ronson recalls a conversation he once had with a friend named Adam Curtis, who believes that journalists create stories out of fragments.  Ronson wonders what other methods exist for finding “gems”.  This leads him to a woman named Charlotte Scott, who worked on various reality TV shows that centered on broken families and twisted relationships.  Her job was to find candidates who were “the right sort of madness”; and the way she did this was by finding out what type of medication they were on.  For example, people on Prozac were “just mad enough” because they weren’t too depressed, yet were depressed enough to seek help.  The risky side to this method, however, was that it often toyed with people’s families, including their children, and resulted in destroyed family lives, and even in some cases suicide.  After hearing the stories of Charlotte Scott, Ronson concludes that his method is much better than hers. 

What I liked most about these chapters, was how the characters mentioned each referenced something that I’ve seen or heard about it my daily life.  For example, I thought it was interesting to hear about Charlotte Scott’s involvement with the shows like Jerry Springer, Wife Swap, and Extreme Makeover– shows that I watch! It was almost like a “behind-the-scenes” look at what goes on in the making of them.  I guess I never really thought about how much these families are impacted all in the name of entertainment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blog Assignment #3

What are the benefits of chocolate?

I think this would be an interesting topic to write a paper on because I know there have been vast amounts of research done on it in recent years.  For my paper, I would first explore the nutritional benefits of it.  How does chocolate help you meet your daily dietary needs?  I would then talk about the psychological benefits of chocolate.  Chocolate can be a great stress reliever…why is that?  Finally, I want to learn the health benefits of chocolate, because I know there are many.  I did a simple Google search on “what are the benefits of chocolate,” and found endless websites pertaining to that topic, so I don’t think it will be difficult finding information.  Since it has been researched so much, I also think I could probably find a few good research studies on the effects of chocolate as well. 

I think that I will probably find more health benefits than anything.  Some problems that may arise might be finding accurate sources.  Most of what is on the web is second or third hand information, so I will have to make sure that it is a reliable source.  One other thing that I might look into is how chocolate was used throughout history for nutritional, health, and psychological purposes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Psychopath Test - Chapters 4 & 5

In chapter five of The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson reflects on his experience with Toto Constant, a man from Haiti who was accused of many acts of violence in his home country and was banished to Queens, NY.  Ronson begins by describing his first interview with Toto in Queens back in the 90’s where he recalled Toto “fake crying”.  Years later, after having attended a three-day conference in which Bob Hare explained the PCL-R Checklist, a list of 20 qualities that help identify psychopaths, Ronson again interviewed Toto in Coxsackie Correctional Facility in order to test his newfound psychopath-detecting skills.  Though Toto had initially said that his main purpose for observing people was to figure out how to make them “like” him, Jon was able to uncover that his real motives involved a plan to win their affection in order to manipulate them.  Finally, at the end of chapter five, Jon discusses Bob Hare’s book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work and his theory about corporate psychopaths. This book discusses the conspiracy theory of “executive snakes” ruling the world and makes Jon wonder if there might be some way of proving it.

I found these two chapters to be the most interesting chapters of the entire book; however, as a result they have also made me become much more neurotic.  I find myself wondering how many people I pass on a daily basis walking to class are psychopaths, or wondering if anyone on my floor has any characteristics of one! I, too, feel like I have become a psychopath detective and it is quite entertaining.  Also, I realized that I am more like Jon Ronson than I thought. When he mentioned Toto living in Queens, I was instantly overcome with a flash of anxiety as I wondered how many people like Toto could be residing in Madison.