Monday, October 31, 2011

"Something Borrowed"

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Something Borrowed” is an article that discusses the extent to which plagiarism amounts as theft and copying someone’s already written words or life story versus creating a work of art out of someone else’s idea, sometimes by accident. Gladwell begins by explaining the situation of Dorothy Lewis, a psychiatrist who studies serial killers. She was upset and filed a lawsuit against Byrony Lavery, a playwright, for plagiarizing her book and inaccurately plagiarizing some of her life story in Lavery’s play “Frozen.” However, Lavery explains to Gladwell that much of what she had written in her play had come from Gladwell’s profile about Lewis in a newspaper, so Lavery did not think that she was plagiarizing. She had credited much of her play to the story of Marian Partington and her murdered sister. Because she included Partington’s personal story, she believed that it had to be acknowledged, but in relation to Gladwell’s work, she thought it was legal to take without accreditation because it was “news.” Gladwell then references how musical artists had taken chords of previous songs and added them to their own new song, and it was usually never considered plagiarism because it was thought to be “art,” and there was no way to prove that one artist owns the origin of those chords. Also, Gladwell explains that it is too difficult to claim plagiarism in music, but when it comes to written words, people become more upset when their words that they wrote are being taken.

This article had an affect on me as a college student because as I am about to write a research paper, I need to be especially careful when writing about something that has already been published. It’s hard to determine between your idea and an idea that you think is yours after you already read it somewhere and you subconsciously stole it. This reminded me of how Mark Zuckerberg had to deal with a lawsuit about his stealing the idea of Facebook, and I was reminded of a quote I saw in the movie Social Network. “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chapters 6 & 7

            Chapter six of The Psychopath Test illustrates the influence of Al Dunlap, CEO of Sunbeam (among many other companies), on the once thriving town of Shubuta, Mississippi and depicts Ronson’s interview with Dunlap as he attempts to label Dunlap as a possible psychopath. Al Dunlap is known as a rich and powerful man who enjoys firing people from companies. He once fired a man who had worked at Scott for 30 years and asked the man why he would want to work somewhere that long. Ronson characterizes him as a psychopath because of his lack of empathy, as well as numerous other characteristics he possesses that parallel Bob Hare’s Psychopath Test checklist. For example, Dunlap’s mansion is full of statues and paintings of predators, showing that he is conning/manipulative. However, Dunlap thinks that all his negative qualities that should label him quite clearly as a psychopath are actually qualities of a leader. Ronson ends the chapter wondering if Dunlap really is a psychopath or if the people who supported him, such as the buyers of stocks, were the true villains.

            Chapter six was interesting because Ronson introduces people of power and wealth as psychopaths. This wasn’t particularly surprising to me because there are a lot of wealthy jerks out there, and since not all psychopaths are necessarily dangerous, Al Dunlap seems to fit the category perfectly. Although, I was somewhat confused as to whether or not Ronson believed him to be a true psychopath by the end of the chapter. Chapter seven fascinated me even more because of Charlotte Scott’s way of treating guests on TV shows as entertainment rather than people. It left me thinking that she was made into a psychopath through her work because of her eventual lack of empathy for the guests, but I’m pretty sure that that isn’t possible…. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Research Question

Research Question: How has sex grown to influence American society over the past century?

I chose this question because we have been learning about sex in Human Sexuality over the past month, and I think it would be an interesting topic to investigate. I would start looking for answers in the Human Sexuality textbook, although I don’t know if it contains much history about sex. I am thinking of starting by researching the topic of sex in the 1900’s and explaining how it has changed each decade. If this is too much information for a ten-page paper I could research major events that have influenced society’s outlook on sex. Possible answers might include how the media has influenced sex or specific political, religious, or social groups’ responses to changing sexual norms (or their influence on the change). I might have problems finding sufficient information on each decade. Also, sex is somewhat of a taboo subject, so there might not be enough information for ten pages. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Psychopath Test: Chapters 4 and 5

          In chapter five, Jon Ronson uses his newfound knowledge of detecting psychopaths by means of a specific psychopath checklist to practice his skills on a past interviewee and inmate at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility: Emmanuel “Toto” Constant. Constant used to be the leader of FRAPH, an organization that terrorized and killed supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fleeing Haiti for the US, Constant was eventually arrested by the authorities; however, he was set free and was sentenced to remaining in Queens, NY. Ronson recalls his first interview with Constant, implying that he was a psychopath because he showed false emotion when trying to cry and was convinced that he would return as the leader of Haiti. Ronson did not yet know about the psychopath test, so he did not think much of it at that time. Upon their second interview, Constant revealed that he wants people to like him so that he can manipulate them; he chooses the emotions he wants to have; and he hates weakness, signs of a psychopath.

         This chapter was interesting to me because of Jon Ronson’s fascination and use of his new “powers”. I thought it was somewhat comical that he associated detecting a psychopath with powers. If an unknowledgeable person had the checklist in front of them, they would probably be able to label Toto a psychopath as well. I was shocked that the US set free a leader of a mass murder organization on the basis of possibly revealing foreign policy. That sounds like blackmail to me. Nonetheless, chapters four and five were beneficial in helping understand how a true psychopath acts and their enjoyment of manipulation. It scares me to think that there are psychopaths running around in society, possibly in the government or Wall Street, with so much power.