Author Archives: chelseal

Hitler and the Truth

We spent a lot of time in class discussing truth and fiction, and the subjective roles they play in the compilation of both this story and Skloot’s novel on the Lacks family. We have criticized people for claiming truth when it might be there, and have criticized people for not having truth where it should have been. I believe that Trevor Roper concluded this novel the way that Skloot ought to have concluded it, recognizing that the ongoing Hitler myth phenomenon may continue to live out in his pages. However, do we think this serves as a safety net for himself, or an excuse to write something more entertaining, like we have accused Skloot of doing.

I just want to point out how fascinating it is that we have spent classes upon classes, hours upon hours reading a novel about this man, Hitler. I love that humanity is so fascinated about a man who is caused so much wrong. Don’t you think that we would shudder at the name of someone so awful, who committed these crimes, kind of like “Lord Voldemort” for Harry Potter? Why do we want to know everything about his life, every detail, what his interests where, who his family was, etc?

Nan Keohane’s View on Women Leaders

Nan talked about the tendency women have to take low profile leadership roles. She explained how women prefer high impact rather than high profile roles, and prefer concentrating on issues they care deeply about rather than concentrating on themselves. She said that male leadership tends to be the visual kinds of leadership; politics, big businesses, religion all put a huge emphasis on personal qualities and strengths, and tend to lean towards a male leading figure. Contrastingly, women are the behind the scenes leaders, who lean more towards non profits, and teach for America. What I found possibly the most interesting was Nan’s mention of the “Occupy Wall St” movement, which she noted failed because of the lack of traditional leadership. There was no singular leader behind the movement, no face of inspiration, no ultimate voice of reason. They chose to make their movement “different”, equal, calling themselves all leaders, which lead to disorganization, and ultimate failure.

I personally had a tough time relating to this talk. I really think that I am a member of the “exception to the rule” crowd. I see myself as a leader, and a vocal one at that. I don’t mind the spotlight, and I don’t shy away behind good causes. I think that there is a generational separation between Nan and the millennials that may have caused her slight inaccuracy. I believe that there is far less of a sex gap between men and women these days, and separations between gender biases are slowly but surely diminishing. I come from a family of strong willed, independent women, went to an all girls leadership high school, and now live on a campus that promotes women leadership. No where in my life have I seem women afraid to take charge, hiding, not eager to take credit for their work and accomplishments. I believe that stereotypes and expectations are the only wedge that divides women and men when it comes to visual leadership, rather than skill or preference. I know if I had the choice, I would be out front, rather than behind a desk.

Lacks Family Presentation

The Lacks Family have currently been engrossed in the media after the publishing of Skloot’s novel. Having read the book a few times, I was very excited to hear her family members speak. Her two grandchildren spoke in an open forum where we were able to ask questions about their family, their grandmother, the book, and anything else we wanted. When I sat listening to her grandchildren speak, two generations separated from the main character of the novel, I could immediately tell that the family still faced a lot of the struggles that the Lacks faced when Henrietta was alive. The grandchildren were very clearly not well spoken, something I could not wrap my head around, and simply could not get over. They seemed to not have had a great education, and often were unable to clearly answer questions, to formulate responses to questions that really addressed the matters in a clear and coherent way. In the audience, I didn’t necessarily focus on the responses themselves but the ways the responses played out. I could see an economic and educational disparity between myself and her grandchildren, which really upset me. You would think that SOMEONE out there would spend the money to properly educate the grandchildren of the source of the HeLa cells. Skloot made enough money from this book, where were the college degrees, the speech consultants, etc? I was really upset that I was just able to tell that these people were raised in poverty and that the family was skill in a vulnerable situation.

I really had a upsetting feeling throughout the talk that a lot of the things that the grandchildren were saying were in fact scripted. They kept making claims like “we love Johns Hopkins!”, “we don’t hate the doctors”, “they have done great things for our grandmother after she died!”. Why are they saying this? They seemed so angry in the book! What happened, what was the change of heart? I couldn’t help but wonder…. would Johns Hopkins attack them if they were to sit in front of audiences and tell the truth, tell us how they really feel, create a public, verbal outrage towards the doctors and the hospital. Honestly, I felt like the talk was almost fake, and I had high expectations that weren’t satisfied. I wanted to learn more, to really engross myself in the novel and the Lacks family and the plights that they have faced and continue to face. I felt like I received 45 minutes of the same response, the same scripted claims of “I don’t know that.. but my dad would say… we don’t hold any grudges”… etc.

Hedy Lamar and the Media

Hedy Lamar was never a name that I had ever heard of before the talk I attended. However, Rhode’s forum opened my eyes to both her life and the Hollywood Industry. Lamar was a movie star and an innovational engineer, and uncommon and eye opening combination. I believe that in today’s media, once a woman is put in the spotlight, with the name “Hollywood Star” attached to her name, all intelligence importance goes out the window. How many people know that Natalie Portman, Oscar winner and star of Black Swan, graduated from Harvard with a degree in psychology? Everyone views her as the beautiful, girl next door, the face of Chanel no. 5, admired for her looks and the roles she has been selected to play, rather than what she says and what is in her mind.

I struggled through this talk realizing that Hedy Lamar faced the same plight. She was labeled the “most beautiful woman in the world”. There went anyones concern for her education, for her mind, for her ideas, and intelligence. Rhodes noted that she felt trapped, and that the idea of frequency hopping that she developed was most likely swept under the rug had she been a prominent male figure. She was first and foremost an inventor, and her innovations are what she prided herself in, what she found her self worth in. Not her roles, not her millions of dollars, not her jewels, and not her various husbands. I think it is interesting to hear Hedy’s story and reevaluate the way we view celebrities today, and to question the ways in which the media portrays them.

Criticizing the Critic – Skloot v Kumar

I think the article “An Open Letter” was extremely thought provoking, persuasive, agreeable, and yet questionable. First I want to criticize her criticism of Skloot’s portrayal of the black Turners Station population. Kumar seems to have a huge problem with the way Skloot highlights the difference in language between herself and the Lacks family. She says “there is a marked contrast between Skloot’s language (“white and agnostic in the Pacific Northwest,” “uncomfortable” with the black religiosity that represents)  and the “black” language (“Christian from the South”)  she purports to represent faithfully. The contrast reveals a racialized power hierarchy imbedded in the language itself.”. Being lucky enough to have seen two members of the Lacks family speak, I have to go ahead and call her invalid on this point. I don’t think it is meant to be a racist portrayal, it was just Skloot portraying the truth. After a few years of being in the spotlight, the Lacks grandchildren were still not the most well spoken individuals. These were the grandchildren, two generations below Henrietta with supposedly greater access to education. They were on tour giving speeches, one would think they would properly prepare for such events and make an effort to change their speech. However, this was not the case. You could tell from the way that Henrietta’s grandchildren spoke that they were not highly educated, that they did grow up in a rather poor environment. I think that Skloot was focusing on the economic issues that faced the Lacks family, rather than their race. No matter what race a person was, I still would have been surprised to hear a not well-spoken individual coming to a college to give an academic, literature based lecture. I believe Skloot was highlighting the poverty that this family faced through her verbal notation, because a large “elephant in the room” question that you are faced with after reading this book is whether or not the family deserves monetary com pension.

Additionally, I really loved Kumar’s suggestion that the book must have been somewhat fabricated. After reading the novel a second time, I completely had the feeling that some of it had to be made up. How could Skloot know all this? How could the Lacks family really know? It had been so many years between Skloots arrival and Henriettas death, how could they ensure accuracy? Would the book really have been as entertaining of a read if there had not been some embellishment or enhancement here or there? I think that Skloot prides herself on producing an educational novel that doesn’t read like an educational novel. This book is first and foremost a page turner! I have no doubt in my mind that Skloot was willing to sacrifice some added fiction in order to get the book at high sales. Whether or not she wanted higher sales the fame or the awareness is another question, but there was definitely some fact manipulation. When at the talk with the Lacks grandchildren, they even mentioned that they were weary at some parts, left thinking “… how much of this is the truth and how much is here for the fun of it?”. In the end, I think Skloot was willing to sacrifice fact for awareness.


Saving the Fish

I was both very struck and very excited about the last few paragraphs in Diamonds “Big Businesses” Chapter. Never once did I think that it was my responsibility to demand, that I was the one who truly controlled the economy, the development of technology and products that the market offers. Sitting down and really thinking about it, it is shockingly true. If everyone in the world decided to only by environmentally friendly products, companies would be running to the drawing board to figure out how to beat out one another and great the environmentally “friendliest” product that the wold can allow for.

I found the section on the fishing industry possibly the most interesting, because it is an industry that I never directly associated with natural resources and environmental issues before. For survival, we grow livestock on our lands and regulate its growth to be later brought to slaughterhouses and sold as food in grocery stores. I never really thought to recognize that the fishing industry does not quite work in that manner. So how do countries deal with this tragedy of the commons, the inability to determine who’s fish is their own to catch? What do we do when there are no fish left? Should we try to create a regulated fish industry near our own lands so we are not to disturb the dwindling natural life of the sea. Would this, then in turn, save the by-catch deaths of dolphins, whales, seals, and sea turtles who lose their lives when caught by netting? I have heard somewhere that near 50% of the fish that we are accustomed to have actually either gone extinct or completely revolved into different fish, because of our over fishing and the tragedy of the commons. I believe that the MSC is a great way to incentivize environmentally friendly fishing, but ultimately, I believe more can be done. Truly, I don’t believe Trader Joe’s would turn away a good delivery of fish at a decent price if there happened to have been a dolphin who died in the process. There needs to be more to save the wildlife and prevent extinction.

Easter Island Theories – Why?

I find the article “Rats, not men, to blame for death of Easter Island” rather humorous. I think that humans are fascinated with the collapse of civilization. We dread it, yet we obsesses ourselves with it, in attempts to learn everything we possibly can about it. I think back to all the famous collapses; Rome, Atlantis, the Roanoke Colony, etc. They have all occurred hundreds of years ago, yet we still study their struggles intensely and assume that we have figured their collapse down to a science? Why?

Why are people still researching Easter Island’s collapse thousands of years after its civilization disappeared? Why is considered ground breaking if the downfall of this once luscious island was destructed by rats rather than people? I ignorantly don’t see how this research will effect any of our future development, and don’t see the need for research into the exact causes and exact means of destruction. However, I find it so interesting how invested humans are into these answers. We NEED to know how, why, by whom. Even though knowing whether it was rats or humans who destroyed Easter Island, we have an obsessive desire to know the facts, to know more, to be able to recite everything we can about everything we can. We hate the unknown and we do everything we can to prevent it. We love being right, and we love being able to think that obtaining this knowledge may help prevent these terrors from happening in the future. Whether or not this is true, I still find it interesting that someone invested their life to reassess the hypothesis of the destruction of Easter Island. Unlike most newspaper articles, there are no comments underneath by concerned readers. It seems that no one has anything to say about the topic, nothing about this seems earth shattering to them. However, I believe it is simply human nature that we will sleep better at night, knowing that there is one less mystery we need to concern ourselves with.

Marketing a Science?

As a marketing major myself, I have never once considered the world of marketing in anyway synonymous or parallel to the sciences. In fact, part of the reason I planted myself in the marketing realm was for my sheer fear of sciences and my overwhelmingly creative mind that inhibits me from understanding words like “empirical” and prohibits me from understanding the differences between enzymes and proteins (is there a one?). I keep a one hundred foot distance from Gottwald at all times, and my eyes glaze over when reading about the “scientific method” and “epistemological anarchy”.

Therefore, it must come to no surprise that the “Marketing, Scientific Progress, and Scientific Method” reading caught my eye. I will admit, I struggled through reading the elaborate scientific process explanations for logical empiricism and falsificationism, but the last paragraph really struck a note with me, and I immediately thought back to a case study I recently did for my Principles of Marketing Class. It is stated that marketing requires a “greater commitment to theory-driven programmatic research, aimed at solving cognitively and socially significant problems” and I agree to that statement to an extent. Yes, to market a product, there needs to be extensive research behind it. You have to consider the “four P’s“; product, placement, price, and promotion. The product has to be aimed at a target market, and in order to do so effectively, you must understand thoroughly what is is they are looking for, how their generation responds to different advertising methods, what it is they would be looking to achieve from that product, etc.

I think back to Pink, a highly successful brand that Victoria’s Secret launched around 2006, that failed miserably at reaching its target market. Although the Pink brand was able to rake in billions of dollars, it did so overwhelmingly through the “tween” and “mom” markets, when they had developed the brand and invested countless hours and dollars to aiming at college females. In fact, their target market was essentially uninterested in the Pink brand, because they thought of it as something their younger sisters wore. The research done by Victoria’s Secret offered all the correct ways to target college kids, but from the wrong time period. Unlike what Anderson argues, there is no way to have an “exemplary theory” behind marketing, because everything is contextual; constantly changing. There are too many segmentations of markets, too many varying products and services, and countless changes to technology that keep the world of marketing on its toes. The way you target market a one week could change completely 5 weeks later. There may be a consistent way to test markets for most efficient results, however, there will not be any 1+1 formula that will equal success in the marketing realm, and therefore, I don’t think that marketing is a science, because it is not constant, and there is no real rhyme or reason behind the things that work. As my marketing professor says, it really all just boils down to”luck”. 

Fallacious Reasoning in The News

Critical thinking is all about reasoning; choices between accepting or denying arguments that lead to conclusions. Depending on the mind or context being referred to, there are several different ways in which people reason with themselves to lead to their final conclusion. Fallacious reasoning is false reasoning that doesn’t make sense, a conclusion that was approached in an incorrect way. The path that is taken to this kind of conclusion is not clear and tends to be poor, and can sometimes be an oversimplified approach to a question.

An article entitled “Obama’s Fallacious Moral Reasoning on Health Care Reform” by Fox News uses the idea of fallacious reasoning and creates a deeper issue in applying it to public policy. The article argues that Obama has felt obliged to use his moral reasoning as the fuel behind his new health care plan, that is intended to supply vulnerable patients with basic health care treatment in ways that they are able to afford. He claims it is an unselfish act, not a political act, and “[he has] health insurance”. He ties the ethics behind health insurance into his argument, in a way that the author finds fallacious. He implies that the only choices are between his health care and no health care what so ever. There are chances later on for further development of a health care plan. The author believes that Obama is simply oblivious to any conditions that would make the American people resistant to pass the bill immeadietly, nor does he recognize any variation in what should be the American “moral imperative”. Whether or not I personally agree with this article, I find it an interesting way to view the concepts of fallacious reasoning within a political standpoint.