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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Zombie 101

A university course on Zombies found some interesting psychology and human anthropology lessons by studying its students. In a classroom of over 300 students there was laughter at the original "Day of the Living Dead", a film that at the time was considered the most scary horror film ever made, and which somewhat accurately represented what Zombies are, if they exist. The Haitian Zombie's are or were drug induced slow moving followers and/or dead who came back to life, rotting body parts falling apart and with a thirst for human meat and blood. The same students were awed and silent during a modern Zombie film with fast moving Zombies who looked and acted as if they were hyper-alive, counter to the legends and beliefs that gave rise to the Zombie tradition..

Zombies of the 1950s to 70's were popular as part of the fear and paranoia that existed with the slow crawl of communism and the ever present threat of a nuclear attack. Today's zombies,  and in fact the turnover in politics and of television programming, reflects an impatience with whatever is current and the need for fast change, accelerated by computers, cell phones and a feeling of unrest at what is to come.
So this Halloween we offer more on the Zombie legends.

8 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Zombies

1. They Are Everywhere 
Across many cultures around the world, there is a concern that the dead could return to walk among the living. Sometimes these ghouls are merely tricksters who are having fun at our expense; other times they are vengeful creatures who were treated poorly in life and are exacting revenge. Perhaps it's a mother who died in childbirth. But there are very few places in the world where you won't find them.
2. Most Will Eat You If You Get Too Close
These days, zombies are basically understood to be ghouls who consume the living. In fact, a large proportion of those who study zombies argue that they are basically a metaphor for consumption. George Romero's Dawn of the Dead famously suggested this, showing zombies wandering through a mall in a strangely similar way to when they were humans. So if zombies represent how we are when we are at our worst (say, the morning after Thanksgiving outside an electronics store that is practically giving flat-screen televisions away), we should be very afraid.
3. Zombies Don't Always Attack The Living
In some cultures, including much of the African and Caribbean traditions from which the word "zombie" originated, zombies are more mindless servants that do the (more often bad, but sometimes quite neutral) bidding of a zombie keeper who has possessed them. In such cases, zombies tend to represent particular kinds of slave or labor relationships.
4. A Zombie Attack Is Probably The Worst Thing That Can Happen To You
The reason zombies are so terrifying to us is because they represent one of our greatest fears: a loss of our autonomy, our ability to control our bodies and minds. It is fitting that these monsters have been largely represented as rotting corpses, because that's literally what they do to human beings: They decompose us individually and assimilate us into a giant, undifferentiated horde, just like the Borg in Star Trek (which essentially was one, roving, intergalactic zombie).
5. Of All The Undead Things You Could Become, Zombies Are The Worst
As opposed to vampires, which are often represented as seductive, youthful superhuman creatures (or more recently as overly emotive teenagers), zombies are almost always cursed with an irreversible, less-than-attractive subhumanity in the single-minded pursuit of some task or thing (such as flesh or brains). With only a few imaginative exceptions, zombies cannot love, laugh or live freely.
6. They Have Become Fast — Because Our World Is Fast
Zombies, like LOLcats videos, have gone viral; and when things go viral, they move fast. As the themes of zombie films have shifted from Cold War worries about the slow chemical effects of radiological exposure (the source of zombie outbreaks in films like Night of the Living Dead) to terrorism-era fears about rapid bacteriological exposure (for example, in 28 Days Later orResident Evil), the zombies have similarly accelerated. The more rapid our lives, communications, transportation and technology, the more quickly threats to them are experienced.
7. Oh, Yes, Zombies Are Real
Scientists have discovered and manufactured bacteria, viruses and parasites that have zombie-inducing qualities. And stem cell and nanotechnology research offer real possibilities for the reanimation of tissue. There is also significant debate as to whether zombie neurotoxins exist; there is a whole branch of pharmacology devoted to determining whether such compounds can be found in nature.
8. You May Have Already Been Bitten
The digital age is beginning to fundamentally change the ways in which human beings interact with each other. Immersion into our smart phones and our second lives in virtual worlds offer novel and exciting experiences, but also erode the lived, bodily dimensions of our humanity. The impact of technology on society is hardly new, but it certainly has accelerated in the past 20 years. So given the recent explosion of the undead in popular culture, one should wonder whether all of this might be suggesting an imminent zombie apocalypse? Or, perhaps, we are already in the thick of it.

FIRST published 10/30/2012

Balancing bias and reports on media bias

By Art Lynch

Viewing various YouTube videos on "media bias" illustrates why so many Americans, including the 18 to 40 age group most likely to use YouTube, see the media as liberal.

These reports keep repeating false or deliberately misleading information as fact (just as happens in the greater hemisphere of politics) and sedom show bias on the part of competing news sources (Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Las Vegas Review Journal, Las Vegas Sun and so on). They are most often very one sided in trying to "teach" about media bias.

Instead of using actual academic studies from large and small institutions, the videos (some of which purport to be academic) overuse a false statistic of 93% of journalist being Democrat, and therefore "liberal" in their reporting bias.

This ignores that Democrats are not all liberal, and that even if they were they have to answer to editors and owners who are decidedly conservative in bias. This is the equalizing effect these reports ignore. And of course independent verifiable academic studies show that reporter actually reflect the overall American public and voter registration (with the exception that thee are more Libertarian reporters than in the general population). That means a slight, and very slight, Democratic bias, with that bias being highly regional and local and not over the entire nation.

They also fail to align this bias trend with the degeneration of journalism as a whole, presenting journalism in an ideal that never existed, but came close during the short "golden age of journalism" between World War II and the late 1970s..

Pew Trust, Gallop, Annenberg are labeled "liberal" by conservatives who disagree with these large sample and scientific method polling and survey organizations and academic methodologist. In fact the will say that "academia" is idea that may have been true twenty or thirty years ago but does not hold up with current policies and the registration of professors and administration in most academic institution (there are conservative or liberal leans in all organizations).

These YouTube Generation videos, which look non-bias and educational, also do not follow the very basis they purport to follow, a fair and balanced report.

In one a CNN reporter is skewered, and maybe justifiably so as CNN has become purely ratings driven, but did not do the same with the bias coverage of FOX and the equally bias coverage by MSNBC. Nor did they go mainstream to ABC, NBC, CBS, AP, Reuters and the BBC.

Be aware of manipulation by professors, like me, deliberate of just by being themselves,but also be aware of the bias of all sources, from YouTube posts to Facebook, New York Times to the acknowledged somewhat neutral Christian Science Monitor.

You always have a filter. All organizations, decision makers, reporters and individuals have biases, prejudices and their own way of filtering information.

Keep that in mind rather than pointing to any source as "proof" of anything, at least any non-jurried, non scholarly, non-scientific method based source. 

Full disclosure. I am a later day baby boomer, with a Great Society / Social responsibility bias toward the middle class and little guy, most often voting Democrat. I believe in being my brothers keeper and that that should extend of our overall society including government.

A bias, but one that is tempered with exploring both sides and the right of all individuals to use their critical thinking skills and be their own masters.

-Art Lynch

10/12/12 first published

Listening and Discussions

The Art of Thinking. A Guide to Critical and Creative Thought, Ninth Edition 

From: Chapter 1: Developing Your Thinking: An Overview

ISBN: 9780205668335 Author: Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
copyright © 2009 Pearson Education

At its best, discussion deepens understanding and promotes problem solving and decision making. At its worst, it frays nerves, creates animosity, and leaves important issues unresolved. Unfortunately, the most prominent models for discussion in contemporary culture—radio and TV talk shows—often produce the latter effects.

Many hosts demand that their guests answer complex questions with simple “yes” or “no” answers. If the guests respond that way, they are attacked for oversimplifying. If, instead, they try to offer a balanced answer, the host shouts, “You’re not answering the question,” and proceeds to answer it himself. Guests who agree with the host are treated warmly; others are dismissed as ignorant or dishonest. As often as not, when two guests are debating, each takes a turn interrupting while the other shouts, “Let me finish.” Neither shows any desire to learn from the other. Typically, as the show draws to a close, the host thanks the participants for a “vigorous debate” and promises the audience more of the same next time.

Here are some simple guidelines for ensuring that the discussions you engage in—in the classroom, on the job, or at home—are more civil, meaningful, and productive than what you see on TV. By following these guidelines, you will set a good example for the people around you.

Whenever Possible, Prepare in Advance


Not every discussion can be prepared for in advance, but many can. An agenda is usually circulated several days before a business or committee meeting. And in college courses, the assignment schedule provides a reliable indication of what will be discussed in class on a given day. Use this advance information to prepare for discussion. Begin by reflecting on what you already know about the topic. 

Then decide how you can expand your knowledge and devote some time to doing so. (Fifteen or 20 minutes of focused searching on the Internet can produce a significant amount of information on almost any subject.) Finally, try to anticipate the different points of view that might be expressed in the discussion, and consider the relative merits of each. Keep your conclusions very tentative at this point so that you will be open to the facts and interpretations others will present.

Set Reasonable Expectations


Have you ever left a discussion disappointed that others hadn’t abandoned their views and embraced yours? Have you ever felt offended when someone disagreed with you or asked you what evidence you had to support your opinion? If the answer to either question is yes, you probably expect too much of others. People seldom change their minds easily or quickly, particularly in the case of long-held convictions. And when they encounter ideas that differ from their own, they naturally want to know what evidence supports those ideas. Expect to have your ideas questioned, and be cheerful and gracious in responding.

Leave Egotism and Personal Agendas at the Door


To be productive, discussion requires an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility. Egotism produces disrespectful attitudes toward others—notably, “I’m more important than other people,” “My ideas are better than anyone else’s,” and “Rules don’t apply to me.” Personal agendas, such as dislike for another participant or excessive zeal for a point of view, can lead to personal attacks and unwillingness to listen to others’ views.

Contribute But Don’t Dominate


If you are the kind of person who loves to talk and has a lot to say, you probably contribute more to discussions than other participants. On the other hand, if you are more reserved, you may seldom say anything. There is nothing wrong with being either kind of person. However, discussions tend to be most productive when everyone contributes ideas. For this to happen, loquacious people need to exercise a little restraint, and more reserved people need to accept responsibility for sharing their thoughts.

Avoid Distracting Speech Mannerisms


Such mannerisms include starting one sentence and then abruptly switching to another, mumbling or slurring your words, and punctuating every phrase or clause with audible pauses (“um,” “ah,”) or meaningless expressions (“like,” “you know,” “man”). These annoying mannerisms distract people from your message. To overcome them, listen to yourself when you speak. Even better, tape your conversations with friends and family (with their permission), then play the tape back and listen to yourself. And whenever you are engaged in a discussion, aim for clarity, directness, and economy of expression.

Listen Actively


When the participants don’t listen to one another, discussion becomes little more than serial monologue—each person taking a turn at speaking while the rest ignore what is being said. This can happen quite unintentionally because the mind can process ideas faster than the fastest speaker can deliver them. Your mind may get tired of waiting and wander about aimlessly like a dog off its leash. In such cases, instead of listening to what is being said, you may think about the speaker’s clothing or hairstyle or look outside the window and observe what is happening there. Even when you are making a serious effort to listen, it is easy to lose focus. If the speaker’s words trigger an unrelated memory, you may slip away to that earlier time and place. If the speaker says something you disagree with, you may begin framing a reply. The best way to maintain your attention is to be alert for such distractions and to resist them. Strive to enter the speaker’s frame of mind and understand each sentence as it is spoken and to connect it with previous sentences. Whenever you realize your mind is wandering, drag it back to the task.

Judge Ideas Responsibly


Ideas range in quality from profound to ridiculous, helpful to harmful, ennobling to degrading. It is therefore appropriate to pass judgment on them. However, fairness demands that you base your judgment on thoughtful consideration of the overall strengths and weaknesses of the ideas, not on your initial impressions or feelings. Be especially careful with ideas that are unfamiliar or different from your own because those are the ones you will be most inclined to deny a fair hearing.

Resist the Urge to Shout or Interrupt


No doubt you understand that shouting and interrupting are rude and disrespectful behaviors, but do you realize that in many cases they are also a sign of intellectual insecurity? It’s true. If you really believe your ideas are sound, you will have no need to raise your voice or to silence the other person. Even if the other person resorts to such behavior, the best way to demonstrate confidence and character is by refusing to reciprocate. Make it your rule to disagree without being disagreeable.

Communication Review Links..for speeches and study

The right of free speech may be under attack through intimidation

Do we have the right to say what we think, feel or to make statements that challenge, or is that right given up when you accept a state paycheck?

An open records request by a conservative think tank in Michigan seeks all emails related to the collective bargaining standoff in Wisconsin from labor studies professors at three public universities. The request came just days after the Republican Party of Wisconsin made a similar request of a professor at that state's flagship university in Madison. 

The professors in question say the requests are highly unusual, smack of McCarthyism and are an attack on academic freedom. They point to the "big brother" attempt to silence dissent and the beginning of potential totalitarism.

Republicans counter that they don't need to give a reason for such "routine" requests and call it chilling that they would come under fire for "lawfully seeking information about their government." 

Yet this has never been done before by political operatives. The Freedom of Information Act was conceived to allow the press to do its job and allow individuals to find out about files about themselves or attacks on their character and, oddly enough, privacy. In part it grew from heavy handed intimidation by the FBI and other government agencies against dissenters in the mid to late 20th Century.

The inference is that if you speak any way but our way, your job may be in danger. 

Professors jobs, in part, are to stimulate thought and to challenge students toward critical thinking and free speech, whatever their views may be. To do so, open statements of beliefs and views by the professor are needed, or the professor cannot challenge through dissent.

Then too there is the issue of who funds the conservative think tank that is filing the actions. Heavy and some high profile contributors to Tea Party candidates and the Republican Party dominate the list of the "board" of the organization behind these particular "freedom of information" act requests.

To listen to a story from National Public Radio's Morning Edition, click here.

Posted 9-12-2011