Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Dimple Effect

by Madeleine Kando

Have you noticed that the majority of people you see on t.v. have dimples? It makes you wonder if their job application includes a line-item that reads: 'Are you or have you ever been endowed with dimples?'

I don't know what it is about dimples. It certainly draws the attention, like an exclamation mark after a sentence. When I watch an anchor with dimples, I stop listening to what she says, completely caught up in what her dimples are doing. They come and go, grow and vanish, travel up and down. Dimples have a life of their own.

I suppose dimples are endearing, it gives someone a cute appearance, reminiscent of a child. It makes you want to squeeze those cheeks. Actors also are often blessed with this kind of deformity. Yes, it is considered a deformity by the medical profession. It is caused by a split in the zygomaticus major, the muscle that pulls on the corners of your mouth when you smile. Normal people, like you an me have a single zygomaticus, but dimpled people have a zygomaticus in the shape of a catapult. The skin gets pulled in when they smile, like the strap on the catapult. Think of it as making a quilt, make a stitch, pull on the string and voila, a dimple appears. Read more...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Happy Un-Birthday

by Madeleine Kando

It's my birthday today. Everyone expects me to be happy on the one day in the year when I cannot ignore how old I am. The rest of the year, when I can delude myself about my age, I am happy, but then my birthday comes along and everything gets ruined.

What is it about birthdays anyway? I suppose it is a way to celebrate the day we were given life, but then why not celebrate that gift every day? Isn't every day of our lives a new gift? The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland had it right: there are 364 un-birthdays and only one birthday in a year to celebrate. Some religions even forbid celebrating birthdays, because they see it as turning attention to the self, away from God. Celebrating birthdays has a pagan origin, which God doesn't like. It is rooted in astrology and only Kings and other important people had birthdays. People like you an me had to wait a few centuries to get our birthdays.

Birthdays do have a useful function, however. They help us set social and developmental markers through life, they tell us when to start drinking and voting (usually they go together) and when we enter adolescence or middle age. They are like notches on the measuring stick of our life. It is also a cruel reminder of how many notches we have left.

But what is it that we are measuring, exactly? Are we measuring the reality of our own existence or a view of ourselves imposed by conventional expectations? Who says that we are all born with a certain amount of 'time', like a handful of pocket change that we are told to spend wisely? When someone is ready for retirement, a big chunk of their change is already spent, hopefully 'wisely', on a brilliant career, on having raised children, on having earned enough money for their golden years, while bouncing a happy grandchild on their knees? Does it mean that if one hasn't accomplished all that, celebrating a birthday is not a happy event? Read more...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Disconnect: Should We Burn All The Computers and Smart Phones?

By Tom Kando

The new movie “Disconnect” is impressive. It craftily weaves together three stories. Each story is tragic, realistic and an illustration of life’s miseries in the Internet Age.

One of the three tragedies involves identity theft. A decent but troubled couple falls victim to the nightmare of identity theft, and its devastating consequences. The crisis is triggered by the wife’s unwise habit of chatting online with strangers. The habit is altogether forgivable, especially for this sad and lonely wife, but it is unwise nevertheless.

A second sad tale is about television reporter Nina, who gets mixed up in the sordid teen porn business. Andrea Riseborough plays the part beautifully, as she vacillates between her Good Samaritan motives and her self-preservation instinct.

The third subplot is about two unexceptional high school kids who cyber-bully one of their classmates. The victim is nerdlike but very simpatico. The bullying has devastating consequences.

So the film is basically about malfunctioning relationships, and its point is simple: the relationships are all electronic - certainly at the outset. The movie is about the medium.

Disconnect” confirms all the dislikes and prejudices of an old Luddite such as myself. It focuses on the horrors of the Internet Age, as opposed to its benefits.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Ohio Kidnapings: The Roots of Anomie

Shirley Baker, Salford (1964)
By Madeleine Kando and Tom Kando

It seems scarcely believable that Ariel Castro, the man charged with kidnaping, raping and torturing three Cleveland women for over a decade, could have gotten away with such atrocities without anyone being aware of what he was doing.

The neighborhood where Ariel Castro lived is described as ‘close-knit’, with mostly Spanish speaking residents of Puerto Rican descent. How can a neighborhood be “close knit” when the sight of three naked women with chains around their necks, crawling on their hands and knees in someone's backyard only causes a mild reaction, enough to make a call to the local police, but not much more? Shouldn't the neighborhood be all up in arms about something like that? Are we living in a jungle or a civilized society?

It is clear that this monster Castro was the ultimate con artist. He fooled everyone, including the people closest to him, into thinking that he was a regular Jo. ‘Ariel Castro was always happy, nice, respectful’ says a neighbor-friend. But what does that mean, exactly? Does that mean that there was nothing seemingly wrong with the abuser, or is it possible that it's an indication of what's wrong with the concept of 'neighbor' in America? How much neighborly interaction is there in a 'close-knit' neighborhood? Read more...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Just So Stories of Evolutionary Psychology

by Madeleine Kando

Throughout my teaching career, I have been struck by how different little boys behave from little girls. I knew in my gut that I wasn’t stereotyping. At dress-up time, boys rarely asked to wear a tutu and girls stayed away from the pirate costumes and cowboy hats. During free-play, the girls immediately made a bee-line to the beanie baby basket and the miniature tea set, while the boys congregated on the gym mats pushing and shoving each other to be first to do somersaults.

If my school had been in Sweden, I would have not been allowed to call my students ‘boys and girls’, I would have had to call everyone ‘buddies’. Sweden is in the vanguard of countries that try to create a ‘gender-equal’ society where there is no discrimination based on a person’s sex. The country even added a new gender neutral pronoun, ‘hen’ to its language. Some schools have banned ‘free play’ altogether, because that’s when hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed of bullying start. Parents and teachers try to control how children form friendships, what games they play and what songs they sing, all in the name of gene neutrality. (See Slate Magazine: ‘Sweden’s New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen’).

I am sure the supporters of Evolutionary Psychology would frown upon these new social developments. To them, differences between the sexes, including many behaviors, are a result of natural selection, it is encoded in our genes and trying to do away with those differences by manipulating external factors will only lead to trouble. Read more...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Modern Man's Self-Strangulation: Max Weber's Iron Cage of Bureaucracy

By Tom Kando

In his seminal “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” Max Weber spoke of the “iron cage” in which rationalization and bureaucracy increasingly trap (Western) man.

Do we not all feel Weber’s Iron Cage of Bureaucracy, increasingly strangling us, destroying common sense and humanity? Here are some examples:

1. I play in a community band. We give free concerts - in churches, in city parks, etc. So yesterday I go to my exercise fitness center with a flyer about our next concert, and I ask them to post the flyer on one of the club’s bulletin boards. Their response: “No sir, we don’t do that here.” I explain that I’m not selling anything, that our band’s performances are free, etc. The answer remains the same: “No sir, our regulations forbid this.”

2. Our doctor’s secretary Michelle calls us at home. The purpose of her call is to remind my wife Anita that she has a routine appointment tomorrow. I pick up the phone. My wife Anita isn’t home. I ask Michelle what it’s in regard to. She refuses to answer my question. She won’t give me the message to remind my wife that she has an appointment tomorrow. Privacy law prohibits her to do so, she says. She asks Anita to call her back. This will require 2 or 3 more phone calls, telephone tag, being put on hold, etc. before Anita finds out what Michelle’s call was about (a useless call to begin with, since Anita was perfectly aware of her appointment tomorrow anyway).