Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Deceptively Simple Question

"Are there more males or females in the world today?" As we transition to our next unit, "Women and Children/The American Family", we must look to the past to understand why today looks the way it does. Nicholas Kristof, and his wife/co-author, Sheryl Wudunn, have recently written a book, Half the Sky, about what they believe is the preeminent issue of the 21st century: the oppression, the abuse, and the murder of women worldwide.

Answer the question in the comments section of this post. Don't google it or head to a reference book. What we're interested in is your answer, and, more importantly, what makes you say it.

UPDATE: We're so pleased with the responses so far, but we'd like to resolve this question in the interests of moving on with the rest of our inquiry into this unit of study. Here is Nicholas Kristof's response to the question (emphasis added), as quoted in an interview on NPR's On the Media:
Almost everybody you ask says that there are more females, you know, because in the U.S. there are more females, in Europe there are more females. But worldwide there are actually more males, and that is because so many women have been discriminated against to death.

But there are somewhere around 100 million women who have vanished because of this kind of discrimination, and that’s more than all the men who were killed in all the wars of the 20th century; it’s far more than were killed in all the genocides. When you have that kind of oppression that just feels like a transcendent issue.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


From the An American Studies archives:
In New York City a billboard emits highly focused sound that resonates within the skulls of passersby. It’s a novel way of advertising, a potentially terrifying intrusion and, according to technology writer Clive Thompson, the leading edge of a new civil rights battleground – the right to privacy in your own mind.

Have you seen Minority Report? Do you remember the scene in the mall when Tom Cruise's character is bombarded with advertising messages inside his own head?

If intrusive ads don't seem that worrisome to you, consider this: there are scientists currently working on a device that shines an infrared beam on your forehead, a sort of remote MRI, that can "read" your mind to determine if you are in "mental anguish". What this means, for example, is that before we tell a lie, a simple brain scan can reveal it. Imagine the antiterrorist uses for this at airports.

What do you think about any/all of these issues? For more information, listen to this excerpt from NPR's On the Media, which is the source of today's post:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama on Afghanistan

Using an online tool called "Wordle", I copied and pasted the transcript of President Obama's speech and the website automatically generated a "word cloud" of the text. The more frequently a word (or short phrase, like "al-Qaeda") is utilized, the larger it appears in the "cloud" (colors are irrelevant). Keep in mind, though, that the user has the ability to specify the maximum amount of words to be rendered. For this speech, I chose 30 as the maximum. Click on the Wordle for a larger image.

Keeping in mind how carefully constructed a Presidential address is, what, if anything do these oft-repeated words reveal about the message (or perhaps the story) the President was trying to communicate to the American people?

P.S. Check out CNN's version, by contrast.