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brad lehman
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Am I the only one that finds this almost as terrifying as it is hopeful, at least at first glance?

"The researchers engineered a virus that infected a patient's T-cells, a type of white blood cell, and carried instructions to bind to cancer cells and ultimately kill them."

What could possibly go wrong?
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brad lehman's profile photoJo Miles's profile photolorelei brown's profile photo
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You know, this is the equivalent of vaccination. It's better than say, pumping poison into people hoping that their bodies will settle it out.
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Just finishing the first book of the Hunger Games.

Does anyone else feel odd about the fact that the engine of entertainment for the reader -- the big death match -- is exactly the thing that is hated by the main character? I feel like the author is doing too fine a dance by using it to keep us engaged while also making it the symbolic backbone of a deeply dysfunctional society. It's not an easy balance, and I can't decide how well she pulled it off.
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brad lehman's profile photoThomas Aylesworth's profile photoJo Miles's profile photo
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[spoilery! here be dragons! also, rambling!]

+Jo Miles , I get it as a social critique. But from a narrative standpoint, it always weirds me out a bit when an artist is exploiting the same thing they purport to be criticizing; there is something that just reads wrong about it.

I can think of a few examples of it (American Beauty, where I think we are supposed to be a little skeeved out by Kevin Spacey's lust for a teenager, but the film itself practically begs the viewers to do the same thing; or the remake of Watchmen, which totally undercuts the whole idea of how ugly vigilante-ism and its attendant violence can be, with its hyper-choreographed, glossy action-movie fight scenes.

Don't get me wrong; I really disliked those movies for what they did, and here, it's less clear and more interesting. But I do feel like the author wants to keep the punch-in-the-gut of the horror that this thing exists (which is a great platform for social critique!), but still really max out the entertainment value of it. And to do it, she resorts to making the two characters win a little too... perfectly, killing people accidentally, indirectly, or in the case of the worst enemy, ultimately mercifully. The character never really has to make hard choices, so the reader never really has to fully face what it is that keeps this all going. You get to root for the "right" person fairly unquestioningly.

That's why I say this feels like a too-careful exercise. She preserves them as sympathetic, unwilling participants, but there is something a little too fine about it... I don't know, a tension between the story and the metaphor are tripping me up a little. If we see ourselves in the uncomfortable-but-also-ravenous viewers of the games, what does that make the author? Can you make art that both panders to and criticizes the audience about the same thing?

All of that said, I am looking forward to the second book, and even more now after +Thomas Aylesworth's comment! Although, Tom, for some reason, I didn't have that problem of disbelief. Maybe I am overly willing to see this as a riff on both reality tv and made-for-tv warmaking.
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brad lehman

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Something to chew on: a recent Jonah Lehrer article tries to parse out mob mentality by using a well-known thought experiment involving two different scenarios for a runaway train (do you change it's course to reduce it's death toll? Do you throw somebody in front of it to reduce it's death toll? Follow the link to see...)

I think the attempt to link this to mob behavior is interesting, but ultimately flimsy. My intuition is that the subject's "mode" is changing. In the first scenario, you are the driver of a runaway train. As drivers, we essentially extend our corpus to the vehicles we drive. You don't say "my car hit a dog," you say that you did it. (Sadly, I know this from experience). You assume the responsibility for your vehicle, even in cases when circumstances have taken you out of control. The first scenario burdens the subject with responsibility for whichever deaths are already going to happen.

From this vantage point, the first proposition basically looks like:
a) I will kill five people; or
b) I will kill one person.

In the second instance, the subject is simply a bystander. He can change the course of events, but he does not begin with the responsibility for them. From that vantage point, the proposition looks more like:
a) That train will kill five people; or
b) I will kill one person.

Make no mistake, you can make a logical or philosophical argument that puts the same level of responsibility on the actor, but emotionally... it won't be the same, because it can't be the same. My guess is that the different preconditions here, that the subject-as-driver is causing some deaths already while the subject-as-bystander is not, explains the different reactions.

Oddly, this leads, in a way, to the opposite conclusion that Lehrer reaches. Rather than saying that "our innate goodness is a fragile thing," I'd say that it shows we cling valiantly to our moral compass ("I can't kill that man!") even when you can make a 'rational' case for doing so.

(As to mobs? I'd look towards problems of distributed responsibility, group identity, maybe social proof or even our biases towards fairness, odd as that last one may sound. In any case, "We" is categorically different than "I".)
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So, three weeks in, I am a little disappointed in Google+ . I like the basic layout, and the fact that posts can be a little longer. I was hoping that there would be more 'public' conversation -- that in addition to my friends and acquaintances, I could pull in a few more interesting voices. That has happened in small smatterings, but mostly I still hear crickets. We'll see.
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brad lehman's profile photoHelen Hoart's profile photoJefferson Coulter's profile photoHel M's profile photo
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I envisioned Google+ as a place for family and close friends to communicate. But since I have only one family member actively using Google+ it's not panning out that way ...yet. Instead I'm following two of my favorite bloggers and learning a whole lot about their personal lives. Go figure. But I do think it will get more interesting as more people jump in.
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The word I will never get used to in a business context: "decomposing." When people talk about decomposing requirements, I imagine them as a phone book that has been left in the backyard over the winter.
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So far: Total number of Brad Lehmans followed: 2. Total number of public posts from other Brad Lehmans: 0. Of course, this is my first public post, too...
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Have him in circles
91 people
Matthew Kershaw's profile photo
Amy Knox's profile photo
Olga Howard's profile photo
Mark Leta's profile photo
Usha Venkatachallam's profile photo
Sean O'Brien's profile photo
graham macdougall's profile photo
Eve Simon's profile photo
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