Monday, 24 May 2010

charlotte's web

charlotte's web is a story about friendship that we can all relate to. the compounding help of the animals in the farm is touching and the wit of charlotte who hatched up a plan to save wilbur's life, is commendable.

the first magic lies in the friendship between wilbur, a pig, and charlotte, a spider. they are different animals of different backgrounds and way of living. naturally, they do not share anything similar nor have a reason for a symbiosis relationship. they lived in different environment and have different diets. they do not share a common interest even. yet, amidst of all the differences, charlotte befriended wilbur and was willing to sacrifice herself to save a friend whom she just met for a few months.

it made me think about being prejudice we have against one another, back then and even now. this is where the first moral of the story lies. white wrote the story in 1952, a short period after WWII where most of the men are sent to war and women and blacks are allowed to work to keep the economy buoyant. there was a mixture of different ethnicity working in the factories doing simple and manual labour. this mixture has created friendship for some of them. and slowly homogenised the races together. it was also written shortly before the african-american civil rights was granted in america in 1968.

there is a stark similarity between the event that happened in america during that period and the ones seen in the barn. and as an ardent supporter of anti-segregation who wrote many essays on internationalism, white has deliberately, and wittingly, weaved his ideas into the fable he wrote; calling to his reader to see the redundancy of prejudism.

next is the use of obvious imageries and metaphors to convey the same motif.

set in a barn, it is reflective of the simple lives the people in america lived in then. they perform simple tasks and pursuit mandatory needs. the animals in the barn represented these people living in poor and rural conditions after the great depression and the basic work they kept doing to bounce back the economy. the setting is fitting for the situation it was back then and the menial tasks they perform to keep on going through the hardship.

also, the use of animals run by farmers draw a parallel image to the government-people setting. the people in the story are like the government as they represent the thinkers and shapers of the society while the animals represented the layman who worked around the fate given to them. the big decisions made in the story were done by the people e.g. the sending of wilbur to zuckerman's barn, zuckerman's decision to put wilbur into the county fair contest, the winner of the blue ribbon, the decision to award the special prize to wilbur for his 'miracles'. while the animals worked with the decisions and actions done by the people.

and the attitudes the animals had in the beginning were negative. they felt they had nothing more nor less from each other, as said by the old sheep "we're all the same, wilbur. we don't envy you." they were resigned to the unfortunate fate that had befallen on them. it was similar to what the americans felt during the post great depression and WWII. however, it was only after charlotte had decided to take on the responsibility to save wilbur's live the animals start to contribute their help. this cliche hero behaviour moved us and made us see the beauty and urgency to save an innocent's life (wilbur's).

it's something i was thinking of when i was doing the play.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

rationalising reason

no. it's not true. it's not always true. you rationalise the reason. you thought through the reason and why it happened and you've come up with a rationale. you created that rationale. the rationale behind the reason was not there. it was never there. you made it there. you put it there. you made it up. you created that rationale. how am i supposed to believe you? you made me believe you. you made me believe what you said. you tricked me into believing what you said. how can i know that you are not lying to me? you made me see your point. and now, i cant see mine. i cant see anything but what you said. you made me believed you and now i lost faith in myself. you beast! you liar! what you said created a belief for me. something which i didnt have and now i cannot think! you made the reason up. you gave me the rationale. i hate you.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

numbers and fear

1 in 4. 15 in 60. 25 in 100.

1 in 5. 50,000 in 250,000.

2 in 5. 40 in 100. 200 in 500.

what do they mean?

nothing to the layman like you and i. yet experts use these statistics to relay information that make us worry. why and how so?

looking at it empirically is like looking through a microscope; the image is enlarged. consequently, it becomes 'more obvious' and the and effect on us - the consumer - is inevitably greater. this is what the experts wanted. and, of course, providing such data make their arguments more convincing.

however, if you start expanding the numbers to greater numbers e.g. "1 in 4" becomes "25 in 100" and to "250 in 1000", and so forth, you see that the probability is lowered; much, much lower.

take for example a recent statistic on breast cancer in singapore. it states that "1 in 4 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer." take a population of 4.8mil (i round down to the nearest hundred thousand) in singapore and estimate that about 40% of the population are women, that would be around 1.9mil. you would then be among 480,000 women to be diagnosed with cancer. that is a big group of people but you could also be among the other 1.4mil who aren't going to be diagnosed. the odds are different for everyone. and this is ignoring other contributing factors. should you be so afraid?

i am not saying that you should forget about taking that mammogram or keep postponing it but don't let the "1 in 4" figure scare you to hysteria.

on a more general note, i think we should be aware of the math done and figures shown. the numbers have been simplified for our understanding. but the implication may create some misunderstanding.