Specialism

amanuenses

From Lapham’s Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 4, 2008: ‘Ways of Learning’, p. 43.

What does it mean to be a specialist? It’s the ultimate for a student, isn’t it? Strive, study, learn and eventually refine your knowledge until your field of expertise is mastered.

The decisions you make as a student are often determined by the specialism you want to make your own: if you want to be a neurosurgeon, why waste your time with Literature or Politics?

Perhaps, though, this idea of specialism deserves to be challenged. Is it possible that knowing something about a lot of things is better than knowing a lot about one thing?

What do you think? What does this mean for you as a scholar? What does this mean for you as a human being?

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What does sport mean to you?

Tim Cahill at the World Cup, via The Age

Tim Cahill at the World Cup, via The Age

Did you see it?

Did you set the alarm for 2am and perch on the couch, nervously willing the Socceroos to glory in their second pool match of the World Cup in Brazil?

or

Is this the first you’ve heard of it? Are you happy to let most things sporting glide past you, while you get on with the rest of your life?

There’s no doubt that sport plays a big part in Australian culture. Billions of dollars in government funding are poured into programs, stadiums, competitions and individual sport people.

Whole television channels are dedicated to delivering sport to our lounge rooms.

Some of us even define ourselves by the sport we watch and play: their success is my success, so c’mon Aussie!

What role does sport play in your life? Do you love it? Hate it? Ignore it?

Do you think its influence is positive? Divisive? An unhealthy distraction?

Write a post about sport and its place in your and Australia’s heart.

 

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Catch-22 by Arman Riazati

Joseph Heller, 1944. Number of missions before shipped home: 60. Source

Catch-22.

It was the clause of this ‘catch’, from the book of the same name by Joseph Heller that proposed one of the most ridiculously intriguing cases of a paradoxical catch. Many of us may have been caught up in a catch that has caused something of a dilemma, and forced us to make a tough decision, your choice being just as equally desirable or, depending on the situation, equally undesirable as the latter option. But this one, my friends, truly takes the cake when it comes to creating a catch that necessarily binds its subjects to its will; it reappears a number of times throughout the book in different forms, eventually coming to manifest Catch-22 as any situation of paradoxical and contradictory proportions and that aims to prevent the very resolution of the apparent problem. It is essentially a trap of circular reasoning. Its first appearance in the book is possibly the most powerful one, owing to its simplicity and seemingly absolute capacity.

Contextually, Catch-22 follows the curiously told story of Yossarian, the main character of the book, set in an American Air Force squadron during the Second World War. Yossarian and his accompanying soldiers are constantly set to fly bomber planes in brutal situations of combat, encountering the very face of death on a regular basis, but the Superiors would always raise the number of missions required of all personnel to fly before they could be sent home, which therefore meant that everyone was suppressed to this absurd and almost Sisyphean existence. Yet, in spite of all this, Yossarian finds himself being called crazy and insane by his very own companions for thinking that there is a war going on, and that thousands of people were indeed trying to kill him. He constantly tries to find ways of forging his own escapade, indeed the beginning of the book starting out with Yossarian lying in a hospital bed completely healthy but complaining of a nonexistent liver pain that the doctors, for evident reasons, can’t seem to diagnose in order to avoid flying any more missions. This, of course, does not end up working out for Yossarian, and finds himself back in the squadron. It is here, on one occasion when he goes to meet the squad’s medical practitioner Doc Daneeka, that Catch-22 is first exposed. Yossarian, frustrated, begs Doc Daneeka to bar him from flying missions on grounds of insanity, but he responds by pointing out that his witnesses to his insanity are all also crazy and of course you can’t let a crazy person make a sane judgement. Yossarian then tries again by asking why Orr, a fellow soldier, can’t be grounded for being crazy. Doc replies by saying he can, but that all he has to do is ask to be grounded. The catch here is that as soon as Orr theoretically was to ask to be grounded, he would then immediately become sane, since a sanity is described by a concern for one’s own safety and protection from immediate danger, and would therefore have to fly more missions. If one is crazy enough to willingly fly such dangerous missions and constantly meet with near-death experience on a daily basis, then he lawfully doesn’t have to fly, but does; as soon as he wants to exercise that option of not flying though, he becomes sane and is obliged to complete more missions. In the words of Yossarian himself, “That’s some catch.”

So what do you make of this? Your blog post could be anything related to this; think of this as a leaping point, a trampoline to propel yourself into your blogpost. You could cook up your own catch-22, and describe the terms of it and how it might work. Maybe you might even want to write a short story describing a similar situation. Or maybe you just might not be able to engineer something as encompassing as a catch-22. In that case, maybe you might want to fabricate the story of some other sort of catch, or dilemma, in which the character is maybe faced with some sort of difficult decision that will ultimately amount to an inevitable, common loss.

Maybe even you yourself have come across a similar situation and you would like to recount that. Just remember that a catch-22 is basically a situation in which the conditions are a self-defeating form of logic, or a chain of conditions contradictorily aiming to force the subject into a binding situation. Another example is the reading a certain book being illegal, but ironically the very law that inscribes this rule is written in this book; therefore the only way to know about this rule is to essentially break the rule itself.

Think traps. Think circular reasoning. Think conceit. Think hard and impress.

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Obsession by Chris Poermandya

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If anyone knows me well enough, they’ll know I have an obsession with manga and anime. I talk about it a lot in class, and with my friends, and just, in general, with anyone I talk to. They’ve made me cry, made me laugh, made me feel happy on the inside, and also made me feel connections with the characters I read and watch about. I feel their struggles, their pain, and their joy. It’s possible that my obsession and my love for them is quite unhealthy and a bit strange, in a creepy sort of way.


There are people out there who have these same feelings towards other things. If anyone has been on Tumblr or Deviant Art, they’ll know about things called fandoms on the internet. Whole groups of people band together and share their common interests in things, like TV series, books and bands. Some of these fandoms even have names based on their interest, for example, Whovians, Bronies, Directioners, Beliebers, Potterheads and more. Of course, there are other things people can obsess over, like video games, comics, and perhaps even companies like Apple. People can be interested in a wide variety of things, and these interests can greatly impact them as a person.

I can say with utmost confidence that before I started watching anime, I was quite a different person. Watching anime, and my subsequent obsession that I developed, changed me as person, and greatly influenced my personal development.

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These kinds of obsessions are different than just a regular interest or enjoyment in something. Some people also enjoy the Harry Potter movies, but do not obsess over them like other people.
My question is, is this kind of behaviour normal? Developing intense obsessions such as these seems to be unheard of until more recent times. Or, perhaps, this kind of thing has always been prevalent in society? Are these obsessions healthy, or are they a detriment? Some people take things to extremes, and devote their entire lives to their particular interest, which can ruin their lives and the lives of people around them. But just because this happens, does that mean their interest, whatever it may be, is a bad thing for that?

Feel free to write anything else you’d like about obsessions, how people become obsessed with something, and how this obsession has the power to change people.

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What is fair punishment? by Anthony Tran

Do the crime, do the time.

Or, at least, that’s how it should work. Australians generally expect criminals to receive their just punishment, but sometimes things don’t work out that fairly.

When a criminal is caught they must face punishment, but what is fair punishment? Can jail time really turn a man back into a useful member of society or do we have to go to extremes and kill off the person? 49% of countries still use the death penalty but is it a fair punishment? One could argue that the death penalty is just a quick way out for criminals but you could also say that criminals don’t contribute anything to society and that they should killed straight away. Many say that it’s not up to us to decide if they die or not.

Some would argue that by committing a crime you must pay a price, an eye for an eye to say. Is this a fair punishment? Could there be other alternatives to the death penalty?

Does everyone deserve a second chance to turn around their life?

There was a case of a man called Weldon Angelos who was convicted of having of possession of marijuana that was worth $350. Normal penalties for possession of marijuana are a maximum of one year jail but what did Weldon get? He got sentenced to 55 years in Jail. Why? Only because he was armed with weapons. Even so he never brandished his weapons or hurt anyone in process. Now let’s look at the jail time you get for committing other crimes. Hijacking an airplane (25 years), Beating a person to death in a fight (13 years), and raping a ten year old girl (11 years). Was this a fair punishment?

Maybe we shouldn’t judge a criminal by their crimes but how they will learn from their mistakes? Maybe everyone deserves a second chance or maybe you have to learn the hard way.

What do you think?

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What is it about music? by Rohan Rajaram

What is it About Music?

In recent times we’ve seen our younger generation trying to change everything about themselves: their appearance, the way they talk and the way they act and this has all been heavily influenced by music. A few examples from the late 20th and the 21st centuries are Goth, scene kids and swag. It started in 2001 with the arrival of goth culture, progressed into the subculture known as scene kids in 2005 and then evolved in 2012 with the popularisation of swag. To further this, its important to provide context into what these three subcultures are:

Photography showing a girl dressed in a gothic style (source: Wikipedia)

Goth:
The goth subculture took off in the late 1990s to the early 2000s with the popularisation of emo rock music which consisted of usually dark and sad lyrics about lost love etc. To match this, emo rock fans began to dress like the mood of the music. They spiked their hair, dyed it black and wore black make up; like black eye shadow. Basically goths made an attempt to look as dark, angry and depressed as possible to reflect the mood of the music they so loved.

A scene kid wearing a Green Day Band Top (source: Wikipedia)

Scene Kids:
Scene originated in the mid 2000’s in America and Europe and was very popular with teenagers. Scene was also heavily associated with music; the look was inspired by metalcore , electronica and indie rock music . This subculture was all about being different. Compared to the gothic culture where, the general theme of a goth’s appearance was black, scene kids’ theme was slightly more varied. Their appearance usually comprised of: Wildly coloured hair, wide ear and nose piercings, heavily ripped jeans and a top representing a band that they had come to like.

Swag:
Although the word itself may be the bane of many people’s existence, its meaning is cause for many teens to pull down their pants, walk with limp and don a snapback. Swag in its original meaning is short for the english word “swagger” which is used to describe someone who has a confident air about themselves. Swag also has its ties with music and was first used as a word in the questionable rap artist, Lil Wayne’s, songs. Arguably the most controversial of the three subcultures, its followers do some pretty contentious things. This includes; sagging their pants, walking in swaying motions and using swag as an excuse to do many things that are frowned upon.

The question now is, how come music, and especially music in recent times, is influential to the point where people drastically alter their appearance to reflect it? Has music ever been that influential before the late 20th century… and what else is to come?

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Play’s cool

‘At play, children learn the most important of life’s lessons, the ones that cannot be taught in school. To learn these lessons well, children need lots of play — lots and lots of it, without interference from adults.’ Peter Gray in Aeon magazine.

According to Peter Gray, play is not only fun, but essential. For some parents, the thought of letting their children go wild with play can be a bit frightening. Child’s play, by its nature, isn’t driven by a purpose besides the desire to have fun, and it can be difficult for the well-meaning adults to stop themselves from directing their children into activities that have a more obvious educational purpose.

What do you think about all this? Does learning through play make sense to you? Is play just for little kids? How do you have fun? Should school be more about play? How? Is it practical for high achievers to have fun at school? Should parents back off? Is the whole thing a bit childish?

Write a post which explores your ideas on play and freedom.

Over on Ms Sheko’s blog there’s also an alternative take on this idea you could write on if you’d like.

Photo source

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