Thursday, October 31, 2013

Free Tilly

     This past weekend, I watched a CNN documentary, Blackfish, about orca whales that live in captivity, specifically environments like Sea World. This film introduced a situation in which a trainer was killed by an orca whale, Tilikum, at Sea World. I agree that was present that because of its miserable life in captivity, the animal had a mental breakdown and snapped. Orcas are not meant to be contained in areas less than 1% of the size of their natural habitat. They are not meant to be torn away from their close-knit family pods. They are not meant to perform once, and then sit idle in a small pen for all other hours of the day.
     What really struck me from the documentary was a segment about the brain of an orca. A very good follow-up summary was done by Discovery News in response to blackfish, that covers the advanced intellectual and social skills in the killer whale. Orcas and dolphins (who are closely related) are the second smartest mammals, behind humans. The strong presence of emotions in an orca makes the claim that their captivity is driving them mentally crazy quite reasonable.
     Although it sounds ideal to just release the animals straight back into nature, in reality, things may get a bit more complicated. After life in captivity, the killer whales may not be ready or willing to go back into the ocean, for they are mentally scarred and very changed, as stated in this Orlando Sentenial article. I think this could be solved by different housing options for the killer whales; a more open living environment that provides a pen or shed, and access to the ocean if it is desired, maybe more effective. This process of returning orcas to the wild is very difficult, so to minimize future efforts, I believe that the removing of orcas from the wild should be banned as soon as possible. The more killer whales that are taken from the wild, the more that will have to be put back.
     There is a petition to release Tilikum, Free Tilly Now, which argues that the captivity of orcas is "simply illogical" and "simply unethical". Hopefully, through this petition, it may be considered to ban the use of orcas for entertainment purposed, and discontinue the captivity of killer whales.

Here are some intersting facts I leave you with:
1. In captivity, many killer whales live only a little over 20 years, while in the wild, they can live around 50-60 years. (Sea World employees told the opposite to the inquirers, as mentioned in Blackfish)
2. There has been no intentional killer whale attacks on humans, in the wild, compared to at least 40 attacks when in captivity.
3. Killer whales use echolocation, but when they use it in captivity, it bounces of the concrete walls which creates confusion and a sound that can deafen them. 
4. "A whale or dolphin living in a pool for it’s entire life would be the equivalent of you living in a phone booth for your entire life." (

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What does "Sweet Freedom" Taste Like?

      These popular Ozark Lollipops are frequently used for fundraising, especially at New Trier. I found an interesting flavor in a friends stock of lollipops: an American themed flavor. Its red white and blue exterior plays off of the colors of American flag. The name of the flavor is "Sweet Freedom". My initial thought was how stupid the name was; what does "Sweet Freedom" taste like? I then realized there might be another motivation behind this lollipop flavor.
      I believe that this American theme is used by companies to exploit the patriotism of Americans. Americans seem to be known for their national pride, and by using this strong, common feeling of nationalism, companies can better advertise and sell their product.
     This concept is similar to the printing of the American flag on clothing or nearly any other item. The American flag is a major source of pride in America, therefore, this may draw in some additional consumers due to their patriotism. The name of the flavor references an underlying American theme of freedom. This lollipop seems to remind us of how "sweet" life is in America, and makes consumers feel happy about their country. By including these American themes in their product, consumers may feel pressured to buy the lollipop to prove, either to themselves or others, that they are patriotic and want to support their country. I know I gave the lollipop a second thought because America is my home country, and I felt somewhat obliged to represent my country in buying the lollipop.
     Would you buy this lollipop? What is your opinion about this marketing strategy?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oversimplified: Inaccuracies in Personality Tests

In one of my classes, I was required to take a personality test, which is a dreaded task in my mind. To me, personality tests do not accurately asses the individual.

One fault in these tests is that the person taking the test may tend to idealize themselves, and therefore provide inaccurate answers. One may try to find the "right" answer, the answer that would make them seem like a better person, perhaps. The fact that some personality tests are multiple choice just sets up the participant for a struggle. For me, the given answer options were not satisfying, and I felt as though I fell in between two different choices. It is difficult enough to admit to your faults at all, but when you fault is given at an extreme as an answer option, it is unlikely that you may choose it.

Another source of error is the interpretation within the question. The prompt can be read and interpreted in different ways for different people, and they might answer the question in a manner that was not intented.

Lastly, I find these types of test very predictable. It is very easy to read what the question is trying to determine, therefore making it easier to sway the results in whatever direction you choose.

What is the point of personality tests? It's just an instrument to oversimplify peoples complexities. I believe that there is no accurate way to categorize individuals, which automatically deems all personality tests inaccurate. If you have time, I recommend you take this personality test, the Keirsey Test, and see how accurate your results are. It only takes about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Harm in Age Segregation

       Upon a visit to a geriatric center, my hospital guide brought up the interesting and controversial topic of age segregation. She told us how it was difficult for the older patients to stay active and healthy in an environment of other elderly people. The guide discussed how beneficial it is for the elderly to have exposure to younger people, for they keep the elderly mentally stimulated. Younger people generally lead active lifestyles and this rubs off on the elderly. Along with new generations of children comes new technology, and these kind of changes can be intimidating, but learning new things and adapting is actually one of the best things an older person can do for their health. Knowing the importance of mixing ages, then why is age segregation found in many aspects of American life?
I believe that the very American theme of finding maximum efficient is the motivation behind separating age groups in our society. Schools are separated by age, not necessarily learning ability. I think that this is because it is seen as most efficient to start with a young group of children and teach them all the same thing together and continue on from grade to grade teaching the same material to the masses of children. This tends to lead children to befriending other children of the same age, and therefore limiting their adult exposure to parents and teachers. In geriatric care or nursing homes, it is seen as most efficient to group all the elderly in one area, for they may have similar health problems. Therefore treatment can be given all in one place to the masses of the elderly, which increases efficiency.
Through this process of finding efficiency, the individual is categorized by age, placed into a mass of others in that category, and that group is then treated as one. This search for efficiency is stripping people of their individuality. In the process, the complexity of a human being is reduced to one number, all else ignored. Although this system is beneficial for the organizers of society, it can be stifling for the individual.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Did Timothy Treadwell Die Happy?:

Grizzly Man, a documentary by Werner Herzog, follows the life of Timothy Treadwell, a man passionate about his dare routs task of protect the grizzly bears of the  Katmai National Park in Alaska. The film sparks questions about Treadwells inner thoughts, as he is presented as a very complex and unique character. In an attempt to understand Treadwells thoughts and motivations, I traced his life story (all of it that was shown in the film) and through my personal interpretation, formed a narrative arc.

     Timothy begins just above average, doing well in life but not excelling. It increases when he gets a scholarship to college for swimming, but then plummets after he hurts his back and loses his scholarship. After moving to California in hopes of a new start, he doesn't get the job he wanted, and as stated in the interview with his parents, Timothy spiraled down from there. His rock bottom, in my opinion, might have been his near death drug overdose. Timothy became happier as he started to work with animals. He claims that he had no life before the animals, and that they gave him his life. Timothy went from a serious alcoholic to completely giving up drinking, just so h could better protect the bears that he so dearly loved. His life then sloped upwards as he spent more and more time with the bears. Eventually, Timothy was recognized as some sort of celebrity adventure man, created a steeper increase to happiness. Then, upon his death, the graph could branch off many different ways.

     After all he had done for these animals, was Timothy angry at the bear who turned on him? Did he feel any regret? Was Timothy ready to die? Was Timothy hoping that his death would finally bring the proper recognition for his cause?

     I chose to continue the arc past Timothy's death, as if he was still alive, approving of disapproving of what was going on. I believe it would have greatly upset Timothy that the bear who killed him was shot. The killing of the bear is everything that Timothy worked his whole life to prevent. Is this where his narrative arc ends? In my opinion, it continues on, along with Timothy's legacy. An interview with one of Timothy's lose friends reveals that he thought that his own death would be the most effective way to spread his message. Although opinions vary, Timothy is generally remembered for his courageous and dangerous dedication to these animals which he adored, which was Timothy's goal in life. He seemed pleased with the 13 years of protection he provided, and he continued to do what he loved, which brings happiness. Therefore, I believe that Timothy Treadwell died happy, and his death is ultimately positive.