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Sloppy thinking. 19th of May, 2008 POST·MERIDIEM 04:05

The Boston Globe quotes Rosalind Chait Barnett, at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis as saying this:

“The data is quite clear,” she says. “On anything you point to, there is so much variation within each gender that you have to get rid of this idea that ’men are like this, women are like that.’ ”

This is a non-sequitur. It’s like saying that you have to get rid of the idea that the Japanese are politer than the Israelis, because some Japanese are assholes and some Israelis are conscientiously polite. Despite that these counterexamples exist, the statement does convey useful information for anyone moving from one culture to the other.

(Yes, I’m posting this here mainly because there are no comments on the article’s page.)

Last comment from Aidan Kehoe on the 12th of July at 1:06
Right, John. That’s orthogonal to what she says, though—if someone says “the English are godless”, they will look at you quizzically and perhaps lose patience if you trot out the Archbishop of Canterbury as a counterexample. “Women are like X, men are like Y” are generalisations in that sense, they don’t describe Venn diagrams, and they are useful in that sense. Though it is certainly a mistake to interpret them as if they described Venn diagrams.

[Four older comments for this entry.]

Bullet Points … Breaking Bad 18th of May, 2008 POST·MERIDIEM 02:37

‘Bullet Points,’ novel, Mark Watson, first published 2004: a birthday present from one of my sisters. A book written from the perspective of an English psychologist educated and living in the US, it involves several of his cases there (which I found irritating, as I have most of my superficial contact with talk therapy) and his wider life and interaction with the world (which I found well-observed and much more enjoyable). Although the writer is a comedian, there’s very little explicit comedy in the book, and there’s lots of moving back and forward in the timeline, deftly done, giving a real sense of the life of the main character, of his particular mix of insecurities and the things he’s confident of. It’s very distant indeed from the superficial impression you get from his Edinburgh gig here, and in a positive way. (Though as you keep watching that clip, it becomes clearer that he’s a lot smarter and more engaged than the superficial impression reflects.) Anyway, a good book.

‘Breaking Bad,’ TV series, first season, 2008: recommended to me by Luis, a Valencian friend, this is a US series set in New Mexico. The main character is an overworked and underpaid chemistry teacher, a bit taciturn but, to me, very sympathetic. There are little touches of realistic detail that support the improbable series of events that leads to him cooking up methamphetamine and making money from it, and his interactions with his wife and family as a good father (ignoring the meth, of course) are refreshing after a couple of decades of terrible, idiot fathers on US TV. There are only seven episodes available right now, but I loved them all, and I’m looking forward to the next season.