Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CYOA Week 3: Responses


I remember most Radiolab episodes, but despite the fact that my iTunes insisted I had listened to "Emergence" before, I could not recall any details.  Upon re-listening, I found it to be one of the more scattered episodes that I have heard.  The main question intrigued me: how does order come from chaos?  Jad and Robert's decision to begin with ants made sense to me, and they transitioned well between that and their subsequent discussion of cities.  The contrast between these two subjects--nature and urban landscapes--allowed them to address order and chaos as it appears both in the natural world and in a more man-made setting.

The story about stocks, however, seemed a bit off-topic to me.  The two prior sections discussed the ways in which a leader can emerge from a group and the power that a group holds when trying to solve a problem.  I understand the connection to the group aspect of the story, but I didn't see much of a relation between the stock segment and the overall question of emergence and order.  

I was also up in the air about the two other questions that the piece seemed to want to address: the potential existence of a creator and the elements of consciousness.  One of the things I love about Radiolab is that Jad and Robert apply a central question to many areas of study and, in doing so, generate more questions that are specific to these subcategories.  With this episode, however, I didn't feel like the new questions fit into the story as nicely as they usually do.  They seemed a bit to big to throw into the middle of the piece, only to be ignored for the rest of it.  Overall this did not seem as tight or fluid of a piece as other Radiolab episodes.  That being said, it was one of the earlier episodes of the show, so I think they've picked up a more solid format over the past four or five years.

Jacob's Ladder

I really enjoyed reading this article.  I'm not well-versed in the political power situation in South Africa, but I thought the article did a good job of providing necessary background.  Douglas Foster, the author, wove back and forth between present descriptions of Jacob Zuma and stories about his political past and South Africa's historical issues.  This kept my attention; just as my mind began to wander after reading several paragraphs of description, the article brought it back by explaining the economic background of the country.

I found the teaser paragraph a bit more ominous than the rest of the article.  This is probably a function of its brevity, since everything it points out is addressed in the article.  However, I was expecting Foster to portray Zuma as more of a villain than he did.  While I definitely got the sense that Zuma has a questionable history, the article did a nice job of showing the personable side of his demeanor.  I started the article wanting to support his campaign efforts, but ended it feeling like he has too much of a troubling past to be trusted as a president.

A couple of people talked about the rape issue in their responses.  I thought the way that the article addressed this was very interesting, in that Foster first passes it off as a political rumor formulated by Zuma's opponents.  Three pages later, though, he describes the incident--he reveals that Zuma did in fact sleep with a woman, and that the trial was an issue of consent.  Furthermore, Zuma didn't have a condom on hand at the time, but he went ahead with it anyway.  The way in which Foster approaches this incident fits well with the rest of the article, in that he holds off on revealing all of the troubling details of Zuma's past until later on in his narrative.  

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