The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'narcissism'
Jon Ronson looks at what makes psychopaths tick:
I met an American CEO, Al Dunlap, formerly of the Sunbeam Corporation, who redefined a great many of the psychopath traits to me as "business positives": Grandiose sense of self-worth? "You've got to believe in yourself." (As he told me this, he was standing underneath a giant oil painting of himself.) Cunning/manipulative? "That's leadership."
I wondered if sometimes the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath on Wall Street was the luck of being born into a stable, rich family.The article, which is excerpted from Ronson's new book, "The Psychopath Test", also follows the story of Tony, a youth who, when tried for a violent crime, feigned insanity in an attempt to avoid prison, and instead was diagnosed as a manipulative psychopath and committed to the notorious Broadmoor prison. After 12 years amongst notorious killers and the criminally insane, he secured a hearing, which found him, whilst mildly psychopathic, fit to be released into society:
"The thing is, Jon," Tony said as I looked up from the papers, "what you've got to realise is, everyone is a bit psychopathic. You are. I am." He paused. "Well, obviously I am," he said.
"What will you do now?" I asked.
"Maybe move to Belgium," he said. "There's this woman I fancy. But she's married. I'll have to get her divorced."
This is not the Onion: The latest children's book to be making a ripple is "My Beautiful Mommy", written by Florida plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer, and intended to help children come to terms with their mothers' plastic surgery:
"My Beautiful Mommy" is aimed at kids ages four to seven and features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants. Before her surgery the mom explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better." Mom comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist.
Then there are the body image issues raised by cosmetic surgery—especially for daughters. Berger worries that kids will think their own body parts must need "fixing" too. The surgery on a nose, for example, may "convey to the child that the child's nose, which always seemed OK, might be perceived by Mommy or by somebody as unacceptable," she says.
(via Boing Boing)
Hacker and painter Maciej Ceglowski calls bullshit on Paul Graham's Hackers and Painters, claiming that the two occupations have no more in common than hackers and, say, pastry chefs, and that Graham's essay is basically an attempt to appropriate a sexier and more romantic image by hand-waving and sophistry:
Great paintings, for example, get you laid in a way that great computer programs never do. Even not-so-great paintings - in fact, any slapdash attempt at splashing paint onto a surface - will get you laid more than writing software, especially if you have the slightest hint of being a tortured, brooding soul about you. For evidence of this I would point to my college classmate Henning, who was a Swedish double art/theatre major and on most days could barely walk.
Also remark that in painting, many of the women whose pants you are trying to get into aren't even wearing pants to begin with. Your job as a painter consists of staring at naked women, for as long as you wish, and this day in and day out through the course of a many-decades-long career. Not even rock musicians have been as successful in reducing the process to its fundamental, exhilirating essence.
It's no surprise, then, that a computer programmer would want to bask in some of the peripheral coolness that comes with painting, especially when he has an axe to grind about his own work being 'mere engineering'.
Ceglowski puts the blame for Hackers and Painters, and the whole genre on the obvious suspects:
I blame Eric Raymond and to a lesser extent Dave Winer for bringing this kind of schlock writing onto the Internet. Raymond is the original perpetrator of the "what is a hacker?" essay, in which you quickly begin to understand that a hacker is someone who resembles Eric Raymond. Dave Winer has recently and mercifully moved his essays off to audio, but you can still hear him snorfling cashew nuts and talking at length about what it means to be a blogger . These essays and this writing style are tempting to people outside the subculture at hand because of their engaging personal tone and idiosyncratic, insider's view. But after a while, you begin to notice that all the essays are an elaborate set of mirrors set up to reflect different facets of the author, in a big distributed act of participatory narcissism.
Disclaimer: I'm currently halfway through Hackers and Painters; so far, I've found it interesting in a big-ideas sort of way. Though I am as yet undecided on whether the emperor is actually clothed, and whether Graham is a visionary master, a self-important blowhard or a bit of both. (One could perhaps count it in Graham's defense that Ceglowski admits to being a Perl programmer, but I digress.)
Dating a blogger, reading about it, or the consequences of bloggers going on about their co-workers/boyfriends/buddies/&c:
Indeed, for many bloggers being noticed seems to be the point. John M. Grohol, a psychologist in the Boston area who has written about bloggers, said they often offered intimate details of their lives as a ploy to build readership.
Or perhaps it's pathological narcissism or exhibitionism? Or perhaps a symptom of the human need to communicate in a disconnected, depersonalised society?
That became an issue for a recent boyfriend of hers, a 34-year-old Manhattan hedge-fund manager who feared that having his name in the blog could compromise his business relationships. During his eight-month stint as a nameless regular on Ms. Clemente's site, he said, "it was an odd feeling that there was a camera on me." Friends and relatives who knew about the site followed his relationship online, he said. "On occasion my mother would send me an e-mail saying, `How was the play?' or, `Sounds like you had a nice weekend away,' " he said.
I wonder how long until we see personal ads reading "blogger seeks exhibitionist", promising Internet-wide fame to anyone wanting to go out with them. I suspect there'd be takers out there (though whether one would want to sleep with them is another matter).
When the relationship ended, she said, "I had totally random people e-mailing me saying they were sad we broke up." She described the experience as "totally weird," but added, "As a writer, having anyone read your stuff is a compliment."
The proliferation of personal bloggers has led to a new social anxiety: the fear of getting blogged, as friends of bloggers face the prospect of becoming characters in a public drama:
"It's personal etiquette meets journalistic rules," Mr. Denton, the blog publisher, said. "If you have a friend who's a blogger you have to say, `This is not for blogging.' It's the blogging equivalent of `This is off the record.' "
Then again, the question is, is that really blogging? Blogging was originally about linking to things on the web and/or commentary on various ideas/media; however, the word seems to have mutated to mean "any web page where new content is added at the top", with many in this category being online diaries/journals. Meanwhile, you're as likely to find old-sk00l link-based blogging in LiveJournal sites as elsewhere. (And whatever happened to E/N sites, the geek-macho cousins of blogs?)
IMHO, my philosophy of blogging is that it is not so much about one's everyday life as about one's intellectual interests. This includes links to interesting sites/articles, commentary about books/movies/music/ideas/current events, and so on. Sure it may not be as "personal" as giving the juicy goss about one's sex life or rabbiting on about the poor quality of coffee at work, but it's more interesting.
In my blog, I specifically avoid talking about friends, coworkers, places of employment and so on, for the usual reasons.
And you probably won't find me talking about recent dating experiences/trips to the supermarket/taking my cats to the vet/whatever; there's enough of that sort of thing elsewhere on the web (and some do it more rivetingly than others).
In short, this blog is not a journal, and not an intimate window into the author's private life. (The author's prejudices and fixations, maybe.)
(That's also why the <TITLE> of this blog says "I am not your friend in the void"; if after reading a blog for a while you start to think of the author as a close friend, or someone you have a special relationship with, you probably need to get out a bit more.)
Anyway, that's just my view on the matter.