The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rice or Soylent Green? A Singaporean journalist's view

I was rather surprised, this morning, over breakfast, to read that a Singaporean journalist was suggesting that Soylent Green would be an answer to world hunger.

The article appeared in "My Paper", written by, Leow Ju-Len, a blogger cum journalist from Stomp (the Straits Times collection of trendy bloggers).

Reading his suggestion would have been enough to put me off my food had I not already finished eating when I came across it. He was writing of the problem of rising food prices, rice shortages and the like. He thought he had an answer: Soylent Green. He went onto explain that Soylent Green was "plankton". Oh dear. He clearly hasn't seen the film. I remember one line from it, shouted by the protagonist, played by Charlton Heston (this is a memory from the 70s): "Soylent Green is people!"

Yes, that is right - unwittingly or otherwise, the Singaporean journalist in question was advising cannibalism as a solution to world hunger.

Now, either he didn't know what Soylent Green was - in which case was it not rather dangerous to use a cultural reference without understanding it - or he was being subversive. I can't determine which.

I know the world is in a bad way - but I shudder that one day it might be so bad that cannibalism might be the answer to world hunger. One Singaporean blogger journalist is already on record for stating that it already is. He really should go and see the film.

By the way, given the magnitude of his error, he could not have chosen a more ironic title for his article: "Scarcity doesn't cause hunger, stupidity does."

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and four months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and nine months, and Tiarnan, twenty-six months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:09 AM 


Anonymous chappy said...

That was very careless of the blogger, to not know exactly what he was writing about.

He's probably like the gullible people in the movie, thinking that Soylent Green is plankton.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes indeed. What makes it worse is that his piece - which was originally a blog post - was published in a national daily, "My paper" - and thus passed the eyes of its editors, without being corrected. This means that fact checking wasn't done at any stage. It also means that no-one on the team has seen a film that came out in 1973: perhaps they are too young, to have done so. Experience, as in all things, really helps: especially with cultural background knowledge. (It tends to accumulate as you get older).

Thank you for your comment.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Leow Ju-Len said...

Hi Valentine,

I wrote the piece in question for STOMP, which was re-run in MyPaper. I read your post with some amusement, and having watched the movie, I knew full well that, as Charleston Heston memorably uttered, soylent green is people.

The reference seems to have been taken rather seriously, but do rest assured that I was making a joke. Soylent Green crops up from time to time as a cultural reference and is often lampooned. I can think of an instance in Futurama, for example, in which one character enquires about what 'Soylent Cola' is like, only to be told that it 'varies from person to person'.

Best wishes!

3:11 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Leow Ju-Len,

When one reads someone's work, one has to interpret it in the light of how it is written and the most likely meaning. You specifically stated that Soylent Green was "plankton" - that is how you DEFINED it. You showed no indication of knowledge of what it truly was in the meaning of your article or hinted in your structure that it was meant to be a joke. If it was a joke, it was not written as a joke (ie. all the cues that lead one to believe something is a joke were missing - that is it was not a well-written joke, not one that conformed to the nature of jokes).

Frankly, I believe that you didn't know what Soylent Green was and that your present knowledge of it was gained after people pointed out the true meaning to you. If you had known what it was, you would have phrased your piece differently, if you are a good writer. So we are left with only two conclusions: either you did not know what Soylent Green was - or that you don't write well. Which is it?

Your article was offensive. Even if it was a joke, it would have been an offensive joke. There are many ways to get a point across - being disgusting (ie proposing that Singaporeans should eat each other in the face of rice shortages, is not one of them.)

Everyone I know, who knows what Soylent Green was, read your article the way I read it: as of someone who did not know what he was talking about. So, if you did know what you were talking about, you did not make it clear in the way that you wrote it.

I think you are trying to bluff your way out of the embarrassment of not knowing what you were writing about (in a national newspaper to boot).

Really, you shouldn't be defending yourself with this kind of bluff, as it seems to be - you should be apologizing for writing such an offensive article.

Best wishes on your future writing.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Leow Ju-Len said...

How clever you are to have deduced it all from the single throwaway line: "PS, if all else fails, we'll always have Soylent Green."

Truly, you are the boy who knew too much!

6:43 PM  

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