A Negative Times a Negative Equals a Positive?


I never really understood math.

Apparently I could do it, because I got Bs in my math classes, but doing it and understanding it was not the same thing.  My strategy was to look at the pattern in the sample question and repeat the pattern in the exercises.  The trick on the test was just to apply the right pattern.

Now, over 30 years later, I understand one of the great mathematical mysteries—mysterious, that is, for all students who excel only in the humanities.

How does multiplying a negative by a negative give you positive?

I have known this to be true for a long time, but I never understood how it’s possible; it’s counterintuitive as far as I was concerned—a special knowledge reserved for great mathematical shaman like Mr. Stauffer, my high school math teacher.

But recently I caught a glimpse into how this could be possible.

In my English class we are talking about being discerning when we watch movies and read novels.  Given that any novel or movie will have elements that are “good” as well as elements that are “bad,” (for more, read “Dog poop in the Brownies”) discerning viewers and readers need to be able to identify what’s what.  Fearing that these categories would be over simplified, I said that a movie could have “bad” things in it, but not be a “bad” movie.  I was talking about Groundhog Day and Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, was doing bad things like driving drunk.  It is not discerning to identify this as an example of that which is false, evil or perverse because the movie is critical of his behaviour.  The movie’s attitude toward this behaviour is negative, making this aspect of the movie something that is good, true and beautiful.

Exercise 1 – reduce the following equation (show your work):

Phil Connors is drunk driving. Groundhog Day is critical of this behaviour.  Groundhog Day is saying something true.

  1.  Phil is doing a bad thing.  The movie says it’s bad.  This is good.
  2. A negative (is shown to be) negative is a positive.

This works for the other ones too.

If a movie has a bad thing in it, but calls it good, it’s bad.

A negative (is shown to be) positive is a negative.

and, a positive times a negative is a negative.

and, a positive times a positive is a positive.

The key, then, to assessing the good, true and beautiful in a movie involves discerning the movies stance toward the false, evil and perverse in a film.

It’s more than adding up the # of objectionable words/phrases, etc.

Failure to understand the implicit attitude toward these things in a movie, places the following movies in the same category.

Parental Advisory #1

  • Sex/Nudity: sexually related dialogue and gestures
  • Drugs/Alcohol: drinking, marijuana is used; mention of other drugs
  • Violence/Scariness: people are killed; gunfire; fighting
  • Objectionable Words/Phrases: 295

Parental Advisory #2

  • Sex/Nudity: sexually related dialogue
  • Drugs/Alcohol: drinking, smoking
  • Violence/Scariness: fatal shooting, beating up, intimidation of others
  • Objectionable Words/Phrases: 140

The first is Pineapple Express, the second, Gran Torino.  Don’t see the first; don’t miss the second.

 

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