June 23, 2006

"A 58-year-old, slump-shouldered Queens genius."

Meet Steven Finkelstein, "an unlikely 'Casanova' who used the smarty-pants club Mensa to meet women and bully them into giving him free digs." Is that a crime? And if he's so smart how come he's going to prison for it? And aren't the Mensa women supposed to be smart too?

Anyway, I love the writing in The Daily News. "The smarty-pants club Mensa" -- that kills me.

22 comments:

P. Froward said...

Bah. Mensa will take anybody in the 98th percentile. That's hardly "genius".

I've always wondered what kind of idiot would join a club like that. Now I know.

Pogo said...

Steven Finkelstein, meet Ayn Rand. Real human behavior was her downfall, too.

His reference to "willing vicitms" is the chilling sign of a true sociopath. Thank heavens his goals were so minor. High intelligence that lacks a conscience means Big Trouble for the rest of us. Stalin was a good example of how the right circumstances can turn Steven Finkelstein into a murderer of millions.

Too bad I don't have a spare Voigt-Kampff empathy test laying around to lend to the smarty pants club.

Bissage said...

Let me be the first to confess that I joined "the smarty-pants club Mensa" to meet women.

I went to a few meetings to find (surprise, surprise) you can put me in a room full of people who all did well on a standardized test and I still won't introduce myself to anyone.

Oh, no! Did I just confide in strangers? Ann, you are truly devious. You've become a werecat!

AJD said...

Not in the top 2% eh, Ann?

Bummer.

Alan Kellogg said...

Wit aint wisdom. Some folks can do tensor calculus, but have no idea how to say hello to a girl.

Besides, it's better to have little and know what to do with it; than a lot and have no idea what it's for.

Goesh said...

Smarty-pants club Mensa - HA! you're simply the best.....

Bissage said...

Years ago, Jerry Adler wrote a humorous bit about "The Bell Curve" in Newsweek. It's behind a subscription wall, but here's the text. Missing from the original bit is a photo of Dostoevsky next to a photo of Claudia Schiffer with a compare/contrast of the lives they lead. The message, as I recall, was clear: If you're ever given the choice of who you want to be when you grow up, choose Claudia.

Did she go to law school?

Dean said...

This shows, once again, that smartness doesn't always mean the person has common sense. Neither of my parents finished high school, but they had lots of common sense. Of course, I may be prejudiced there.

J said...

The only MENSA member I've had significant exposure to is, well, not as bad as this guy but largely cut from the same cloth. We even started referring to him as "The Genius", and didn't mean it as a compliment.

"it's better to have little and know what to do with it; than a lot and have no idea what it's for"

If someone has no idea what to do with the knowledge they have, do they really qualify as intelligent?

"Let me be the first to confess that I joined "the smarty-pants club Mensa" to meet women"

What were the women there like? Not female versions of this lowlife, hopefully. Is the fact that MENSA members need the validation of a club like this indicative of a problem?

Bissage said...

J asked: "What were the women there like?"

So far as I could tell? Pretty much like the other women from that geographic region, except they scored well on a standardized IQ test. I never thought that counted for very much. Anyway, I only went to two or three meetings and I think Mensa changed to admit people with high scores on tests like the SAT and LSAT and such. I don't think that counts for very much, either. I value kindness and humor over "intelligence," by orders of magnitude. The kind of mental skills the IQ test measured was like horsepower in a car engine. It tells you something but there's a whole lot more to know.

I only joined because I thought it might be fun like that episode of "The Bob Newhart Show" where Emily qualifies and Bob doesn't. That episode was a stitch! The Mensa meetings I attended were absolutely tedious.

Professor Althouse attracts a much better crowd, IMHO. (Though not everyone is so very kind.)

Christy said...

After I'd been through all the interesting guys at my gym and in my ski club, I thought I'd join Mensa to see what was available. I asked an accomplished girlfriend to join with me - advanced degrees in engineering and business, passed her CPA first time around, gave great parties - and she confided that she didn't qualify. Somehow that turned me off the whole idea. I'm nerdy enough as it is.

Anyone remember Omni Magazine and their issue with "The Worlds Hardest IQ Test?" I came accross it recently in a decluttering. I'd put it aside for a bit because there were maybe 3 questions that had me stymied and I refused to send it in for checking until I had them figured out. There were questions I knew the answer to 20 years ago that today were confounding. Somehow, though, I feel smarter today than 20 years ago.

I'm with Stephen J. Gould, IQ tests are The Mismeasure of Man

Jeff said...

I took the mensa test a few years ago. I got a nice note back telling me I was in the top 5%, but that I didnt qualify for the club since it was restricted to the top 2%. I never really understood the cut off. Would I be confused by conversations with the upper 2%? Do I baffle people in the 5% to 10% range? Why not restrict it to the top 1%? Really make it exclusive. Or are they being kind to the slower members who fall in the 98-99% percentile?

Pogo said...

Mensa members invite the question, "If you're so smart...?" about any error they ever make, along with observations about doing the superior dance regarding one aspect of human intellect. Regardless, the connotations are not good.

Greybeard said...

If I qualify for membership, must I also paint my fingernails bright red?

Ann Althouse said...

Jeff: Yeah, why not limit it to the top 1%... or the top .5%? As it is, I think half the Mensa folk are thinking, I'm top 1% and I'll bet that guy's only top 2%.

Pogo: Yeah, once someone says they're in Mensa, they open themselves up to constant razzing along the lines of I thought you were the big genius... It's one thing to have a job that exposes you to the endless you're a law professor! lines that I get, but a job also gives you money and something to do. It's not mainly a label you seek to prove that you're smart.

There was a guy on "The Apprentice" this season who was in Mensa, and Trump was constantly attacking him for not acting smart when he's supposed to be the "genius." How did Ann Althouse get to be a law professor when she watches those crappy TV shows like "The Apprentice"?

Ann Althouse said...

Jeff: Yeah, why not limit it to the top 1%... or the top .5%? As it is, I think half the Mensa folk are thinking, I'm top 1% and I'll bet that guy's only top 2%.

Pogo: Yeah, once someone says they're in Mensa, they open themselves up to constant razzing along the lines of I thought you were the big genius... It's one thing to have a job that exposes you to the endless you're a law professor! lines that I get, but a job also gives you money and something to do. It's not mainly a label you seek to prove that you're smart.

There was a guy on "The Apprentice" this season who was in Mensa, and Trump was constantly attacking him for not acting smart when he's supposed to be the "genius." How did Ann Althouse get to be a law professor when she watches those crappy TV shows like "The Apprentice"?

miked0268 said...

My understanding is that SAT's taken before sometime in the late 90's basically ARE an IQ test, and that SAT scores convert directly to a standard IQ score by some kind of conversion factor.

Somebody once talked me into looking into an organization similar to Mensa that required 99.9th percentile - I had a good/lucky day back in high school when I took SAT's, so I qualified - I thought that it might be a good place to find some interesting discussions. After reading their discussion boards, however, I'm pretty sure they mostly do it to prop up a fragile ego and prove to everyone how smart they are. Alot of their members seem to be kind of losers - not that they don't function at all, but that they feel their station in life isn't impressive enough to reflect their high IQ's.

Bissage said...

Miked0268: It might be worse than that. From thier creepy published materials (especially letters to the editor) I suspected Mensa was some kind of weird crypto-eugenicist organization. (As opposed to all those non-weird crypto-eugenicist organizations!)

Again, the disclaimer: This was 20 years ago. Maybe things have changed and they're all kind and humorous and they throw kick-ass parties the same as in that episode of "The Bob Newhart Show."

reader_iam said...

I'm finding it interesting--and amusing, and even ironic--that the Mensa Hall of Fame consists entirely of individuals who all died before Mensa's establishment. Instead, they were selected as "individuals who have demonstrated their genius through remarkable vision and accomplishments."

Well, what about actual Mensa members who've demonstrated neither remarkable vision nor accomplishments? What about those who miss qualifying based on the test but "have demonstrated their genius" through their actions or achievements?

Not that I'm questioning the genius of the deceased people included in the Hall of Fame; that's not really the point of my comment.

Bissage said...

It looks like this thread has joined the choir invisible. Still, I'd like to make a correction to a prior comment, as follows:

I said I joined Mensa "to meet women." That was consistent with the article and Ann's post. However, it was inaccurate. Better I should have said "hoping to find a girlfriend."

There now. That's all better.

ET said...

A little wine with Finkelstein,
is sure to dull a smart girl's mind!

ET

Sean E said...

"Or are they being kind to the slower members who fall in the 98-99% percentile?"

Someone needs to start printing Mensa t-shits: "98% percentile. Please speak slowly."