Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bait and Switch

This article at MSNBC gives the latest on Reverend Alberto Cutié, a popular Catholic priest in Florida who was exposed as having a romantic relationship. Ordinarily I'd ignore this as though it were any other celebrity sex scandal (because that is exactly what this is). But now the story has taken a rather interesting turn:

A popular Miami priest and media personality known as "Father Oprah" has left the Catholic Church to become an Anglican after he was photographed cavorting on the beach with his girlfriend . . . He was received into the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, in a ceremony Thursday at Trinity Cathedral and may later announce he will marry his girlfriend, which is allowed in that denomination.

The fact that Cutié chose to go to the Episcopalian Church is interesting, since it has sometimes been described as a watered down (or progressive, to be kind) version of Catholicism; it has a lot of the same rites and procedures but not so much of the art or guilt (and a lot more sex, apparently). So he is advocating essentially the same philosophy (without having to answer for how he could not live up to its standards), keeps his standing in the community (rather than being outcast as a hypocrite), and he gets the girl. This is the stuff of a Hollywood film.

But what this story really illustrates is the impractical nature of celibacy and the impossible demand that the Catholic Church makes on its priesthood. It also illustrates the controlling, sadomasochistic nature of Christianity and Catholicism's notion of love. The story quotes Cutié:

"I believe that I've fallen in love and I believe that I've struggled with that, between my love for God, and my love for the Church and my love for service," Cutié said.

The fact that love of his god or church and love for another human being are mutually exclusive hits the target right in the bulls eye. The Catholic Church's rule of celibacy and Christianity's entire notion of devotion to god is based around the idea that love for your fellow man (or woman) is a degrading state, and both demand a fascistic level of adherence and devotion.

So, with that in mind, now would be a great opportunity for Cutié, as a former priest, to speak out against this insane tradition. But this is what he said instead:

Cutié has previously said he supports the Catholic Church's stand that priests should be celibate and does not want to become the "anti-celibacy priest."

It may be that he just doesn't want to burn bridges, but this reeks of trying to have things both ways. Maybe we'll see Cutié on the road with Bristol Palin advocating abstinence-only sex education, Cutié with his girlfriend on his arm and Palin holding her baby.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Missing Link Found

According to this article, the fossil of a missing link has been found.

Named Darwinius masillae and called Ida, the link is not a fish-man but rather a link between "higher" primates (monkeys, apes, and humans) and "lower" mammals:
Here is some context for the age of the new primate fossil: Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) first emerged about 200,000 years ago, but early humans such as Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus anamensis reach back 3 million to 4 million years ago or even earlier. Humans are thought to have split off from a group that includes chimpanzees and gorillas about 6 million years ago. And a group that includes all the great apes (including us) and Old World monkeys (called simians or anthropoids) diverged from New World monkeys in the Eocene, just after the time of Ida. So our primate roots reach back to this time.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Naming the Problem

From The Daily Beast:
What Wanda Sykes has done for the GOP is to name the problem, and the problem is the party’s addiction to hambone performers who each day claim to be speaking for the so-called conservative base of the Republican Party. These men and women are not politicians or political thinkers. They are lounge-room showbiz. Is this a disturbing fact to those who admire or loathe them? Rush Limbaugh and the others (and you know their names better than I do) are paid a lot of money by advertisers of cars, soaps, foods, drugs, software, and Hollywood to complain, moan, whine, pontificate, and harangue in a darkly comical way in order to upset their audiences. It is not real, and it is not sophisticated, and it is not usually honest. I throw in that it is most definitely not based upon the history of the Republicans or the country. I have been on talk radio since before the attacks on New York and Washington, but especially since then, and I have seen the burlesque house from backstage for years from the three cities that dominate the business. The men and women on air right now, who daily hector the Obama administration and the celebrity Democrats in Congress and elsewhere, are not Republican policy thinkers. Moreover, they are not usually Republicans.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wikipedia Hoax

When I teach composition classes, I make it very clear that students should avoid using Google to do their research and absolutely should not use Wikipedia as a source in their papers. Here is a really good example of why:

When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news.

His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.

The sociology major's made-up quote — which he added to the Wikipedia page of Maurice Jarre hours after the French composer's death March 28 — flew straight on to dozens of U.S. blogs and newspaper Web sites in Britain, Australia and India.
I'll admit that I use Google and Wikipedia for day to day queries, just to satiate curiousities about famous people or places, but when major media sources are using it, that is worrying.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

No Eating on the Treadmill

With the (unnecessary) hysteria over pig flu behind us and a debate over national health care just around the corner, here is an interesting article from The Daily Beast about how exercise may be overrated. Susan Roberts, a professor of Nutrition and Psychiatry, argues that the hype over gym memberships is not entirely accurate or truthful.

The notion of going to the gym—burning, say, 500 calories a session, six days a week, and thereby eliminating 3,000 calories (or about a pound of body fat) in a single week—is very appealing. Just think: Lose 50 pounds plus get great abs over the course of a single year, all without dieting!

But a hard look at the evidence just doesn’t support the hype. The inconvenient truth is that we now eat about 500 more calories per day than we did 30 years ago. That's enough to explain our growing waistline without any need to factor in exercise.

Combine this fact with national surveys showing that people who do manual occupations—jobs like construction, farming, and domestic work—are heavier than people who sit in front of a computer screen all day. Indeed, these physically strenuous jobs carry a 30% increased risk of obesity when compared to office jobs. Of course, comparisons like this don’t factor in social class, or whether you eat brownies, or take a run after work, but that’s the whole point—compared to factors like what we eat and what our education level is, hard manual labor just doesn’t make as much of a difference. Even if your day is spent shoveling gravel, you’re still going to find yourself with a pot belly if you’re always lunching on pizza and soda.

Of course, exercise has benefits aside from burning fat. For example, it strengthens the cardiovascular and circulatory systems, which combats heart disease and improves immunity, and generally results in more restful sleep patterns. But the point is that the value of exercise is instrumental, not intrinsic, and its purpose is to burn the extra calories that we intake but do not burn off on our daily activities. It should be rather easy: if you want to lose weight, burn more calories than you take in and consume them as proteins and carbohydrates instead of fats. But it's not that simple because healthy food is hard to find when we are confronted by fast food restaurants on every corner but community co-ops are rare by comparison.

Moreover, the fitness industry's attempt to sell us results without work is symptomatic of a broader American problem: our infomercial culture has sold us the idea that we can have something for nothing, whether it is six pack abs with no change in our diet, purchasing electronics we don't need with money we don't have, or taking out a mortgage with no down payment. The success of capitalism is largely measured on growth and projections of further growth, but if our indulgences outreach our means, as they have over last last several generations, the culture can end up where it is now: fat and broke.