Archive for September, 2010
“It was impossible for the Church to compel man to obey the law of God, and to send him to eternal damnation for his failure to do so.”- John Humphrey Noyes.
Prevailing American attitudes towards hippies reflect a deep ambivalence (affection contradicted by contempt, obsession contradicted by irony-(to borrow from Sontag)) toward the subject matter, to say the least. On the positive end, hippies produced some great music, shattered the taboo on casual sex and really knew how to have a good time. That being said, their endless peace-mongering drum circle shtick was annoying as hell, especially in light of the fact that their “establishment” parents were footing the bill, but I digress….
Anyway, while the hippies deserve the lion’s share of credit for mainstreaming fornication, “free love” was practiced in America long before Woodstock. In fact, the “free love” Oneida Community, founded in New York State by John Humphrey Noyes during the turbulent decades before the Civil War, practiced an extraordinary system of “complex marriage”. In fact, for more than thirty years, the two hundred adult members of the Oneida Community considered themselves heterosexually married to the entire community rather than to a single monogamous partner.
Noyes, deeply influenced by the religious revivalism that swept through New York and New England in the first third of the nineteenth century, based his ideas for the new social order in religious perfectionism. All members of the Oneida commune were expected to “take on the task of personal reform and self-betterment”. In accordance with this belief, Noyes decreed that his flock enter into “complex marriages”, under which members of Oneida chose their sexual partners freely. He believed “or at least claimed to believe) that complex marriage as it was practiced at Oneida would eliminate selfishness and possessiveness in sexual and social relationships.
Noyes can be credited with granting his female followers equal voice in the governance of the commune, especially when you consider that he came of age in antebellum America. The commune had its very own community nursery that provided care for infants and children so that both parents could work. Females adopted a style of dress, believed to have been copied from the Iroquois, consisting in a short skirt over trousers (bloomers). This allowed them the luxury of actually being able to breathe and move freely in their clothing, in stark contrast to the punishing corsets that their contemporaries were expected to wear (with a gracious smile).
However, Noyes was hardly the king of Kumbaya. He sexually manipulated many of his followers and his commune was hardly a democracy. Noyes was well aware of the gendered application of power in his rule of Oneida, and he often tried to control other men in the community through his sexual use of women. He also consolidated his power over women through sexual relationships. In 1874 Noyes bragged of an “exquisite little romance” he was conducting with thirteen-year-old Lillian Towner, the daughter of James Towner, the leader of an anti-Noyes faction. Yikes!
What Do You Think? »
Elderly people with mild memory problems may benefit from taking very high daily doses of vitamin B to retard the rate of brain shrinkage, only one of the many horror-inducing realities endemic to the aging process. However, there may be hope for our beleaguered brains yet: A recent University of Oxford study found that taking vitamin B tablets every day can reduce the rate of brain atrophy in older people with mild cognitive impairment by as much as half.
A member of the well-respected B family, Vitamin B12, vitamin B12 or vitamin B-12, also called cobalamin, is a water soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. It is normally involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, but also fatty acid synthesis and energy production. As the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin, it can be produced industrially only through bacterial fermentation-synthesis. Luckily, the highly-coveted vitamin is also found in a variety of foods, such as fish, shellfish, meat, and dairy products.
Roughly 20% 0f Americans over the age of 70 suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), in which they experience problems with memory, language, or other mental functions. Although the symptoms are not serious enough to interfere significantly with their daily lives, around half will go on to develop dementia, mainly Alzheimer’s disease, within five years of diagnosis. If further studies confirm the Oxford findings, a diet high in B12 could be a powerful prophylactic tool against the ghoulish nightmare that is brain shrinkage.
What Do You Think? »
Contrary to the wishful thinking of many mainlanders, Hawaii is no longer populated by lei bedecked hula dancers shimmying their way to the nearest luau. In fact, with the exception of cheesy hotel-hosted luau’s, there is nary a suckling pig in sight. However, this does not mean that Hawaiians have abandoned their passion for all things porcine. Their taste for traife has simply evolved (or devolved) into a peerless love for SPAM®. In fact, Hawaiians love the grayish pink canned pork loaf to the tune of 6 million cans of SPAM® a year, the nation’s highest per capita consumption of the processed meat.
After World War II, Post-Traumatic SPAM® Disorder was so severe on the mainland that the once noble pork product was abandoned by the upwardly mobile middle-class in droves. Eventually, the only people still eating SPAM® were too poor to have much say in the matter. Even college kids avoided “the other pink meat” out of principle, relying on Hot Pockets, Mac N’ Cheese and Ramen noodles to meet their nutritional needs.
The principle explanation for why SPAM® is popular in Hawaii is that is portable, durable meat that does not require any type of refrigeration. It was first introduced during WWII by American soldiers to Hawaiian natives, who quickly adopted it as an important part of their diet.
Moreover, the Asian influence on traditional Hawaiian cuisine cannot be understated, and SPAM® happened to work well with Asian dishes. It’s not very different from the salted pork used in many Asian foods, so it became a reliable substitute for fresher and non-canned alternatives. The resulting Asian-SPAM® fusion has given birth to some unusual dishes, including the much beloved SPAM® musubi. A riff on a traditional Japanese rice ball, it is prepared with a brick of rice (shaped in the SPAM® can), topped with a slab of said SPAM® and wrapped in a bit of nori to hold the thing together.
As much as Native Hawaiians are happy with the SPAM® /suckling pig swap, privileging convenience over quality has proven to be a Faustian bargain. As traditional dishes have been abandoned in favor of processed food, the Native Hawaiians have become increasingly unhealthy, suffering from alarmingly high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The number of Hawaiian children suffering from obesity is double that of children throughout the nation. To make matters worse, Native Hawaiians are over 5 times as likely as non- Hawaiians to experience diabetes between the ages of 19 to 35 (11% vs. 2%). Between age 36 and 64, Native Hawaiians have a rate of diabetes that is over twice that of other populations (79 vs. 34 per 1000).
My sage advice to the people of Hawaii—dust off that old grass skirt, start hula dancing off the heft and bring back the locavore luau!
What Do You Think? »
Gary Trudeau, the undisputed cream of the “controversial cartoonist” crop, first published his Sunday cartoon strip “Doonesbury” in 1972. The strip follows the ups and downs of a diverse group of characters of various ages, professions and backgrounds, from the President of the United States to the title character, Michael Doonesbury, a middle-aged, remarried father. The name “Doonesbury” is a combination of the word doone (prep school slang for “someone who is out to lunch”) and the surname of Charles Pillsbury, Trudeau’s roommate at Yale University.
Frequently political in nature, “Doonesbury” has been harshly criticized from the get-go by conservatives on account of its unabashedly liberal outlook. Not one to pull his punches, Trudeau’s column began attracting the ire of conservative folks shortly after it began running in “The Abilene Reporter-News”.
In an early controversy, Trudeau’s permanently blissed-out hippie, Zonker, was asked to entertain a boy at a daycare center. He obliged with the tale of a “gentle freak named Douglas” whose kindness to rabbits was rewarded with a weekend in Nirvana. There, the gods gave him “his weight in fine, uncut hashish.”
As soon as the strip appeared, complaints poured in by the truckload.
Shell-shocked by the vitriolic response engendered by the episode, the editor of “The Abilene Reporter-News” wrote, “I have seldom experienced such an angry reaction on anything in my 20 years as the chief editorial executive of this newspaper.” Only a year or so later, Trudeau cemented his fame (and notoriety) in a 1973 strip, which declared that Watergate conspirator John Mitchell was “Guilty, guilty, guilty!!”.
“Doonesbury” continued to push the buttons of uptight types throughout the ’70s and early’80s: his characters “come out of the closet”, commit adultery, and unashamedly consume illegal drugs and copious amounts of alcohol. In 1975, the Editorial Cartoonists’ Society passed a resolution condemning the Pulitzer Prize committee’s decision to award Trudeau the prize for Editorial Cartooning, despite the fact that it was the first time that a cartoonist had won the prestigious award. After confirming that the award could not be revoked, Trudeau famously (and mockingly) supported the resolution. In a famous 1985 incident, the distributors of “Doonesbury” begged Trudeau to withdraw an episode that eviscerated the anti-abortion film “Silent Scream.” True to form, Trudeau shrugged off the entreaty and published it in “The New Republic” instead.
These episodes burnished Trudeau’s reputation and built his audience; for every editor who refused to run them, another two picked up the strip. Sometimes the figure being satirized even issued an angry public rebuttal. The original George Bush, in his vice presidential days, declared that “the American people are going to be speaking out, and we’ll see whether they side with Doonesbury or the Reagan-Bush message.”
Impressively, Trudeau’s inkwell has still not run dry: “Doonesbury” is currently syndicated in approximately 1,400 newspapers worldwide.
What Do You Think? »
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes lifelong mental retardation, developmental delays and other problems. It is the most common genetic cause of severe learning disabilities in children, occurring in one in every 700 to 800 infants. It varies in severity, so developmental problems range from moderate to serious. Infants born with Down syndrome may be of average size, but typically they grow slowly and remain shorter than other children of similar age. Individuals with Down syndrome have a distinct facial appearance. Some of the more common features are:
• Flattened facial features
• Protruding tongue
• Small head
• Upward slanting eyes, unusual for the child’s ethnic group
• Unusually shaped ears
Until 2007, only pregnant women 35 and older were routinely tested to see if their fetuses had the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. As a result many couples were given the diagnosis only at birth. But under a new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors have begun to offer a new, safer screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age.
Some physicians and ethicists are concerned about the ethical ramifications of this. Conservative commentator George Will called it “eugenics by abortion”. However, the roughly 90 percent of pregnant women who have chosen to have an abortion after being given a diagnosis of Down syndrome appear to feel differently…
1 Comment »
Lactose intolerance is the inability or insufficient ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. This condition is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells lining the small intestine. Lactase breaks down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar called glucose and galactose, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream. It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood. The frequency of decreased lactase activity ranges from as little as 5% in northern Europe, up to 71% for Sicily, to more than 90% in some African and Asian countries.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include the following:
• Abdominal bloating
• Abdominal cramps
• Floating stools
• Foul-smelling stools
• Gas (flatulence)
• Slow growth
• Weight loss
The above-listed symptoms often occur shortly after an affected person consumes or drinks dairy products, and are often relieved by avoiding eating or drinking milk products. However, dairy products such as milk and cheese are well-known sources of calcium, which is necessary for the health of teeth and bones. Fortunately, many non-dairy sources of calcium exist: nuts and seeds (like almonds and sesame); blackstrap molasses; beans; oranges; figs; quinoa; amaranth; collard greens; okra; rutabaga; broccoli; dandelion leaves; kale; and fortified products such as orange juice and soy milk a contain the much needed mineral. However, lactose intolerant individuals are urged to be vigilant about consuming enough calcium, as one needs to consume these non-dairy alternatives in greater quantities in order to meet minimal calcium requirements for bone health.
What Do You Think? »
“ Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in–by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.” – Lyndon Johnson
Affirmative action is the nation’s most ambitious attempt to redress its long history of racial and sexual discrimination. The term generally applies to policies that take factors including “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.
These policies target a wide range of areas, including employment, education, public contracting and health programs. However, since President John F. Kennedy’s inception of these policies by Executive Order in 1965, affirmative action has had its share of detractors, most notably from the right.
An increasingly assertive opposition movement argues that the battle to guarantee equal rights for all citizens has already been achieved– and that favoring members of one group over another simply goes against the American way. However, defenders of affirmative action say that the playing field is not level yet – and that granting modest advantages to minorities and women is more than fair, given hundreds of years of discrimination that benefited whites and men.
Opponents of affirmative action do have a point- many qualified applicants are pushed aside for less deserving students on the basis of “affirmative action” admission policies, albeit not usually in favor of the minority applicants that conservatives rail against. Instead, a large share of students gain admission to top-notch institutions through their ties to powerful people, with alumni, donors, faculty members, administrators, and politicians topping the list.
So why aren’t “legacies” opposed with equal vitriol by opponents of affirmative action? Thoughts?
What Do You Think? »