Learn to Google: now with more shoddy journalism!

April 27, 2009

The CNN Article “Mysterious Cleopatra has 21st-century defender” starts out fascinating, talking about a female Egyptian archaeologist who took exception to the negative portrayal of Cleopatra and is working to improve her image by conducting new research (there’s a possibility she will actually find Cleopatra’s tomb!) and writing a book telling the “real” story of Cleopatra, who, she says, “spoke nine languages, she was a philosopher, she was a poet, she was a politician, she was a goddess, and she was a warrior.”

However, the article doesn’t really get better after that line– it doesn’t offer any information on the specific information that Kathleen Martinez is trying to refute, or what her research has uncovered so far. Instead, it returns to the Is Cleopatra Ugly?!?! question! Because, you know, that’s the most important thing about her. It’s nothing new at all– there were some coins with her face that looked ugly, but she had to have been pretty, because nobody could have loved her if she was ugly.

But then it does get interesting, with some gender-neutral looksism:

The same researchers didn’t have a very flattering assessment of Marc Antony either, saying he had “bulging eyes, a large hooked nose and a thick neck.” No Richard Burton.

This does contradict Plutarch’s description of Marc Antony as having “a noble dignity of form; and a shapely beard, a broad forehead, and an aquiline nose [that] were thought to show the virile qualities peculiar to the portraits and statues of Hercules”?

I really just have to say… no. The description of Mark Antony as having “a large hooked nose” does not contradict the description of him having “an aquiline nose.” They are the same thing. That’s what “aquiline” means. “Curving like an eagle’s beak.” From wikipedia: An Aquiline nose (also called Roman nosehook nose or beak nose) is a human nose with a prominent bridge, giving it the appearance of being curved or slightly bent.

Is it sad that that’s the error that motivates me to blog this? Not the weirdly patronizing tone that the journalist takes towards the archaeologist; not the omission of Cleopatra’s story; not the really boring obsession with her looks; not even the poorly-written way the whole thing trails off into bizarre theories about the Egyptian pyramids and the Sphinx. No, the part that annoys me most is the fact that the journalist didn’t know what an “aquiline” nose looked like, and didn’t even bother to google it.

Seriously, dude. The rest of it would have taken time and thought to fix. “Aquiline” you could have figured out for yourself.


The oh-shit-I-forgot-to-blog blogaround!

April 24, 2009

Well, it’s been several days since I’ve written, hasn’t it! Uh… oops?

My classes are rapidly progressing towards their ends, meaning I have lots of projects and impending exams. Since Tuesday I’ve been working on a 10-minute video for my Arabic class, which is due next Tuesday. It’s a group project, and while our script would have been simple as pie to film with a group of dedicated, experienced film students, and at least fairly doable with a group invested in working efficiently, it is, perhaps, over-ambitious for a group unwilling to commit to a production schedule. My time is occupied entirely with, for example, rearranging my entire day to accommodate one group member, whose only area of opportunity is 10:20am on Friday, only to discover at 10:25 that she has to go to class at 10:30. And then there is the group member who told me simply that she was never available at all, except that she did so by saying “well, Thursday is pretty busy, and Friday is iffy, Saturday is right out and so is Sunday, and then Monday I think I have something…”

I also, miraculously, film something on occasion, and even have brief opportunities to edit that footage. So far we have 2 minutes of our required 10, and while much of it is chronological it’s still pretty scattershot.

But I promised a blogaround! So here you go! Links! Which I have either tagged as “toblog” on del.icio.us or chosen to “share” on Google Reader! Have at it!

From The Angry Black Woman, we have “A Chocolate Coating to make the Bitter White Pill Go Down Easier,” a great article about how turning all the main characters white in the movie version of Avatar: The Last Airbender and then making some of the random background characters a mish-mash of “multicultural” races is still made of fail compared to maintaining the Asian culture of the show without adding white people or black people.

 

So in the name of diversity, the film’s producers are ignoring the diversity that was in the original cartoon — characters who evoked cultures as wildly disparate as the Inuit, Mayans, Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Pacific Islanders, Arabs, Japanese, Tibetan, Ainu, and probably a dozen more. They’re replacing it with “Diversity: American Style”, in which all those ethnicities get lumped together into “one community” and stripped of agency, a few black and multiracial people get sprinkled on for flavor, and white people get the best parts and the most screentime.

I cannot begin to explain how revolted I am that black people are being used to justify this shit.

Because that’s the thing: there weren’t any white people in the original series, either. And clearly the producers were not OK with this, despite the many, many all-white fantasy worlds that already exist. So all their “diversity” bullshit is really just a cover for their primary goal, which was to shoehorn white people into this world. But the creepiness of this goal would’ve been far too obvious if they’d only inserted white folks, so they tossed in some other races too.

 

From Junkfood Science, we have “How we’ve come to believe that overeating causes obesity,” a fascinating historical account. 

… [P]eople, regardless of their size, who believe they have “overeating” issues are most often exhibiting completely normal, natural biological responses to starvation, hunger and weight loss — in developed countries, that means voluntary starvation, otherwise called dieting. Healthy people, whether naturally fat or thin, who aren’t dieting or trying to control their weights don’t have problems with “overeating.”

The biological reality of our weights and weight control, and the effects of dieting, were clinically demonstrated more than 50 years ago in what remains the definitive research on the subject. The findings in this famous study, revolutionary at the time, have been replicated in the most precise, complicated metabolic studies of food intake behavior, energy expenditure and the biochemistry of fat conducted by the country’s top obesity researchers.

[a huge portion of the post is omitted here, detailing the study and its implications. Read it in full here.]

The last part of the Minnesota Starvation Study revealed perhaps the most important effects. When the men were allowed to eat ad libitum again, they had insatiable appetites, yet never felt full. …

While it seemed the men were “overeating,” Dr. Keys discovered that their bodies actually needed inordinate amount of calories for their tissues to be rebuilt:

Our experiments have shown that in an adult man no appreciable rehabilitation can take place on a diet of 2,000 calories a day. The proper level is more like 4,000 kcal daily for some months. The character of the rehabilitation diet is important also, but unless calories are abundant, then extra proteins, vitamins and minerals are of little value.

In other words, they weren’t really “overeating,” it was a biological, normal effect of hunger and weight loss. The men regained their original weights plus 10%. The regained weight was disproportionally fat, and their lean body mass recovered much more slowly. With unlimited food and unrestricted eating, their weights plateaued and finally, about 9 months later, most had naturally returned to their initial weights without trying — giving scientists one of the first demonstrations that each body has a natural, genetic set point, whether it be fat or thin. Despite the fear that with unrestrained eating everyone would continue to grow larger, it isn’t true.

From The F-Word, “Why does the world love Susan Boyle?” I’ll skip to the part where she tells us why, because it’s awesome:

 

The world has responded fervently to Susan Boyle because we are all Susan Boyle. Her choice of songs — “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables — is not to be dismissed. We were once all “young and unafraid” with high hopes and lofty aspirations yet unsullied by a cruel and superficial world.  We’ve all experienced those metaphorical “tigers” that have torn apart our hopes and turned our dreams to shame. For an unfortunate too many of us, life has killed the dreams we dreamed. Yet when we listen to Susan Boyle, for a moment we are Susan Boyle, standing before a jaded, image-obsessed audience in a bad dress and clunky shoes, and yet being embraced anyway with open arms and accolades.  As Susan said of her childhood harassers, “Look at me now – I’ve got the last laugh.”  And as she laughs, we laugh, for Susan Boyle’s vindication is our vindication.

But the world doesn’t love Susan Boyle because she represents the common Everyman. The world loves Susan Boyle because she stepped onto that stage in front of a cynical public and the white-hot crucible of reality TV and she did it with the kind of unwavering dignity and extraordinary confidence in her self-worth and awesome talent that so many of us only wish we had.

And, finally, from Language Log we have “Debasing the coinage of rational inquiry: a case study.

 

A little more than a week ago, our mass media warned us about a serious peril. “Scientists warn of Twitter dangers“, said CNN on 4/14/2009:

Rapid-fire TV news bulletins or getting updates via social-networking tools such as Twitter could numb our sense of morality and make us indifferent to human suffering, scientists say.

New findings show that the streams of information provided by social networking sites are too fast for the brain’s “moral compass” to process and could harm young people’s emotional development.

As usual when stuff that people like is shown to be bad for them, the public apparently discounted these dire warnings. According to a poll reported at the Marketing Shift blog, when asked “Do social networks and rapid updates desensitize you to sad news?”, 74% said “no”, 13% said “maybe”, and only 13% said “yes”.

In this case, the public skepticism was a good thing, because the news reports were a load of hooey.

The timing of streams of information did indeed cause some public immorality in this case — but the guilty party was not Twitter or Facebook or TV News, but rather the National Academy of Sciences, in whose Proceedings the cited reseach was published. In accord with its usual practice, PNAS released the embargo for journalists a full week before the paper was available for other scientists and the general public to read. As a result, the news media could spread nonsense-pretending-to-be-science (almost) unchallenged for seven of those famous 24-hour news cycles.

And “nonsense” is far too mild a word for the way these stories described the research of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Andrea McColl, Hanna Damasio and Antonio Damasio, “Neural correlates of admiration and compassion“, PNAS, published online April 20, 2009.  I haven’t seen such a spectacular divergence between evidence and science journalism since the infamous “email and texting lower the IQ twice as much as smoking pot” case of 2005.

So, there you go. Four meaty posts that probably deserve in-depth responses, but, well, better something than nothing, eh? Look for more fascinating links in the coming days as I continue to be ridiculously busy! And leave your own in the comments!


The “I promise I still blog here!” blogaround

March 14, 2009

I exercised today, and even though it was only ten minutes at a pleasant walking pace, well, I’m totally wiped out. I’m going to be trying to do the same every day– and even work up to more exercise!– but I might be a bit, well, absent.

So to tide you over, some great links from my RSS feed!

Newspapers and Thinkingthe Unthinkable

“It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem…Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.”

Women & Work

Quick Hit: It’s Almost as if Fat Tastes Good

The panel – which receives funding from the UK’s Margarine and Spreads Association – suggests that consumers use stronger cheese and low-fat polyunsaturated or mono-unsaturated spreads instead of butter.

I’m reading this whole thing like, “Wait, isn’t the jury still out on butter vs. margarine? And hasn’t everybody heard that at this point? Why does this make no mention of that? OH I SEE.”

That little fun fact also makes this beauty make a whole lot more sense:

Nigella Lawson is criticised for using butter instead of margarine in her egg and bacon pie, with a single serving brimming with 36g of fat.

Yes, clearly butter is the culprit responsible for jacking up the saturated fat content of EGG AND BACON PIE. Remember to flavor your bacon pie with a “heart-healthy spread,” folks!

Tiger Beatdown: Adventures in Victorian Literature: Kelly Clarkson Version

The song of which I speak, performed by Ms. Clarkson, is entitled “I Do Not Hook Up.” It is a thoughtful examination of sexual politics, and also why boys won’t like you if you consent to have sex with them without extorting some promise of undying love and/or a wedding ring from them first! Let us perform some literary analysis of this groundbreaking piece.

The Salad Police

I have a very poignant sociological observation for you all, so get ready:

The sight of a fat woman eating a salad makes people lose their minds, and wallow in self-hatred.


I’m Too Lazy for my Blog, Too Lazy for my Blog

October 3, 2008

So it’s time for a blogaround!

Voting myths and Registration Deadline over at Jump Off the Bridge. The short version: it’s illegal to campaign too close to a polling station (distance varies by state) and wearing campaign paraphernalia can qualify, but even if you wear an Obama T-shirt to the polls they may NOT deny you your right to vote! Just cover up or remove the campaign gear, and they MUST allow you to vote.

Plans B Damned: The Quest for Emergency Contraception at RH Reality Check. Kind of an upsetting story, but also just about exactly what I expected. It makes me want to do my own experiment, to see how hard it is to get Plan B here in Arkansas, except, of course, that birth control is a shameful, shameful thing to talk about, and I’m not that brave. Who needs to overturn Roe v. Wade? Just keep chipping away at this stuff.

But cheer up, everyone, and check out Sarah Haskins again! Actually, you should bookmark her right now, so you never have to miss another of her videos again. She is my favourite comedian ever. If only the rest of Current was half as funny.

Hey, more funny stuff: At Least We’re Good For a Laugh! at BGKev.com. Oh, oops. This is actually not funny at all. Turns out one of the few things Palin and Biden agreed on last night was the fact that it would be illegan to deny certain rights to those icky gays, but by God, we don’t have to let them use the word marriage! It’s times like these that I feel most defeatist about American politics, but at least BGK sees some hope. If we can get civil unions to exist, then we can challenge them in the Supreme Court, and it’ll probably be good news. But still…if you’re agreeing with the Republicans, you’re not being a very good ally. This is one of the major ways that the Obama campaign continues to disappoint me.

Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart: basically the only thing I’m going to say about last night’s debate. Besides the thing I just said about gay rights.

A Conversation with the Nuptial-Industrial Complex over at 2 Elle also makes me laugh and makes me wonder what I’ll do when it comes time for my afore-mentioned evil Canadian gay wedding. I’m thinking a Marilyn Monroe-type white dress– it would flatter my figure in all the right ways, and I want my wedding to be more like a party and less like a Formal Ceremony if at all possible. I want to actually be married at the end of it (boo USA!) but other than that I’m not that interested in a traditional wedding.

The Myth of Objectivity over at Echidne of the Snakes got me thinking about my experiences in journalism, and how “objective” is usually anything but. Supporting the status quo is still taking a position; it is promoting a viewpoint; it is not “neutral.”

For some good ol’ FA stuff, I’ve been reading old Shapely Prose posts. Hooray for the Duh Truck! Twice! My favourite bit is a brief anecdote from the second one:

“I just recently met a woman who has fraternal twin boys, one of whom is bigger than the other — and she told me the pediatrician is on her ass about that kid’s weight. Because of course the only logical explanation for that would be that she’s overfeeding one kid but giving the other a normal amount of food. As, you know, mothers of twins are totally wont to do. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?”

I mean, has this doctor never seen children in their natural habitats before? When I was a kid, it was totally unacceptable for my brothers to have a different number of sprinkles than I got, let alone such a fundamentally different diet that they were noticeably heavier. Isn’t that typical behavior for kids, especially for twins? “If they get X, I want to have X too!” It’s just bizarre to assume that the difference is in the input, rather than the body’s response.

Also: Feeling fat may be worse for you than being fat. And it’s in a reputable news source and everything! If only I were brave enough to mail these links to my mum…luckily, though, she can’t make me feel fat. She can make me feel terribly unfit, but that’s because I haven’t exercised regularly since 6th grade and am not strong enough to climb two flights of stairs in a row. (I’m working on it!) So, unhealthy, sure, but unacceptably fat? No way. I am drop-dead sexy, guys. Voluptuous and gorgeous.

Ten posts is enough for a blogaround, right? You’ve all got enough stuff to read now that I can leave, right? You won’t come after me for failing my blogular duties?

Great! Then I’m going to go watch some more Planet Earth. Man, I love the BBC.