Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fat in Paradise

Several weeks ago now, I saw a special on TLC set at the Freedom Paradise "size-friendly" resort. It seemed to be some sort of "fat acceptance" workshop or retreat, not just vacations. Interesting, because I thought the FA movement was kinda over in the 1990s, but there it was on everybody's favorite cable lifestyle channel.

The insight that I had while watching the show was that there are (potentially) two totally different levels of FA.

One is more like a fat-pride movement. Fat is fabulous. Fat people shouldn't ever change. This leads to some predictable stuff that I think is lame (fat isn't my fault, weight loss is impossible), delusional (lots of fat people eat right and exercise vigorously and are still fat), and/or dangerous (fat is a safe and healthy lifestyle choice). It can get downright weird (everyone should find fat attractive and sexy). Emphasis on discrimination. Everything would be OK if only the MSM would show fat in a positive light. Fat celebrities who lose weight viewed as turncoats. Not much left of this one these days. I think it pretty much lost the war with science.

Someone on the TLC show said something about how nice it was, as a fat person at a fat resort, to be able to go back to the buffet again and again without anyone being judgmental. That's old-school FA for me in a nutshell. Delusions and coverups notwithstanding, it's pretty much Gluttony Acceptance, and that's just sad.

On the other hand, I don't think it's helpful to vilify fat people, to moo at them out of passing cars, or for department stores to cram the fat women's clothing section in a dark corner of the basement and fill it with polyester and muumuus. Fat is so locked up with self-esteem and self-worth that ironically, it's necessary to think well of yourself in order to sustain the motivation and discipline needed to lose the weight!

It's a dilemma and I don't really know whether it's possible to balance meeting fat people's basic needs against trying not to enable fat and make it so comfortable that it really does become yet another alternative lifestyle. I like the idea that fat people can have a normal and relaxed vacation on a beautiful beach with respectful staff and sturdy beds and chairs. On the other hand, being pinched in an airline seat serves as a helpful reminder that my size is not normal and what I'm doing is not OK in the long term. It encourages me to straighten up and fly right, as it were.

I figure regardless of what should or should not be, the marketing niche will win out and fat will be accommodated because fat money is worth just as much as the skinny kind (and there's increasingly more of it). And yet, since the TLC show was filmed, Freedom Paradise has abandoned their size-friendly theme and don't market themselves as such any more. I don't know if that means there isn't support for the niche, or they need to partner with a size-friendly airline to make it work. Maybe it means that all resorts catering to Americans are becoming size-friendly anyway and it isn't a niche any more!

Testing Blogger tags

Here we are testing whether I can really get categories working in Blogger.

Yet another reason to love the mainline

If I believed in a God, I'd wonder this week if s/he were trying to tell me something.

CNN: Woman elected to lead American Episcopalians

NY Times: Woman Is Named Episcopal Leader (very cool photo)

(Take that, Diocese of Fort Worth.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mainline Protestantism... or....

Rabbi Shmuley takes the dVC as a starting point and takes it to another, more interesting place.

A More Human Jesus?

He summarizes, practically verbatim, stuff I've said about why the dVC (and Last Temptation) theology is so appealing to me.

I don't think there's any power in God becoming human if God does not actually become human. I found it frustrating that Christians don't seem to understand or care about that point, but Rabbi Shmuley offers a really great explanation as to why that may be. I think mainliners are less likely to fall victim to the super-hero mentality, which I find pretty childish; thus, I find yet another reason to feel satisfied with being mainline.

But, it's worthy of note that many of the things I find appealing about urban Episcopalianism can also be found in certain branches of Judaism. It doesn't really matter which one(s), if any, I choose to follow as a personal path. That's too much like shopping anyway. What's more broadly important is the social benefits a positive, progressive faith community can bring. There's lots of room in that definition for lots of different personal paths to exist, co-exist and co-operate.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I really like this take on it (though not the headline).

Seattle Times: Debunking "The Code"

I'm not normally a fan of SPU's theology and politics, but their president writes this in his article:
Here's the problem. We have trouble in our time distinguishing between fact and fiction. Christians, informed by good scholarship, consider the "facts" of the novel to be ludicrous, dangerous if taken seriously, and pure fiction. On the other hand, Brown and those outside the Christian tradition may consider our whole story nothing but fiction. And so how do we have meaningful discussion between fiction and fiction? If that is really what we are talking about, who would care?
Wow, cool. A Christian apologetic that acknowledges postmodernism instead of assaulting it, and invites non-Christians into the debate instead of shunning them.

Yes, I actually do believe it's a fight between fiction and fiction. So why care? Because which fiction our mainstream readers prefer tells us something about where our society is headed, and who's defending which fiction and why tells us something about how they're trying to influence that direction.

It's suspicious that Dan Brown so vigorously denies having an agenda and that the book's defenders try so hard to pass it off as innocent entertainment.

I think Dan Brown believes, like many idealistic philosophers before him, that stripping power from authoritarian structures and returning it to the people will make theology and society better. The problem is, he's only half right. If he succeeds in undermining respect for traditional institutions, populism isn't going to restore freedom of thought, gender equity or the sacred feminine (nor eradicate corruption and greed!). It's just going to drive mainstream pulp fiction readers into the feel-good rock-band megachurches or out of church entirely.

And it's working. See also Bowling Alone. Expect more of the same when he secularizes (sort of) this process in The Solomon Key...?

I guess that's why I favor mainline Protestantism... it's the right mix of an organized, but not oppressive, institutional structure to get things done, and a progressive theology to pick the right things to try to get done.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fishy about Zarqawi

I'm sure I'm not the first or only person to notice this, but at least I don't think I'm late to the party this time.

On June 9, the day after the airstrike, Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said this on CNN:

The first people on the scene were the Iraqi police. They had found him and put him into some kind of gurney/stretcher kind of thing, and then American coalition forces arrived immediately thereafter on-site. They immediately went to the person in the stretcher, were able to start identifying by some distinguishing marks on his body. They had some kind of visual facial recognition.

According to the person on the ground, Zarqawi attempted to, sort of, turn away off the stretcher. Everybody resecured him back onto the stretcher, but he died almost immediately thereafter from the wounds he'd received from this airstrike.

[CNN transcript, emphasis added]

You can't tell by reading a transcript, but I heard the excerpt several times on the radio, and the way he says that last bit is really strange. It sounds to me like he initially meant to end the sentence ("died almost immediately thereafter") and then there's a slight pause and he tacks on the end bit ("from the wounds...") as an afterthought.

The very first time I heard it I thought the whole thing sounded fishy. Not acknowledging until Day 2 that Zarqawi was found alive, and then doing so in an odd and strained manner, by someone who felt the need to disclaim specifically that Zarqawi died of airstrike injuries. As opposed to what, and why make the disclaimer so awkwardly and so early?

Or, to look at it another way, why sound so certain about his cause of death before the autopsy is performed? We don't know that the villagers of Hibhib didn't come in and finish the job before Americans arrived; we don't know that he didn't have a cyanide tooth.

Now there are claims bubbling up about whether Zarqawi was beaten by the Americans when they arrived (specifically, struck with a rifle butt) and the unsurprising counterclaims by Gen. Caldwell and others that such accusations are "baloney" and "propaganda". I almost think those are a noisy distraction from what still seems unusual about the case.

The autopsy report today describes Zarqawi's cause of death as crushing internal injuries, which is perfectly reasonable and makes sense given that two 500-ton bombs were dropped on him. And yet, one of the Army spokesmen (I'm not sure if it was Gen. Caldwell or medical officer Steve Jones or someone else) said something in the report about how therefore, it is understandable that Zarqawi would have no outward signs of serious injury even while his lungs and other organs were fatally damaged. Medically, I suppose that's plausible, but once again I hadn't heard anybody questioning Zarqawi's outward appearance until the Army brought it up. So why bring it up? What do they think they're pre-empting? What other causes of a pristine outward appearance are there that the Army really doesn't want us to think of or ask about?

There are quite a few possibilities, not just ominous conspiratorial ones. I think the most likely would be:
  • Perhaps the Iraqi police did something to Zarqawi before the Americans arrived on-scene, which would be a political disaster regardless of whether Iraqis or Americans end up being blamed for it.
  • Perhaps the Army is so paranoid about media coverage that they will tend to make this worse for themselves by trying to pre-emptively CYA against fanciful things no one else had even thought of yet, leading everyone to wonder why they thought of them.
I figure the MSM will be distracted by the pedestrian "beating" arguments or else will ignore the whole thing, while the blogosphere will run off on a hundred different loony conspiracy theories, so perhaps we'll never really know.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Blogwagon report: Stole both elections?

I assume I'm jumping on a pretty big blogwagon here, but I just don't see how I could not do it.

Rolling Stone: Was the 2004 election stolen?

I was just listening this morning to NPR's "To the Point" on which progressives were arguing about what's wrong with the Democratic Party, why the people don't seem to be on board with their candidates or their messages, and what they need to do to change.

But what if there isn't anything wrong with the Democratic Party from an electability standpoint and never was?

What if there was never anything wrong with Al Gore or John Kerry? What if the American people liked both of them perfectly well enough?

Seriously, what if we really never elected W., only inaugurated him twice?

Is "To the Point" missing the point?

On the one hand I'd have a lot more hope and optimism about Americans as a people.

On the other hand, unless this Rolling Stone article sparks a massive investigation, the MSM dogpile on the story, and Congress is forced to enact a flood of real new reforms, I don't see a fix in sight. When you don't like the way an elected elections official criminally rigs elections, how exactly do you go about electing someone else?

It doesn't bode well for the November 2006 elections, that's for sure.