Friday, July 14, 2006

Feline Chronic Renal Failure

Back in January, I went looking for an older kitty to adopt and found this sweet 15-year-old feline offered by loving owners who felt she would appreciate a quieter retirement home than they could offer.

The whole quiet retirement home thing went a bit awry when I got hit by a car three days later. My bewildered girl adjusted as well as could be expected to the parade of caregivers and piles of orthopedic supplies in her new home. She even warmed up to me once I got rid of the scary crutches three months later.

Nowadays my stately old girl, rechristened Jiji, follows me around and wants to cuddle more than I expected, but still tolerates my busy work and activity schedules fairly well.

We visited her longtime veterinary clinic this week and confirmed that she has chronic renal failure (CRF), which is very common in cats her age. Her previous owners had described the classic symptoms—drinking lots of water and urinating frequently—but I'm not sure how much they knew about her disease. It is progressive and will eventually be terminal.

The good news is, her bloodwork this week isn't any worse than it was last November. Kidney function is diminished, but the damage isn't progressing. We have no way of knowing how long she's already been on this "plateau", but her life expectancy might still reasonably be measured in years, and that's encouraging. I've found websites dedicated to cats who have survived six to eight years on extremely aggressive treatments that I already know we won't try.

I've switched her to k/d (low protein, low phosphorus), which she seems to love, and I'll start her on Pepcid (for stomach upset) and probably subcutaneous fluids (for dehydration). Howevermany years of retirement she may have left in front of her, I'll make sure they are peaceful, cozy and pampered.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Stealth evangelism on the History Channel International

I sent a "shame on you" to History Channel International, owned by A&E, for the misleading marketing blitz surrounding their debut of "Drive Thru History". Apparently I'm not the only one who got taken in by the ads, which seemed to suggest that they would be using CGI overlays to show what historical sites and buildings would have looked like in their day. It's not that that didn't happen, though it didn't. It turns out the bait and switch was of a much different sort.

I have to say, I didn't hate the 2.5 episodes I watched on DVR. The host was a little much, but I didn't hate him either, just wanted him to dial it back a bit. I guess I'm not sharp enough on my ancient history to catch all the small inaccuracies that the folks on the reader boards are cranky about.

At first, I thought it was pretty cool that the show took a side trip to a (they said) lesser-known monument in Rome, the Arch of Titus, which commemorates the sack of Jerusalem. Then the show got awfully rhapsodic about the history of the Jews and the glories of their temple. OK, I kind of enjoyed getting such a colorful picture of the importance of the temple and how emotionally devastating its loss must have been for the Jews. But it seemed like we were pretty far afield from Rome at that point. And, hmm. Here's what the show had to say about the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites in Islam:
Today, a Muslim mosque, along with another Muslim holy site called the Dome of the Rock, sits on top of the old temple ruins, resulting in Jerusalem becoming a constant hotbed of religious turmoil, warring factions and struggle.
Bwah? Resulting in? Did they just say that all Middle East violence is a building's fault? A Muslim building's fault? But wait, there's more.
In this highly charged climate, some Palestinians and other Muslims have suggested that the Jewish temple was a myth, a political fabrication to give Jews a legitimate claim to the Holy Land. It would appear, however, that the temple and its treasures were as real as the carvings on the Arch of Titus back in Rome. And while there are no easy answers to the seemingly endless conflict, one thing is certain: there can be no just outcome by rewriting history.
Huh? Isn't this a show about Rome? Did we just do a 20-minute segment on an obscure Roman arch just to prove that the Jewish temple really existed and to put the Palestinians on notice?

Well, I figured maybe I was overreacting. And the rest of the show was quite entertaining and not particularly weird. So I watched the next one, which was mostly about Nero and particularly the great fire, which the show pretty strongly indicates (complete with a stay-tuned cliffhanger) was set intentionally by Nero so that he could blame it on Christians. Then, after a rather detailed digression about the persecution of Christians, including Saints Peter and Paul, we get this:
Christian tradition holds that, except for John, all of Jesus' apostles were executed for their faith. For many Christians, this is a strong argument for the truth of their claims. The apostles, because they were eyewitnesses, knew for certain whether Jesus' resurrection was true or false. This set them apart. History is full of people willing to die for what they believed, but it's difficult to find any sane person who will give their life for a cause they know to be fraudulent. Those who defend the Christian faith ask this question: how likely was it that a man would choose torture and death if all he had to do was simply deny a myth?

The second half of the show visits the Pantheon, and gives lots of illustration and detail about its architecture and engineering, which is way cool, and also a perfectly reasonable overview of the Roman and Greek, well, pantheon. In comparing the Pantheon's dome to other domed structures, we get another mention of the Dome of the Rock, with a conspicuous reminder that it "sits over the site of the former Jewish temple in Jerusalem". They digress again about the persecution of Christians for refusing to worship Cæsar. And then, the big finish: a celebration of how the Pantheon was later consecrated as a Christian church.
And, in the course of a few centuries, Christianity had overtaken the Roman Empire, establishing itself as a fundamental foundation of Western civilization. This upheaval has done nothing less than shape our world as we know it today. The architectural marvel that once stood for the glory of the Roman gods now stands as a monument to their insignificance, and the triumph of a Galilean carpenter who professed himself to be God.

I guess I'm a slow learner, though, because I coasted through the digression into the Acts of the Apostles from the Oracle at Delphi in the third episode. It wasn't until halfway through, after they used the Olympic Games as a hook to show a lengthy quotation (with dramatic reading and graphics) from I Corinthians about the Christian "crown that will last forever" that it occurred to me to Google this show and try to figure out WTF was going on.

Well, well, well.

Turns out Drive Thru History was produced by ColdWater Media, an evangelical studio. DTH's editor and host, Dave Stotts, is described as a seminary student with twelve years' experience in "Christian media production". Christian bookstores stock the DVD sets, and it originally ran on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in June before being picked up and run as-is on History International.

Wow. Let me emphasize again that this show was marketed as if it were neutral, secular, scientific and fact-based programming. Some critics on the HCI message boards are also pretty upset about what they say are historical inaccuracies. The small debatable stuff doesn't bother me nearly as much as the Trojan Horse (pun intended): a deliberate framing and interpretation of history to emphasize Christian supremacy, Christianity as Truth, the inevitability of the rise of Christian dominance. Dismissing and denigrating Muslims bothered me, and they haven't even gotten to Turkey yet. And then, identifying Christianity as "a fundamental foundation of Western civilization" (I'm not sure why they bothered to say "a", but they did, I checked) can really only have one purpose: the fundamentalists' favorite, the claim that America is a "Christian nation" founded on "Christian principles". That's provably false, but provable falsehoods never stopped these people before.

Oh, look. Here's what Focus on the Family has to say about an upcoming episode: "Then it's on to Washington, D.C. to see how Greek, Roman and Christian influences shaped the foundation of America."

I don't dispute the History Channel's "right" to evangelize if that's what they really want to do, but stealth evangelism is creepy and uncool.

If you should happen to also be disturbed by this, you could send feedback to HCI/A&E via their contact page and let them know that you'd like their TBN evangelism content to be properly identified as such in their ad campaigns. Alternately, if you love this show and want to see lots more like it, it'd be swell if you'd contact them and ask them to identify it prominently in their ads so you'll know when to watch it....

In the meantime, History Channel International, which I added to my satellite "favorites" just because I thought this show looked cool, is back off of the list. I'll be viewing the other A&E networks warily as well. Back to Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" and "Mythbusters", which haven't let me down yet.