Final 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Click the graphic above for the lady who started this all.  However, this will be my last week participating in this activity.

After almost three months of participation, I’m thinking that I need to differentiate a bit.  So I’m going to be creating my own ongoing blog feature, where every Friday I review the news tidbits that caught my eye in the previous week.  There will be some commentary as well, but less than a full-blown blog post would normally entail (this is my theory at least!).  My friend J.P. is already a blessing in terms of forwarding me links to news items that he thinks might make good blog bits, and everyone else is free to do the same.  Or, if you’re so inclined, start copying my idea at your own blog site.  The goal is to help people think a little further about issues being reported in the news. 

Towards that end, and sort of in a preview of coming attractions….here’s my last 7 Quick Takes Friday.

Thanks to J.P. for the link to an article regarding the Church of Sweden’s decision this past week to permit gay weddings.  Sweden was one of the European countries where the Church and the State are linked together – however that official link was broken in 2000 when the Church of Sweden left the control of the government.  However it seems clear that the long association of the two (the Church first was established as separate from the Roman Catholic Church in 1536, affiliated itself with the Lutheran strain of the Protestant Reformation in 1593) is not quickly undone.  The Swedish government – with the support of much of the Church of Sweden – established legal gay marriages and associated rights in May of this year.  According to Wikipedia, the Church of Sweden claims almost 7 million members, with an average weekly worship attendance of less than 2% of those members.  Sweden is the fifth European country to legalize gay marriage.  The church’s official web site is here, but the information is extremely generic, and hasn’t been updated in light of the recent decision on marriage (the site still refers to marriage as involving a bride and a groom).

The supporting quote in the article is from the Swedish gay rights group RSFL simply indicates that this move will help them feel “a little more welcome within society”.  It makes me wonder what would make them feel fully welcome.  I think it’s a telling (perhaps unintentionally so) quote, as it makes it clear that this is not the end.  Simply having the legal ability to marry is not the final goal for the homosexual community.  It is merely one of a long series of calculated moves intended to eliminate any objection to or criticism of the homosexual and/or transgendered lifestyle. 

In terms of marriage in general – which still means heterosexual marriage, despite what a vocal homosexual minority would have us believe – here are a series of interesting news summaries on marriage and happiness.  The first article was from the BBC, reporting that marriages in which the wife was younger were more successful than when the age situation was reversed. Of course, this information was used to provide riveting commentary on the future success of Beyonce’s marriage to rapper Jay-Z.   Call me skeptical, but I tend to think that age differences are going to end up being far less of an issue in their relationship than a myriad of other pressures and problems they’ll have to face!

The next related article dealt with studies that purport to refute 1970’s era research, and assert that marriage benefits both men and women, not just men as was reported 30 years or more ago.   I found the end of the article rather curious, as a researcher attempted to explain the change in findings as related to the role of greater equality between men and women.  But, as I read his quote, he seems to be applying (perhaps inadvertently?) that greater equality in terms of sexual liberation.  Whereas in the 1970’s, men felt at liberty to have affairs and women didn’t, now somehow that has equalized.  So women feel happier because they know that they have an equal right to an extramarital affair?  Hmmm.  I’m no scientist, but that logic doesn’t seem to make much sense.  I’d also be curious to find out how many women feel that life is less stressful now than it was 30 years ago!

The final BBC article covered a German study of 15,000 people measuring happiness levels of married people.  The study found that people were most happy in their first year of marriage, and that this declined over time until they were less happy at 10 years of marriage than they were when they first were married.  Updrafts in happiness levels are generally reported in years four and five and again in year seven.  Researchers tend to explain the falling happiness levels with misperceptions about the nature (and hard work) of a marriage relationship, and attitudes of husband and wife gradually ‘maturing’ and resulting in a more steady, but less intense, level of happiness over time.  No figures were cited for happiness levels beyond year ten.

Which sounds to me as though, if we were more realistic in our depictions of love and marriage to young people, there might not be the same downward trend in reported happiness levels.  I guess the real issue is more in the depiction of love, rather than marriage.  I’m not aware of portrayals of strong, healthy, happy marriage relationships.  But culturally we spend a lot of time idealizing and romanticizing (not to mention sexualizing) the idea of love, leaving the depiction to the giddiness of early love without providing any sort of idea that love takes work, and love is not simply that goofy, 15-year old experience of it.  Portraying a more mature and realistic love isn’t very exciting, I suppose, and would require a heck of a lot more work.  But apparently, it might pay some dividends in better preparing young people for the joys and work of marriage when they get a little older.

It seems that there are a lot of people out there who feel that Darwinism and natural selection should not be viewed as the airtight, scientific slam-dunk that adherents would prefer it be received as.  Recent studies (another BBC report) indicate that this attitude varies significantly on a country by country basis.  Out of ten countries included in the report, and average of 53% of respondents felt that Darwinism/natural selection should be presented alongside other theories and perspectives.  I thought it was interesting that 60% of British respondents felt this way – I would have expected a much lower number in a country that seems so doggedly secular at times.  It’s very encouraging that, despite people’s reactions to the church, they haven’t necessarily been sold on the most aggressively marketed alternative – blind chance. 

The European Council will be making a few decisions in their coming Council meeting beyond electing a new president.  One of those decisions will be on a directive (law) which could make disagreement with homosexual lifestyles or other religions a criminal offense.  This summary (I was unable to
locate any form of the actual legislation on the European Council’s web site) focuses on the vague definitions of key terms in the directive, as well as on the idea that it is the victim who defines what constitutes harassment or an “offensive environment”, and then the burden of proof is on the accused to prove that this was not the case.  Failure to prove your innocence would result in an unspecified penalty payment. 

Christian congregations are worried that the loosely worded language would open them up to charges of harassment for taking stances against other religions (notably Islam) or homosexual practices.  There was great outcry when the initial form of the Directive was adopted back in April of this year.  This is just another example of the twisted concept of tolerance being used to eliminate tolerance.

On a lighter note, let it never be said that advertising and marketing geniuses are ever prone to missing out on an opportunity to spin current events.  Kellogg’s has been advertising that certain cereals (such as Cocoa Krispies) are an important immunity boosting tool for children. 

Never fear, however.  The champions of justice and the protectors of the vulnerable are not asleep either.  The City Attorney for San Francisco is demanding evidence from Kellogg’s to substantiate its claims.  Kelloggs’s response is that by including 25% of the daily requirement for a child’s vitamin A, B, C and E intake (all of which are cited for their roles in improving immune functions), it’s claim is not misleading or false. 

It is, however, probably pretty tacky.  I hope that parents don’t seriously think that a good weapon in their arsenal of defense of their children’s health is Cocoa Krispies.  Even if they are way yummy.

The news is true – Walmart is now selling caskets.

Prices range from about $900 to around $3000, including an option for larger folks that is 4″ wider than a normal casket. 

How do these costs compare?  Walmart’s Sienna Bronze casket retails for $2899, their most expensive casket listed.  A casket of the same name and appearance comes up on Google’s Product Search listed for $3499.  When I checked the listings for a local funeral home, they had a line of caskets that started at $900, but the vast majority of their products were over $3000.  I like the idea of a major retailer bringing to bear some much needed pricing pressure on funeral homes that all too easily can pressure families into a very expensive casket during their time of grief.

I’ve written in the past about the curious problem that is posed regarding how a deceased person’s online identities are dealt with.   The newest wrinkle in the story comes from Facebook, which is dealing with this particular aspect of life (and death) through memorialized pages.  Users who are deceased will have their Facebook pages modified.  Existing friends and family will be fixed, updates from the account (such as the new, annoying notices to reconnect with various Facebook friends) will be eliminated.  Existing friends and family will be the only ones that can find the profile in a search, and will be the only ones who can leave notes and messages on the deceased’s wall.  “Sensitive information” about the deceased will also be removed to help protect their privacy.

In a way, this becomes the virtual form of visiting a friend’s grave site.  Rather than going to physically remember and leave flowers or notes, it can be done virtually.  This is appropriate, given the virtual nature of our online existence, even the most  true-to-life virtual natures.  And it allows friends to pay their respects regardless of where they are in the world. 

On another level though, it can be misleading.  It can facilitate the feeling that the deceased is still alive in a way that a grave site does not.  There is a physical difference between visiting a grave site and visiting a memorialized Facebook page.  The Facebook page – while somewhat modified – remains much as it was when the person was alive.  Though they aren’t actually posting or interacting through it any longer, the medium through which they did looks remarkably unchanged.  A grave site is fundamentally different.  There is no doubt that even in talking with our departed loved one, that they aren’t’ still alive.  They are buried, or cremated, or whatever the case may be.  Our interface to them is substantially different than what it was when they were alive, whether that interface was primarily by phone or letter or physical interaction.

I think this is a touching way of remembering those we have loved and lost.  But I also wonder how it might complicate or delay the natural progression of mourning and grief, ultimately resulting in a kind of mental game wherein the departed is kept alive unnaturally through continued interaction with their memorialized Facebook page.  Time will tell, I suppose.

5 Responses to “Final 7 Quick Takes Friday!”

  1. Marie Says:

    I will maybe and if a lot about food, but I absolutely one hundred per cent am certain that sugary breakfast cereals drastically impede the immune system. Our family has always caught stuff easily and kept it forever (my oldest was sick once a month for two weeks at a time for a whole year when she was two, my husband used to head to bed for days when he caught a bad cold) and now that we’re not eating those processed refined carbs we have had the swine flu in the house and most didn’t catch it and one shook it off. I’ve heard this story over and over. It’s not about having enough vitamins, it’s about not eating nonfood for breakfast.Sorry, that chapped me. It was almost as bad as when they started advertising their cereal as one hundred per cent whole grain. Did you notice that? It was on the boxes that were “whole grain” corn!!! One of the things that contributed to my husband’s leaving newspapers, in a small way, was the changes in obituaries. First they became paid, with only “death notices” being free. Then the paid obits started being put online with a company or companies that sell the space and let you record your thoughts about the person (like, you know, signing the book) but then disappear it after a certain number of days if the family doesn’t keep paying up. I can’t believe they let people get away with that, forget morality or anything else, that’s just plain crass.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    The battle regarding food will, I expect, be a pivotal issue to historians of the future.  I think they’re going to look back and see that we made some fundamentally dangerous moves in terms of what we put into our bodies (as well as on our bodies, or in our homes, etc.).  I don’t tend to believe the assumption that food is simply a matter or base chemicals, and therefore if we can recreate those specific chemicals, we achieve the same end as if we had just eaten food.  The tweaking of our food for specific purposes is also a frightening one to me.  One of my original notes for 7 Quick Takes had to do with Toyota engineering two new breeds of flowers to help absorb greenhouse gas emissions around their production plants.  I find that very abhorrent.  Rather than modifying what we do and how we do it, we simply create new life forms to compensate for our recklessness.  If one were a sci-fi fan, these sorts of events ought to give them pause.I find our treatment of death – in our cultural obsession not to think about it, prepare for it, or acknowledge it properly as well as in it becoming simply the final opportunity to wring money out  of people – to be terrifying.  I worry it’s a very short step from hiding death itself to starting to hide the people who are dying – and why, and how, and when.Then again, I’m sure I’m just paranoid about these things.  Silly me.

  3. Marie Says:

    We’ll hide them in plain site. Just give people a reason to not look and they’ll fall all over themselves grabbing it. I don’t know if that means we will just drug the heck out of them or make a reality show out of it like summa minutiae says in his blog, but my guess would be that we will do everything out in the open just recast and rename it all to make it something it’s not.

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  5. Ananrad Says:

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