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Posts Tagged ‘rant’

I promise that this is not a post extolling the works of Mr. Dickens or the BBC renditions of the same.  Instead it is a rant about the blatant misuse of truth found in news stories.

Tonight I watched the news with the Housemate. On the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  Now I have to admit, I am very fond of the person of Brian Williams.  His various appearances on the Daily Show have revealed what a lively, intelligent, snarky man he is.  I am not so enamored with the newsman Brian Williams.  He is a good anchor, with gravitas.  However, I do not enjoy the newscast.  I roll my eyes often. Tonight was no exception, only this time it made me annoyed enough to rant about it to my poor, long-suffering housemate.

It all started with this story:

NBC News Clip

Here’s the deal. The story isn’t honest.  Not really.  And it speaks to the way we report things.  We set them up to be seen as true. We do not tell lies, but what is inferred, what is not spoken leads to a conclusion that is untrue.

Let me break this down.  The story leads with the premise that weight loss surgery can help cure diabetes.  It uses a personal anecdote to validate the premise, quickly explains the study, then repeats the conclusion that bariatric surgery is a good way to cure type 2 diabetes.

Yet the story never asks the difficult questions. It doesn’t  measures the study against anything else.  It does not put it in context.

The study measures two different kinds of stomach limiting surgery and compares it against a group that just treated their diabetes with medication. This news report shows the study to have discovered that the groups that have surgery lose more weight, and have improvements on their health, especially controlling their diabetes.

There are problems with this.

  1. The report does not tell the study’s purview. Was the study about managing diabetes? Loosing weight? Health concerns?  Doesn’t show if there was anything else of value in the study.
  2. The report does not explain how the study was conducted. What was the size of the study? What was the age group of people studied.  How severe was the diabetes? Did the two groups have other factors the same, say diet?  What is the difference? Is it just a few percentage points, or is it significant
  3. The report does not put the study in context. So surgery shows promise over traditional medicine, but it doesn’t show it in comparison to say, a good regime of diet and exercise.  Thus the conclusion becomes that the best way to deal with diabetes is to get stomach reduction surgery.
  4. The report does not make clear if the diabetes reversed itself, or if was just managed without ever needing medication.

I take issue with this.  Here’s why.  I have a friend named Margaret.  She is an amazing woman in her 80’s. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in her 60’s and was very loathe to go on medication.  She spoke to her Dr. who, after asking her pointedly “Will you obey me?” told her that 80% of all people with Type 2 diabetes could control it with diet if they were consistent and disciplined.  He referred Margaret to a nutritionist who repeated the Dr.’s question, and then told her the very same figures. 80%.  For 20 + years Margaret has been in excellent health, and never once needed medication for her diabetes. (This is not about the anecdote, but rather the statistics from the anecdote).

So look at this news report again.  It does a shoddy job of weighing the study.  For example, towards the end of the story Brian’s narrative mentions that the study conductors are not sure why surgery patients see such a good reduction in their diabetes. Really?  It seems to me, if the journalists were worth their salt they could have spoken to this, or at least have put this in context. Rather than crafting a story that seems to say “Get surgery to cure your diabetes”, they could have crafted a story about how this study shows that surgery is better than just life as normal on insulin and glucophage or metformin. Then they could have explored this in the greater context of what are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as obesity, and perhaps even talked about how the stomach reducing surgeries force people to be more careful with their diet and nutrition.  Perhaps they could have even suggested that the study was very incomplete.  Perhaps it should have included a group that had to do what the surgery patients did, watch portion size and quality of food eaten, and see if the diabetes could be controlled without having to have dangerous surgery.

Stories like this make me so frustrated.  It is shoddy journalism, and even more so, it shows how little we think. I am sad for all the people who will now want to have this surgery, based on evidence that really isn’t evidence. It is intimation. It drives me nuts. [1.]

How can we expect people to think or have informed opinions when the very sources of ‘news’ can’t even use basic rhetoric or logic to craft the stories we’re told.  Bah, Humbug!

Rant over.  I’m going to go think a while now, to make up for the great lack of it over at NBC News.

 

 

1. If you want to read an excellent treatise on other poor uses and interpretations of scientific studies might I suggest looking into Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science .

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Here There Be Spoilers:

So be warned and do not read on if you do not want to have the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy ruined for you.

 

Ok.  Let me be clear here.  I absolutely know that this is a television show, and a fairly soap opera-ish one at that.  I have tried to break up with Grey’s Anatomy over the years, but they have this way of knowing the precise moment I’m about to give up and then doing something big to suck me back in. <Shakes fist in  Shonda Rhimes’ general direction>

It is of little surprise to me that I am, once again, really annoyed with the show, and on the verge of calling it quits.  Mostly I blame the Grand Romantic Gesture by Jackson at April’s wedding. Because it was neither Grand, nor Romantic. Yet everyone thinks it is.

Shenanigans.

I, like most of the Grey’s watching world, think that April and Jackson should be together. We can’t help it. They were written that way. However, here is the thing.  It is NOT romantic to disrupt the someones wedding, in front of your current significant other, to tell the bride to be that you love her more than anything else, and that you think they should be together.  At least they acknowledged it, an hour later in one little phrase. Still. It is not romantic to hurt people so callously.  Your romance succeeding should not be at so great an expense and public humiliation. That’s not romantic.  It’s just juvenile. Also.  I’m just going to say that it’s also not fair to the people who have spent lots of money on the wedding, and flown out to the wedding, and come to celebrate this day with you.  Seriously.  NOT COOL. Or thoughtful.

But isn’t that the way with Grey’s? It is a remarkably narcissistic show. The Doctors, despite showing all kinds of compassion and going above and beyond with their patients, use each other with remarkable alacrity. Never concerned with the fallout or the possible damage they are causing. Never.

So now we come to the part of the rant where I say what Grey’s Anatomy has done right:

One of the interns filed a sexual harassment complaint against the hospital.  EXACTLY RIGHT! It is a sexually hostile work environment, and it is about time someone acknowledged it.  If I worked at a place like that?  HR would have heard from me a long time ago. Yikes.

And now I am sucked in again, because I have to see how this plays out.  Of course I do.  This is Grey’s Anatomy after all. The show thrives on crisis.

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So I had to drive through Chicago twice in the last two days.  It really is a breeze for me.  I like it. I think it’s my ADD, traffic is easier for me to deal with than long hours of monotony.

I do have a couple of rules though.

1) snack food at the ready.

2) books on cd get turned off.   Don’t want to get distracted with some new and interesting idea and cut off a taxi driver or something.

3) Best music for driving is dance music.  Not trance or hard-core music, but something in the club genre.  The less I know it the better.  It’s just the simplicity of the rhythm and the repetitiveness that enhances the drive.

Today I found a good radio station that was having commercial free hours, that was exactly the right speed.  That was until Usher came on.

So let me just complain about the sloppy song writing.  The hook of the song is the chorus “Cause Baby tonight the DJ got us falling in love again”.  This produces a couple of assumptions:  a) ‘baby’ indicates Usher has someone special in mind and b) ‘DJ’s got us falling in love again’ indicates that Usher and his special someone have hit a bit of a slump, but a few trips around the dance floor will bring the spark back.

However, if one looks at the verse, one finds that this is not the case. Usher asks a very important, grammatically accurate, question. “Ain’t I seen you before? I think I remember those eyes, eyes, eyes.”

So the song is incongruous. Part is about a relationship, part about some random chick he’s chatting/feeling up on the dance floor.  Bad songwriters.  Bad!  That’s just sloppy.  It’s like they had two parts of songs, and decided to put them together, bugger the continuity.  Bad Form!

Ok, then things were good for a while, until Taio Cruz and his massive ego came along.

*Commence rant*

Seriously?  Seriously!

I mean, the song is catchy and all that, but WHAT AN ASS!

Acting like he’s being honest and warning the girls upfront that he’s only going to hurt them.  However his disclaimer is just an excuse for him to behave however the frack he wants and then when they complain he can say “Well I did warn you.” and then walk away with out a care in the world.  Who wants a man like that?  Sadly too many women.  It’s just debasing.  We think we will be the one that can change him, convince him to say, but truth be told he’s just out to play the field. His up front confession gives him license to treat women like crap and not feel guilty.  In fact it gives him license to BLAME them.  It is essentially saying “you chose this, so you can’t be angry with me.”  It’s abusive and crappy behavior, and it pisses me off that someone is making lots of money lauding it in song.  Not to mention how this gets into people’s psyches. This isn’t the lesson I want the girls and women I know to internalize and own.

Unadulterated, imminently catchy drivel.

*rant over*

Ok.  Didn’t miss my turn despite my internal outrage.  The drive was fine until Eminem and Rhiannon came on.

Have you guys seen this video?

First off, Rhiannon meet me at camera three.

Honey.  Wake up!  You are the poster child for domestic abuse.  People have looked at you and watched how you dealt with the situation. That can’t have been easy.  Abuse can breed such shame, and it can’t have been easy for you, with the entire world weighing in on the situation.  It’s clear that you were in the kind of relationship that is described in this song.  A tornado meeting a volcano.  However little girls are watching this and you and you’re teaching them that passion with violence is better than no passion at all.  They deserve better. You deserve better.  You shouldn’t have attached yourself to this song or this video.  I like Eminem and all, but never should anyone espouse or excuse abusive relationships, not even in art.

I can’t believe the craziness of this song. Unlike the other two in this rant it is well crafted, and cogent, as well as darkly moving.  I get the feeling Eminem knows this place way too well.  The chorus just kills me though (no pun intended) “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, that’s alright cause I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and watch me cry, that’s alright because I love the way you lie, love the way you lie.”

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research about domestic abuse, and the pain of it, and the way people get trapped in it, for school recently.  It is not surprising that in light of that this is really disturbing to me. It’s one thing if the song is working out a trauma and trying to deal with the situation, but I don’t know that this is the case here.  Jealousy, violence, and passion are all being put in the vocabulary of love and I can’t stand it.

Yeah, the last thing I needed while I was driving home was a spike in blood pressure due to what I was hearing on the radio.  If I had wanted that, I’m pretty sure I could have found a Glenn Beck  broadcast somewhere.  I didn’t want it in my music.

Oh well.  Just as I was getting really worked up Lady Gaga came on.

Nothing calms me down than the reminder that whatever happens, even if you can’t see straight because of all the things you’ve imbibed, and can’t remember the place you’re even at, things will be ok if you just dance.

It worked.

I only cut off a semi.

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So I just read three new books.  One annoyed me, one fascinated me in a horrific kind of way, and one was really REALLY good.

So to start with, the graphic novel Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft.

Locke and Key #1
Joe Hill

This was kind of a creepy story about a family who's father was murdered by a deranged student, at the family home, and the family tries to pick itself up from  the midst of this wreckage and head back to the father's boyhood home.  The kids become caricatures of their former selves, each in their own way trying to cope with the pain and trauma and guilt they have.  The oldest faces a) that he had wished his dad dead in front of the guy who ended up killing him and b) the fact that he had to kill one of the assailants when his family was attacked.  The middle daughter put's aside her self expression and uniqueness and tries to blend so that no one asks about her past.  The youngest son begins exploring the house and grounds and makes friends with a demon disguised as a person who needs help, because he can't get anyone else to see him due to their own trauma.  This book was tough, and surprisingly deep, while disturbing at the same time.  I enjoyed it but may not pursue the rest of the books in the series.

The second book I read was another of E.Lockhart's books Fly on the Wall. 

Yeah increasingly not impressed with this author.  I really REALLY enjoyed and want to purchase her Frankie Landau-Banks books but the rest of what I've read of hers has been engaging drivel.  This book started with the premise that Gretchen Yee is a student at a special charter school for artists in New York City.  She feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere, and certainly does not understand boys.  She also is in the midst of her parents getting a divorce, and her world is turning upside down.  Gretchen reads Kafka's book Metamorphosis for class and wakes up the next day as a fly in the Boy's locker room at her high school.  For the next week you hear her observations about the boys she likes, what makes a grade A booty, what 'Gherkin's' are like (gag.  Oh and boobs are 'biscuits' . Whatever!)  Again I'm faced with my extreme annoyance at a book for teens (Gretchen being a jr in High School) being so Sexual.   I'm not one who is a proponent of keeping ones mouth shut and not addressing an issue, but I am for responsibility.  A book where at least a forth of it is all about oogling boy's naked bodies while they're changing for gym class is not necessary.  It's just not.  It makes me even more sad because I loved the first book by Lockhart SO VERY MUCH.  She can do better. I've seen proof.  So why doesn't she?

The third book I read was very excellent.  It was entitled Jesus Wants to Save Christians.  It is exactly how it sounds,

a well rounded look at what we are and what we should be. 
I like Rob Bell, and have wanted to read this for a while, but the phrase that caught me, and made me want to read it right away, was on the back cover of the book:

"There is a church not too far from us that recently added a $25 million addition to their building.

Our local newspaper ran a front-page story not too long ago about a study revealing that one in five people in our city lives in poverty.
This is a book about those two numbers.
"

This book basically lays it out that we are doing a good job, as North American Christians, of trying to protect our way of life without caring for anyone else.  It takes a look at what it is that God was trying to build throughout the Old Teastament and the New, and what it is that Jesus has called us to be.
I found it interesting and provocative and spot on as books exhorting the church go.  My favorite part was in the discussion of the 4th ( I believe) commandment.

In the King James translation we read "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain". The NIV gives us "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God". Bell and his co/author assert that this is a poor translation.  That the root of the word translated "take" or "misuse" should be "miscarry"  as in Don't Miscarry the name of the Lord, lending to it the idea that we're not meant to attach the name of the Lord to something that is not his.  This makes infinite amounts of sense to me.  I mean think about it.  We should not miscarry the name of the Lord by attaching it to things like hatred of other groups of people just because of the color of their skin, we should not have miscarried the name of the Lord by attaching it to patriarchal church structure that abused women, even killing them, in the name of God.  We should not miscarry the name of God by attaching it as the reason we discriminate against homosexuals or people of other faiths.  Worst still it should not be attached to our opinions.  For example, we should not tell someone that we feel God is telling them something that is entirely our doing.  Like "I feel like God is calling you to do this ministry" or "I think God wants you to know that you need to change that", when it really is Just Our Opinion.
We should be about Carrying the name of the Lord in the right way.
I had this discussion with some friends that are, like me, trying to find a new way of doing church, as the current way isn't really exactly changing the world in a positive way, and I said that a perfect example of this was Christian Bumper Stickers.  (NO offense if you have one.  This is just the reason I can never have one.  You're responsible for what you and God have going on, this is just what me and God have going on).  Anyway I told the guys I will never put a christian bumper sticker on my car.  They thought this was very strange as I do have a "Voldemort Votes Republican" sticker on it and a "Obama 08" sticker on it.  I said this.  " I can never have one because I make mistakes when I drive.  See if I'm in a relationship with someone and I do something stupid and it causes them to be all GRR'D about it I have the opportunity to get face to face with them and make it right.  The problem with a Bumper sticker that advertizes Jesus is that if I do something stupid or selfish or reckless (which, lets face it, I'm bound to do sooner or later or sooner) people don't have a relationship with me that allows me to make amends.  All they see is that someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus cut them off, or is talking on her cell phone and not paying attention.  It can put a wedge between them and God  because of me.This to me is miscarrying the name of the Lord."
This book, and many little places like this in the middle of it has made me do a lot of thinking about how I live, and why.  It's a good book, and easy read, but philosophically and spiritually will hit deep.

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