“Sarah Clark” Revisions

I’ve been doing revisions on “Sarah Clark” which is going to have an interesting life, which I will tell you about when I can. Meanwhile, I’m left thinking that it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written.

I’m excited and proud of it.

It’s good to have small good thing to sustain you while you’re waiting for the big things to decide if they’re going to amount to anything.

The John Henry Question

NooooooooOOOOOOOooooooo! This is really a position more than one historian is going to take?!

What next? Shall we ban singing at museums because we don’t know if John Henry’s wife was really named Polly Ann? Or because “Frankie and Johnny” should really be “Frankie and Albert?” Or because we can’t for certain identify the House of the Rising Sun?

I think that advocating that cash-strapped museums should not take the money of people who want to give it to them just because they object to the historical beliefs of those people is weird. And I’m not sure what the difference between letting a known-ghost hunter pay the regular entry price for your museum and wandering around there all day is different than having him pay over $100 to wander around it all night.

That doesn’t seem to be about the legitimacy of his historical knowledge. That seems to be about the comfort or discomfort you feel about his beliefs.

And speaking of beliefs, a belief in ghosts, who can be contacted by talking to them and having them communicate back, has long historical precedent in the U.S.

Oooh, it does make me wonder–are historians okay with people going to the Hydesville Memorial Park as long as they ignore any strange noises they hear while they’re there?

Let’s just let people love history, in whatever weird ways they want to, and let our jobs be to clarify the history parts and leave the religious/spiritual parts un-judged.

Miranda Lambert is Not a Feminist, But…

She’s the only celebrity I’ve heard of who objected to Chris Brown at the Grammy’s.

Country singer Miranda Lambert doesn’t get why controversial R&B star Chris Brown was allowed to perform twice at the Grammys on Sunday.

She tweeted on Monday: “He beat on a girl…not cool that we act like that didn’t happen.”

But, you know, if they’d said “We’re not going to bring up on stage anyone who’s a known domestic abuser,” it would have made the Glen Campbell stuff very strange.

Heh. Maybe instead of not letting them up on stage, the Grammy’s should have just taken a moment to invite them all up on stage–anyone who’s known for violence against women. Just to illustrate the depths of the problem.

That would have been interesting.

Anyway, if “I’m not a feminist” means a willingness to speak out against domestic violence, then I welcome “I’m not a feminist”s to the feminist fold.


Coble sent me a link to this really interesting article over at Wired about the competing interests in the “obesity as a health issue” arena. The hook is a little trite, but the article is actually much more complicated than just “75 million Americans may have something called metabolic syndrome. How Big Pharma turned obesity into a disease – then invented the drugs to cure it.”

This is the part I want to say something about, though:

Diet and exercise? It’s easy to recommend, and it’s good in theory, but there’s surprisingly little proof that lifestyle intervention actually works as a weight-loss strategy. In the late 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiated its Diabetes Prevention Program, a $174 million study hoping to prove that behavioral changes can induce weight loss. To make the point, the program went to extremes. The 3,000 participants received gym memberships and personal trainers, had their food provided, and were coached with daily phone calls from nutritionists – all for two years or more. After all that hand-holding, patients lost an average of 7 percent of their body weight.

The CDC hailed the study as proof that diet and exercise work, but it just as readily proves the opposite. After all, how likely is the average American to stick with – let alone be able to afford – such an intensive program?

Two or more years to lose on average seven percent of your body weight.  If you’re a three hundred pound person, your gym membership and your personal trainer and your food and your nutrition coach lost you about 21 pounds. Over two years or more. A three hundred pound person who’s ideal weight is around 150 would need at least seven years to lose that weight, assuming the CDC’s plan doesn’t lead to plateaus. I’m with the Wired writer. Who can afford that? You’re basically limiting weight loss to the wealthy, who are, by and large, not obese anyway.

Never mind that there’s nothing here about whether those people were able to keep the weight off once they didn’t have the CDC paying for the gym and personal trainers and providing food and a nutrition coach.

It’s basically admitting, without being upfront, that thinness is a class marker, reliably available only to the wealthy.

But the other thing I wanted to address is how whiplash-inducing it is to hear “Oh my god, you have the death fat! You must lose weight immediately!!!!!!” and then to hear that even studies touted as proof that diet and exercise work take a long time. I think that’s where the needs of the commercial weight-loss industry dangerously obscure the medical realities, even to the point where medical professionals somehow think that “needing” to drastically lose weight means that you should be able to lose weight drastically and, if you’re not, that you’re lying or just not trying hard enough.

I have mixed feelings about turning obesity into “metabolic syndrome” but when I think of the potential it has to turn the tone of the discussion away from moral panic and toward medical issues, I kind don’t mind it.