Thursday, January 24, 2008

Survival of the fittest/fattest

Nowadays, thin is in. Celebrities are whittling down to ungodly sizes, being envied and idolized by society.

Ironically, in medieval times, the more weight you carried, the more beautiful you were. Plumpness reflected a complete diet, and the wealth necessary to afford exuberant (or just fulfilling) amounts of food.

It's hard to find a common denominator between these judgments at face value because skinny is the complete opposite of fat. But there is a underlining factor that does link the "ideal body type" in each time period-- lifespan.

As obesity rises in modern day Americans, health risks follow suit. Obesity is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes, and can also result in high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, sleep apena and other extremely dangerous conditions, according to the Mayo clinic.

A thin figure suggests a healthy diet and high fitness level, even if in actuality the physique is attained by adopting unhealthy habits. Ultimately, truly fit people lack healthy complications and ideally will live a long life.

And I think that is what people find attractive.

The potential for someone to live a long life is an attractive thing. The heartbreak of losing a loved one is a deep-rooted fear. Would it be that far fetched to think that people are subconsciously drawn to people that will postpone that pain?

The same mentality goes for the well-fed of MacArthur's time. In those days, well-fed meant a longer life untouched by malnutrition or starvation.

So as much as people try to challenge society's constructs for beauty and attractiveness, it is hard to figure out what dictates these norms. If it really does depend on lifelines, perhaps science will have to create some kind of medication to live longer before we see a change.

Or find that whimsical Fountain of Youth. It's hard to tell which research would be a better investment.

Monday, January 21, 2008

You can't stop the children of the revolution

Although Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed more than 35 years ago, Julius Edwards does not believe he is truly dead.

"We have a whole bunch of Martin Luther King juniors in this room today," Edwards said, the master of ceremonies and assistant director of Hillbrook Juvenile Detention Center.

Members of the Syracuse community sat scattered among the chair-filled gym of Dr. King Elementary School to observe performances and an address made by political activist Barbara Ransby, all of which commemorated the life and legacy of King.

"If we really want to honor King, we have to honor the legacy of continuing the activism that he gave his life in,” said Ransby, also an assistant professor of African-American studies and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “We have to honor King by continuing to challenge and hold up issues of justice in our own time."

Nazjahrik Mosley, 8, recognizes the change King brought to society.

“Back in the old days, laws weren't right so he changed them,” Mosley said. "Whites can go to the same school. He got freedom."

Mosley said he thinks that King means family too. He attended the event with his god-brothers and cousins, who also attend elementary schools in the area.

Family was a theme mentioned, as well as seen, through out the celebration.

Edwards thinks that family plays a vital role in making a difference.

"We hope to encourage young people to follow their dreams,” he said.

Gregory White II, sophomore at Nottingham High School, is already following his dreams, playing music with the Signature Syracuse Jazz Ensemble and aspiring to attend a music college. White, an alto saxophonist that has been playing since fourth grade, performed Oscar Peterson’s “Night Train” and Nat King Cole’s “Route 66” with four other student musicians at the celebration.

"I know playing at this was for a good cause and for the community,” White said. “I always like to play so I'm always going to play anyways."

White has played this annual event in the past and said he enjoys playing this show because he always learns something.

“Since we've been coming here for about four years now, I like the speakers because they really wake me up,” he said. "(Ransby) was good, but I think some people in the past hit it harder."

White’s mother Rachielle White came to support her son and hopes he takes away something from today’s event.

"People died and fought really hard for us to have freedoms and we have to remember that,” she said “Education is the key and you know there was a time where you got killed as a black person if you learned how to read or if they found out you knew how to read.”

In addition to the jazz band, the Dr. King Elementary School Drill Team, five students from the Levy Middle School Choir and a soloist from Tucker Missionary Baptist Church Choir were showcased during the two-hour show.

Ms. White said she enjoyed all of the show and plans to also attend Ransby’s keynote speech addressing "King's Challenge: Can We Live Peacefully in a Violent World?" that will be given at 6:30 p.m. at the Carrier Dome.

Ransby reminded the audience that the best way to remember King and those people who fought alongside him is to become an activist.

"Do so with courage and determination in our own abilities,” the historian and award-winning author said. “To do so with our imaginations intact, and to do so demanding truth in a context in which it is becoming a rare commodity."

White said he has started to look at King’s message differently after hearing Ransby’s delivery, and he thinks he can make a difference by embracing his passion.

"Music can make change, music can do a lot,” he said. “I don't know how, but I know that it stands somewhere."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of equality lingers in the political air of this Democratic presidential primary season as a woman and black man vie for the party’s nomination. Syracuse University will host a dinner Sunday to honor the spirit of King through out his life and struggles.

But the struggle is not over; it has just taken another face.

That face belongs to the vote of the black woman, torn between voting in the primary with allegiance to her identity or according to her policy preference.

Sophomore Kendra Courtney Adjei finds policy as the main influence on her vote, but admits that other elements play a role in making her decision.

"I think it's impossible to have anyone vote strictly policy-based. There are always different biases that naturally happen and race just happens to be one of them,” she said. “I think with many African-Americans it will run through their minds—voting just for the sake of identity, with those who identify with them racially."

Political commentators like New York Times’ David Brooks categorize these biases as a result of identity—what a person defines themselves as, whether it is by gender, race or any other description.

Adjei said she identifies with both race and gender but feels that she is more defined by her race between the two.

"I think it's just the surroundings. Everyone is like, 'you need a black president,’ someone who is for minorities,” she said. “So I guess, not that it really sways my opinion, but that's just what I hear more of."

Identity plays a small role in affecting Adjei’s vote, but some black women will consider only identity when placing their primary vote for the Democratic nomination.

"It depends on the person, whether they choose to let that determine their vote or let policy determine their vote,” she said. “I think it will definitely be a factor in African- Americans.”

Adjei said she does not feel that her identity influences her political behavior enough to swing her vote against her policy preference. When given the choice, she would vote for the candidate more aligned with her political ideology, even if she shared identity with the other contender, she said.

Political Science Professor Jeffrey Stonecash of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs finds that race influences the Democrat vote more than gender.

"There are always people who say race is a pretty powerful factor in American politics,” he said. “There is no group that votes so much on the base of one attribute."

Gender may not be as politically powerful as race, but it still holds weight.

Women accounted for the majority of partisan voters in 52 percent of the 82 Democratic presidential primaries that took place between 1980-1996, according to Barbara Norrander’s study, "The Intraparty Gender Gap: Difference between Male and Female Voters in the 1980-2000 Presidential Primaries.” Men held the majority in 1 percent of the same primaries and 48 percent recorded equal participation by both genders, according to the study.

Choices run deep for black women; they determine how much policy and identity drive their votes, as well as whether they identify more with their race or gender. Even deeper, they want their vote to count.

"I'm sure a lot of them are playing the game of electability; they're just trying to figure out who's going to win,” Stonecash said. “They're torn between being loyal to their identity and they don't want to end up supporting someone such that the Democrats lose."

Black Democrats, both male and female, favored Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination since March, but preference shifted this month, according to a recent Gallup poll. Between Nov. 1 and Jan, 10, black Democrats’ support for Obama rose 18 percent and dropped 21 percent for Clinton, according to the poll.

Stonecash credits a portion of this shift in public opinion to Obama’s caucus win in Iowa on Jan. 3.

“For a long time the black population was very supportive of Clinton because they didn't think Obama could do it,” he said. “Now all of the sudden they are like, 'Oh, maybe he can'."

Adjei will continue to follow coverage of the primaries, but their results will not affect her vote, she said. More personal investigation of the candidates’ platforms will help to narrow her decision.

The keynote speech delivered by the associate professor of African-American studies and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago Sunday might aid Adjei and other black women as they contemplate the role of their identity in politics.

Adjei is not sure if the Democrats’ primary question is best answered by the nomination of a man or a woman, but she knows one thing.

“What we need is something different, because what we've been doing hasn't been working," she said.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What's on next?

Like many people, my mom has behaviors that have been maintained for as long as I can remember. Some are habits, others are routine. I find comfort in these repeated actions, finding them as little reminders of the unique person my mom is.

These habits sometimes aren't even that out of the ordinary.

My mom was sitting with my dad and I on Sunday afternoon in our living room. My dad was reading the paper while the Giants game played out on our television. My mom was flipping through the TV guide, and I was online.

TV Guide. Not the miniature magazine you could look at in the supermarket line, shuffling through the crammed check-out line, overwhelmed with a wall of wrapped candy bars and gossip magazines. I'm talking about the guide you'd get in your Sunday mail, in the comics and coupons package.

I don't really know of anyone else who actually looks to the inky, recycled-paper booklet to find a good TV show to watch.

We do have DirectTV, equipped with a guide option. We do have a remote control, with the capacity to flip through channels.

But my mom always opts for the old-fashion TV guide.
And I will always think of her casual preference as something much more.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Longtime sunshine

sometimes i wanna pack it all up, get on a bus and move to vermont
or maine, or any of those states back east that i remember
sometimes i wanna go back to school to an east coast college with some history
i'd be satisfied, i know, in the simple things

longtime sunshine, longtime sunshine upon me

sometimes i wanna build a house with a wood stove or a fireplace
in the middle of the living room an old piano
sometimes it don't seem so bad to settle down with a good woman
leave this lonely life behind forever and ever

longtime sunshine, longtime sunshine upon me
longtime sunshine, longtime sunshine upon me

sometimes i wanna get in a car, close my eyes and drive real fast
keep on going 'til i get some place where i can truly rest

longtime sunshine, longtime sunshine upon me
longtime sunshine, longtime sunshine upon me

I'm counting down until the first day of Spring and sunshine and warmth. It's probably really bad that I'm already over snow and cold. Especially since winter really hasn't even shown its face in Syracuse.

Go buy Rivers Cuomo's Alone.