Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Satire makes politics less stuffy

Satire makes politics less stuffy

Deepak Seth • Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board community member • July 28, 2008

When I was growing up in India, satire was a part of the daily newspaper reading ritual. The central piece on the editorial page, very aptly called the "middle," used to be a satirical look at the issues of the day.

And the "middle" is where I used to go to first before I moved on to the other sections. Moving to the United States, I longed for the "middle." On inquiring about it to my journalist friends, I was told that "news and satire are not mixed together here." People go to the late-night TV shows, Saturday Night Live or Comedy Central to get their dose of satire.

Last week, The New Yorker magazine brought satire center stage by publishing a satirical cartoon of the Obamas on their front cover.

The cover depicts "President Obama" in the Oval Office, wearing a Muslim-style outfit and doing a fist-bump with his wife, Michelle, who is dressed in camouflage with an automatic rifle slung over her back.

A picture of Osama bin Laden hangs above the mantel of the fireplace, which has an American flag burning in it.The Obama and McCain camps both have described the cartoon as "tasteless and offensive." The New Yorker has said the cover satire was obvious and should be seen in that light.

The McCain camp must be thanking their stars that Obama got picked on and not their candidate. But there's a long campaign ahead, and some satirist is going to pen McCain enjoying a back rub in a Hanoi Hilton hot tub as burgers cook and wine flows. Or in a geriatric home fumbling with his hearing aid, senior diapers and other accoutrements of advanced senility.
Both descriptions are over the top, aren't they? Such is the nature of satire — challenging deep-seated prejudices.Maybe the Obamas need to respond with their own satirical interpretation of the cartoon:
  • Michelle Obama has the AK-47 as a salute to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. She is protecting her home and hearth from disgruntled Republicans.
  • Obama is dressed as a Middle Eastern Christian (who dress like their Muslim brethren) as a salute to global Christian unity and world peace.
  • The portrait of bin Laden on the wall indicates that Obama has gotten rid of him (unlike Bush) and has hung his portrait up on the wall like a trophy.
  • Flag in the fireplace: Obama is disposing of an old flag in the only correct way as per U.S. Flag Code, which states: "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.''

Let the battle of the satirists begin. Elections are serious business, but we all have a funny bone that needs tickling!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

IBM plans : potential good news for Rochester ?

Today's news item about IBM's growth plans in New York had an interesting twist which piques my curiosity. It talks about : "the creation of a new, advanced semiconductor packaging research and development center at an undetermined location in upstate New York"

I do hope Rochester area business, political and educational(RIT, UofR) leaders have made a strong pitch for this center to be located in the vicinity of Rochester. I wish them luck and am keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, July 7, 2008

America's a land coated in sugar

America's a land coated in sugar
Deepak Seth • Editorial Board member • July 7, 2008

Ms. K entered the meeting with a basketful of candy, which she strategically placed on the table before she commenced her presentation. All of us around the table stared longingly at the goodies; most of us were overweight and battling weight-related issues.

Each waited for someone else to make the first move. As soon as the bravest one made his move, the rest followed. The presentation got drowned in the crinkling of the candy wrappers and conversation about the candy. Meanwhile, Ms. K continued her dreary monologue about missed targets and declining sales. The boss was lost in her thoughts, thoughts driven more by the chocolaty nougat she was chewing rather than the sales numbers being presented. "Excellent job, Ms K," she intoned, followed by, "Thanks for the great chocolate, very thoughtful" as Ms. K wrapped up her presentation. The "sugar high" had won again.

This scene plays out at offices every day. And to very detrimental consequences for our health. As we battle an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and a host of other lifestyle-related illnesses, it is high time people start bringing in apples, oranges, nuts and other similar healthy alternatives for meetings.

The concept of bringing "coffee and doughnuts" in for the team needs to metamorphose into "coffee and celery sticks."Is it not strange that the things that taste the best are most likely to be the unhealthiest? Seems weird from an evolutionary perspective. Why would our taste buds evolve in such a way that what tastes the best can be harmful for us?

The reason is that food processing and our propensity to consume have evolved at a faster rate than what our taste buds could keep pace with. We like sweet because sweetness drew our caveman ancestors to food that can provide the highest burst of energy in the shortest time — honey, ripe fruits etc.

The efforts in collecting such foods and their high spoilage made sure that there was never an excess of these calories. But before long, mankind had discovered a way of extracting those sugars, concentrating them and overloading ourselves with it. Many times beyond the capacity of the body to effectively process it. And that's where our woes began.

Should we then give these guilty pleasures up? No, not at all. The answer lies in moderation. The food industry can help by an across-the-board reduction in the sugar content of all food items by at least 20 percent.

It can be easily done. Many European/international versions of our favorite brands are much less sweeter than what is sold here.

You don't like sweet, you like salty? Don't even get me started on the woes of too much sodium.

Community members serve on the Editorial Board and write regular columns.

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