Saturday, February 13, 2010

Czech, Please

The background one needs for this joke is:

1) Mrs. G's first name is Susan; and

2) The Gruntleds still haven't forgiven Neville Chamberlain for selling out Czechoslovakia.

I sent this message to our eldest daughter:

"I am going to take Mom to the Czech Republic. They have the best Sue datin' land."

I cc'ed Mrs. G., and waited for her to open email. I knew she had opened this message when a belly laugh emanated from her corner of the bedroom.

She forwarded the message to her relatives.

Daughter #1 replied: "Feel the inter-state GROAN. Don't just hear it, FEEL it."

My father-in-law replied: "Very possibly the worst pun I have ever heard or read (or smelled)."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Older Fathers Increase the Risk of Autistic Kids

A new large-scale study in California found that father's age, more than mother's age, increases the risk of having an autistic child. The core finding:

The new study suggested that when the father was over 40 and the mother under 30, the increased risk was especially pronounced — 59 percent greater than for younger men.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why Men Are More Likely to Do the Driving

Eric Morris wrote a Freakonomics blogpost about why men are more likely to drive when a couple travels together. It drew such a disparate and impassioned response that he wrote another. The core finding is this:

The 2001 National Household Transportation Survey ... showed that, on a typical day, when household members shared a car men were more than three times more likely to be the driver as opposed to a passenger.

This an issue in our family. There are three female drivers in the Gruntled family now, and they all almost always prefer that I drive. I always ask Mrs. G. (we were trained as '70s feminists in gender power, after all) and she almost always asks me to drive.

I can think of two reasons for the gender imbalance in who drives, both well rooted in sex differences.

First, men as a group find spatial problems easier to solve. So if we are taking a trip that might include parallel parking, the ladies in our family would rather that I handled it. This varies quite a bit from individual to individual, so your mileage may vary. Still, the sex difference in handling spacial issues is well-attested, so it should show up as a tipping factor in some driving decisions.

Second, women like to look at their conversation partner when talking, whereas men often do not. If she is driving and talking to him, she may often turn to look at him to see his reactions. Taking her eye off the road while driving is scary to both of them. On the other hand, if he is driving and talking to her, she can look at his face without danger, while he will be much less tempted to swivel to look at her at each turn in the dialogue.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Centre Seminars: Coffee Houses, Part 1 and 2

Centre College has launched a web seminar series. This gives me another chance to talk about coffee houses and public life. The first two episodes have been posted on YouTube. I am pleased to share them.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Tebow Ad Was Charming

The Super Bowl ad that succeeded in getting the most publicity was the Focus on the Family spot with college football star Tim Tebow and his mother. Pam Tebow was a missionary in the Philippines when she was pregnant with the Tebow's fifth child. She was so ill from a tropical disease and the treatment for it that doctors told her to have an abortion. Pam and her husband rejected that option. After a difficult pregnancy, they had their "miracle baby," who has gone on to obviously glowing health. At the end of the ad, Tim Tebow humorously tackles his mother, which lets her say, smiling, "you gotta be tough."

I can't find a direct link to the ad, but if you go to the Focus on the Family site and click on "The Tebow Story," a link to "Watch the Tebow spots" will appear immediately.

The actual ad that they made is charming. It is very low key. It says nothing about abortion, or even the medical difficulty that Pam Tebow and her family went through.

The controversy, though seems to have brought out the irrational in some people. Before the ad aired, tens of thousands of emails were solicited objecting to it, by people who had not seen it. Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, went so far as to say that "I am blown away at the celebration of the violence against women in it." Alterian SM2, a company that tracks social media content about Super Bowl ads, said that before the ad aired, negative comments far outweighed positive. After people had actually seen the ad, though, most people liked it.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Responsible Fathers in Super Bowl Ads

The ads in the Super Bowl had a strong discourse about masculinity for married fathers. Some, such as the Dodge Charger ad, saw marriage and fatherhood as an imposition - worthwhile, but making a man deserving of masculine compensation in the form of a muscle car.

Others, though, took a more positive view of marriage and fatherhood, more as a challenging adventure. The Google ad, "Parisian Love," did this cleverly, through a series of queries that implied the life course of a man from pre-courtship to wedding and child.

My favorite ad was for Dove. The galloping romp through a man's life from boyhood to responsible, happy marriage and fatherhood is charming. I was particularly interested to note that they suggest having three kids, rather than the customary two of earlier ads. And the conclusion is that married fatherhood is not an imposition, but a great life.

I personally am not interested in the product, but I like this development in the Zeitgeist.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Beyond Rebuilding 4

Reply to "Overcoming the Presbyterian Power Trap: Toward an Authentic Multicultural Witness in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" by J. Herbert Nelson II.

This is the fourth in a series of responses to the five articles in Beyond Rebuilding, which were written in answer to my Rebuilding the Presbyterian Establishment.

Like Rev. Nelson I want the leadership of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be made of men and women drawn from all the classes, ethnicities, and cultural groups of America. I have every confidence that if the church seeks leaders who are faithful, loyal, and thoughtful Presbyterians, such a mixture will naturally emerge. We may differ on whether that is happening fast enough, and on whether the season of affirmative action is still needed, or whether the need has passed.

On a larger question, though, I think Rev. Nelson and I may disagree. Neither of us wrote specifically enough in our short essays to settle the point, so I don't want to be too definitive here. I would welcome further dialogue on these points.

I agree with Rev. Nelson that the leadership of the church should have a multicultural background. I do not agree that what the church should be seeking is a multicultural future. The church, like any viable institution, has and constantly recreates its own culture. The culture of the Presbyterian Church should be Presbyterian. This has a definite meaning for our polity, as the name presbyterian suggests. It also has a strong foundation, and is supposed to have clear limits, in our confessional constitution. The Presbyterian Establishment should be able to bring in people from all backgrounds and shape them into Presbyterians.

The content of Presbyterian culture is not rigid or fixed, as the church's changed culture about women in leadership and racial exclusion shows. Leading the discussion about whether and how to change while still being true to the theological convictions of the church is what an establishment is for. But I contend that the aim of a Presbyterian establishment is not to produce a multicultural witness, but to be a group with a multicultural background that gives a Presbyterian witness.