31 March, 2012

The Insidiousness of Fat-Shaming Vegans

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has once again decided to use a prejudicial and misleading advertisement to support their message.

Needless to say, vegans come in all shapes and sizes, and to suggest otherwise amounts to little more than an outright lie. Furthermore, the fat-shaming involved in this commercial is completely and utterly inappropriate. It is morally impermissible to treat a segment of society so cruelly when the majority of that population cannot help being the size that they are.

Yet what bothers me most about PCRM's attitude is that they are an organization dedicated to getting people to eat more healthily, and they strongly endorse a vegetarian lifestyle. It pisses me off to have a group so ignorant about why fat-shaming is bad actively support my position on ethical eating. Stuff like this really undermines the cause, much like Mike Daisey's recent This American Life fabrications which set back the cause of workers' rights in Apple's Foxconn factories.

If the ad focused instead on a $10 fee to allow you to sit next to a white, while others had the misfortune of sitting next to blacks, I'm sure that PCRM's advertising department would have realized how inappropriate the ad was. Unfortunately, the last bastions of prideful overt prejudice include fat prejudice, which society seems to not even notice. Contrary to popular belief, dieting does not work for most overweight individuals. This means that, for these people, being fat is no more attributable to their choices than being black is. (Of course, for a dedicated individual, dieting does work; but most dieters react to diets by gaining back more weight than they had before they started dieting.)

Further exacerbating the PCRM's ad is the fact that they did the same exact thing only three months earlier. Their "abs and thighs on cheese" ads were particularly vile, and sparked the ire of several fat-positive members of the vegan community. Yet somehow they managed to avoid learning how terrible such ads are and instead just repeated their mistake. Really, we all should have realized that they weren't going to learn a lesson back then; after all, they started their fat-shaming anti-cheese campaign immediately after Daiya, a vegan cheese brand, made a similar fat-shaming mistake just a couple of week earlier. (At least Daiya apologized for their mistake.)

At this point, I think I have just completely lost all respect for PCRM. They clearly are not going to stop this campaign of hatred, as evidenced in their most recent blog post. Although I expressed my dissatisfaction with them over this issue via twitter, facebook, and email, I don't believe it will do any good. Some people are just willing to throw other groups under the bus in order to get their issue heard by a wider audience.

But if you disagree, feel free to express your own opinion by tweeting @PCRM, posting on facebook.com/Doctors.Care, or calling/e-mailing their media contact, Vaishali Honawar, at 202-527-7339.

You can also read other bloggers' opinions on this issue, including Veggie Mightee!, The Thinking Vegan, and Vegansaurus, among others. [EDIT: The Vegan RD, a member of PCRM's board, has now resigned over this issue.]

(Note: Nofollow tags were used on all links pointing to PCRM's sites.)

30 March, 2012

Philosophy on Facebook & Twitter

If you're as interested in philosophy as I am, then you already follow a few philosophers on Twitter, and you probably subscribe to a few philosophers on Facebook as well. But sometimes you just want to see more.

Thankfully, such content is easily found. The Philosophy interest list on facebook is a one-click subscription to hundreds of academic philosophers, university philosophy departments, international philosophy conferences, and local philosophy clubs from across all of facebook. Although it sounds like it might be a noisy feed, it is actually a very readable rundown of what philosophers are talking about publicly on facebook in real time. Most clubs, departments, and conferences post very rarely, so even though hundreds of them are included in the list, it never gets overwhelming. Each day, I see discussion on philosophical ideas, a few calls for papers, announcements of talks around the world, and even a bit of philosophy humor from time to time.

The twitter version of this list is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit more noisy. Academic Philosophers on Twitter is a list consisting of hundreds of philosophy faculty twitter accounts. A good percentage of tweets are philosophically centered, but I've noticed that, unlike facebook updates, the tweets that philosophers publish on twitter are far more numerous, and tend to be about all kinds of non-philosophical things. It's still an interesting feed to browse, but it's much less significant than the facebook philosophy interest list, at least in my opinion. (For an even noisier experience that includes philosophy students and amateur philosophers, see @ranilillanjum's Philosophers on Twitter and More Philosophers lists. The lists are so full of people that she had to use two lists to keep track of all of them. Nevertheless, they're still worth checking out.)

I should point out that subscribing to any of these will not cause your everyday social media experience to suffer. Subscribing to the somewhat noisy twitter list doesn't clutter up your twitter feed at all; you have to manually click on the list in order to see tweets from it. Subscribing to the facebook interest list also results in very little clutter; although posts will show up in your regular facebook feed, they are clearly delineated and are grouped together so as not to interrupt the flow of updates from your friends and individually subscribed pages.

Every list I've linked to above is one that I personally subscribe to, though the only one I read with any regularity is the facebook one. I hope you'll find these links as useful as I have.

(Incidentally, if you know of a philosopher, philosophy department, or philosophy club on facebook that isn't already on the list, please let me know by sending me a message on facebook. I'll be glad to add them. Note that if you point me to a philosopher's facebook profile, they must allow subscribers in order to get successfully added to the list.)

(Edit: I'd like to append a link to this philosophical humor pinterest account, even though it doesn't really compile professional philosophers' accounts on pinterest in the same way the facebook and twitter lists cited above do. (Added November 2012.))

29 March, 2012

Coming to an Understanding of Sports

When I was young, I never really got into watching sports. Sure, I played soccer in high school, and proudly went to every football game as part of the drum line, but I never really paid any attention to the game. To me, it was always an adrenaline experience, and involved no part of my mind whatsoever during the game. As far right defender on my soccer team, my sole goal was to kick the ball away from our end of the zone whenever I saw it near me. And as a drummer, I played only when instructed to, only realizing a year into the experience that we were doing special songs for touchdowns and the like. (I just never paid enough attention to the football players to ever make the connection.)

So it isn't too difficult to understand why I never watched sports on television. I just had absolutely no interest in such things. Maybe if chess had been televised, I might have cared. But as it was, the only time I ever saw sports on tv was when it was forced upon me, and the only time that ever happened was when it was soccer commentary in spanish, which I still can't speak.

Over the years, I've seen many people watch televised sports with commentary, and I've just never understood it. Until, that is, I encountered StarCraft.

Somehow, in the past year or so, I have gone from abhorring the concept of sports commentary entirely to realizing that I actually think Tasteless and Artosis are the best live tv hosts I've ever heard (next to Neil deGrasse Tyson, of course). Watching them commentate StarCraft 2 matches in the GSL is just about the most enjoyable experience I can get from an online show, and it beats out even the great philosophy podcasts I've fallen in love with recently. They take me through a rollercoaster of emotions, creating laughter, nervousness, tenseness, excitement, and regret, all in the course of a few short hours. No other experience can make me both yell at my screen and giggle uncontrollably within the same broadcast.

Don't get me wrong; I still consider football, baseball, basketball, and many other sports (and esports) completely and utterly boring. Yet StarCraft 2 is something that I now think I'm completely obsessed with. I watch every major tournament regularly, and I listen to many StarCraft community podcasts, the combination of which takes up a not so insignificant amount of my time. It is only now that I understand how captivated all those people earlier in my life were.

28 March, 2012

Resumption of Old Habits

It's been a while since I've blogged regularly, though my twitter and facebook feeds have been going strong all this time. Nevertheless, I think it's time to jump back into the habit of recording a few more long-form posts from time to time.

If you're seeing this in your rss reader and wondering who the hell I am, all I can say is that you once found me interesting enough to follow my blog. With any luck, I'll still be able to live up to those old standards. But if you're not convinced, then you have my apologies for resurrecting a feed that's been dead for over four years. Sorry to get in the way of your daily dose of webcomics.