Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Atheists Know More About God Than You Do

Note: Today, I’m going Onion-style here with a blog in response to an article on msnbc.com posted 9/28/10, titled “Survey: Americans don’t know much about religion” by Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press. To read the article, go here: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/39397251/ns/today-today_people. To figure out what I mean by Onion-style, go here: http://www.theonion.com/

According to a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, American atheists and agnostics score higher than American Christians on tests of religious knowledge.

Stunned by the survey results, people across the country took to the streets in what is widely believed to be the largest spontaneous protest to a survey since polls revealed that sports fans prefer Wisconsin cheese to Brett Favre by a two-to-one ratio.

In one small town in Delaware, parents picketed a local school. Nell Crater, whose twin sons attend eighth grade, threw up her hands in despair when asked why she was protesting.

“It’s bad enough that my boys can’t do math or make the track team. I have given up hope that my boys will ever be rich or famous, no matter how many times I read The Secret. But now I find out that I can’t put them in the priesthood either?” Tears ran down the woman's face as she added, “I don’t even know why I dabbled in witchcraft when I was a teenager. It doesn’t work.”

Responding quickly to allegations of poor teaching in schools, the National Education Association (NEA) issued a strongly worded press release: “The Pew survey has revealed many troubling realities—realities that the NEA has attempted to bring to public attention for quite some time. Our children don’t know that Martin Luther started the Reformation. They don’t know that Maimonides was Jewish. But they do know how many lines Justin Bieber had on the season premiere of CSI. Our teachers certainly do not broadcast lousy TV in our classrooms. The blame lies elsewhere.”

Alan Starr, an adjunct professor of literature at the Bricktown Community College near Oklahoma City, shared his frustration upon hearing the Pew Forum’s findings. “A 32-question test, and the highest score was a 21? That’s an F. An F! I don’t care if the atheists do work hard and hand in their work on time! Why are we rewarding them with attention like this? I don’t care if this isn’t a real college. We don’t have to graduate people who get Fs.”

Political spin-meister John Carville put a more positive twist on the news. “Only half the people surveyed knew the name of the Islamic holy book or the first book of the Bible? Why, that just means the American public is looking for some new, fresh faces in the upcoming elections. It’s time to put Twilight on the ballots in November, and really get us a winner. That’s a change Americans can get behind.”

Experts in religion were much more cautious in their response, urging people to avoid overreacting to the survey findings. According to Jim Pickens, theologian and marketing guru at Heavenly University in San Francisco, “Americans have a long history of not knowing anything about anything. So, this Pew survey is nothing to be concerned about.”

Pickens also pointed out that the survey has positive implications. “These results could be used to better the lives of Americans in ways we haven’t even fathomed yet,” Pickens said.

“For example, if atheists and agnostics know religious facts better than religious people, it may mean that they study new things more intensely before they reject them. This could easily explain the sudden interest in things that seem ridiculous to most Americans—such as a large number of hits on a Perez Hilton YouTube video, or a high level of interest in Big Brother 12. People who don’t believe in God or aren’t sure could be playing havoc with our TV ratings and Google search results. That says something about how we live today.”

In a public statement issued live to the press earlier today, the Pew Forum defended its findings. Pew spokesman John Bench said, “Hey, we were just asking questions. Next week, we’ll be asking how many people prefer McDonald’s to Burger King after attending Sunday morning services. This stuff is not that big a deal.”

Copyright © 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall TV Snark, Part 1

Note: This post is a part 1, which totally assumes that I will remember I need to do a part 2 sometime. We'll see if I manage to pull that off.

It's fall TV season. At last. I no longer have to risk flipping the channels and seeing unwelcome footage from Big Brother whatever the number. Now we can talk about the new TV season, and I'm very excited to add my two cents. Of course, since I'm the Chipper Muse, I'm not giving you anything like an official review here. I'm just making snarky comments and hoping you laugh...or cry...or just feel something, darn it. Stop being such a cold, wet blanket and feel something.

Kidding, you're not a wet blanket. You're my reader. I LOVE you!

Here are my fall TV observations so far:
  1. I'm not surprised Gibbs got away with murder on NCIS. But the director burying the file? And then the little text at the end from David saying "I found him" (as in, she found Gibbs' enemy and is going to go all Mossad assassin on him)? Whoa nelly. Politically incorrect Americans and Israelis? I predict a really touching plot about a misunderstood Muslim this season. It's the only thing that's missing.
  2. NCIS:LA now has two sad, brooding, lost adult males on it... The favorite, G. Callen, is so orphaned that he doesn't even have a first name. (At least Tiny Tim had a first name, for crying out loud.) But now G. has a rival in Marty Deeks. (Is Deeks a real name, by the way? Anyone ever met a Deeks?) Deeks is depressed because he lost his partner because of a crooked LA cop, and also I guess because his snarkiness needs to come from some deep-rooted pain in his character. We'll have to wait and see who is cuter in his sadness. I think that's the writers' point on this one.
  3. Linda Hamilton on Chuck. Comments, anyone? Okay, I'll go. I still wish it was Lynda Carter, but okay. Okay. I'll adjust to the other Linda. She looks a little worn, but spying will do that to you. And how about our tax dollars going to hire hot CIA agents to work at a fake Buy-More? I think if Obama cuts that part of the budget, we'll all be fine. In the meantime, I don't know if this season is going to work for me.
  4. I didn't watch this, but I read that Hasselhoff got kicked off Dancing With the Stars. Yet the Situation (some kid from Jersey) is still there. Where's the justice, my friends? Where...is...the...justice?
  5. Finally, Randy Jackson is finally signed to the next season of American Idol, and thank goodness. If he didn't agree to his contract, his replacement was going to be an actual DOG, barking at the contestants. That would have been annoying.
I'll have to get back to you on Castle, since I haven't watched it yet. (Hey, the guy is ruggedly handsome! I have to give him my full attention!) Crap My Dad Says (or whatever its official TV name is) airs later this week, so I'll have comments on that soon. But I expect to love William Shatner...because I love William Shatner. Whether I love the show, who knows? Oh, and Fringe starts soon, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do there. Was it just me, or didn't it seem obvious that Universe 2 Olivia was an imposter? I mean, after all, what girl can dye her hair and restyle it with bangs that fast and in a strange parallel world where she doesn't have the right cash (Martin Luther King Jr's on the $20 bill) to buy hair supplies? Come on!

I'll be back next Wednesday with something. Who knows what? That's the fun of The Chipper Muse.

Ciao for now!

Copyright 2010 (c) by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lessons I Learned From 9-11

ChipperMuse Extra: I wrote this piece last year for an exercise in my writers group. I haven't polished it too much, because I think that defeats the purpose of a piece like this. The events of September 11 still make me consider my place in the universe. The thoughts I share below are just some of my personal observations. And to answer the question everyone wants to know, I was at work in Stamford, CT, when I heard the news. I spent the day listening for traffic that wasn't there, flinching every time a military helicopter flew overhead, and hoping that the people who worked at our city branch had been nowhere near the World Trade Center.

No one ever expects disaster. Not even the most hardened pessimist. The negative thinker may expect trouble. He may expect fear. But he doesn’t expect terror. Whenever we say we’re expecting the worst, we merely mean we’re expecting bad news. Because no matter what we may say or think, no one ever expects true disaster. It’s not in our DNA to do so. And that means when disaster and terror strike, you just can’t be prepared for it. That is Lesson #1.

That is what 9-11 felt like to me. When the Twin Towers were struck, I was struck too.

I can’t convey how unreal things felt to me. My first awareness of what happened came within minutes of the first tower being hit. My coworker M— got a call from an aunt of hers. M— was anxious by nature, so it wasn’t unusual to see her become agitated. But when she got off the phone, she turned to the three of us who were watching her and said, “The World Trade Center was hit by an airplane! I’ve got to go see the news.” And then she dashed out of the room to run upstairs where our employers had satellite television set up.

My two remaining coworkers and I stared at each other. We couldn’t wrap our minds around what M— had said, because it just didn’t compute. We turned on our radio, though, to get the news. It was so soon after the first plane crash that no one realized what was going on. The second tower had not yet been hit, and I could still imagine it all as a tragic error, rather than a planned act of terrible violence.

The radio reports were confused, so I tried to get the news online. But this was impossible because the news sites were overloaded from the excessive web traffic. So I eventually went upstairs to the TV. I needed to know what was happening. And that is Lesson #2: You can’t make decisions and take action unless you have knowledge and understanding. Ignorance is not bliss. It is a slave’s chain.

You must understand the reality of your situation before you can be free. You need the whole truth, not just partial truth. I was trapped in the realm of incomplete understanding after the first tower was struck. I assumed the “worst” as I could imagine it then—an awful accident, but an accident nonetheless. I was only enlightened after the second plane crash, because at that point, it became clear that the whole thing had been planned.

Only in knowing that we were under attack could I think about what I needed to do in the face of such evil. And that is Lesson #3: Evil is a real thing. It exists in the heart of each person. It can bloom in the most horrific ways. And it requires a response. I don’t believe in doing nothing. I don’t believe in telling people, “To each his own.” There are many grey areas in life, but not everything is grey. Some things are black and white, good or evil, and we each have to choose where we will stand.

And that is Lesson #4: We all have to choose. And the choice you make has consequences. What you choose matters. If there were a label I could give to the age we live in, I’d call it the Age of Irresponsibility. So many people live their lives as though their choices don’t matter. Even those of us who care about our choices and how we affect other people… Yes, even I am easily tempted to choose what I want and place the blame elsewhere. But ultimately, I am the reason for everything I get in life. And I am responsible for how I treat others.

I may not choose how others act. I can’t control what others believe. But I can always, always, always choose what I believe. I can always choose what manner of response I will make to every moment of life. So can you. Don’t let yourself be lulled to sleep in the Age of Irresponsibility. We are all accountable for our decisions. So let’s have the guts to make every choice with conscious awareness of what it will cost you and others.

Why do I say this? That’s Lesson #5: You can’t take anything for granted. What starts out as a normal day at the office can end in death, or injury, or grief. Nothing is guaranteed for you in life. The only thing you ever truly own is yourself—who you are deep inside your heart. Friends, family, possessions, positions… All of those things can be lost.

But the true you is eternal. The real you is affecting people every day with the choices you make. Let’s not wait until later in life to think about these things. Let’s think about them today. Let’s choose wisely today, and live well. We may not have tomorrow.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You Can Check In Anytime You Like...

Many people have decried the newest Facebook feature, known as Check In. So now, The Chipper Muse must weigh in and set everything into the proper perspective.

To those who haven’t heard (you know who you are!), Check In allows Facebook to use GPS technology to check you into the locations you visit. If you’re not much of a techie, just think of it as Facebook’s version of tagging you like wildlife. Check In enables you to ensure that your Facebook friends and family will know where you are at all times. At. All. Times. Who wouldn’t want that?

For people who think everyone cares how much coffee they pound at Starbucks each day, Check In is a dream come true. But for others, Check In seems like a Big Brother feature, a way of keeping track of your movements, a violation of your privacy. The debate rages under the shadow of Facebook’s many questionable policies.

Personally, I think the controversy is overrated. Check In has many advantages that far outweigh the nuisance of feeling like you’re a criminal with a tracker strapped to your ankle (and it’s a lot lighter too). Let me point out the most obvious reasons to use Check In:

1. Check In is a perfect tool for one-upping other people.
Sure, the next time you go to a truly exclusive event, like Chelsea Clinton’s wedding or Lindsay Lohan’s next hearing, you can kick it old-school and rub it in your friends’ noses by sticking out your tongue, saying Nyeh-Nyeh-Nyeh, and laughing mockingly. Or you can join the 21st century and lord it over people the way it is meant to be done in the Internet age—online and publicly accessible to people in other states, countries, and time zones. Now that’s what I call an e-diss.

I
 picture this use of Check In to blow up big time, especially after pro football season gets off the ground. Instead of goofy, old-fashioned dancing, you can expect to see wide receivers pull out their phones and “check in” at the other team’s end zone. By the Super Bowl, pedestrian put-downs and childish humiliations will finally be a thing of the past.

2. Check In raises peer pressure to new heights.
If you have an injured ego or low self-esteem, and if you’ve been longing for a new way to try to earn ineffectual brownie points with people who will never respect you, this is your answer. Check In will work especially well for school-aged kids who love to be bullied. Just check in wherever the “cool” people tell you to go. Check in at the big party hosted by people you hate, in order to prove you were cool enough to go. Extra points for everyone involved if the cool people publicly humiliate you while you are checked in at their hangout.

If you belong to a team or any kind of group that demands you behave exactly like everyone else to fit in, you’ll love Check In. I know lots of people who are already using this feature to check in to church, because as we all know, there’s no better way to be like Jesus than to draw attention to ourselves and point out how spiritual we are. The only thing that could possibly be better is to look at the Facebook pages of all our friends, find out who didn’t check in to church, and then criticize them. Thank goodness, Check In makes that possible.


3. Check In is an effective electronic way to lie.
Let this idea sink in for a moment. I think you’ll love its implications. After all, who is to say that you weren’t at work or in class when you checked in there? Just check in as you pull in the parking lot, then wheel right around and take off without checking out.

Unfortunately, Check In is empowered right now by actual GPS locations, which means you have to show up at the place you’re supposed to be, even if it’s just for a moment. That’s risky. But with some creative hacking, the GPS tracking could easily be disconnected. Imagine how free you’d be then. No need to show up at the actual location to give yourself an alibi. Just use the hack to fake check in at a busy Starbucks on the north side of town, while you’re actually doing whatever you want to do on the south side of town. It’s brilliant.


4. Check In benefits everyone, not just you.
If Check In were simply a self-serving feature, I could understand all the whining about “privacy.” But Check In is a great way for you to reach out and touch your entire community.

Admit it. You hear plenty of statistics on the news, but what you really want is to become a statistic. That’s where this Facebook feature comes in handy. Just check in at your vacation spot, and your neighborhood theft ring will be better able to plan a little B&E. They can plug Facebook into their Google calendar for even greater convenience. Think of how many hungry criminals and their families (and their drug dealers) you can feed in a week, just by using Check In. Probably at least as many people as you could feed by giving regularly to Feed the Children. What a great way to pay it forward to people in need!
Naturally, the Check In feature demands a follow-up. I’m certain Facebook is working on it as you read this. It will be called Check Out, and you will be able to use it anytime you want to turn your brain off and let other people do your thinking for you. It’ll be an app for your smartphone, and you can download it while you’re driving in heavy traffic, so no worries. I’ll make sure to write a review of it as soon as it’s available for testing.

In the meantime, don’t worry about the privacy debate. Just do what Facebook says. They’re taking over the Internet anyway. Resistance is futile.

~Ciao for now!~
The Chipper Muse


Copyright © 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.