Sunday, May 22, 2005

Everything bad is good for you?

A few weeks ago I picked up Time Out New York magazine, which I do from time to time, just to see what's going on around the area. On the cover was a shapely woman in a lounge chair, reading a book called "Everything Bad Is Good for You." I laughed at the title and assumed that it was just something mocked up for the photo shoot. Lo and behold, it's a real book. The author contends that things like junk food, "bad" TV, and all the elements of pop culture that critics tend to moan about actually make better people of those who participate in them. He calls it the Sleeper Effect, after the premise of the Woody Allen movie "Sleeper," where scientists are amazed that 20th century doctors scoffed at the nutritional value of junk food while promoting vegetables.

I got a nice little chuckle out of that, especially since the review I read indicated that the book was written in a style that suggests the author doesn't want to be taken too seriously.

Then a few days ago I read where prosecutors and judges are beginning to discuss among themselves what is called the "CSI effect." People serving on juries have watched the various CSI shows, heard all about forensic evidence and have begun asking for forensic testing (and getting exasperated when the results don't come back as quickly as they do on the shows). Also, more colleges are offering forensic science courses apart from law enforcement or medical coursework.

So, everything "bad" isn't good for us, but some of it is...

Today I heard a song on the radio about Aunt Jemima, of all people. It was on a show featuring folk musicians (When I'm in my car I hit the seek button until I hear something interesting, whatever and whoever that may be), and the song was lamenting the changing of Aunt Jemima's picture on the pancake box from the traditional pic to "Oprah." I had no idea that the original pic was of a real woman named Nancy Green, who had befriended the originators of the Aunt Jemima pancake recipe.

It seems a bit paradoxical that those folks who protested that the image was derogatory either didn't know or didn't care that it was an image of a real person, one of the first well-known advertising spokespersons in fact, who happened to be a not-necessarily-photogenic black woman who could cook.

The song's chorus pointed out that unlike a few advertising icons, including "Mr. Clean, this was a real live mama, by the name of Nancy Green." I was trying to find the lyrics online but so far without success. I went to the Fairleigh Dickinson University website and email the hosts of the show (it was on WFDU, the school's station) and asked them for info. I could probably not contact the host without the aid of the Internet, which is both a playground of the perverted and a playground for those who think. "Everything bad is good for you"? Hmm...

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