Convenient Darwinism

There has been a controversy recently in the Columbus suburb of Whitehall about whether the local schools should have a special recognition of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. The issue has devolved into the standard, tiresome, “debate” between evolution and creationism.

I sometimes wonder if those who oppose Darwin’s theories don’t fully realize how useful and convenient those theories can be. I appreciate the concepts of evolution and natural selection, in part, because they provide us with some useful excuses for traits that otherwise might reflect poorly on us as individuals. The underlying basis for all of the excuses is that we are the end product (at last, the current end product) of millions of years of natural selection, and that in many instances it is impossible for us to resist the biological imperatives that are produced by that evolutionary history.

Some years ago, I read a very interesting book that argued, among other things, that one reason modern American struggle with their weight is — surprise! — evolution. The author’s theory was that natural selection favored individuals who were very efficient producers of fat, because those individuals were thereby more likely to survive during the cycles of feast and famine that characterized most of human history. Now that we are in a time of plenty (at least, we were until the last six months or so), we can’t help being fat because our bodies were specifically selected to produce fat.

So, don’t blame me for that seemingly permanent beer belly. It’s the fault of my distant ancestor whose fat-producing qualities allowed him, or her, to survive when the rest of the tribe perished due to starvation. Whoo hoo!

“Reunion” Recordings

The Columbus Metropolitan Library has a wonderful website that has a great, easy-to-use search engine. I like to search the library catalog for CDs with songs I remember, reserve them, and then give them a listen. A few times recently I have inadvertently reserved, and listened to, “reunion” CDs — that is, re-recordings of the original songs by the original artists and groups (or what is left of them). It is always disappointing when that happens. I’m sorry, but no re-recording of Judy in disguise (with glasses) by John Fred and his Playboy Band can adequately recapture the bouncy, zany quality of the original recording (which was a popular song on the Omnibus Party playlist). And, in any case, these CDs always consist of songs that were popular decades ago, and the target audience clearly is people who first heard the songs during those years. Most people associate specific songs with particular memories or times in their lives — at least I do — and we aren’t interested in a pale imitation of those songs.

I assume the re-recordings allow the original artists to make a few extra bucks in the twilight of their careers, without violating their prior contracts or copyright laws. I don’t begrudge them that; I just wish they would make the labels more explicit in disclosing that the song you will be hearing is not precisely what you so fondly remember.

Saturday Mornings

Saturday morning is, arguably, the single finest time of the week. When we were kids, Saturday morning was the time when you would race downstairs, fill a mixing bowl with a sugary cereal, and camp in front of the TV set, sitting cross-legged in our PJs and watching cartoons for hours — always looking forward to the time when our favorite, Johnny Quest, would come on. In college, Saturday morning was the essential recuperative period after the long, late, Friday night festivities. These days, I often work on Saturday mornings, but even those times are more relaxed and enjoyable because I can play baroque music on the internet radio and am not interrupted by telephone calls.

No matter how old you are, Saturday mornings are irresistible because the school work or work week has just ended, you have no immediate obligations, and the weekend yawns before you, pristine and full of promise and possibility.