Let’s play the ever more popular quiz show, ” Is It Racist?”!
Today’s topic: Late-night television host James Corden has long featured on his show a food-centered “Truth or Dare” variation called “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts.” Celebrities choose to either answer personal questions or take a bite of a food that most viewers would deem nauseating or not properly food at all. Recently the cherubic British comic employed a table in the bit filled with Asian delicacies like chicken feet, pig’s blood and thousand-year eggs.
Kim Saira, 24, a Los Angeles activist who organized the petition, told an interviewer, “James Corden is a white person and is actively using ingredients from Asian cultures and profiting from it and showing it in such a negative light. There’s a way to not like foods and still be respectful about it.”
The New York Times interviewed Lok Siu, an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley who agreed that Corden’s joke is indeed racist because it disrespects people’s cultures. The choice of Asian foods to highlight as disgusting to typical Americans makes Asian Americans feel more vulnerable or marginalized.
Oh yes indeed! “You use food as a metaphor to describe that distance, the kind of strangeness between a group of people that you don’t understand and their habits, the way they’re eating, the smell that comes with the spices,” she said. “There’s something around the way we discuss food, the way we think about food in our acceptance or rejection of it, it’s a rejection of a culture and the people that’s associated with it.” Siu regards the food as a metaphor for Asians not qualifying as “normal.”
I was going to include this in the Morning Warm-Up, which was already weird, but then realized that I wasn’t sure what the ethics verdict should be. Thus it became an ethics quiz.
Which American novelist would seem like the most unlikely to author a werewolf story? I wouldn’t put him at the top of my list, but John Steinbeck, a Nobel laureate known for somber Depression-era literary classics, would certainly be in the top ten. Yet the lionized author of “Of Mice and Men,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Cannery Row” and “Travels With Charley” did write a werewolf novel, in 1930, when he was a struggling writer. Completed under the pseudonym of Peter Pym, “Murder at Full Moon” was never published. A single copy sits in an archive in Texas, including drawings by Steinbeck himself.
Gavin Jones, scholar of American literature at Stanford University, has read the book, and pronounced it fascinating, complete and publishable. The agents for Steinbeck’s estate, however, have so far rejected his entreaties. “It’s a potboiler, but it’s also the caldron of central themes we see throughout Steinbeck’s later work,” Jones insists, and argues that the public should be able to read it. The author’s literary agents, the guardians of Steinbeck’s legacy, demur, saying,
Anthony Hopkins winning an upset Oscar this year reminded me of the action film he made with (yecchh) Alec Baldwin 25 years ago. I would have written about it then, but 1) I didn’t see it then, being driven to my sock drawer at the thought of paying for any movie with Baldwin in it, and 2) it was a long time before Ethics Alarms.
The film explores survival situation ethics, a topic that “The Walking Dead” has thoroughly beaten to walking death in the last decade, with the assistance of some sharp David Mamet dialogue. Hopkins, a wealthy, cocky and obnoxiously competent businessman, survives a small plane crash that dumps him and two other men in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. One of them, the younger Baldwin, is secretly having an affair with Hopkins’ super-model trophy wife, whom they left back at the hunting lodge.
Hopkins’ encyclopedic knowledge of everything and Eagle Scout-level survival skills keep his wilderness ignorant companions alive and hopeful until a rampaging Kodiak bear eats the man who isn’t Baldwin (thus showing good taste). Then the remaining two become the hunted. Eventually, after many scares and narrow escapes, Hopkins and Baldwin solve their hungry bear problem and find an abandoned cabin conveniently stocked with food, guns, and a canoe. Baldwin, confident that he no longer requires Hopkins’ expertise to survive long enough to be rescued, takes a functioning rifle, loads it, admits that he’s having the affair with Hopkins’ wife, and marches Hopkins outside to shoot him. But Fate takes a hand: Baldwin falls into a pit before he can shoot and is rendered helpless, with a broken leg and other life-threatening injuries.
Once again, I am 90% certain, maybe more, what the right answer should be, but also again, I’m close enough to the cusp to have “reasonable doubt,” or as they would say in the Chauvin trial, “Never mind!”
Chris Malone, an offensive line coach at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (UTC), , was fired two days after he tweeted,
“Congratulations to the state GA and Fat Albert @staceyabrams because you have truly shown America the true works of cheating in an election, again!!! Enjoy the buffet Big Girl!! You earned it!!! Hope the money is good, still not governor!”
The school responded, through its athletic director,
“Last night, a totally inappropriate social media post by a member of our football staff was brought to my attention. The entire post was appalling. The sentiments in that post do not represent the values of our football program, our Athletics department or our University. With that said, effective immediately, that individual is no longer a part of the program.”
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quizfor today (as I head to my oral surgeon for the latest emergency…):
This ad will run on the NBC Golden Globes Award broadcast:
A similar commercial had previously been rejected by ABC.
Cowabunga! Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:.
Is presenting this commercial on a prime time broadcast network a positive development for society?
Or, in the alternative, is it feminist grandstanding by NBC? Will it inevitably lead to graphic male enhancement ads? If women can be topless in this commercial, on what basis will anyone be able to argue that breast-bearing shouldn’t be routine in entertainment programming?
Ethics Alarms touched on this area here, when I related the example of a defense lawyer who won over the jury in the sensational Richard Scrushy fraud case with a vivid but made-up anecdote:
My favorite ethics moment is when Scrushy’s main trial lawyer, Jim Parkman, is asked about his headline-making anecdote in his opening statement, in which he quoted his grandmother as always telling him”every pancake, no matter how thin, has two sides.” “Did your grandmother really say that?” Parkman’s asked on camera. “No,” he admits after a long pause. “But she could have!”
Lying to a jury would seem to be a serious ethical violation for a lawyer, and by the wording of the rules, it should be. But every lawyer I’ve discussed Parkman’s tactic with agrees that such non-substantive lies would never result in professional discipline. (I think they should be.)
But what about inspirational stories and anecdotes that aren’t true? Does the end justify the means? Brian Childers’ story about Tommy Lasorda reminded me of another Lasorda story. Managing in the minors before becoming the third-longest tenured manager with a single team in baseball history, the ever-ebullient leader of the Spokane AAA team was faced with a dispirited squad that has lost nine straight games. Tommy bucked them up by reminding the players that the 1927 Yankees of “Murderer’s Row” fame, then and now the consensus choice as the greatest baseball team of all-time, also lost nine games straight. His team was cheered, and not only broke out of their slump, but went on a winning streak.
Asked later if it was true that the team of the Babe, the “Iron Horse” and the rest ever lost nine in a row, Lasorda answered, “Hell, I don’t know. But it turned my team around when they thought so!!”
This Comment of the Day by reliably thoughtful commenter JP is exactly what I hoped this particular Ethics Quiz would inspire. Unlike some ethics quizzes, and reminding everyone that an issue isn’t presented as an ethics quiz unless I have doubts about the ethically correct answer, this one has me torn right down the center. The usual ethical systems for approaching a problem are at odds here, making it a true ethics conflict.
There any a lot of laws in the context of digging up graves that often vary between state and context. The United States pretty much has a statue of limitation on 100 years for excavation (not to be confused with common graverobbing). I imagine this is because it is far outside any claim a family member might have. Jack alaudid to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act which protects remains on federal or tribal lands. These rules were essentially created to protect the living. The purpose of their creation is what I believe is at the heart of understanding if the act is ethical or not. The first question I would ask: who does it hurt?
Nearly 70 years ago, Fort William Henry, the fort overcome in 1757 battle portrayed in the film (and novel) “The Last of the Mohicans,” was reconstructed on the banks of Lake George in New York.
There, French forces led by General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm defeated the British, who were then, in many cases, slaughtered by the Indian tribe allies of the French as they attempted to retreat. Whether Magwa really ripped out the heart of the British commander, I do not know.
But I digress. Over the decades, the remains of many British combatants have been discovered in and around the site of the fort. Some of the remains have never been reburied, and were displayed for decades. Eventually the bones were studied by anthropologists, and yielded many details about colonial life in the era of the French and Indian War.
260 years after the fall of Fort William Henry, some of the bones are still at Arizona State University, where they are available for research. Other bone fragments unearthed by anthropologists in the 1990s and sent for study at the University of Waterloo in Canada were returned to the fort eight years ago, and lie in a box in a storage area. The company that owns the fort, known as the Fort William Henry Museum, says the bone fragments are being properly cared for, and that it is trying to balance the value of scientific research with respect for the remains of the dead.
In St. Anthony Minnesota, someone sent home owner Kim Hunt an anonymous letter reprimanding her for decorating her home with the modest Christmas lights seen in the top photo above. Three other residences in the neighborhood received the same letter:
Thanksgiving is, at least in this country, the traditional kick-off of the holidays and all the madness, music, traditions, literature, art, fun, reflection and controversies that accompany them.
Slightly off topic: I just looked in on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast.
Oh. My. God.
What is a parade without anyone watching and cheering along the route? What’s the point? All the energy, all of it, is gone. Worst of all are the live—are they really live?—performances of numbers from various Broadway shows in the middle of the street. These are always weird, but without any ambient sounds or people in the background, they are creepy and weird. The look like a post-nuclear apocalypse freak-out by community theater survivors. Also creepy: the networks’ socially distanced “hosts” now resemble those old Soviet news shows where the anchors were separated by about 15 feet at a long desk.
Where was I? Oh, right, the holidays…
With all the commercializing and vulgarizing of Christmas, the unlistenable “modern” Christmas songs, and the cynical “Christmas is horrible” movie comedies (like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”), the culture relies on the Christian religious institutions to provide context, continuity, seriousness and dignity to the season lest the ritual cease to have any meaning at all. With that duty in mind, here is the just-revealed Vatican Nativity scene: