Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Honda Vs. St. Christopher

ChrisClicks recently left me a note asking me to explain why I collected and shared the latest batch of specific info tidbits I did.

Well, the short answer is that each of those tidbits caught my attention and stuck in my mind for some reason. Although that reason may not always be obvious to me, let alone anyone else, I think it's fair to say that most challenge various cultural assumptions I think deserve to be challenged or that simply aren't being given the attention they ought to be even as some other subjects are being given far too much attention.

That tidbit about how 44% of NFL fans happen to be women flies in the face of all those football widow jokes that comic strips and sitcoms have been churning out for decades.

The tidbit about how Cher found her latest boyfriend online challenges my long-standing assumption (or hope) that very rich and very famous people inhabit a better world than the rest of us do. The image I now have in my mind of even Cher sitting alone at her computer and having to wade through all the visual chaff of the Internet to find one other like-minded human being serves as a reminder that this remains a sad, sad world of loneliness and alienation even for those with the power to go anywhere and do anything. It's a lesson I've learned repeatedly in my reading (perhaps most memorably in a bio of Johnny Carson which revealed that even after he'd become a big star in the early 1960s, he still had to clean his own toilets because he couldn't find a maid able to do the job half as well as he could). Some people might take perverse comfort in stories like these in the belief that they reveal the high and the mighty to be Just Like Me; I find them instead to be rather depressing because if being rich and famous isn't really much of an escape from mundane existence, well, what escape from mundane existence is really possible?

Some of the other tidbits I shared seem to rather obviously reveal how horrible life can be on this "perfectly" designed world. Imagine - 60,000 miscarriages every year just in Thailand (a country where only about 1% of the world's population of humans live), yet some theists still prattle on and on about how only a supremely wise mind full of love could have created the human body. Would they continue to prattle on and on were it possible for us to rub their noses in just one of those bloody dead fetuses? (Can I get a government grant to run a few tests to find out?)

Anyway.... The bottom line is that I'm constantly finding little sparkles of information buried away in odd places while most of the big media spotlights continue to be focused en masse on black, gooey tar balls of information I'd much rather forget.

Yes, I know there's a war going on in Afghanistan. I know soldiers are going out on patrol. I know some are being killed by roadside bombs. I know that there are American families waiting for these soldiers to return home. I've know it for nearly 10 years now, thank you very much, and I do not need to see yet another video of yet one more patrol/explosion/homecoming to know that it's going to continue to be this way for many months if not years to come. Afghanistan is a toothache that I can do nothing about and that won't go away. I prefer to forget it to the extent I can.

The current outrage over airport screenings is another toothache that too many news organizations insist on dwelling on. But I don't fly. I've never flown. I never plan to. These stories are all about someone else's toothache - that someone else being a spoiled American public whose ardent desire not to have their "junk" touched by a screener has completely eclipsed the much more serious problems of literally billions of other people on this planet.

And then of course there are all the stories about Sarah Palin as so many reporters and commentators and news outlets quickly shift from Campaign 2010 to Campaign 2012 without ever pausing to give the problems associated with actually holding elective office *today* the attention they deserve. As far as I'm concerned, Sarah Palin is a toothache for another day (if ever). I'll feel that pain when I come to it.

All of which is merely my long-winded introduction to what I really want to say today, which is this: Some of the info tidbits I come across stay with me forever. Some deserve more than a passing mention in a long list of tidbits. Some deserve a spotlight.

A recent brief little news item about Honda windshields is one of them.

Here are the key passages:

Honda has come up with a surprisingly simple answer to reducing the risk of accidents: small triangular markings on the sides of the windshield....

Two triangles, fixed slightly above the driver's line of sight, are arranged so they point toward each other from opposite sides of the windshield. According to Honda, their presence makes it easier for drivers to avoid accidental contact in tight situations, such as when passing another car or turning into a narrow alley.

Experiments conducted by Honda with several different models of vehicle found the triangles encouraged drivers subconsciously to stabilize their line of sight when making a left turn....

Encouraged by the findings, Honda plans to make the markings a feature of all its vehicles, including those marketed overseas, introducing them in stages to each model....

Although the ceramic triangles, with sides measuring 4 to 5 millimeters, are very inconspicuous, they give the driver a better sense of the vehicle's width, the carmaker said.

Such a simple thing! And yet it apparently has the potential to save at least a few of those tens of thousands of lives that are lost every year on our roads and highways.

And yet this was, at best, a very minor, one day story....

Contrast that with the much better known St. Christopher medals and statues.

I can still remember growing up in a heavily Catholic neighborhood in Toledo and seeing people driving around with dull-penny-colored depictions of this saint propped up in the center of their dashboards. Even then it seemed weird to me that adult human beings would have dolls like this at all, let alone displayed in such a public way. When I learned that they did so in the belief that ol' Christopher might actually protect them from accidents and injury... well, I have to say, it gave me pause.

On the one hand, I could relate. I mean, it wasn't that different from what I was doing when I tried to keep it from raining by not killing spiders, or when I tried to guarantee a good day by not stepping on any sidewalk cracks while walking to and from school. Cause-and-effect relationships aren't always simple, and many require much empirical research and trial-and-error testing to prove or refute. One might even go so far as to say that much of childhood is properly devoted to teasing out the often subtle differences between magic (and the world as we want it to be or imagine it to be ) and science (or the world as it really is).

By the time I'd encountered dashboard St. Christophers and had them explained to me, however, I seem to have progressed beyond the point at which I could take them seriously. My "lucky" rabbit's foot, after all, had failed me many times; why should I believe St. Chris was going to be any more effective?

And yet adults - adults! - apparently swore that he *was* different.


It was just one of the many times when I was a child that I felt wiser and more competent than the much older people who were in charge of things.

Which didn't do much for my sense of security, given that they were the ones with nuclear weapons at their disposal....

Flash forward to today - a time when St. Christopher has officially been downgraded among the saints. Pope Paul VI removed his feast day from the Roman Catholic calendar in 1969. As is the case with so many saints, his poorly documented story remains a mix of myth and supposition created and perpetuated by Christians with a well-known bias and agenda. Few non-Christians seem very likely to credit his image with miraculous powers.

And yet millions of non-Christians almost certainly continue to be aware of those powers associated with him even as at least some Christians continue to put their faith in them.

How long might it be before Honda's safety accomplishments are as well-known?

How much better might the world be when everyone finally lets go of their childish embrace of rabbit's feet and holy icons and starts consistently embracing (and further developing) the empirically-proven power of windshield triangles (among other things)?


  1. See, now, if this place had private notes, I could leave a private note saying, "I can see why somebody who doesn't believe in God would not want to get on board an airplane. Where else could the courage to fly come from other than from faith in God?"
    But I can't now.

  2. LOL @ Deve, I am flying next week, I don't feel one way or the other about it except that it sure beats and ocean crossing. I'm less worried about dying in the air than I would be about hitting a random iceberg personally. :P

    As for the medals, medallions, dolls, rabbits feet, etc, I think we should put them through the same kind of tests we would put normal safety measures through and see how they stand up. My guess is that they will fail in every instance. :P

  3. Thanks for elaborating upon the previous information! The assumption of who loves football (or indeed, any sport) is given the lie if one reads enough women's blogs; and offline, well, I'm not a fan myself, but neither is my husband or son. Whereas my daughter, courtesy of hanging out with a football fan, IS a fan.

    The Sarah Palinization of the media has spilled over into pure shlock, as I've stumbled onto several stories on yahoo concerning the unreasonable focus and support of her daughter Bristol dancing on tv by Sarah's political fanbase, despite her lack of credible dancing ability. (Ok, I know that's pure fluff, but it's illustrative of your point of the misdirection of the news media.)

    The Honda windshield news is VERY interesting, and perhaps I can add a little bit of background in speculating on how this new feature may have developed? Several years ago, Toyota's Prius sported a back-up camera, which has subsequently influenced the same development in some high-end vehicles made here in the US, that feature back-up cameras and other aids, such as adding three-colored dashes to screens either in the rear view mirror of on the dash, showing the projected route in which the vehicle is traveling in when backing up.


    Now, with Honda's windshield triangles, it seems like it's just a hop, skip and jump to using that same sort of strategy in going forward!

    Well, at least neither Honda, nor Toyota, nor any other automobile manufacturer is building in the St. Christopher medals, or even offering them as an option! That gives me hope! :-)