Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Reading

The Culture of Rage — Stephen King, the best-selling author, knows something about guns.  And he defends popular culture against the attacks from gun-rights advocates in a new essay called Guns.

As King puts it, “To claim that America’s ‘culture of violence’ is responsible for school shootings is tantamount to cigarette company executives declaring that environmental pollution is the chief cause of lung cancer.” Americans consume relatively high levels of gun violence, but we’re not acting out in response to it. Nor are we completely saturating ourselves in it. For instance, King observes that only two of the 10 most popular works of fiction in 2012 featured violence. Just one of the top-grossing movies of 2012 (Skyfall) showed gun killings. Sports, dance, and Mario Brothers are the nation’s most popular video games, and football and detective shows consistently score the highest television ratings.

In the coming days and weeks, gun manufacturers and lobbyists will spend millions convincing American gun owners who actually supportsensible regulations that they are “under siege” from President Obama’s government. They’ll argue that the administration’s proposed universal background checks for all gun purchasers and waiting periods are tantamount to big brother keeping tabs on Americans who own firearms, and say that limiting the availability of military-style assault weapons that can fire off tens of bullets in rapid succession without reloading would leave Americans defenseless from home intruders or a government takeover.

They’ll deflect attention from guns and propose expanding access to mental health services, stationing guards in schools, and of course clamping down on the media’s glorification of violence. “One only wishes [NRA Executive Vice President and CEO] Wayne LaPierre and his NRA board of directors could be drafted to some of these [school shooting] scenes, where they would be required to put on booties and rubber gloves and help clean up the blood, the brains, and the chunks of intestine still containing the poor wads of half-digested food that were some innocent bystander’s last meal,” King writes. Maybe then they’ll focus less on the make-believe death in media and the very real destruction that open access to military-style weapons can cause.”

Explaining the Winter Blahs — Neil Shubin explains why our internal clocks hate winter.

By late January many of us residing in northern latitudes aren’t sleeping well, overeat and are looking forward to the long sunlit days of July. Some people even get clinically depressed: a recent study revealed that some 10 percent of New Hampshire residents suffer from seasonal affective disorder. For too many people, this might seem like just a quirk of their personalities, or worse, a shortcoming. But the cause for our malaise lies in the working of our genes, organs — and, ultimately, in the chemical structure of moon rocks, like the ones returned by the Apollo space program.

Our perception of time defines the ways we interact with the planet and with one another. Humanity’s increasing need to communicate and trade has led to an ever-finer parsing of the moments of our lives with each passing year. Our need to segment a day into milliseconds — as with high-frequency stock trades — would probably have shocked our ancestors as much as a jet plane landing in the ancient African savanna.

But some clocks have not changed with technology, human interchange or commerce. Virtually every part of us — all our organs, tissues and cells — are set to a rhythm of day and night. Kidneys slow down at night. That’s a wonderful trait if you want to minimize trips outside of bed. The human liver works slowest in the morning hours, meaning the cheapest dates would be at breakfast.

How do these biological rhythms come about? We carry more than two trillion clocks inside of us. Our cellular clocks reside in the molecular machinery of DNA, which makes proteins that interact with one another and with DNA itself. Some combinations of these biological factors form a kind of molecular pendulum that swings back and forth between high and low levels of protein and gene activity, tuned to a virtual 24-hour day.

Our genetic clocks are set to the sun by our brains and our eyes. Light entering our eyes triggers a signal that ends in a tiny patch of cells in the brain. This brain region then emits hormones that coordinate the clocks in the different cells of the body. Mess with this system and things go awry really fast.

Sync or Swim — Andy Borowitz reports the latest scandal to erupt.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – A rising chorus of congressional Republicans are calling on President Obama to acknowledge that the pop singer Beyoncé lip-synched during his inaugural festivities on Monday and resign from office, effective immediately.

“By lip-synching the national anthem, Beyoncé has cast a dark cloud over the President’s second term,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).  “The only way President Obama can remove that cloud is by resigning from office at once.”

While many in the media have blamed Beyoncé for the lip-synching controversy, Mr. Paul said, “We must remember that this happened on President Obama’s watch.”

Mr. Paul said that the White House’s refusal to comment on the Beyoncé crisis “only serves the argument that this President has something to hide.”

“If Beyoncé lip-synched the national anthem, how do we know President Obama didn’t lip-sync his oath of office?” he said. “If that’s the case, he’s not legally President. But just to be on the safe side, he should resign anyway.”

Mr. Paul also blasted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her testimony on Benghazi before the Senate today: “Her tactic of answering each and every question we asked her didn’t fool anyone.”

Doonesbury — Saving grace.

5 barks and woofs on “Sunday Reading

  1. RE: King: if pop culture were to blame, then we’d see the same levels of violence (gun violence or no) throughout Western culture and in the East as well (where the “Hong Kong action film” is very popular). But we don’t. Also, the gun lobby forgets one very important thing: the right to bear arms is celebrated, but the responsibility to know how to use firearms is treated as an option, which removes all the “well-regulated militia” items from the discussion since merely owning a gun in no way instructs the owner in how to shoot.

    RE: Beyonce: this lunacy over something “amiss” would have invalidated nearly every presidency since Andrew Johnson’s: Grant was an alcoholic; Wilson had a stroke; Harding couldn’t speak proper English in public; FDR was a cripple; etc etc. – and yet there’s not one mention of how genuine infirmities, shortcomings, missteps or other imperfections would have forced any of them from office. Watergate and Iran/Contra would have been enough to sink Nixon and Reagan without a single squeak of complaint. It’s like saying the AGCC argument is false because Al Gore flies on commercial jets and is overweight. And hearing this from a physician whose accreditation comes from a board he made up himself is a bit much; if I were Paul I’d get all my own Ts crossed and Is dotted before making much of Beyonce’s “singing”.

    • You may all laugh, but this WAS a major item for local news, though Paul hadn’t been quoted and nobody – yet – had demanded satisfaction from the President for the PR flub. After the last few years of “let’s outdo the comics” batsh#ttery from the GOTea, as a humorist Boroitz is a lot less unfunny now we know it is a joke.

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