The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.
Just in case you were feeling significant today. There is nothing quite like being complete awestruck by the beauty of the night sky, and this isn’t a normal night sky. My favorite astronomer Phil Plait serves up these astonishing pictures pretty regularly, and this one comes from Helge Mortensen. Dazzling aurora dancing over snow covered peaks makes my life feel very, very small.
My childhood, relived. I’m guessing that this topic is only going to hit a very small cross section of the public…in fact, it will probably only mean anything to 23-27 year olds who grew up watching the Animaniacs. This is an in-depth look at the story of the animaniacs…how they went from being a rough sketch of some indeterminable animal, to becoming one of the most fondly remembered cartoons for Generation Y. Who can forget Pinky and the Brain, Helloooooo Nurse, and the wheel of morality? Reading this article transported me back to Saturday mornings in my parent’s basement for a nice, nostalgic visit. (Via Boing Boing)
What if sex is just sex? The conservatives side of America has long maintained a very specific view on sex. This has been the view that has been passed down through two centuries of Christian dogma, and has crystallized into certain sexual norms that we assume are innate – that men have stronger sexual desires, women are the monogamous gender, and that homosexuality is unnatural. Even in secular pop culture, these stereotypes exist. But what if we are wrong? This is an analysis of 1,167 societies pre-European contact, and some of the findings are surprising. Marital virginity was only stressed in 26% of these societies, in fact pre-marital sex was universal in over 60% of the groups. Homosexuality was observed in 58%, and a vast majority of the groups believed that men and women have equal sexual desires. Based upon this evidence, doesn’t it seem likely that American puritanical beliefs on sexuality are skewed?
I’ve heard more gunshots outside my house. This is literally unbelievable. So much so that I don’t actually believe this is true, but this report states that all of the police officers in Germany fired 85 bullets in relation to a crime in 2011, resulting in 6 deaths. Really? The country has 80 million people, and police only needed to fire 85 bullets? When you take a look at America’s busting-at-the-seams prison system, you have to think there is another way, right? To put the number in perspective…German police used 9,000 bullets last year to take down sick, injured, or dangerous animals.
Anti-Vaxx are hacks. I recently found out that I was getting old when I hurt my back during a soccer game. Being unable to pick up my son, I sought treatment at a local chiropractic office. One of the first things that I saw when I walked in was literature advising parents to “just say no” to vaccines. I nearly walked out, i believe anti-vaccine propaganda to be grossly irresponsible, and this article explains why. It takes a battle axe to the anti-vaxx arguments and lays out very clearly why the danger in vaccines is in NOT getting them for your children. To quote from the best:
“Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines do not hurt your immune system. Vaccines do not contain poisons that can hurt you. Those are all spin by the antivax movement at best, and again, lies at worst. Vaccines save lives.” (via Bad Astronomy)
That’s Dr. Welfare Queen to you. I am currently working on a writing project exploring the economic realities facing college grads (more info on that later). As part of my research, I came across this article that is stunning in it’s findings. When you envision a typical recipient of welfare, what do you picture? Reading the letters to the editor in my local paper, it is pretty clear that the stereotype is out there that they are all (insert minority group here) that rely on our dollars to support their (insert vice here). It is not a pretty picture. Ronald Reagan called them welfare queens, some people call them free-loaders, but would you really think to call them Professor? Last year, over 360,000 people with PhD’s had to rely on food stamps or Medicaid. Many rely on government aid because of crushing student loan debt, others were dragged down into poverty after cuts to higher education in places like Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania decimated the educational system and forced universities to trim their payrolls. Now…we get stories like this:
“Elliot Stegall has taught at three colleges for more than 14 years. He says he has taught more than two dozen courses in communications, performing arts, and the humanities and he has watched academic positions in these fields nearly disappear with budget cuts. When he and Ms. Stegall stepped inside the local WIC office in Tallahassee, Fla., where they used to live, with their children in tow, he had to fight shame, a sense of failure, and the notion that he was not supposed to be there. After all, he grew up in a family that valued hard work and knowledge.”
Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to throw stones at the “freeloaders” that are living off the government’s tit. To simply say that people on welfare need to get off their lazy ass and get a job is simpleminded. Maybe not all of our problems can be solved by an individual’s hard work and determination, maybe we need to deal with some serious structural issues in our economy. Or I guess we could just go back to chastising those less fortunate.