Editorial & Opinion

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Dissociated Press Says Goodbye

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on March 6, 2013 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

But don’t bust out the tissues just yet, we’ll be back in the coming months with a new name and a new vibe.

Don’t cry. We’ll be back.

After almost five years of relentless blather on pop media, pop culture, politics, and technology, I’m retiring the site to prepare an all new, punchier, tablet-friendly site on a new domain. If you’ve been a regular visitor and want to be notified when the new site goes live, drop me a line. And if you’re interested, there’s a long-winded explanation of why Dissociated Press is calling it a day here. Feel free to express you thoughts or condolences in the comments. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Rupert Sheldrake Crazy, or on the Cutting Edge of Science?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 13, 2013 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

One thing you can always count on with unexpected paradigm shifts in science is that no-one expected them.

You’ve probably heard of the experiments in which a neurosurgeon touches a part of a subject’s brain with an electrode, and it triggers a vivid memory. A fascinating phenomenon, to be sure, but did you know that the experiment was performed prior to 1950 by Wilder Penfield, that it occurred in less than five percent of patients, and that the results have not been replicated with any regularity since? The idea that this was somehow a commonplace occurrence entered the popular mind largely as a result of the 1967 book I’m OK, You’re OK, and contributes to the misconception that science has any truly clear idea of how memory works, or where memories are stored. This is not to diminish the groundbreaking work that Penfield did; modern neurosurgery literally wouldn’t exist without his work in general. But it highlights something about the current common perception of science, something which may actually be getting in the way of the kind of exciting discoveries that we typically associate with it as an endeavor. And that is the notion of “science as dogma”. Historically, the thing that really put religion or metaphysics at odds with science was the simple idea that while science didn’t preclude possibilities, it demanded an actual demonstration of the theory presented. Rupert Sheldrake explores the problem of science as dogma in a piece on HuffPo called Why Bad Science Is Like Bad Religion, a piece which better articulates some things I’ve said myself.

But who the heck is Rupert Sheldrake, and why should we care what he thinks? Well, while Deepak Chopra may hail him as a visionary, the more skeptically-minded consider him a bit of a nut. I personally didn’t know anything about him until I read this interview recently, in which – while he talked about scientific heresies like morphogenic fields and experiments in paranormal phenomena – he also talked about the damage done to science by its own establishment – in part by the way that science has become largely driven by its ability to produce profitable results – but also how science seems to be stuck in its own reality-as-machine faith. He cites how no-one is likely to talk about how, for instance, the Human Genome Project has been a disappointment, primarily because Read the rest of this entry »

Is There a Link Between Antidepressants and Mass Shootings?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 26, 2013 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

Maybe we’ve all focused our aim in the wrong direction. Maybe it’s not guns that need more regulating, but DRUGS.

Do a Google search for phrases like “antidepressants and mass shootings”, and you’ll get page after page of results proclaiming the undeniable connection. But disappointingly, most of the results point to sites like InfoWars, Rense, and Above Top Secret. It’s unfortunate that wingnut conspiracy theorists are so convinced that there’s a connection between anti-depressants and mass shootings, because it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’re the only ones who are going to talk about the notion, thereby undermining its credibility as a possible explanation for the phenomena. Why? Because for the most part, the only other likely sources of information about a possible connection between pharmaceuticals and violent behavior are likely to have considerable bias on the topic. The drug companies that produce the psychotropic agents intended to treat mood and behavioral problems sure won’t want to talk about it, the agencies intended to regulate them (like the FDA) are essentially controlled by revolving door appointments, and the end-user in this scenario will be not only a person who has already been identified as mentally unfit, they will additionally have the consumer bias that comes with not wanting to face the fact that their troublesome and expensive mental health treatment could possibly have such a tremendous flaw built right into it. And “credible” news sources? The triumvirate of insurance, pharmaceuticals, and health care probably comprises more advertising and lobby dollars than all other business sectors combined. You don’t need to be a conspiracy nut to understand why mainstream media outlets aren’t going to start bashing big pharma and health care, unless the masses have already picked up their torches and pitchforks.

This is all a shame, because the notion definitely warrants a closer look. The list of top ten legal drugs linked to violence is topped by three familiar names: Paxil, Prozac, and Chantix. And of the credible, readily accessible studies and data that are available, the link does seem clear. For example, the research article Prescription Drugs Associated with Reports of Violence Towards Others identified 1527 cases of violence disproportionally reported for 31 drugs. And for some probably biased – but at least comprehensive  – data on the topic, “SSRI Stories” has compiled a database of over 4800 incidents  related to antidepressants or SSRI’s, with links to news stories about the incidents. That link is to one huge sortable table; you might prefer to start with a subset like School Shootings & Incidents or Highly Publicized Cases. The CNN video below is typical of the softball references to the issue that you’ll find from larger media sources; CNN’s Sanjay Gupta talks for a while about the obvious connection between mental illness and mass shootings, but he barely addresses the pharmaceutical angle until the end, and immediately back-pedals on the notion: Read the rest of this entry »

Why Rational Debate About Gun Legislation is Probably Impossible

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 13, 2013 by admin in Editorial & Opinion, Lifestyle & Culture

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

If gun enthusiasts’ assertions about guns don’t sound rational, it’s probably because they aren’t. They’re emotional. Gun owners have feelings TOO you know.

Careful Kid, You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

In the end, do you know who is going to win a debate about guns? The person with a gun. Which is too bad, because there’s no intelligence test required for owning a gun. Nor is there typically any kind of personality test, and one thing the last decade or so has demonstrated is that a lot of people who are allowed to own guns are either ignorant, insane, or both. Before I go on, I’d like to point out that my choice to not own a gun doesn’t mean I want to take away yours. Unless of course YOU are stupid or crazy. Personally, I grew up in a time and place where there were a LOT of guns. My family owned a huge piece of property, and hunting and sport shooting were a small but integral part of family life. We had a half dozen rifles, several shotguns, and two handguns, and there were rituals attached to learning to responsibly handle this little arsenal which were imbued with both seriousness and humor. One classic piece of this training involved making a decision about when an overly-eager youngster was ready to shoot a shotgun for the first time, with a 50/50 chance of getting knocked on their ass. This may seem like a flip way to introduce a kid to shooting a shotgun, but with the supervision of a caring parent who was a proficient shooter, this was in fact an excellent way to instill a kid with an awareness of the incredible power they were wielding when they put a shell in the thing, pressed it into their shoulder, and pulled the trigger.

And that last little concept is something that is – in my opinion – key to understanding the gun debate. If you’ve never fired a gun, there’s a pretty good chance that most of what gun advocates say sounds insane. And although some of it is, that’s not the problem. The problem is that much of what they say is irrational. And by “irrational” I don’t mean insane, or even illogical. I mean not rational. If you’ve ever fired a gun, there was almost certainly a moment when you acquired a visceral awareness of Read the rest of this entry »

A Fan of “Googie” and Retro Design? Help Fund the Beer Depot Sign Restoration

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 11, 2013 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Why a decidedly unsentimental futurist and fan of progress (ME) supports the restoration of this vintage sign, and why you should too.

Over the last year and a half or so, I have somewhat quietly spearheaded a campaign to preserve a classic “Doo Wop” or “Googie” era sign in the town I live in; the iconic Beer Depot sign, which blew over in high winds in 2011. The project was in the homestretch recently when it hit another snag, something I’ll get to in a moment. But first, a little background on why I would use the platform of my pop media and satire site to plug the final phase fundraiser we just launched for the sign. When a friend learned of my little project the other day, they asked me why I was putting so much time into it, knowing fully well that as much as I appreciate vintage design, I’m as much about progress as preservation, depending on the scenario. I had to ponder their question for a moment to give an honest answer. Although I definitely have a fascination with twentieth century design, from the Art Deco era right up through the era of Googie Architecture, in the end I think my pursuit was as much about beating bureaucracy and making a stand against “unjust power”, which in this case took the form of an insurance company. My joy in challenging stale, lazy authority and arrogant institutions goes way back. When I was dropping out of high school, the juvenile court officer that the school had assigned to “process” me for my juvenile behavior – which consisted entirely of NOT doing something, i.e.: going to school – showed me what he was writing at the top of my report out of frustration at how the system seemed to have missed a beat with me. It said “I would agree with the school counselor’s simplistic assessment that Ian has authority issues, if it weren’t for the fact that he doesn’t seem to recognize any“. Then he signed my walking papers, and I was done with high school at sixteen.

So when a client of mine came to me almost two years ago asking if I could help tackle the city government – which was blocking the restoration of the sign even though it was on a property designated as historic by the local Historic District Commission – I guess part of the reason I said yes was simply for the joy of challenging authority. Little did I suspect that later this would lead to spending a bunch of time in court when the insurance company refused to pay on the policy for the sign. But to be honest, it was quite gratifying to beat them. I certainly make no secret about my feelings about the insurance industry.

So here in the homestretch, after all the tedious bureaucratic challenges with the city (in the end, the folks at the city were helpful by the way!), and after the tedium of watching an insurance company wiggle through the “we’re not gonna pay” dance in court, it’s a little disheartening that precisely because of that shortfall in funds, we’re doing a fundraiser to finish the sign.

If we had known about this issue with the insurance policy at the outset, we might have done a fundraiser much sooner, like maybe when we got the last round of press. About a dozen supporters of the sign suggested it early on, but my client felt it was sort of their conrtibution to local preservation to foot the bill themselves.

They’ll still fund this last 20% or so ONE way or another, but if you’d like to show your support and speed things up, you can donate via their Indiegogo campaign.

Below is the sign in its former (slightly in need of restoration) glory:

Photo by dwacphoto.com

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