Massively Negligent Rundown

  • Stranger Danger. Wonder of all wonders, miracle of all miracles, children stay inside because they’re afraid of the outside world; I wonder how they got that way? Not only that, but (also unsurprisingly), most of their fears—and their parents’ fears—are based on “an unrealistic estimate assessment… of the risks of the outside world.” Writes Amelia Hill:

    “These fears are compounded by the anxieties of parents, who, as well has having realistic fears about the dangers their children face in their external environment, also have completely unrealistic fears based around modern folk tales of the likelihood that their children will fall victim to stranger danger.”

    Curiously, one of the major ‘producers’ of these fears, TV (and other media such as magazines, movies, etc.), is mentioned only in passing. It’s something Barry Glassner (in his book, Culture of Fear1) calls an accessibility heuristic. Which, in short, means that we tend to unconsciously associate the incidence of an issue in discussion (i.e., on TV news, talk-shows, movies, etc.) with its occurrence in real life. Thus—to use a simplistic example—if a kid hears in the news about five murders for every single mention of accidental drowning, she’s reasonably going to think (whether she knows it or not) that murder is more common in real life. A more concrete example is the radical increase in crime-reporting in newspapers, which has led many people to think that violent crime is on the rise, when, generally speaking, the opposite is true. Anyway, the Observer article is worth a read. (Observer: “Stranger danger drive harms kids” by Amelia Hill [May 23, 2004])

  • PrisonPrisonPrison. Speaking of crime, did you know that the U.S. is basically #1 in terms of the proportion of people incarcerated? With 715 per 100,000, the U.S. easily beats out Russia (a mere 584 per 100k), and leaves Japan trailing in the dust (at 54 per 100k). In the timeless words of Homer Simpson, we’re number one! We’re number one! And it’s not a pretty sight. (AP: “Report: 1 of Every 75 U.S. Men in Prison” by Connie Cass [May 28, 2004])
  • Dino Cook-out. Not that you necessarily care, but new research suggests that the dinosaurs were wiped out in a matter of hours by the heat pulse generated by that fateful asteroid. Anything not sheltered in burrows and whatnot would have been pretty much burned to a crisp, these researchers think. Even stranger, the friendly blue sky we all know and love would have turned red hot for hours. Not to mention everything else catching on fire. Fun. (Universe Today: “Asteroid Wiped Out the Dinosaurs in Hours” [May 25, 2004])
  • Wild Sheep, Hopes & Dreams. Remember this?

    No, I didn’t think so. But don’t worry about it. I’d splashed the picture around in an earlier post, back in the bronze age of NMB. What I neglected to mention—largely due to the fact that I didn’t know anything about it—was that the picture was taken as part of a larger project, Travels in a Beautiful World, which is interesting in its own right. TiaBW states that its goal is “to record and convey the hopes and aspirations of young people that have experienced conflict.” To that end, there are lots of interesting images on the site, not to mention other resources. If you’d like, you can also delve into the world of sheep-photographer & TiaBW participant Steven Langdon here.
  • Recondite Suicide Attempt. You’ve probably already stumbled across this oddity of news, but if not, be informed that an excessively strange plot was indeed afoot, though plot’s probably not the right word:

    “A teenager created an ‘elaborate matrix of deceit’ on the internet to persuade another boy he had fallen in love with to murder him, a court has heard.

    “The 14-year-old boy, dubbed Boy B in court, created a series of fictional characters in chatrooms, one of which ordered Boy A to murder him.”

    It’s stunningly confusing. (originally via MeFi, but a million other places as well; BBC News: “Web friend conned into murder bid” [May 28, 2004] and BBC News: “Boy created chatroom murder plot” [May 28, 2004] and Guardian: “Bizarre tale of boy who used internet to plot his own murder” by Helen Carter [May 29, 2004])

  • Got Gas? Shell‘s been, as they say, dogged by scandal, cutting its reserves figures and profits estimates and whatnot left and right. I’ve been following the whole thing very casually, as someone who doesn’t quite understand the numerous financial subtleties involved, but who’s at least a little bit curious what it all means. E.g., is it The End Of The World? Not really what I’ve been thinking, but I have been wondering. In a nutshell, Shell’s had to downgrade its reserves estimates four times in the past four months (the first downgrade the most severe, at like 1/5 of its proven reserves). The latest spate of reportage seems to indicate that all this involves what ‘proven reserves’ means, technically speaking. So, in other words, nothing that really distills well into a single sentence. But if you’re curious, here are two recent articles that deal with it fairly comprehensively (at least as far as this latest huff is concerned):

    Just FYI.

  • On Silence.

    “TWO WORDS — ‘never again’ — sum up the most important lesson that civilized men and women were supposed to have learned from the 20th century. It is forbidden to keep silent, forbidden to look the other way, when tyrants embark on genocide and slaughter — if Auschwitz and Kolyma and the Cambodian killing fields taught us nothing else, they taught us that.

    “Or so, at any rate, we like to tell ourselves.”

    (BoGlo: “An Auschwitz in Korea” by Jeff Jacoby [February 8, 2004])

1 Culture of Fear is also worth a read, if you’re interested. It’s a book on which Michael Moore relied heavily in making his documentary, Bowling for Columbine.