November 2014 Archives

H/t: to New Civil Rights Movement for mentioning the paper "Testing the Affiliation Hypothesis of Homoerotic Motivation in Humans" from Archives of Sexual Behavior:

The frequency of homoerotic behavior among individuals who do not identify as having an exclusively homosexual sexual orientation suggests that such behavior potentially has adaptive value. [...] ...homoerotic behavior appears to play a role in promoting social bonds.

City AM speculates that "in hunter-gatherer days, it was an advantage to be bisexual:"

Heterosexual men and women, for example, were more open to the idea of engaging in homosexual behaviour when progesterone was high. Men also produced more of the hormone and felt more homosexual if they were reminded of a societal need to be friendly with other males.

Saga, ongoing

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At The Atlantic, David Sims writes that Saga "is not just one of the standout comic books of the last decade. It's an incredible affirmation that there's still room for originality in science fiction, even in a marketplace dominated by powerhouse franchises:"

Twenty-four issues in (and with no sign of slowing down), Saga still manages to zig most times you think it'll zag. [...] Every new detail and character Vaughan adds in provides a fascinating new wrinkle, but he's never dropped the core concept--that we're watching a couple in love learn how to be parents.

Vaughan, he writes, has "done more than create a brilliant comic. He's somehow managed to break new ground in a hoary old drama without feeling derivative. As I contemplate the never-ending barrage of cross-platform franchises in our future,"

more Saga

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BoingBoing comments on the Saga Deluxe Edition, writing that the series "may be the best sf comic since Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan," and calling it "weird, pervy, exciting, thoughtful, imaginative [...] But that hardly scratches the surface:"

There's so much heart and so much high weirdness here that it's impossible to summarize, you really have to experience it. And the book features additional material that sheds light on both Vaughan and Staples's creative process -- scripts, sketches and articles, which constitute a great peek behind the scenes at a great piece of work.

deluxe Saga

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CBR lauds Saga's "luminous hardcover edition:"

Combining the first three arcs with loads of delicious extras, this edition is a stunning reflection of the collaboration between its creators: detailed, thoughtful and mischievous.

Series author Brian K. Vaughan notes that "we turned this edition into a really cool creator roundtable with Fiona, our mysterious letterer/designer Fonografiks and our "coordinator" Eric Stephenson:"

So we still give you all the exclusive behind-the-scenes sketches and script pages you usually get in these kinds of deluxe hardcovers, but this version also includes dozens of pages of detailed commentary about exactly how and why we all work together the way we do.

20141120-saga-book1.jpg

Fiona Staples' cover for the "Saga" hardcover collection has a delightful geometric rhythm, but BKV sounded a contrary note (reminiscent of the Apple e-censorship flap):

Image warned us that we might get pushback from retailers and our distributors, especially because some stores out there have apparently already stopped displaying our first trade paperback because some customers complained about that comparatively tame image of Alana breastfeeding her baby. I think that's insane, especially given how many covers out there literally feature severed human heads, but so it goes.

I totally accept that some readers out there will see the cover and think it's disturbing or perverted, but I don't think those kinds of people would like "Saga" anyway, so this cover is hopefully saving them fifty bucks.

We wanted to reach out to young parents, proud feminists and other potential new readers who crave something different and who would actually respond favorably to a cover like this. Those are the kinds of people we hope will discover "Saga" with this collection.

The next arc of the series won't hit comic-shop shelves until February.

TNR and liberalism

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Franklin Foer discusses the founding of TNR and the creation of modern liberalism, asserting that The New Republic "was born wearing an idealistic face:"

It soon gathered all the enthusiasm for reform and gave it coherence and intellectual heft. The editors would help craft a new notion of American government, one that now goes by a very familiar name: liberalism. [...]

For hundreds of years, long before the word was associated with Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt, it has meant generosity and tolerance. It's pretty clear how those sentiments have evolved through the ages into a modern political program that champions a social safety net, civil rights, and civil liberties. But they are also hallmarks of an intellectual mode--which is manifested in the manner that liberals read and write as much as what they substantively argue. That approach is cosmopolitan and freethinking, daring to engage ideas that it might not share. (This magazine has a tradition of filling the masthead with socialists, communist sympathizers, English Tories, and neoconservatives.) Our doctrine proudly considers itself an anti-doctrine. That is, American liberalism flaunts its pragmatism. It may have strong moral and philosophical beliefs, but it likes to claim that it derives conclusions from evidence and data, not dogma; its expectations for politics and human nature remain on the hard ground, not up in the utopian sky.

TPM's Josh Marshall sees the Democrats' real problem as their prescriptions for dealing with inequality, observing that "many Democrats look at all this and say this is way the party needs to embrace economic populism whether of the Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders variety or whoever else might be espousing it in more or less watered down ways:"

But I think this misses the point. The great political reality of our time is that Democrats don't know (and nobody else does either) how to get wage growth and productivity growth or economic growth lines back into sync. [...]

Believe it or not, I'm not a pessimist on all this stuff. But you cannot make middle class wage growth and wealth inequality the center of your politics unless you have a set of policies which credibly claims some real shot at addressing the problem. At least not for long.

NYT's David Leonhardt identifies today's era as "The Great Wage Slowdown," opining that "nothing presents a larger threat to the Democrats' electoral fortunes than that slowdown:"

The Democratic Party fashions itself as the defender of working families, and low- and middle-income voters are indeed more favorably disposed to Democrats than to Republicans. Those voters have helped the party win the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. But if Democrats can't deliver rising living standards, many voters aren't going to remain loyal. They'll skip voting or give a chance to Republicans who offer an alternative, even a vague alternative. [...] They're looking for simple ideas that can help people immediately.

Meanwhile, Kevin Drum declares that "growing income inequality per se isn't our big problem:"

Stagnant wages for the middle class are. Obviously these things are tightly related in an economic sense, but in a political sense they aren't. Voters care far less about rich people buying gold-plated fixtures for their yachts than they do about not getting a raise for the past five years. The latter is the problem they want solved.

The middle class merely wants the wealth they've produced to wind up in their own pockets--not in the bathrooms of their CEO's yacht. Any liberalism that disregards this core principle is not worthy of the name.

Conservative crackpot Glenn Beck cried about mystery ailments that he said "made me look crazy," noted TPM:

The symptoms Beck experienced, which he had never discussed in public before, stretched back over five years to his days at Fox News, he said. He described having vocal cord paralysis, eyesight problems, shaking hands, trouble sleeping and even seizures. [...] Beck said he has since "reversed the process" after undergoing various treatments and lifestyle changes.

Addicting Info remarked on Beck's claimed lack of "any real REM sleep in maybe as much as a decade."

Beck has subsequently been diagnosed with an unknown auto-immune disorder and adrenal fatigue. With the help of hormone therapy and electric simulation, Beck says that with his "faith in God," he is on fast track to reversing the illness and says he is getting better.

Political differences aside, we should hope that Beck continues on his path to recovery, and is able to live a long and happy life.

Agreed, although Beck's post-recovery commentary might lose commercial viability if it becomes less certifiable.

explaining Ebola

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In explaining what The Hot Zone got wrong, NPR talks to science writer David Quammen--author of the new book Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus. Quammen has some harsh words for the author of another book about the virus -- Richard Preston's best-seller The Hot Zone:"

"I thought The Hot Zone was fascinating, mesmerizing. It's one of the things that got me interested in Ebola," Quammen says. But as he did his own research and talked to experts, including virologist Karl Johnson, a major character in The Hot Zone, he heard a different story.

The experts said, "Ebola is not like how it's portrayed in the book. People do not dissolve. Their internal organs do not liquefy. People do not shed bloody tears."

Sometimes people with Ebola hemorrhage, but in the majority of cases, there's no dramatic bleeding, Quammen says. For that reason, "the disease is no longer even classified as a hemorrhagic fever."

The piece continues by observing that "Ebola isn't a respiratory virus:"

It doesn't spread through the airborne route. So it's not likely to spread like wildfire around the world and kill tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. That's what I think of as the next big one. I think the virus for the next big one is more likely to be an influenza or a coronavirus than it is to be Ebola.

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