Thursday, October 08, 2009 1:57 PM
People who “can’t take a joke” are often pegged as spoilsports—but recent research suggests that there might be more going on. According to Science News, gelotophobia is the fear of being laughed at, characterized by difficulty distinguishing mean-spirited teasing from the friendly variety.
Gelotophobes flew under the radar until the mid 1990s, when psychologist Willibald Ruch of the University of Zurich identified the personality trait and began researching it. “That shame is a predominant emotion in gelotophobia explains, in part, why the affliction received little scrutiny from scientists for so long,” the biweekly magazine reports. “Burning shame can create more feelings of shame and is rarely acknowledged to others.”
Ruch and his colleages have now developed questionnaires and assessment tools to help identify the trait. They’ve surveyed 23,000 people in 73 countries, finding gelotophobia present in all countries, from 2 to 30 percent of each population. In the United States that figure is 11 percent.
So on the one hand, we’ve got a new name for a trait that’s been under our noses all along. On the other, perhaps this emerging understanding of the spectrum of ways people perceive laughter could help us all get along a little better. Just one question remains: Can you take a joke?
Source: Science News
Friday, September 11, 2009 10:51 AM
Environmentalists fret over an imminent onslaught of international wars over water. As global warming dries up the earth, the idea is that countries will increasingly go to war with each other over the remaining water. The reasoning makes sense, but according to Wendy Barnaby in Conservation, research into water and war doesn’t back up the fear. “Predictions of armed conflict come from the media and from popular, non-peer-reviewed work,” according to Barnaby, and not from reality.
“People who are short of water do not necessarily fight over it,” Barnaby writes. Her findings are backed up by the research of water negotiator Aaron Wolf, profiled in the July-August issue of Utne Reader. In the war-torn Middle East, there have been plenty of power struggles and politics, but no wars over water. The wars have been more about borders, security, and statehood. Instead there have been continuing negotiations and even cooperation over water resources. And, as Wolf notes, “India and Pakistan have a water treaty that has survived since 1960—through two wars. In the middle of one of the wars, India made payments to Pakistan as part of its treaty obligations.”
Water privatization and resource grabs by multinational corporations continue to be a serious issue. In international relations, however, water may be a more powerful motivator for peace and negotiations than it is for war.
(Article not available online.)
Thursday, June 18, 2009 2:55 PM
Making fun of magazine covers is like netting fish in a barrel, but that doesn't mean it's not funny. In a stunt aimed at catering specifically to its core readership of cranky libertarians—who still inexplicably doubt the existence of climate change and, if they didn't like pot so much and God so little, would look a lot like, well...conservatives—Reason magazine went through a stack of Time magazines to showcase the Top 10 Most Absurd Covers of the Past 40 Years.
Highlights include a black-and-red line drawing of Satan ("The Occult Revival: Satan Returns"), a little boy sporting a crocodile tear ("Crack Kids: Their Mothers used drugs, and now it's the children who suffer"), and a ghostly, wide-eyed little boy who, sitting in front of a keyboard, seems to be possessed by demons ("Cyberporn: Can we protect our kids—and free speech?").
The write-ups following each cover image, packed with data and designed to take the air out of Time's perpetually hyperbolic balloon, are quick-witted and, not suprisingly I suppose, well-Reason-ed. That said, one can't help but notice that the same critics who are up-in-arms over this fear-mongering and tabloid imagery are the same people who champion wild west capitalism. And the strategies Time uses to sell these covers are not only timeless and textbook, they're proven to win. So, the item leaves me wondering what's more important: Responsible headlines and reasoned journalism or big sales.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 1:40 PM
There’s a steady feed of anxiety buzzing across the airwaves and blogosphere about Barack Obama falling short on Election Day.
First, there’s the infomercial gamble.
Then there’s the incessant stream of bad news about voter suppression. And the potential of a Florida redux.
And where to begin with the polls? Nate Silver’s soothing graphics and heady analysis can’t even stave the fear that the polls are way off. The New Republic and Washington Post have some scary bedtime reading on that front. But what about the impact of Obama’s perceived lead? Will it keep would-be Obama voters at home? Will it convince hard lefters to go Green Party? How anyone in a post-Bush v. Gore world could succumb to such a line seems inconceivable, but my colleagues Julie and Danielle kindled such irrational fears in me yesterday by reporting that Green Party nitwits at Minneapolis’ trendiest co-op are handing out fliers for Cynthia McKinney with the chant, “Obama’s up 14 points.”
As if this glut of fear weren’t enough, some folks are spinning some hypothetical nightmare scenarios with all the care of horror film scriptwriters.
Newseek’s Jonathan Alter was kind enough to spin this Halloween-esque yarn about “Why McCain Won”:
Obama shifted New Mexico, Iowa and Nevada from red to blue. But there was a reason Virginia hadn't gone Democratic since 1964. The transformation of the northern part of the state couldn't overcome a huge McCain margin among whites farther south. They weren't the racists of their parents' generation, but they weren't quite ready to vote for the unthinkable, either.
Obama had wired every college campus in the country, and he enjoyed great enthusiasm among politically engaged young people. But less-engaged students told reporters the day after the election that they had meant to vote for Obama but were "too busy." History held: young people once again voted in lower percentages than their elders. Waiting for them turned out to be like waiting for Godot.
And then there’s this personalized bit of horror that’s making the rounds from MoveOn.org. (I thank my big brother for sending it to me after I rattled on a little too long about recurring nightmares of McCain taking Pennsylvania.)
So what’s a nervous wreck to do, outside of hitting the bottle or the Xanax?
Normally, I wouldn’t turn to Larry David for advice about anxiety, but he does offer one option that, I suspect, many others are taking:
The one concession I’ve made to maintain some form of sanity is that I've taken to censoring my news, just like the old Soviet Union. The citizenry (me) only gets to read and listen to what I deem appropriate for its health and well-being.
Of course, there’s always yoga. The Huffington Post’s Tara Stiles has some election-timed tips in this video.
The Associated Press has a few suggestions as well:
Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising. You'll feel better while recognizing those things you can control, says Wilmette, Ill.-based psychologist Nancy Molitor.
Realize that no candidate is as good — or as bad — as you might imagine, Molitor says.
When all else fails, change the subject, says Lisa Miller, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University Teachers College in New York. "Turn to those things which are more eternal and more important, such as nature and family," she says. "It's a great time to go into nature. Go camping."
Unfortunately, these tips seem about as realistically helpful as the fantastical prescriptions the Stranger came up with last month, such as Palium, which “[i]nduces a Valium-like calm with respect to all things Sarah Palin.”
In truth, the best plan is to either tune out until November 5th or white-knuckle it until the results are in (really in).
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:43 PM
Talk of assassination during this presidential election has been a taboo violated in a few notorious instances. But yesterday’s discovery of a disturbing, if far-fetched, neo-Nazi plot to assassinate Barack Obama has renewed anxiety about various worst-case scenarios that many people think about but few mention aloud.
Yesterday’s revelation is only the latest resurgence of the A-word. There was Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate RFK gaffe last spring. There are jokes made by Fox pundits. There are websites created by insane people. And then there are the sentiments of those at Sarah Palin’s rallies, who have shouted “Kill him!” on more than one occasion.
Blog chatter among those sympathetic to the candidate is marked by anxiety. After Gawker ran a photo of Obama addressing a crowd of 100,000 in St Louis, some commenters fretted about him appearing in such wide-open spaces. “I was going to say something about how much this looked like a Kennedy or MLK Jr. rally, then I remembered how that panned out for them,” wrote one. “I just want to fast forward to November 5, if only so I can stop holding my breath.”
Another worried: “This sort of open air speech setting seems almost [to be] defying history to me. It's as if Obama is thumbing his nose at common sense.”
This comment was met with a sound rebuttal: “You either have to just get out there and give your speeches and assume God or Fate is on your side, or frankly, you probably don’t have much business trying to be president, particularly in these times.”
This last suggestion seems to be the one Obama has taken to heart on the campaign trail, thumbing his nose not so much at common sense but at the cynicism, hatred, and fear-mongering that has been too much the norm of late.
Thursday, March 27, 2008 8:29 AM
Shortly after I moved to Chicago’s far north side, I came home to a sign warning me of gangs of African American kids in white T-shirts and black do-rags who had recently been throwing rocks and bricks at random passersby. This apparently was happening in broad daylight and in busy areas of the half square mile or so around my building. I was skeptical, but I was also scared.
“Gangs are real,” says Eula Biss in the Believer, “but they are also conceptual. The word gang is frequently used to avoid using the word black in a way that might be offensive. For instance, by pairing it with a suggestion of fear.”
Biss describes her own experience living in my old neighborhood, an extremely diverse and densely populated spot as tense as it is vibrant. She writes eloquently about the thought patterns involved with trying to resist our assumptions about people:
One evening not long after we moved to Rogers Park, my husband and I met a group of black boys riding their bikes on the sidewalk across the street from our apartment building. The boys were weaving down the sidewalk, yelling for the sake of hearing their own voices, and drinking from forty-ounce bottles of beer. As we stepped off the sidewalk and began crossing the street toward our apartment, one boy yelled, “Don’t be afraid of us!” I looked back over my shoulder as I stepped into the street and the boy passed on his bike so that I saw him looking back at me also, and then he yelled again, directly at me, “Don’t be afraid of us!”
I wanted to yell back, “Don’t worry, we aren’t!” but I was, in fact, afraid to engage the boys, afraid to draw attention to my husband and myself, afraid of how my claim not to be afraid might be misunderstood as bravado begging a challenge, so I simply let my eyes meet the boy’s eyes before I turned, disturbed, toward the tall iron gate in front of my apartment building, a gate that gives the appearance of being locked but is in fact always open.
It’s a thoughtful essay, one that asks tough questions about a difficult subject without condemning anyone. It’s also noteworthy for its framing device: a provocative reading of Little House on the Prairie as a deeply ambivalent take on American pioneerism—an ambivalence echoed by Biss and by many who share her position as a privileged settler in a troubled urban frontier.
that kat chick
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