Friday links! Good with the bad edition

Elitist sumbitch never ate an ice cream cone in his life.

Elitist sumbitch never ate an ice cream cone in his life.

God never closes a door without opening a window. He sublets, so he doesn’t much care about heating bills or whatever, but he paid all the rent up front. You have to take the good with the bad. Whether it’s the spiny exterior of a delicious cactus or the two hours of Gerard Butler you have to sit through before the end of a Gerard Butler movie, nothing worthwhile comes without its price. Today is Friday, a necessary last push before the sweet, sweet weekend, and news is mixed. Won’t you go from toothpaste to orange juice with me?

Technically this counts as a bad, but it is heartening to see Mark Bittman continue his crusade against sugar. Also heartening is the certainty achieved by a recent study linking sugar consumption to diabetes, which found that “for every 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage introduced per person per day into a country’s food system, the rate of diabetes goes up 1 percent.” There’s the bad part, because we are drinking a lot of soda. Presumably, we could each drink 99 sodas a day and some of us would be okay, but maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe, as Bittman suggests, we should start viewing sugary foods and drinks as dangerous in the same way as cigarettes. Or just keep giving them to kids and see what happens, like we did with cigarettes.

The good news is that what you eat can make you healthier, too. Another study, which one nutritionist calls “really impressive” in its thoroughness, found that eating a so-called Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease—even more than a low-fat diet and blood pressure medication. Here’s how sure they are: the study ended early, because “the results were so conclusive it was considered unethical to continue.” As a result of either yoga or irrational exuberance, I ate a bunch of olives and almonds last night. Like maybe a pound total. I can report that certain aspects of the Mediterranean diet are not so good for you right before bed.

Scientific certainty is awesome if you apply it right. Political certainty, on the other hand, is likely to lead you down an ugly road. Montana Republicans have spent the last month legislating their brains out in Helena, and they have managed to draft two laws declaring the Treasure State’s immunity to federal law enforcement. One of them nullifies a federal assault weapons ban that doesn’t exist yet, and the other would require FBI agents to get permission from local sheriffs before making arrests. Two groups feel strongly about so-called Sheriffs First laws: the Tea Party and the Supreme Court. They disagree. Still, you never know when 150 years’ judicial precedent might change its mind.

Never underestimate the potential of the last few minutes. Maybe some guy on the other team will pass you the ball so you can end your high school basketball career by scoring. This footage of a high school student being nice to another, developmentally disabled high school student is maybe the most heartwarming vido I’ve ever seen, non-puppy division. I assume that at the end of the game a bunch of puppies ran out on the court and the players rolled them around and scratched their soft bellies, tumbling and laughing, but the camera ran out of tape.

You don’t have that problem with animation. You can come up with cutaway gags and talking dogs and pointless celebrity cameos all day and never worry about missing a single irreplaceable event. Or you can write some actually funny non sequiturs,  like so:


Always alive in our hears, Homestar Runner. Props to Dan Scholl of Hard Knocks for the link. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to choke down more olive oil.

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  1. I wonder how many years until we stop patting ourselves on the back for taking pity on, and making symbolic gestures for, people with mild mental disabilities.*

    I don’t want to suggest my hear is not warmed by a high school senior subverting the important ball-through-hoop ceremony while acquiescing to a chanting mob, or that the cruel alternative fo driving on a developmentally disabled peer would be acceptable in some sense, but I would suggest that the narrative we build around such an act is harmful. It is an act. And why we do it has more to do with saying “my parents raised me to treat people like equals” and “[I was prepared to lose the game[ for him to have his moment…for his moment in time,” that it is because we care about Mitchell.

    Mitch gets two awkward seconds to talk in this video, although I’m sure the producer wishes he was better on camera because there were lots of questions to ask about how good we made him feel. We only need two seconds of Mitch because the story is not about him. It’s not about his life or what it is like to be him, and it’s not even about his condition, and how we can help. It’s about us giving him the ball and when he doesn’t score a point it’s about us choosing not to be angry—which is the normal recourse when people on team Developmentally Able miss. They story is also about how hard we work to score him a point, and about how ecstatic we are when he scores a point. Look what we did. For him.

    I think this onanism would come in to sharp focus if he was a girl and we fed her the ball until she could finally score.

    This story is so transparently about us I can’t help but see ties to international development, where imagined documentary voice overs lead people to flood markets with tshirts and give people shoes. We might criticize these international efforts because they are cases of good intentioned ignorance contributing to worse actual outcomes, but forgive them insofar as they are at least trying to help.

    I think passing Mitch the ball is much more morally dubious, since we can’t pretend we’re trying to help. We are literally getting him to participate in his own symbolic gesture. There are no good intentions here, just bad faith. No attempt to improve his life, outside of a sacrifice-free diversion from our regularly scheduled program.

    Wevs, we do these symbolic gestures all the time, and they don’t always deserve an essay. You want to flip some change to a beggar on the street instead of addressing homelessness in a systemic way, no problem. It’s transparently buying your own good conscience, but we all have deep psychological needs to think of ourselves as good. Just walking by an outstretched hand throws a wrench in to our ability to do so.

    What is alarming to me is when we make our symbolic act into a movie so other people can have their hearts warmed. That is much more pernicious.

    *None of those scary ones please. Those are too hard to fix.

  2. Sorry for the typos. The first time I posted the website tried to eat it, so I hastily retyped it and obviously forgot to proof the second version.

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