Why I don’t watch the Olympics on TV

I first watched the Olympics on TV in 1976, when I was in the US as a graduate student, and quickly became fed up. The inane chatter of the anchors and commentators, the frequent long breaks for commercials, and the excessive focus on only showing events in which Americans had hopes of winning medals, were all annoying. [Read more...]

Cerebral and visceral reactions

When presented with news and other information, we have both visceral and cerebral responses. The visceral comes from the emotional reaction and occurs immediately and almost spontaneously while the cerebral response arises from our intellectual reaction involving conscious thought and takes a while to kick in. [Read more...]

The Daily Show on the fighting nuns

Samantha Bee interviews the head of the organization of American Catholic nuns that has earned the ire of Papa Ratzi for their emphasis on helping the poor instead of focusing their efforts on the things the Vatican considers far more important, like upholding the church’s doctrine against contraception and abortion and same sex marriage. [Read more...]

Learning geography from sports

The Daily Show is fond of pointing out that Americans learn their geography about other countries only when they go to war with them.

But international sporting contests are another source of information about countries and the Olympics is a good way to hear about countries that would otherwise never make the news. [Read more...]

The mixed effects of political satire

Readers of this blog know that I have a fondness for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (as well as other satires) and frequently link to them if I happen to think them funny and informative. But each of them has his faults. Colbert seems to idolize the military while Stewart is terrible when directly interviewing powerful political figures or news media bigwigs like Brian Williams or Fareed Zakaria, so much so that I don’t even bother to watch those segments anymore. Stewart is best when he has on writers and artists and academics who are experts in some field. In fact, a rule of thumb that I have developed is that the less familiar I am with the name of the guest, the better the interview is likely to be. [Read more...]

Bear cub rescue

Via Jerry Coyne, I came across this story about a New Mexico couple Tom and Shirley Schenk who came to the rescue of some bear cubs who had fallen into a dumpster and couldn’t get out. The cries of the cubs and of their mother who had waited by the dumpster all night touched the couple who came up with a clever plan to get the cubs out while minimizing the danger to themselves. [Read more...]