Events make us wonder what on earth is going on?

February 20, 2007|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Columnist

Every now and again, a cluster of headlines suggests, as Sports Illustrated puts it, that the Apocalypse is upon us.

It is the news equivalent of a multicar pileup: A series of really bizarre news items slam into each other, one right after the other, clogging our consciousness until we can't tell reality from reality TV.

"Did that really happen," we ask ourselves, snapping the newspaper down, "or is someone making this up?"

Trust me. I am not making this up.

Essayist and professional grouch Christopher Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair that men are the funnier sex because that's what they want -- sex, I mean -- and are therefore more motivated to make women laugh because once you've got a woman laughing, it is much easier to get her into bed, where, presumably, you'd like the laughing to stop.

You can imagine what a blow this was to women who have gone through life thinking they were funny, or that the sex was their idea. The joke is on them, as it were.

In any case, let me just say that I have been reading Hitchens for years and if he thinks he is funny, then I am hilarious before I have even had coffee.

Scientists studying stroke patients discovered that if a specific part of the brain -- the insula -- is injured or damaged, the patient instantly and permanently stops smoking, according to The New York Times.

While no one was suggesting that strokes are a good thing, this discovery has set scientists and doctors down the road to some new thinking about the nature of addiction. One researcher called this discovery "mind-boggling," a particularly poor choice of words for a person of science.

The good news is the insula seems to be the center for cravings, such as for alcohol or cigarettes, meaning that it is less likely that you are just a weak person.

The Rev. Ted Haggard, the disgraced evangelical minister who confessed to inappropriate sexual contact with a male prostitute, was declared "completely heterosexual" by one of the ministers who helped him through weeks of intense counseling.

I don't even know where to begin with this one. I mean, there are even Hollywood leading men we're not sure about.

"Messy is the new neat" and "Busy is OK for kids." Those were the headlines in Time magazine.

Well-adjusted people are generally slightly disorganized or kind of messy, and it is the truly screwed-up who require everything to be in its place, the magazine reported. As a matter of fact, it is a waste of time and a drag on productivity to spend time straightening and filing.

Also debunked is the notion that children are being rushed through childhood in a race to become adults, resulting in a long list of social ills from drug abuse to teen pregnancy.

The fact is, kids are busier than ever but these negative social markers are declining, or at least not increasing at the rate that might be indicated by mom's mileage log.

Some research even suggests double-booked kids are better off by a variety of measures. For example, they eat more meals with their parents, though I am not sure which party considers that a plus.

Time makes the point that this worry about the overscheduled child may be the result of adult transference: It is really the grown-ups who want the day off.

A California assemblywoman announced plans to submit a bill that would make the spanking of children 3 years old and under a misdemeanor. Parents could be punished with a year in jail or child-rearing classes -- a real toss-up in my book.

Anyway, the legislator got hooted down by parents, who are still unwilling to let somebody else tell them how to raise their kids.

I sometimes think my own children would be more responsive to my requests to put the milk back in the fridge if they had been subjected to regular beatings, but I guess we will never know.

We didn't spank our children because, as my husband once pointed out, our son was too stubborn to give us a reason to stop.

Speaking of really stupid laws, there is some question about whether the literal reading of a Michigan statute that makes adultery a felony might also require that the guilty man be sentenced to life in prison.

The question of penalty was raised in a footnote to a judges' decision, which doesn't have the force of law, and I am sure there are some deeply disappointed women in Michigan.

But after a long conversation with a girlfriend about several men she knew who walked out on their families for another woman and regretted it soon after, I am not sure adultery doesn't already come with a life sentence.

And, finally, we come to the tragic display of jealousy by Naval Academy graduate and astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak, who drove 900 miles wearing an adult diaper with all manner of nefarious gear in her car to confront a rival.

There is talk about providing more care and support for astronauts, who train like mad for years only to watch their good friends get blown out of the sky. But I don't think there is any cure for the ancient madness that has brought this accomplished woman low.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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