"It's not just the general doing of drugs, talking about drugs, drugs-are-good-drugs-are-bad conversation that's weaving its way through [this year's Sundance Film Festival]. Instead, we are seeing filmmakers explore drugs as a path to salvation or as a way for their characters to reconnect to the world."
—The Huffington Post's Los Angeles editor Sasha Bronner, on the high-profile role drugs are playing in buzzed-about Sundance movies such as Crystal Fairy (starring Michael Cera), Kill Your Darlings (Daniel Radcliffe) and Touchy Feely (Ellen Page). [huffingtonpost.com, 1/21/13]
In November it was reported that actor Shia LaBeouf (The Transformers) moved beyond simulated onscreen sex to actual intercourse for a role in Nymphomaniac. Now he says he dropped acid to prepare for The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last week. [mtv.com, 1/22/13; nydailynews.com, 11/28/12]
Is marijuana about to have its "tobacco moment"? Some researchers and cultural observers believe there's a growing realization that cannabis use carries with it health risks. And at the top of the list is a link between smoking marijuana and developing schizophrenia later in life. "If the risk of schizophrenia for the general population is about 1%, the evidence is that, if you take ordinary cannabis, it is 2%; if you smoke regularly you might push it up to 4%; and if you smoke 'skunk' [a particularly potent strain] every day you push it up to 8%," says Sir Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at London's Institute of Psychiatry. Murray says that the strongest strains of marijuana available today may contain three times the amount of THC, a psychoactive chemical, as weed did in the 1960s. And writing for Britain's The Independent, Patrick Cockburn reports that critics are arguing "that no government would ever license a drug that sends at least two per cent of its consumers insane." [independent.co.uk, 11/26/12 stats, c&e]
Newsweek reports that Harvard University "has formally recognized a student-run BDSM group," which allows university money to fund "gatherings and guest speakers." Sexually themed bondage, domination and sadomasochism clubs are already approved at other well-known universities such as Iowa State, Vassar College and the University of Chicago. Columbia University's club of this particular kinky variety became the first such university-recognized group in the U.S. in 1992. [Newsweek, 12/10/12]
As if our attention spans weren't short enough already, here comes Vine, Twitter's new video app. Just as Twitter limits posters to 140 characters, Vine limits users' videos to six seconds. (The short videos loop indefinitely.) Slate contributor Will Oremus comments, "That the first Vines are mostly goofy and/or superficial should not lead anyone to dismiss the app's potential. If you'll recall, the first tweets weren't exactly high art either. In time, Vine's six seconds could become, to borrow a phrase from 's Daniel Terdiman, the new atomic unit for instant video communication." [slate.com, 1/24/13]
"What we're seeing is that there is a very regular and normal consumption of hard-core adult pornography—that the sharing of explicit sexual imagery by photos or by video clips is now extremely normal. It's important to recognize what was previously regarded as unusual, concerning, or sensationalist, now has in fact become the norm."
—Jon Brown, of the English charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Working with Britain's Channel 4 on the series Generation Sex, the NSPCC conducted a study of 13- to 16-year-olds in Britain to ascertain their exposure to pornography and participation in sexting via cell phones. One adolescent told researchers, "I get asked for naked pictures at least two or three times a week." Another said, "You would have seen a girl's breasts before you've seen their face." Still another teen said, "It might shock parents [that] this is what kids get up to, but it's just everyday life. It's natural—it's all a part of growing up." [dailymail.co.uk, 12/10/12 stats]
According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 88% of teens (ages 12-17) admit that they've seen people be "mean or cruel" online, and a fifth own up to having been nasty online themselves. But two-thirds say that people are "mostly kind" in online environs. Also interesting: While 20% of respondents say they've been bullied, the majority of those confrontations took place in the real world, not on the Internet. And when the bullying germinated online, the bullying sometimes migrated to a face-to-face confrontation. [nytimes.com, 11/9/12 stats]
Some scientists are beginning to look at violence in our culture as a contagion that causes epidemics, like an outbreak of a deadly virus. Summarizing the results of a 153-page study titled "The Contagion of Violence" published by epidemiologist Gary Slutkin of the University of Chicago, wired.com contributor Brandon Keim writes, "According to their theory, exposure to violence is conceptually similar to exposure to, say, cholera or tuberculosis. Acts of violence are the germs. Instead of wracking intestines or lungs, they lodge in the brain. When people, in particular children and young adults whose brains are extremely plastic, repeatedly experience or witness violence, their neurological function is altered. Cognitive pathways involving anger are more easily activated. Victimized people also interpret reality through perceptual filters in which violence seems normal and threats are enhanced. People in this state of mind are more likely to behave violently. Instead of through a cough, the disease spreads through fights, rapes, killings, suicides, perhaps even media, the researchers argue." [wired.com, 1/18/13 c&e]
Children with televisions in their bedrooms—which is 70% of them, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey done in 2010—are 2.5 times as likely to be overweight and nearly three times as likely to be at risk for heart disease and diabetes, says new research from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. The study of 369 Louisiana children between the ages of 5 and 18 sought to identify "a more precise relationship between TV and health," said scientist Amanda Staiano. She also noted that children who watched five hours of television a day (about a third of the kids in the study) were at twice the risk for fat around their internal organs, a forerunner to disease later on. "It's really troubling to see these kids with fat around their heart and liver," she said. [today.com, 12/11/12; kff.org, 1/20/10 stats, c&e]
The hard-R comedy Movie 43 sports a cast list as long as Hollywood Blvd., including A-list actors Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Kate Winslet and Dennis Quaid. Despite such thespian firepower, however, it's being described as the early frontrunner for the worst film of 2013. The New York Post's Lou Lumenick gave it a "minus four stars" rating and said it eclipsed, in a bad way, some of the most mocked films of all time: "If you mashed-up the worst parts of the infamous Howard the Duck, Gigli, Ishtar and every other awful movie I've seen since I started reviewing professionally in 1981, it wouldn't begin to approach the sheer soul-sucking badness of the cringe-inducing Movie 43." Plugged In's Adam Holz wrote, "Fetid. Unfunny. Skip. That's my three-word conclusion." [huffingtonpost.com, 1/25/13; vulture.com, 1/25/13; nypost.com, 1/25/13]
"To God be the glory."
—one of the tattoos on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's arms. The Super Bowl-bound QB said of his ink, "I got them for me and to show people this is what I believe in. God has brought me this far, He's laid out a phenomenal path for me, and I can't do anything but thank Him." [clickorlando.com, 1/24/13]