Weekend Reading: No More Butt Fumbles
In this weekly roundup, we scour the Web for our favorite long-form articles, collecting them here and on Longreads and Twitter. This installment focuses on virtual reality, DNA mapping, and the New York Jets.
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Welcome to the last Weekend Reading of 2012. What a wonderful few months we’ve spent together, waxing philosophic on aliens, cryptids, geo-engineering, and bat plagues. This feature has become one of my favorite activities here at Outside and I hope you all continue to join me for many more of these little fireside insanity chats.
As the year draws to a close, a few other Outside writers and editors have put together some of their favorite Moments of the Year, looking back on people and events that moved them in a special way. If I may, I’d like to share mine with you here. The kind of solo adventure athletes we typically cover here, skiers, BASE jumpers, climbers, and so forth, while amazing in their own right, have never inspired me the way that team sports do. Maybe it’s because outside of something like the Olympics, solo athletes aren’t putting the hopes of a city on their shoulders the way teams do. Their accomplishments are, by and large, just for them. “Good for you,” I say, and no more.
Yes, I’ve always been a fan of team sports. Specifically football. Microcosmically the New York Jets, which brings me to my own Outside Moment of the Year.
At first, I thought I would pick the Jets’ opening day 48-28 blowout victory over the hated Buffalo Bills. But I realized that my Moment of the Year won’t happen until 4 p.m. Sunday, when the 2012 Jets leave the field and disappear into the tunnel forever. That moment will mark the end of an 18-week nightmare that began the moment they took the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers back in September. Since then it’s been a blur of interceptions, fumbles, shanked field goals, injured stars, and inane Tim Tebow talk. The season highlight was the inescapable butt fumble. Mark Sanchez kicking the ball out of the back of his own end zone comes in close second. It’s worth mentioning that only the kicker should kick the ball and Mark Sanchez is the quarterback.
The Bills game was nothing more than a mirage, designed by a cruel god to raise the expectations of Jets fans out of the Bog of Despair before kicking us in the teeth and burning down our houses. When 4 p.m. rolls around Sunday, I’m going to pop a bottle of champagne and walk out into a world no longer tainted by the 2012 New York Jets. My Moment of the Year, ladies and gentlemen.
Anyway, without further delay, I present your final Weekend Reading of 2012, now with extra crazy sauce!
The story of Jim Baker, a Steelers fan who, in 1972, ended up in possession of possibly the most important piece of memorabilia in football history. Kim Gamble, Grantland.
“Jim Baker was sitting in Box 57 near the 30-yard line that afternoon. He was 26 years old and broke—so broke that to raise the money he needed to start his own insurance business, he’d recently sold his pair of season tickets. He was only at the game because a friend had given him two tickets as a last-minute gift. Just four days prior, Baker’s wife, Mary, had given birth to their second son, Sam. He’d brought the baby home from the hospital on Saturday morning, less than 24 hours before the Saturday-afternoon kickoff, and invited his 13-year-old nephew Bobby Pavuchak to see the Steelers play the Raiders in exchange for future babysitting help.”
Finally translated into English after 44 years, Argentinian soccer star, Trotskyist, and UFOlogist J. Posadas’ essay on how the search for extraterrestrial life and equality on earth may coincide. J. Posadas.
“The existence of flying saucers and living beings on other planets is a phenomena that the dialectical conception of history can admit. The most immediate consequence we can draw is that, if these beings do exist, they must have a societal organization superior to our own. Their appearances are not the effect of bellicose or aggressive sentiments. This means that they have no need for war, that they do not come to Earth with goals of conquest in mind. In this planet’s history, when a people has felt itself to be more capable and invaded another country, it did so with conquest in mind, in the form of war.”
Jaron Lanier helped create the Internet as we know it and pioneered the concept and application of virtual reality. But now he’s trying to stop the very thing he created before it destroys us all. Ron Rosenbaum, Smithsonian Magazine.
“At last we come to politics, where I believe Lanier has been most farsighted—and which may be the deep source of his turning into a digital Le Carré figure. As far back as the turn of the century, he singled out one standout aspect of the new Web culture—the acceptance, the welcoming of anonymous commenters on websites—as a danger to political discourse and the polity itself. At the time, this objection seemed a bit extreme. But he saw anonymity as a poison seed. The way it didn’t hide, but, in fact, brandished the ugliness of human nature beneath the anonymous screenname masks. An enabling and foreshadowing of mob rule, not a growth of democracy, but an accretion of tribalism. It’s taken a while for this prophecy to come true, a while for this mode of communication to replace and degrade political conversation, to drive out any ambiguity. Or departure from the binary. But it slowly is turning us into a nation of hate-filled trolls.”
What drove human beings out of Africa and across the world? Scientists believe they may have discovered the gene responsible for our innate urge to explore. David Dobbs, National Geographic.
“If an urge to explore rises in us innately, perhaps its foundation lies within our genome. In fact there is a mutation that pops up frequently in such discussions: a variant of a gene called DRD4, which helps control dopamine, a chemical brain messenger important in learning and reward. Researchers have repeatedly tied the variant, known as DRD4-7R and carried by roughly 20 percent of all humans, to curiosity and restlessness. Dozens of human studies have found that 7R makes people more likely to take risks; explore new places, ideas, foods, relationships, drugs, or sexual opportunities; and generally embrace movement, change, and adventure. Studies in animals simulating 7R’s actions suggest it increases their taste for both movement and novelty.”
Joshua Davis witnesses the last free days of John McAfee’s life, guns, drugs, dead dogs, and all. Wired.
“Deep in the compound, McAfee burst out of a thatched-roof bungalow that stood on stilts 20 feet off the ground. He was naked and held a revolver. Things had changed since his days as a high-flying software tycoon. By 2009 he had sold almost everything he owned—estates in Hawaii, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas as well as his 10-passenger plane—and moved into the jungle. He announced that he was searching for natural antibiotics in the rain forest and constructed a mysterious laboratory on his property. Now his jungle stronghold was under attack. The commandos were converging on him. There were 31 of them; he was outgunned and outmanned.”