January 31st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

A Toaster to the Groin

There’s been no shortage of stories about the long term risks associated with violence on the football field. But during this weekend’s Super Bowl, you’re likely to see a fair share of violence somewhere else: In the commercials. It turns out we tend to find a lot of humor in someone getting punched in the face or taking a toaster to the groin. We remember these ads. But do they make us buy whatever is being sold? That’s a more complicated question.

+ It’s a big weekend for players. It’s an equally big weekend for those who bet and play fantasy football. From the NYT Magazine: The Super Bowl of Sports Gambling. Having dabbled at the edges of such degenerate gambling, let me suggest that you treat the addicts at your Super Bowl party with kid gloves. The end of the season is a tough time for them. (Unless they also have some action on the NBA).

+ If you’re thinking about making a bet, I’d suggest following the lead of Eli the ape. He’s been right for six straight years.

+ Who’s got the most at stake on Sunday? Maybe Bruno Mars.

+ An analysis of football fans on Facebook lead researchers to this conclusion: They’re nuts.

+ And finally, here are 16 things you can watch instead of the Super Bowl.


Somebody Give Me Some Water

This morning I saw a few droplets of water on my window. Since I’m in California, that’s big news. We are in the middle of what’s looking like it could become an epic drought. “Thanks to the magic of science (and tree rings), we can now safely say that California hasn’t been this dry since around the time of Columbus, more than 500 years ago.”

+ How a beer company helped to keep a town in wine country from going completely dry,


Weekend Reads

“There’s no way for me to report, or even think, objectively on today’s news. After all, I was the Forbes editor who first unmasked Glass and his lies.” Pando’s Adam Penenberg: No second chance for Stephen Glass: The long, strange downfall of a journalistic wunderkind.

+ Tim Wu in the New Yorker: Fifty-five bodies, and zero trials, at the Florida School for Boys.

+ Esquire: A normal day in the unusual life of Michael Keaton.


Baggage Claims

Ever wonder what TSA agents really see, think, and say as you make your way through airport security? You’re about to find out: Dear America, I Saw You Naked (and yes, we were laughing).

+ This real description of what TSA agents see (and laugh at) isn’t all that far from McSweeney’s parody article on the topic. “Please know: I’m just here to measure your penises. And I’m very, very good at it.”



“It’s a business success story like no other in the world.” Amazon is a hugely valuable company. Amazon often barely ekes out a profit, and sometimes doesn’t even do that. Slate’s Matthew Yglesias explains how Jeff Bezos won the faith of Wall Street: The Prophet of No Profit.


Closet Door Frozen Shut

Would it surprise you to learn that many competitors in men’s figure skating are gay? Believe it or not, some participants describe an unofficial don’t ask, don’t tell policy that permeates the sport. From Buzzfeed: Why Is The World’s Gayest Sport Stuck In The Closet?

+ From Newsweek: Hate on Ice – the surprising truth behind the Olympics’ gayest sport.


Don’t Drink to That

In Russian, a quarter of men die before the age of 55. And according to a recent study, the primary reason behind that statistic is the over-consumption of vodka.

+ By the middle of this century, the global population of people over 65 will triple. Here’s a look who’s worried about that and who’s not. (It could be good for me. In the news business, that’s our target demographic.)



It looks like the Super Bowl won’t be the only big news in New Jersey this weekend. One of Chris Christie’s high school friends (who also happened to oversee the infamous bridge lane closings) now says Christie knew more than he said he knew. Next, someone will accuse Christie of making it snow in Atlanta.


Tiger Bomb

The Tiger Mom made a lot of waves with her last book in which she chronicled her tough parenting tactics. Now Amy Chua is back (along with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld) with more theories on what it takes to raise successful kids. And this time, even more people are going to be upset. I’ll skip this book and just wait for their kids to publish a tell-all memoir


The Bottom of the News

The bad news: You’re probably suffering from Caffeine Use Disorder. The good news: As disorders go, that one isn’t all that bad.

+ Can snowboarding be saved? (Did you know it needed saving?)

+ Rutgers University is offering a course where students can study Beyonce. (Too late. I’m already an autodidact.)

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