From the Department of Bad Statistics: The New York Times just published an article titled “Afraid of Snakes? Wasps and Dogs are Deadlier.” It supports this claim by citing the number of deaths due to encounters with various animals between 2008 and 2015. According to the article, the number of Americans who died from snakebites during this period was 48, compared to 272 from dogs and 478 from stinging insects.
Even if we agree that wasps and dogs caused more deaths over this timeframe, they are not necessarily deadlier. Most people have far fewer encounters with snakes than with bees (whose food sources are everywhere) or dogs (whose owners are everywhere). I may spot a snake around here every two or three years. And when I do, I give them a far wider berth than I do dogs. Both of these factors are likely to play a part in the relatively low number of snakebite deaths among the general population, compared to those from bees or dogs.
I think the New York Times could have framed this story in a less sensational and more informative way, but it just goes to show how journalists and scientists have different aims and often abide by different rules. Afraid of scientists? Journalists are deadlier!
What is it about me and popular culture?
Perhaps versus would have been a better conjunction in that question.
I do not feel the slightest twinge of anything (other than mild annoyance) when I hear Springsteen’s Born to Run. What place wasn’t I that every other American seemed to be when that song was popular?
Nor have I ever identified with American Pie by Don McLean. In fact, I grew to actively dislike it, because popular people with other sets of experiences seemed to expect that I should pore over it and spend hours trying to re-interpret our shared youth through it.
The number of rock and/or pop music concerts I have attended over my lifetime can be counted on two hands, with a thumb or two to spare. I wouldn’t call my taste in music monophonic but The Beatles are the main course and everyone else is garnish.
My cultural disconnect is not limited to music. I never saw The Titanic or The Lion King or Fast & Furious in any version, stage or screen. I never watched an episode of America’s seemingly-indispensable television comedies Seinfeld, Friends, Cheers or 30 Rock. I think I stopped watching fiction on television (not counting press briefings by Donald Trump) shortly after L.A. Law and Star Trek: The Next Generation wrapped up in 1994. All right, there was The X-Files. And The Sopranos. And Fringe. (But it was my alt-universe self who watched Fringe, so that may not count.)
Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, Bruno Mars, Drake, 50 Cent, Beyoncé. The names and faces and brands and personas come and go. I am not sure what demands more of my attention these days, musical celebrities or Medicare plans.
I guess I am just not that impatient for entertainment. I like to entertain myself and you.
I yearn for the days when my blog may once again turn its attention to something other than the disaster that is Donald Trump. I cannot begin to tell you how ashamed I am that this man, the leader of my government, presumes to speak for me. His words and actions embarrass me to the marrow.
The trope “Ugly American” originally described those Americans who traveled overseas and imposed their arrogant expectations of service, privilege and obeisance upon the peoples and places they visited. Trump has managed to bring the Ugly American home, modelling for us how Americans can be ugly to each other. This he has nailed.
Photo Credit: AP/Evan Vucci