Monday, June 6, 2011

The Cure for Seasonal Affective Stupidity

I'm going to keep this simple. I'll use small words and throw in a picture or two so you don't get bored and wander off. It is now early June and temperatures are steadily going up and as a result our IQ's are beginning to plummet. It's a fancy-shmancy mathematical principle called inverse proportion, but that's like five syllables of confusing wordiness, so for our purposes we'll call it S.A.S. (Seasonal Affective Stupidity).

I typically like to ascribe some evolutionary context to human behavior. It helps me sleep at night knowing that my stupidity can be explained away with genetic heredity and such. So with that in mind I believe S.A.S. is the product of one of the following biologic principles:

1. Human beings, after a long winter of near-starvation and physical deprivation become, by necessity, more efficient machines in the warm season. We had all winter to huddle in caves and think deep, abstract thoughts but now that the sun's out we have work to do (find food, make babies, golf, etc.). In order to facilitate all this extra work, the brain starts shutting off all non-essential systems in order to concentrate on sheer physicality. Those crops aren't going to plant themselves and nobody is going to be doing algebra come October if there is nothing to eat.


2. The chicken did, indeed, come before the egg and we have been made stupider by the entertainment industry. All of the books that qualify as "great summer beach reads" but contain neither style nor substance. All of the hyper-kinetic movies that over stimulate our adrenal glands with pyrotechnic wizardry but leave our brains completely unfulfilled. It is the intellectual equivalent of an Extra Value Meal from McDonald's. The bar has been set so low from June through September that we just happily trip over it and land in a shallow pool of American Idol re-runs and Dairy Queen CheeseQuake Blizzards.

If the former is the truth than there is nothing I can do. You can`t fight Darwinian natural selection. But if the latter is the culprit than I can help cure S.A.S. in my own small way, by recommending some `beach reads` that are both entertaining and intellectually gratifying. So you can have your CheeseQuake and eat it too.

Nelson Demille introduces us to New York homicide detective John Corey in this Swiss Army Knife of a book that is part murder mystery, part conspiracy theory and part knuckle biting thriller. Corey is the classic ``too smart for his own good`` alpha male who often plays the buffoon to keep his adversaries off-balance. He is, hands down, the best fictional character working in this genre to date. You`re gonna love him.

This tale of the only teacher to stay behind on an unnamed island in the midst of a civil war keeps it`s cards close to the vest. The reader is left to guess at the motivations of  Mr. Watts as he reads Charles Dicken`s Great Expectations to the schoolchildren, while all around them war is turning their lives upside down. A masterful meditation on sacrifice and loss and a spectacular payoff.

Spoiler Alert!

This wonderfully quirky story is actually one of the best allegorical treatments of modern religion and the murky questions of faith that I have ever read. That`s pretty high praise too, considering that I am an atheist.

Here it is folks, the Bible of Justification for all of your disgusting excess. While it might not help you explain to your wife why playing eight straight hours of Call of Duty: Black Ops is actually `healthy`. It does provide some great insight into the positive effects of our favorite guilty pleasures. Pretending to be a half-elf wizard in your parent`s basement isn`t so bad after all, despite what your virtual friends say. 

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