STRANGEBUTTRUE- Peep culture: It's one way to feel important


DRAWING BY DEBORAH DERR McCLINTOCK

Q. How has the "pop culture" of yesterday become the "peep culture" of today? –fill in name of inventor of You Tube

A. More and more of our entertainment is derived from watching ourselves and others go about our lives, says Paul McFedries of IEEE Spectrum magazine. Picture, for example, those thousands of "camgirls" and "camboys" who broadcast themselves over the Web (digital peep shows). For some kids, says writer Susan Hopkins, webcams offer them identities because "they're like, you know, sorta kinda on TV, and only important people appear on TV."

It's that omnipresent eye of the webcam validating their existence: "I cam, therefore I am."

Huge numbers of us are now blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, Flickring, and YouTubing at least some details of our lives, joining writer-thinker Hal Niedzviecki's "peep culture," a term that plays on the "pop culture" of 1959 (which actually goes back to 1854, according to the Oxford English Dictionary).

Also consider "lifestreaming" (an online record of everything you video or blog, etc.), "mindcasting" (all your current thoughts, ideas, passions), "Godcasting" (audio feeds of religious messages), "egocasting" (following media reflecting only your own opinions).

 "Peep culture may be the new pop culture," concedes McFedries, "but is it really a two-way mass phenomenon? Maybe most of us have an audience of one: ourselves."

Q. Do babies enjoy riding in cars? Do they get motion sickness from sitting backwards in a car seat? –E. Conklin

A. Modern lore suggests that taking fussy infants for a car ride is a good remedy, says Brown University human behavior specialist Dr. Ronald Seifer. Apparently, placement in a car seat has some of the same characteristics as swaddling, which is well-known to be soothing to infants. Whether this is actually "enjoyable" or simply state regulation is unclear, but almost all parents would endorse the idea that car rides often result in sleep.

As to motion sickness, young infants probably are not affected since they don't yet have a visual sense of forward, backward, left, right, up, down; and their ability to adjust visual focus takes time to develop. So their direction sitting in a car is not an issue. Remember, babies are not in charge of their locomotion; it is all externally driven (no pun intended). Thus, it would be very adaptive for the species that they not be sensitive in this area and actually enjoy the experience.

Q. Hormone-wise, is a good man a good thing for a woman to have around? –F. O'Connor

A. Once-a-week-or-more sex regularizes a woman's menstrual cycles and eases the effects of menopause, say Robert Ornstein and David Sobel in Healthy Pleasures. "Pheromones" in a man's body odors (armpits, nipples, etc.), either whiffed or absorbed through the skin, seem to be the key.

But what if the guy's not worth the trouble? Then the "essence" of a guy might do: When experimenters had male "donors" wear armpit pads, then swabbed the upper lips of women with the pads three times a week, the women's cycles became as regular as if a real man were in the picture.

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Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at Strangetrue@cs.com

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