“This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.”
Mission Impossible fans will, of course, recognize that iconic line from the original 1960s and ’70s TV series. (And, of course, the franchise’s amped-up Tom Cruise reboot since then.) We don’t use tape much anymore, obviously, but Google seems to have something similar in mind with its latest iteration of Gmail. A new update for the company’s widely used email app gives users the ability to select something of a “self-destruct” mode on emails sent, a preassigned amount of time that they’ll be visible before automatically self-deleting.
At theaters this week, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will clash with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Ironically, one of the men responsible for creating the story in the first place is now at war with Marvel himself. Seventy-year-old Jim Starlin, long associated with the house that Stan Lee built, doesn’t want anything to do with them anymore. “I’m not an angry person, which you can probably hear from just me talking to you,” Jim Starlin told Vulture’s Abraham Reisman. “But Marvel tends to bring out the worst in me, at times.”
The Avengers’ franchise has certainly influenced our popular culture. But it’s hardly the only influence, as evidenced by Time’s annual list of 100 most influential people. Entertainers on this year’s list include: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Gal Gadot, Ryan Coogler, Sterling K. Brown, Millie Bobby Brown, Cardi B, Tiffany Haddish, John Krasinski, Kumail Nanjiani, Greta Gerwig, Roseanne Barr, Jimmy Kimmel, Shawn Mendes and Guillermo del Toro, among others.
While they haven’t shown up on any cultural influencer lists perhaps since their heyday in the late ’70s and early ’80s, marijuana evangelists Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong still show up in the news from time to time. This week, they’re paradoxically lamenting the fact that their “hobby” is now shared by so many people that it’s not transgressive any more. “I mean, pot used to be rebellious,” Marin told Stephen Colbert.
It’s certainly not rebellious among athletes in two professional sports, it would seem. Former NBA player Kenyon Martin told Bleacher Report that he estimates 85% of the league’s players smoked weed during his years on the court. Over on the football side of things, former tight end Martellus Bennet anecdotally added, “I want to say about 89% [of NFL players used marijuana].” Despite the drug being a banned substance in both leagues, usage of it seems ubiquitous, if insider claims are taken at face value. Former defensive lineman Shaun Smith said, “Shoot, coaches do it. Personnel does it, people upstairs do it. Quarterbacks, guys that are your captains, leaders of the team smoke. Everybody has their reason. They do it for their pain.”
And yet another study suggests that marijuana usage by teens doesn’t do good things for their still-developing brains.
Meanwhile, parents trying to train their kids to be more polite have an unusual new digital ally: Amazon’s Alexa. For parents who are struggling to help your kids be more polite, a new “magic word” feature will thank your children for their request if they say “please,” adding positive reinforcement such as “By the way, thanks for asking so nicely.”
And if your youngster doesn’t seem very happy these days, the counterintuitive solution might be to take some of his or her toys away. New research on toddlers suggests that having fewer choices enables them to engage creatively for longer periods of time, thus helping them to be happier.
Eventually, though, they’ll probably end up in that world of seemingly infinite information and choice: the world of social media. At least, that’s what the Pew Research Center’s latest survey of our social media usage seems to suggest. YouTube is the most popular online diversion, with 73% of American adults using it. But right behind it is—surprise!—Facebook, which 68% of adults use. For those who love statistics, the report offers plenty to dive into when it comes to various demographics’ use of these and other social media platforms.
Celebrity news this week sadly included the shocking death of Swedish electronic dance music pioneer Tim Bergling, better known as Avicii, at the age of 28. And in a truly bizarre story, former Smallville actress Allison Mack has been arrested in connection to a sex-trafficking cult. Mack has allegedly been identified as one of the primary recruiters for the group’s leader, Keith Raniere, who was also arrested in Mexico.
On a lighter and more positive note, Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps continues to talk about his own battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, encouraging others not to carry burdens like those alone: “One thing that I went through and I was able to understand is: It’s OK to not be OK. Right? Like nobody’s perfect. … We’re all going to have struggles and hard times. And for me, the most important thing was just opening up and talking about it, communicating about it, asking for help,” Phelps said.