Wandering Eye: A local sex shop takes on '50 Shades of Grey,' remembering Babe Ruth's local roots, and more

A brand-new Johns Hopkins University-led study published in Plos One has found that mice inhaling electronic-cigarette vapor on a human scale, from the types of e-cigs widely available at convenience stores, showed an increased risk of viral and bacterial lung infections. The study has prompted alarmist  headlines, but a Plos One commenter, Niall O'Byrne, detects in the study a "bias against e-cigarettes" and points out that "a robust study" would have presented "a direct comparison with the effects of cigarette smoking" on mice, so as to get a sense of the relative risk, in light of the prominent use of e-cigs as a smoking-cessation device. (Disclosure: this writer quit smoking with e-cigs, and hasn't smoked a cigarette in 10 months after more than 30 years of heavy smoking.) Prominent public-health and anti-smoking researcher Michael Siegel of Boston University also criticized the study on his blog, writing of "the dangers of extrapolating from mice" to humans by noting "a nearly identical study which found that mice treated with aspirin exhibit impaired clearance of bacteria from their lungs." He adds that "the only existing clinical evidence" from studying humans "is that switching from smoking to e-cigarettes can actually reverse one form of obstructive airways disease," asthma, and that all the Hopkins study "really demonstrated was something we already knew: that e-cigarette aerosol can cause respiratory irritation." On the up side, the Hopkins researchers also found that the vapors contain about 1 percent of the cell-damaging toxins found in cigarette smoke, yet spun this finding as a bad thing. (Van Smith)


This week, Jacq Jones, sex educator and owner of Sugar, the sex shop in Hampden, wrote two whip-smart pieces on Sugar's blog about the upcoming, much-talked-about film release of "50 Shades of Grey," out the day before Valentine's Day. Jones' first piece, "Why I Love 50 Shades of Grey," cuts the massively popular piece of erotic fiction some slack, avoids the obvious, condescending critiques of it (that, really, apply to nearly all massively popular books), and praises it for pushing a sex-positive message to women: "50 Shades of Grey sold more than 100 million copies . . . That's 100 million, mostly women, buying, reading and talking about a book because it turns them on. Talking about it publicly. Reading it on the subway and at the break table without shame. It caused folks to talk about female pleasure on morning TV. It reminded millions of women that sex is fun." Jones goes on, "Because of this book, there was a nation wide shortage of kegel balls. If those folks use them, they're having better orgasms and healthier PC muscles." The second piece, published yesterday, "What 50 Shades Gets Wrong," addresses some of the problems with the book's portrayal of BDSM, which strongly links ruggedly handsome super-freak Mr. Grey's interest in BDSM to child abuse ("There is no link what so ever between childhood abuse and BDSM," Jones points out) and just in general, portrays a deeply unhealthy dominant/submissive relationship between the main characters. Jones sees "50 Shades" as an educational tool, a piece of pop fiction that has piqued the country's interest in fucking better and more often, and one that a good sex educator like Jones can expound upon and use as a jumping-off point for a more accurate and sophisticated understanding of sex. (Brandon Soderberg)


Today is the birthday of all-time great baseball slugger Babe Ruth, who as you probably know was born right here in Baltimore. Back in August, The Sun wrote a piece tracking Babe Ruth's local roots, from his days learning the game at the St. Mary's Industrial School to his brief stint with the Baltimore Orioles, a minor league team at the time, before being traded to the Boston Red Sox. While Ruth's baseball career in Baltimore was short, sports historian Mark Millikin says it shouldn't be overlooked: "It's a shorter story for sure, but it's so important in baseball history. If [Orioles owner] Jack Dunn hadn't discovered him, I wonder if we'd ever have had a Babe Ruth." Though he later became one of the biggest celebrities in the world while playing with the New York Yankees, the Babe never forgot his roots. He helped raise money for St. Mary's when it burned; later, he donated a bat for its new showcase. And Ruth routinely brought his teams back to town to play games at Oriole Park, which was then situated at Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street. (Brandon Weigel)

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