Join us on Facebook
What's Happening
Baylands gun club moves towards final approval
Food & Wine
more >>
mike the baker
Under The Sun: Mike Zakowski, baker
Columnist, Blogs & Reports
more >>
Larry Barnett
Public Citizen
Larry Barnett

On ants and massacres

Speculation and conspiracy theories naturally flow from horrific massacres such as occurred in Las Vegas: Steve Paddock was trying to sell guns, was killed to make it look like a suicide; he was a hit man with a specific target among his victims, all others shot merely as a cover to his actual intent; he snapped due to unpaid gambling debts; he was turned into a zombie by online gambling. The last in the list made me think of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the so-called zombie fungus which infects ants of the Camponotini species in tropical forests. Once infected, the ant's brain is controlled; the ant leaves the forest floor and climbs into the canopy, where its mandibles clamp down upon the vein of a leaf and there it remains until it dies and the fungus sprouts its spore-bearing fruiting body from within the ant's head (photo above). Something got into Paddock's head, though not likely a zombie fungus. But sitting at his windows in a suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Hotel, the people at the music festival surely looked like ants to Paddock. I'm reminded of the scene in "The Third Man" during which Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles) and Holly Martins (played by Joseph Cotton) are seated in a compartment at the very top of a Ferris wheel; Harry admits he has been trafficking in life saving drugs that have been adulterated so as to be ineffective. Confronted by Holly, he directs him to look down to the ground, and remarks "Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?" That's what the people in Las Vegas had become to Paddock: dots. Perhaps it's instructive to invoke the myth of Achilles, the mortal protected from physical harm except at his heel. Achilles was the son of the King of the Myrmidons, the island of Thessaly where its ants were transformed into people by Zeus. This myth reflects the human experience of simultaneously being individuals and just one of the crowd. And Achilles? He's celebrated for being the fiercest killer in the Greek forces fighting the Trojans in Homer's "Illiad." The nature of Paddock's Achilles' heel fuels great speculation. The matter of motive preoccupies the media, but sometimes motive is the least of it. When Charles Whitman climbed to the 27th floor of the tower at the University of Texas and systematically shot seventeen people he was immediately enshrined in the book of mass murderers. Less known is the help he sought from mental health professionals before committing his heinous act; afflicted by uncontrollable urges to violence, he repeatedly asked for treatment, but was dismissed. Only later did an autopsy indicate that a glioblastoma brain tumor was pressing against his amygdala, the seat of emotion. Like an ant infected by the zombie fungus, Whitman may not have been in control of his own actions. What's the effect of sitting before a poker-playing computer for days at a time? Do digital representations of "real" cards lead to seeing real people as mere representations? Once the computer gambling experience becomes ordinary, what's required to generate the same level of endorphins that come with constantly winning big money? The keynote of addiction is the need for ever-greater stimulation to achieve the same reward. Perhaps Paddock had become an ant to himself, tiny, one of billions, inconsequential. That's motive enough.
Continue Story...
Sonoma shelter gets kitchen upgrade Sonoma shelter gets kitchen upgrade

When the cold hard truth dawned on Kathy King, that storage in her Sonoma Overnight Support kitchen... Continue

Planning Commissioners victims of new plan Planning Commissioners victims of new plan

So long and thanks for coming to members of the just-disbanded Sonoma Planning Commission: James Cribb,... Continue

• Healing with the Land: Community Forum
• After the inferno, undocumented workers find themselves without federal help
• Law agencies on County-wide man hunt
• Pixar’s Lasseter takes leave after allegations, Sonoma event canceled
• ‘Broadway’ gets the holiday spirit
• A call for volunteers to help protect the watershed
• Reps. Thompson, Huffman: feds denial of fire aid is ‘a new low’
• Plaza of light
• Don’t cut those trees!
• Sonoma launches ‘Gratitude Project’
Letters & Opinion
more >>
Local Movie Trailers and Videos of Interest - more >>
SUN Columnist & Blogs
more >>
Public Citizen - Larry Barnett
Before It's Too Late - Eric Gullotta
The Sonoma Garden - Karen Boness
Progressive Majority Coalition - Ben Boyce
Snark Infested Waters - Bob Edwards
Board Walk - Susan Gorin
Nonprofit Matters - Dr. B.J. Bischoff
What's Up With That? - Katy Byrne
Connecting the Dots - Fred Allebach
Voices of the New Majority - Loretta Carpio Carr
Creative Arts - Sonoma Valley Sun
Sun In-Depth Report - Sonoma Valley Sun
Under the Sun: Interviews -
Rude Awakenings - Catherine Sevenau
Taxpertise - Bonnie Lee
The Green Tara - Serialized Novel - Sonoma Valley Sun
Reality Check - Logan Harvey
Find What You're looking For


Events & Entertainment
Broadcast news
Sign up for our free daily email with the latest news, events and opinion.
What We're Following
Stories of interest from around the Web
Drinking red wine makes you feel sexy… but tired
> The Independent - November 22nd, 2017
Thinking ahead: turkey leftovers in avgolemono, tortilla soup, Asian salad, shepherd’s pie and more
> KQED - November 20th, 2017
The country is still looking our way: Santa Rosa cleanup story in NY Times
> New York Times - November 20th, 2017
From the Thanskgiving bureau: Is is ‘stuffing’ or ‘dressing’?
> - November 17th, 2017
PG&E will cut down 25,000 trees in fire zone
> Napa Register - November 17th, 2017
What will the state do with next year’s $7 billion surplus?
> Sacramento Bee - November 17th, 2017
Make a wish: annual meteor shower this weekend 
> Smithsonian Magazine - November 16th, 2017
Signs that you are a Gen-Xer going through menopause
> McSweeny's - November 15th, 2017
PG&E target of more lawsuits for fault in North Bay fires
> San Jose Mercury News - November 15th, 2017
City of Santa Rosa facing more than $5 million in costs for fires
> Santa Rosa Pres Democrat - November 15th, 2017
Only one CA Republican representative supports wildfire disaster aid bill for NorthBay
> KQED - November 14th, 2017
Wine Spectator begins countdown of its Top 10 Wines of the Year 
> Wine Spectator - November 14th, 2017
Napa County tries to correct lack of emergency information in Spanish
> Napa Valley Register - November 13th, 2017
Republican tax bill cuts support for developers of affordable housing
> New York Times - November 13th, 2017
PG&E, deregulation and the fires — the view from Mendo
> Anderson Valley Advertiser - November 13th, 2017
The NY Times 10 most popular recipes for turkey stuffing
> New York Times - November 13th, 2017
Why write a book just about chicken?
> Civil Eats - November 11th, 2017
Bottle of wine auctioned for $350,000 — most expensive ever
> The Drinks Business - November 10th, 2017
New state rules for Uber, Lyft drivers — fingerprints not required
> Sacramento Bee - November 10th, 2017
A wine industry site looks at Sonoma’s tasting room issue
> Wine Searcher - November 10th, 2017
More Following Stories...
Live Traffic
Link to Live Crime Map