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Friday, June 27, 2014

World Cup Soccer Frenzy in the U.S.: A Threat to the NFL?

First, 19 out of 20 brains of former NFL football-players showed lethal brain damage in autopsies. Then, it was 45 out of 46 brains.[1] Missed at first from the initial assumption that concussions from the occasional hard-hits—which make good television—have been the cause of the dementia-causing protein in the damaged brains, was the impact of the more subtle mini-concussions from regular play. A 21 year-old with dementia (CTE) had not had a concussion from a major hit.  Nor had a high-school senior football player with chronic (CTE) brain damage in the front lobe, and thus severe short-term memory loss, difficulty thinking, personality changes, and fits of rage. Suicides are not uncommon, not to mention an abbreviated life-span.[2] Meanwhile, the violence of the sport ironically continued to be the main draw to an American audience, with cheers at the most jarring clashes. What is going on here, and is there light at the end of this tunnel?

[1] Frontline, “League of Denial,” PBS, 2012.
[2] Ibid.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Casablanca: What Makes a Film into a Classic?

Like books and songs, many movies have been made that cannot escape their particular time. In writing my academic book, for example, I aspired to speak beyond those living to generations not yet born because my aim was the production of knowledge beyond mere artifacts of the world in which I live. I knew that the verdict on whether the text passes that crucial test could only come long after my own death. Among films, even though Casablanca is a film immersed in, and thus reflecting its time—the context in 1942 being of course World War II—the film transcends all that to resonate in the following century. In his oral commentary, Rudy Behlmer argues that the film “transcends time.” He goes on to provide us with a list of the usual suspects behind what lies behind the making of a classic.

From: “Casablanca: What Makes a Film into a Classic?

Isolating the Key Assumptions in a Dysfunctional Culture: A Hometown Case Study

It saddens me to admit that, from my visits back to my hometown, I have found enough of the remaining locals to be gripped with a particular mentality and related behavior that the culture itself had at some time reached a “critical mass” sufficient to be classifiable as dysfunctional, and thus highly toxic. The pathogen is by no means absent from the local businesses, government (and municipal organizations) schools (including colleges), hospitals (and medical clinics), and charities. The underlying mentality is nearly ubiquitous. I assume that finding a culturally-ensconced pathology’s core assumptions stated as explicitly as I witnessed at two local institutions is rare, and that such an opportunity for dissection ought not be lost, lest that and other such sordid cases be written off as necessarily lost in their own stools of firmament as the inhabitants effectively isolate their specific geographical area as “weird” or just plain different from the outside world in a seemingly inescapable downward spiral. Hence my dissection here of two main assumptions tacitly (and occasionally explicitly) shared by the infected souls in my rather hapless hometown.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Disruptive Innovation: Business by Buzzword

When a herd grabs hold of something, odds are that its original meaning will not only get trampled over, but also in a way that turns it up-side down before spreading it all over as if it were sweet-smelling manure. Particularly striking is the ensuing willfulness that typically contravenes efforts to pen in the herd to the confines of the term’s definition. I have in mind the erroneous and even tautological self-aggrandizing trajectory of the term disruption in the business sector of society. Drawing on Nietzsche, I submit that the offending sickness is centered in an interlarding presumptuousness to define an existing word conveniently, even in ways that are antithetical to the received meaning. That is to say, this cultural problem involves more than garden-variety ignorance.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pope Francis Excommunicates the Italian Mafia

As though a lamb going into a lion’s den, Pope Francis journeyed to Sibari in southern Italy on the Summer Solstice of 2014 to castigate the Italian mafia, and more specifically the Ndrangheta crime group, as an example of “the adoration of evil.”  He added that “(t)hose who in their lives follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated.”[1] Presumably so too are the mafia families in other European states, and in the American states as well. As laudable as such excommunicating is, the fact that such murderous thugs have regarded themselves as Catholics, and, more generally as Christian, points to a more profound need for reform within the religion itself. In this essay, I draw on The Godfather saga to present this argument.

[1] Reuters, “Pope Excommunicates Mafiosi,” The Huffington Post, June 21, 2014.

On the Politics of Religion: A Ukrainian Priest Calls the E.U. an "Empire of Evil"

In Lviv, Ukraine, Rev. Addriy, a priest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church rather than the Ukrainian affiliate of the Russian Orthodox Church, said after a Mass in June 2014 that the European Union is an “empire of evil” defying the Word of God and spreading sins including homosexuality and pedophilia. The priest went on to characterize the Ukrainians who toppled President Viktor Yanukovych as “Godless deviants” and “fools . . . in the pay of hostile foreign powers.”[1] Being in the western part of the state, the eastern-looking priest was not exactly “preaching to the choir”—meaning he must have known that his message would not be well-received by his congregation. This disjunction illustrates a distinctly religious problem that can arise when clerics fly too far afield from the religious domain onto those of politics, economics, or even social problems.