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Failure Unmasked

I was six the first time I saw something “Kisstoric”.  It was a Tv Movie where the Band Kiss saved Six Flags Magic Mountain from an evil wizard… or something like that.  It was way after my bedtime.  I liked it because there were lasers and roller coasters and loud music.  I was also fascinated by the idea that the 4 stars of the show were treated as heroes regardless of the fact that they were clearly dressed like villains from a Kabuki performance at Studio 54.

I don’t know how Kiss saved the roller coasters or the girls in the short shorts, but I do know that the incongruity of the situation kept me watching and then later wondering… for years.  It was strange to see people talking one way, but appearing another.

The men of Kiss are the kind of men who made the 1970’s what they were; vain, vacuous, and incredibly entertaining.  The ’70’s may have been the first time in American history where a society chose to completely ignore how implausible entertainment had become, for the sake of escaping how terrible the state of reality was.  If you’re wondering how things like Three’s Company, tank tops, and Richard Simmons come to worldwide prominence, place them alongside Airline Hijackings, Oil Embargoes, and Jimmy Carter.

Of all of the insubstantial things to come to prominence in the 1970’s, my favorite continues to be the human propensity to place inaccurate definitions onto failure in an attempt to maintain credibility, like attempting to downgrade the Vietnam War to “the conflict in Vietnam”…  because you can’t lose a war that you didn’t fight.

Which is where Kiss re-enters the story.

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Freedom From Discipline

You’ve no doubt heard about the high school athlete who was disqualified for dropping an Eff-Bomb during competition? After failing to clear the Pole vault, he cursed and then was disqualified from the meet.  His disqualification cost the entire team points, in turn costing them the state championship.  People got up in arms about how something so small and un-athletic could cost so many so much.

The athlete admitted he was wrong, and admitted the mounting pressure caused him to accidentally slip up.  Now adults are applying pressure to change the rules.  It’s disturbing how quickly, and strongly, pressure can build.  Which reminds me…

I recently saw a movie so disturbing that I still think about it before I fall asleep, and I saw the movie two weeks ago.

I don’t often set out to watch disturbing movies, an evening encounter with Hannibal Lecter cured me of that, but my friend Aaron invited me to go see it and  Aaron has excellent taste in movies, music, and pants, so I and several friends agreed.  We saw a movie called “Hanna” which was a brilliant, post-modern Fairy Tale.

Now when I say Fairy Tale I don’t mean it in the “Disney Princess Story” way we’ve come to expect.  I say it in the Horrifyingly Germanic way that children’s stories were told about 200 years ago.  As Dwight Schrute consistently reminds us, Fairy Tales were told to children for educational purposes as opposed to entertainment value.

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The Old College Try

I once heard someone say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” This person had clearly never been around a preschooler, because they like to ask questions just to watch you scramble to answer them.

If you’ve ever caught yourself in the middle of asking a stupid question you’ve realized that the questions we typically categorize as stupid are categorized as stupid because the answer is obvious to a majority of people.

I’d like to point out that there is also another type of stupid question and that’s the question that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.  In any given group of people there are some that fail to make the transition from an old topic to a new topic.  They get caught up thinking about an idea that the group has moved on from and the next time they speak, they prove it by asking a question or sharing a tidbit that has nothing to do with the current conversation.

This easily distracted person often finds themselves wandering down hypothetical pathways towards solutions to problems that don’t, or shouldn’t exist.  Their questions typically take the group off topic and leave it mired in minutiae.  Their assumption about what the group is talking about, leads to statements and questions that derail forward progress.

In the wake of the most recent NCAA Football scandal, opinion makers and broadcasters have been asking stupid questions like, “How do you keep players and coaches from breaking the rules?”, “How can we limit an agent’s access to players”, and “Shouldn’t we just start paying the players already?”

Bad questions often come from fundamentally bad assumptions.  Those assumptions are the rabbit trails that keep people from actually addressing the real problems facing people.  Assuming that colleges should be profiting from the entertainment value found on the athletic field comes from the assumption that schools should be responsible for organizing sports teams and sponsoring contests in the first place.

The question we should all be asking is actually, “Do athletics play any meaningful role in the process of higher education?” To raise the stakes, ask yourself what football has to do with a doctorate in mathematics?

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