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Ebola suitOn October 15, Russian president Vladimir Putin approved a law that will  limit foreign ownership of Russian media to a mere 20 percent, allowing the government to exert significant influence over what ordinary Russians hear on the news.

This is unsurprising for Russia which, despite claiming to be a democracy, has a running tab of tyrannical actions spanning from Saint Petersburg  to Vladivostok. It wasn’t too long ago that this American anchor for RT News quit on live television because she couldn’t stand the incessant state-directed bias.

In light of all this, many Americans might take pride in the fact that we have a constitutionally guaranteed free press that supposedly gets to the real truth in every situation. After all, the media is independent, existing to inform us in an unbiased manner.

…Whoever believes that had better wake up and smell the sensationalism.

It’s true that, unlike in Russia and many European nations, the United States government does not control the major media networks, an important point because the media needs the ability to question and critique those in power.

However, we run into a different problem in the U.S., stemming from the fact that the news media is a business that will do what’s necessary to earn high ratings. Indeed, much of what you see and hear on the news is purposely broadcast just so you watch it, not necessarily because it’s important, relevant, or even true.

Ebola Nation

The ongoing Ebola scare is a perfect example of this. It has dominated daytime and evening news for a few weeks now, and many Americans fear that the deadly disease will soon be knocking on their doors.

spread of ebola

The news media is sensationalizing Ebola.

And yet, there has been only one death from the disease, in only one hospital, in only one city. Furthermore, every other American who caught the illness (two people as of writing this) caught it from that one man who died, in that one hospital, in that one city.

So…what’s with all the hype? If you turn on the news now, especially 24-hour cable news, they’re probably talking about Ebola spreading even though there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that it’s dangerously spreading around the country. Analysis after analysis; expert after expert – the news media keeps milking this story. But why?

First of all, the government may have something to do with it (shocking, right?) because elections are a couple weeks away. President Obama and his Democrats want to appear like they’re doing something – what better way to accomplish that than by taking action against a possible epidemic? Remember the words of Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former Chief of Staff and the current mayor of Chicago: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

On the other hand, Republicans, who want to seize power from their democratic rivals on November 5, are happily exploiting the Ebola scare as a way to convince Americans that Obama is doing diddly squat.

Shouldn’t the media realize this and report the truth that Ebola does not pose as serious a threat to our lives as some politicians are alleging? No, because people who worry about contracting Ebola turn to the news for comfort and advice, and that translates into high ratings. Since the television business lives and dies for ratings, it’s important that people tune in.

It’s not the first time

Media sensationalism is nothing new. At the beginning of the 20th century, journalists wrote overly-dramatic, and sometimes blatantly misleading headlines that seriously impacted public opinion and the course of history. This style of ‘reporting” became known as yellow journalism.

yellow journalism

One of many hyped-up newspaper headlines that lead to the Spanish American War

When the USS Maine sank in 1898, journalists quickly jumped to blame Spain, even though there was little evidence to suggest the Spanish had any role in the sinking. Yellow journalists wrote exaggerated headlines that made the Spanish look like monsters. At that time, Cuba was revolting against Spain, and Americans were following that conflict very closely because many sympathized with the Cuban quest for independence.

The media pounced on this sentiment. After all, what better way to drive newspaper sales than to create an international crisis by claiming that Spain had attacked the U.S.? Eventually, the U.S. entered the Spanish American War and kicked Spain out of Cuba and the Philippines. Media sensationalism had started a war.

Oh, by the way, it was later discovered that the Spanish were not responsible for the sinking. An internal explosion was the culprit.

Think for yourself

In the end, the media hype over Ebola is no different than a high school jock overstating his female “conquests.” Though it’s definitely true that Ebola has reached the United States, it’s absolutely false that you are in any danger as of this point.

Not all journalists are partaking in this hype. In the video below, journalist Shepard Smith readily admits what his media colleagues are up to. Essentially, this is modern yellow journalism.

This is the advantage the U.S. media still has over that of places like Russia. Because so many independent news sources exist, even if most of them are hyping up the news, there are always at least some voices of reason. Not true in Russia, where the government now stands that much closer to exercising a monopoly over what its citizens hear on the news.

The most important lesson, as we have all heard before, is not to believe everything you see on television. Don’t dismiss everything as fake—that leads to other problems—but keep an open mind and think for yourself. The minute we stop doing that, our freedom is dead.

I love learning and writing about the past. It should come as no surprise then, that one of my favorite emotions is nostalgia, or a sentimental longing for the past. This emotion is bittersweet. On one hand, it can elicit sadness by causing you to long for events and people that are long gone. On the other hand, it can resurrect cherished memories and experiences that make you feel wonderful.

A major avenue for experiencing nostalgia is music. With its melodies and lyrics, music can bring out nostalgic emotions like nothing else. Below I have compiled a list of what I believe to be the 10 most nostalgic songs in existence. I have also added links to all the lyrics to give you a fuller experience. Of course, there’s millions of songs I haven’t heard. If you think that different songs should be on the list, please share your suggestions in the comments. But for now, sit back, relax and maybe grab a tissue before experiencing this massive dose of nostalgia.


10. Asia-Heat of the Moment (1982)

Do you remember when we used to dance? That line seals this song as a nostalgic hit. It’s about recalling a time, long in the past, when you lived in the moment. Time had no meaning for you because you were young and had years of life ahead of you…


9. Buggles-Video Killed the Radio Star (1979)


Many people think this song is annoying. I can understand that, but I also believe that it depicts how fleeting technology is, and how things that seem so new today will eventually seem old. This music video launched MTV back in 1981 and reflected a technological breakthrough. No longer was music exclusively to be heard. Now it could be seen on your television set! The sounds and images seemed very futuristic and hip back in the 1980s. Now they seem campy and old. Back then, video had killed the radio star. Today, advances in digital technology are killing traditional video. But this too shall pass…


8. Del Shannon-Runaway (1961)


Despite the people dancing in the video, this song is chilling. It’s a man reminiscing about a woman who he loved that left long ago. His sadness and confusion reach across space and time and relate to people today whose loved ones “have run away.” Indeed, the haunting melody makes this song sound timeless, even though it is quite old. Remember, those young people dancing in the video are now probably in their seventies…


7. Bryan Adams-Summer of 69 (1984)


This is another song where a man is reminiscing about the glory days of his youth—his friendships, romances, rebelliousness, etc. “Those were the best days of [his] life.” It makes you think how quickly your teenage years fly by. Everybody will reach that point when they’ll be lying down (though maybe not on a hammock) and realizing that their youth is gone forever. If you were a teenager in 1969, you are now in your sixties…


6. Judy Garland-Somewhere Over the Rainbow (1939)


Everybody recognizes this as the famous song from The Wizard of Oz. The music is dreamlike. Judy Garland is young and innocent, beautifully staring into the infinite distance. Toto the dog is absolutely lovable. It seems so relatable. Then you remember that this video was filmed nearly seventy years ago. Judy Garland died in 1969 of a drug addiction. Could she have known this in 1939? Of course not.  She was so young there. So many people were young before us, and where are they now? Perhaps somewhere over the rainbow…


5. Bruce Springsteen-The River (1980)


The River in this song represents a place of innocence, long buried in the past, that is capable of bringing forth haunting memories from one’s youth. The singer recalls how the river brought him and his girl together long ago and gave them some wonderful experiences. Now, years later, the cruelties of life have washed that innocence away. The river has become part of a past that can never be returned to, and instead it brings forth painfully nostalgic memories. Indeed, the river is dry…


4. Cyndi Lauper-Time After Time (1983)


This song’s lyrics are brimming with nostalgic language—time, memories, fading—that extols love’s permanence, reaching across time. The girl in the music video has multiple flashbacks where she recalls falling in love, experiencing disappointment and her mother’s comforting embrace. She’s thinking about all the things that led up to her being in that cabin with her man. As we watch her nostalgia trip, we are tempted to go on one of our own. What led us to where we are today, and will we someday look back on today with that same sense of nostalgia?…


3. Cliff Edwards-When You Wish Upon a Star (1940)


Disney’s most famous song survives through the decades as a rhapsody celebrating the innocent dreams of childhood. It connects children in 1940 with those of today, joining past, present and future in the wonderful message that dreams can come true. While listening to this song, you cannot help but get swept away by the hauntingly calm sound of the chorus. Close your eyes as you listen to this song, and think about yourself when you heard it for the first time all those years ago…


2. Alphaville-Forever Young (1984)


As the video opens with the screen zooming into the infinite recesses of space, it’s easy to think of how short our lives are compared to the life of the universe. Those of us who are young now will be old in a heartbeat, and the universe will have hardly aged. The singers in the video themselves are all middle aged now, and they were so young back then. At the video’s end, we see all the people, clearly from various points in history, walking together into the light. Where are they headed? Where are any of us headed? The present will soon become the past as we move toward an infinitely vast and unknown future…


1. Celine Dion-My Heart Will Go On (1997)


The most nostalgic song ever written is fittingly the theme song of one of the most nostalgic movies ever made—Titanic. An old, old women recalls memories of youth, romance and tragedy on the ill-fated ship nearly a century ago. Life is so short and the emotions we experience today are the same ones countless individuals have experienced stretching back to the beginning of time. You cannot watch this video and listen to this music without a shiver running through your spine. You cannot help but think of yourself as an old man or woman looking back upon your youth and reliving the memories that are now the present. One day we will long for today, but it will be nothing but history…

World War I Soldier and Ukrainian soldier in 2014100 years ago, the death of one man in an obscure country set off a chain of events that would culminate in the most destructive conflict the world had ever seen. 100 years later, troubling events in the same part of the world once again threaten global stability.

I am, of course, referring to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo in 1914, which ultimately led to World War I, and to the 2014 civil war between Ukrainians and pro-Russian nationalists, which is slowly pitting the major world powers against each other. Although a full century separates these two events, both share common themes that cannot be overlooked:

The Belief that a Giant War is Impossible

Today, as the World War II generation quickly leaves us, there are less and less people who can remember a violent, global conflict. To be sure, there are many small wars, and we are used to those happening on a fairly frequent basis, but I would wager that few people in the western world can envision a devastating world war that would put all of our lives in danger. It just doesn’t seem possible, especially with the increasing economic and political interdependence among countries. After all, we have the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union, not to mention a number of other smaller international groups.

Guess what? Westerners thought the same exact thing in 1913, just a year before World War I started. Back then, Europe was still controlled by empires and emperors which competed against each other. At the same time, most, if not all of the royal families in Europe, were somehow related. The kings of Germany, Russia and Great Britain were all cousins! Who would have thought that family would fight family in a world war?

Aside from this, the great powers were strongly economically connected. In 1913, Britain, Germany and France  traded largely with each other. In fact, most of Germany’s exports went to Britain.  We tend to think of the global economy as a modern development, but it was definitely around to a large extent before World War I as well.

I shouldn’t forget to mention that Europeans and Americans visited each other quite often in 1913, just like we do today. Tourism was alive and well, although it took longer because there weren’t yet passenger planes.

In 1913, the newspaper The Economist wrote, “ war between the civilised communities of the world [is] an impossibility.” It was wrong. Tragically wrong. This should cause us to reevaluate the belief that another World War is impossible because, unfortunately, the old maxim holds true—never say never.


Franz Ferdinand Assassination

The event that sparked World War I–the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand–was a result of nationalism.

Some say that this historical “ism” was the scourge of the 20th century, and in many (many) ways it was. For those who haven’t had history in 20 years, or otherwise hate it, let me give you a brief refresher on what exactly nationalism is. The standard definition given in schools is “pride in one’s country,” but it goes beyond that. It really comes down to how do you identify or define yourself?  In the United States, we see ourselves as Americans and we are separate from, for example, Poles, who live in Poland. A nationalist, then, promotes identifying with a particular culture or country that is separate from another culture or country.

In 1914, nationalism was brewing in Serbia. At that time, the Serbians were controlled by the Austro-Hungarian empire, and they wanted their own nation, their own identity. This is why, on June 28, 1914, Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, dead in the streets of Sarajevo. This violent act of nationalism set the spark for the Great War.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll notice that the chief cause of the violence in Ukraine is…nationalism. People who are loyal to Russia in eastern Ukraine hope to separate themselves from the rest of Ukraine. They are, essentially, Russian nationalists living within Ukrainian borders. On the other side, Ukraine wants to preserve its own national identity, separate from Russia. As a result, the two forces are clashing. When it comes down to it, the conflict is an identity crisis, and such crises have the unfortunate tendency of dragging in other world players.


So how exactly did the assassination of one man in 1914 lead to a global war? After the assassination, Austria-Hungary naturally declared war on Serbia. Then the dominoes began to fall. This part always gets confusing, so I’ll try  to keep it simple. Russia was friends with Serbia. Germany was friends with Austria-Hungary. So the war expanded to include Russia and Serbia versus Germany and Austria-Hungary. Then, France came in to help Russia, and Great Britain came in to help France. Finally, the Ottoman Empire came in to help Germany. Basically (In reality it’s more complicated then this) , alliances forced the countries of Europe to all help each other, so it kind of became a gang war where friends were sticking up for friends.

Today, although the system of alliances is not as rigid, there are definitely two camps forming over the crisis in Ukraine. Despite denying it, Russia is clearly helping to directly arm and train the eastern Ukrainian rebels in their fight against western Ukraine. Naturally, Russia stands to gain if eastern Ukraine defeats western Ukraine because the east would probably try to become part of Russia in some way.

On the other side, the United States and much of Europe supports western Ukraine because of its pro-western tendencies and is putting increased sanctions on Russia for supporting eastern Ukraine. So a civil war between Ukrainians has drawn in two of the most powerful nations on earth against each other—the United States and Russia. This has not happened to such an extent since the Cold War and, in a worse case scenario, could lead to a cataclysmic global confrontation that would put every human being in danger.

Naturally, it’s easy for a historian to look back and cherry-pick similarities between two historical events. As much as the causes of World War I and the current Ukrainian crisis have in common, they have many differences. Most importantly, there are no treaties explicitly binding countries to help each other militarily in this conflict. There has been a lot of talk of sanctions and non-military aid from the west, but almost nobody supports an armed conflict precisely because history has taught us what that can lead to. Even Russia has been careful, opting for subversive methods of advancing their agenda instead of direct aggression.

So let’s hope that humanity has, in fact, learned something from history and is able to take measures to avoid another global conflict. Commemorating the hundredth anniversary of World War I with another world war isn’t a good idea, but that’s just me.

Recently, I attended a special outdoor commemoration for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. A number of period tanks, artillery and landing craft were on exhibit, all of which were fascinating to behold.

Among this collection was a living relic, likeherd-mentalityly over 90 years old, whose advanced age did not prevent him from unwaveringly standing and captivating the audience with his own tales from the 1944 invasion of Normandy.

“I remember at night in the camp we used to shoot at birds in the distance for target practice,” recalled the aged veteran. “The funny thing was that often, instead of hitting the birds in the dark, we actually ended up shooting wandering Frenchmen, hahaha!” “Ha ha ha” laughed the excited crowd at the joke, except, it wasn’t a joke. Here was a man talking about accidentally killing people, and the crowd was laughing as if they had just seen Moe slap Curly in The Three Stooges.

I can understand why the veteran was able to take the story lightly—war had likely numbed him as it does so many others—but what about the crowd? Did they truly find it funny that innocent Frenchmen were getting mistaken for birds and shot to death in the dark, or were they just laughing because they felt that it was the appropriate social reaction at the time. I would argue the latter.

Everybody is, to some extent, an actor when it comes to social situations. We laugh out of politeness when somebody says something that’s supposed to be funny, and we exaggerate our sadness when somebody we have never met dies. I will illustrate both examples.

Scenario 1: You are in a grocery store staring at the shelf, calculating whether you should buy “Aunt Jemima” or “Log Cabin” maple syrup. Suddenly, your near-meditative state is broken by an elderly lady who bumps into you, causing you to drop the box of pancake mix you were holding under your arm. As you bend over to pick it up you hear the lady chuckle as she says, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Gee wilickers, I am as clumsy as a clown today, aren’t I? Hahaha.” “Ha ha ha,” you artificially laugh back. You didn’t actually find anything funny in the situation, but you didn’t want to be rude, so you forced a laugh. (According to a recent study, it turns out that those fake laughs may not actually be fooling anybody).

A typical “fake” laugh

Scenario 2: You are an insurance saleswoman meeting with a potential buyer at a restaurant. The buyer, a few minutes late, apologizes saying that his cousin has just passed away, and that he had gotten caught up dealing with that situation. Instinctively, you let out a groan of sadness to try and empathize with the buyer. Now, it is sad to hear about anyone dying. We are emotionally programmed to be upset when we hear that type of news, so you definitely feel some sadness. But are you really feeling as sad as you act? The answer is probably no, and there is nothing wrong with that. You cannot be truly distraught over somebody dying when you had no emotional bond with them. Imagine if you could—everybody would be depressed all the time. The point is, you had to probably act a little bit sadder than you were because it was the right thing to do at the time.

We all do things to socially fit in to some extent. In the two cases illustrated above, there is nothing wrong with that. Humans are social creatures  who need company, and you’re not going to get company by being the hothead who glares at the lady who accidentally bumped into you or being the jerk who doesn’t offer support to others during times of grief.

However, there are times when this social instinct to fit in can cause us to do commit horrible acts, acts we would never have committed on our own. Let’s consider an extreme example first: The Holocaust.

Up until World War II, the Jews had lived in peace alongside their neighbors in Europe. People shopped at Jewish stores, borrowed from Jewish lenders and had coffee with their Jewish friends. Enter Adolf Hitler and the Jewish persecution. All of a sudden it became socially acceptable to hate Jews. People who had once gotten along with their Jewish neighbors now began to mistreat them to fit in with Nazi society. From the Nuremberg Laws, to Kristallnacht, to the final solution, it just got worse and worse. Ultimately, peoples’ failure to speak up against society led to the deaths of 6 million Jews.

In 1938, German mobs committed violence against Jews in what became known as Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht (1938)– one of the worst cases of peer pressure gone wrong.

The example need not be that extreme. Consider how nasty the audience gets on those live talent competitions like The X Factor or American Idol when somebody does not perform well on stage. Boo’s, shrieks, and taunts is all you hear. However, if there was just one person in the audience, I doubt he would criticize the person on stage as much. I bet he would say,”That’s ok, you tried your best,” instead of “You suck!” There is a safety in numbers, and people will act however good or bad they feel they can get away with socially.

It’s hard to go against social rules and expectations. In most cases those rules and expectations are there for a reason—we all have to somehow cooperate on this planet despite having billions of individual differences.

At the same time, individuality is something we sometimes desperately need to bring us back to humanity. A mob with thousands (or millions) of different voices cannot think on its own, and it loses that morality which is present in each of us as individuals. It becomes no different from a herd of cattle, hence the term “herd mentality.”

To avoid this, we must always maintain our individual sense of humanity and morality and realize when it is being compromised by a group. At that point, it may be necessary to either leave the group, or, more courageously, to try and bring the group back into the right. After all, it only takes one domino to set off a chain reaction.

This past week, I began work as a paraprofessional educator (a.k.a teaching assistant) at a junior high school. Although I have a full teaching degree and am capable of running my own classroom, I could not forgo the rare opportunity to gain actual experience while earning a paycheck midway through the school year.

So far I am quite happy with the work and am trying to impact students as much as possible despite my assistive role. In fact, the toughest part of the job for me has actually nothing to do with teaching—it has to do with directing cars.

This traffic director has got game.

This traffic director has got game.

The first day I was placed on traffic duty, I quipped that university teaching programs should add a traffic directing class to their curriculum because nearly every faculty member in the school is fair game to have to do this unenviable work.

I often would get vexed at traffic directors in the past. “How dare these simpletons seek to impede my commute,” I would think to myself as I grudgingly obeyed their commands. Whenever they stopped me to let other cars pass, I questioned their seemingly arbitrary decision to make me the cutoff.

Now that I must toil away at this job myself, I have attained a new-found appreciation for these people.

For one, directing traffic is harder than it looks. It requires a large degree of coordination and awareness of one’s surroundings. When I did it for the first time, I caused massive gridlock that got a number of parents who were dropping their kids off quite upset with me. It’s amazing the mayhem that one person can single-handedly cause while doing that job.

Furthermore, traffic directors have to stand out there no matter what the weather. After all, the kids have to get to school. Rain, snow, wind, sleet, hail—the traffic director must work despite each. I was never a fan of wearing hats or hoods. Needless to say, I have reconsidered as of late.

Finally, it’s a little bit scary being a traffic director because you can theoretically cause an accident if the drivers are not paying attention. I have to direct cars from two sides all while taking kids across street—there’s always a risk that something could, God forbid, go wrong.

So it’s definitely stressful work, and few drivers realize or appreciate that. I can’t blame them. After all, I have the power to make their kids late to school based on my decisions out there. You wouldn’t think so, but being a traffic director truly gives you power over people, and that is perhaps the most frustratingly annoying thing about us of all.

Hopefully someone reading this will see traffic directors in a new light and be a little friendlier to them next time. I won’t be holding my breath, though. It’s the type of job that you can’t understand until you do it. As for me, I’d like to make an imaginary toast to traffic directors everywhere.

The Romans were the last civilization to use Latin as a common language.

The Romans were the last civilization to use Latin as a common language.

While at a New Year’s Eve party the other day, I mentioned my latest goal of learning Latin. Almost immediately somebody smarted off saying something along the lines of “Wow, that’s cool. Now you’ll be able to converse with all the other Latin speakers around the globe.”

I don’t blame the person for making the sarcastic comment. Latin is, in fact, a dead language, spoken mostly by a small number of traditional Roman Catholic priests and eccentric Roman history buffs. In high school, I used to question the small number of Latin students’ rationale for wasting their time learning a language that they would never actually use.

So what made me decide to “waste” my time now by learning to speak Latin? Well, for starters, it’s important to understand that almost nobody learns to “speak” Latin anymore. Of course, that wasn’t always the case. If you were living in the Roman Empire during the year 100 BC, Latin was the primary language spoken.  As the empire expanded and conquered foreign populations, however, regional differences in the Latin language, or dialects, began to arise. After the Germanic invasions in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, these regional differences only intensified, causing less and less people to understand classical Latin. By the eighth century AD, the common people could hardly, if at all, understand Latin, and it became the language of the educated elite and clergy.

So yes, Latin has been dead as a “spoken” language for 1300 years. Anybody who wants to learn Latin understands that quite well. Latin is today a “written” language, meaning that people learn only to read and write it, not necessarily to speak it. Indeed, open up any Latin textbook, and you will see that it is aimed at teaching you to understand the language rather than produce it on your own.

imagesF6BASKUIBut that still begs the question: Why even bother learning to read and write Latin? It turns out that there are a number of reasons to do so.

Latin is Everywhere

If you speak English, then you already know a little bit of Latin. Even though Latin died out as a spoken language centuries ago, it helped create other languages. Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian, also known as the Romance languages, are direct descendants of Latin. English, although it has Germanic roots, has also borrowed heavily from Latin. As a result, you can figure out what many Latin words mean just by knowing English and vice versa.  Check out these examples:

Porto means “to carry” as in “portable (able to be carried)”

Laboro means “to work” as in “labor”

Femina means “woman” as in “female”

Longa means “long”

Expecto means “to expect, await”

I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point.

Latin helps you learn other languages

A natural result of the fact that many modern languages have borrowed from Latin is that understanding Latin can help you to learn other languages more quickly. For example, the word “in” means the same thing in Latin, English and German. The Latin word “amicus” means friend, as does the French word “ami” and the Italian word “amico.” Not only will you see these similar word roots appearing in many languages, but you will also acquire a more profound understanding of how a language’s grammar and structure work, which leads me to my next point…

Latin can help you understand English better

Remember the ACT English portion and how you had to remember all those technical grammar rules to proofread the passages correctly? I always tried to get away by just circling what “sounded” right, but that didn’t always work. If you learn Latin, you have to learn the various ways the language is structured (i.e. what ending does the indirect object of the sentence take if it is a plural, feminine noun). If you learn that for Latin, you will be able to pick out pronouns, direct objects, indirect objects etc. in English without any problem.

Latin was used in the Roman Catholic church for centuries and continues to be used today.

Latin was used in the Roman Catholic church for centuries and continues to be used today.

Latin still appears in Religion and Science

Religion and science, bitter rivals on most occasions, have at least one thing in common—Latin. If you are Roman Catholic, the Mass used to be completely celebrated in Latin, and many churches today still keep that tradition. Additionally, many hymns, songs and prayers were originally written in Latin and are best understood in that language.

On the science front, the official name for your four-legged, barking friend is “canis lupus familiaris.” This incredibly complicated name for “dog” is Latin, and if you plan on going into biology you will probably end up learning this and other scientific names. So brush up on your Latin.

Latin makes you sound smart (and cool)

Finally, as a teacher, I can honestly say that if you can explain the Latin root words of everyday English vocabulary, then your students will automatically view you as being smart. The same is probably true for many other situations. Basically, you will sound interesting, intelligent and cultured, and that will make people look up to you.  And if some smart aleck still tries to make fun of you, just yell out “favete linguis!”


I couldn’t resist.



More people attended the Chicago Blackhawks victory rally than attended the end of World War II celebration in Times Square.

Over 2 million people descended upon the Windy City this past Friday for the Chicago Blackhawk’s Stanley Cup victory rally. The downtown Loop area was a sea of red, as supporters and fans, some of whom arrived in the wee hours of the morning, came out to worship and adore their beloved hockey team.

Meanwhile, 5,000 miles away in Sao Paulo, Brazil, millions of people continue to rally in support of massive government reforms. Originally assembled in response to high transportation costs, the protests have evolved to address the lack of healthcare and education resources for many middle and lower class Brazilians.

Furthermore, Brazil will be hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and many protesters are decrying the amount of money their government is willing to spend on soccer stadiums, while millions live in neglected shanty towns, called favelas, located on the outskirts of major cities.

Comparing these two rallies side by side, a third party observer might conclude that things must be pretty great in the United States, since people can afford to rally in droves to support a group of entertainers who are paid millions of dollars to skate around and hit a puck into a net.

But things are not super great here, at least not great enough to justify being so carefree. The unemployment rate is 7.6 percent (as of May 2013), 6.5 percent of Americans do not have access to healthcare due to cost, our education system ranks 17th in the world, the national debt is rapidly approaching $17 trillion, our government is spying on us, and the list goes on and on.

Where are the droves of Americans rallying in the streets to address the issues that actually matter? With the exception of hit and miss protests held by polarizing groups like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, Americans rarely come together to voice their collective concerns about the state of the country.

Instead, the only causes that seem to bring us together revolve around pleasure and entertainment. That is fine, and there is a place for such festivities in every society. But always placing “play” over work or choosing what is “fun” over what matters is not a good long-term strategy for our country.

To put things into perspective, this Blackhawks rally brought together more people than Martin Luther King Jr’s.  March on Washington in 1963; it saw more people in attendance than the 2013 presidential inauguration; most spectacularly, it  surpassed the amount of people who gathered in Times Square, New York on the day World War II ended, which was around 2 million!

So less people turned out to celebrate the end of the most destructive war in human history than turned out to celebrate a hockey team winning a giant cup. If that doesn’t reveal that we don’t have our priorities straight, then I don’t know what does.

There is a lesson to be learned from the events in Brazil. Traditionally a soccer-obsessed nation, the Brazilians, like the Americans, often placed sports on the highest pedestal. But now, as they realize just how much the World Cup will cost to run and how lacking their country is in the areas of healthcare and education, the people have chosen to rise up and address the issues that actually impact their lives.

Back in the states, we still have not woken up. To be sure, all those millions who attended the Blackhawks rally had a great time, and no one should begrudge them. After all, it was a nice, relaxing way to end the week. But at the end of the day, most of those people have to go back to reality and face the high gas prices, the high healthcare costs, etc. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks players and owners, enriched at the fans’ expense, have no such worries because we have essentially made them demigods.

We need to get our priorities straight here, like the people have in Brazil. Life does not revolve around sports and entertainment. In ancient Rome, the rulers used to heavily promote mass entertainment for the common people. It did not take long for the Roman populace to become so obsessed with “bread and circuses,” that they paid little attention to politics or what those in power were doing. This ignorance lead only to abuse, corruption and the decline of Roman society. Let us not follow in the same path.






Feinberg, Alexander. “All City ‘Lets Go,'” New York Times  (New York, NY), Aug 15, 1945