Sunday, April 17, 2016

10 Bizarre Pre-Psychological Theories

The mysteries of the mind baffle us today. In an era where we have stringent research standards, billion dollar endowments at high-powered universities, and a scientist's choice of brain scan equipment, we're constantly surprised by its complexity and ability to adapt. So can you imagine how confusing human behavior would have looked before the field of psychology even existed? One day, history will laugh at what we think we currently know about psychology; today, let's laugh (or cry) at these ten bizarre pre-psychological theories.

10. Restrained Happiness: Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi might have a lot going on in his name, but he believes in having very little go on in your mind. A master physician from around 1000, al-Razi also dipped his toes into philosophy and the study of happiness (Link 26).

Al-Razi believed that the spirit is preoccupied with death, which naturally causes distress in the mind. To alleviate this distress, the individual must convince the spirit that good things happen at death, rather than bad. In order to do so, the individual must spend much of their time studying scripture, setting off a chain reaction that would clear the mind of distress. In fact, time is specifically better spent studying than indulging in food or drink (Link 27).

Al-Razi may have been on to something, as current models of mindfulness believe in living in the moment but not intentionally overindulging, but his style would not make for the most interesting life today. Happiness exists within a variety of lifestyle choices (Link 32); you can be joyous studying the scriptures, spending more nights than not at the bar, or presumably both. Additionally, having honest conversations about death with the dying is important, and these conversations are not always rosy (Link 31).

9. Hysteria: With a backstory running all the way to ancient Greece, this is one of our oldest pre-psychological traditions. Hysteria was a medical condition that served as a catch-all for disruptive behavior in European civilizations, and didn't really disappear from the discourse until the past hundred years or so. Of course, it affected men and women differently. The male version described symptoms similar to today's post traumatic stress disorder, and was diagnosed much less frequently (Link 12).

The more diagnosed (and interesting) female variant of hysteria led to faintness, irritability, a loss of appetite, nervousness, sexual desire, and "a tendency to cause trouble". Whatever that means. The Greeks believed this unfortunate mental state was caused by a physical ailment, known as "wandering womb", which is as ridiculous/unscientific/choose your adjective as it sounds. The womb, according to Hippocrates, was drawn to pleasant scents and disgusted by foul ones, and when a womb found its regular location's smell to be...distasteful...it would wander to other places in the body (Link 13). When this unusual myth was dispelled, sexual frustration became the clear underlying source. Skilled physicians began offering private masturbation sessions for the sexually repressed women of Europe, many of whom knew nothing about their own genitals. Eventually, the awkwardness of this practice caught up with the physicians, leading to the 18th century invention of sex toys for this purpose (Link 12).

Hysteria did not appear as a disorder in the DSM-IV, but was instead engulfed by the dissociative disorders. These are an entirely different cocktail, with an extremely disputed history of their own. Just know that you cannot get diagnosed with "hysteria" anymore, and there is certainly no such thing as a wandering womb!

8. Mesmerism: Ever been mesmerized by something (like this article)? The word comes from Austrian physician Franz Mesmer, who believed in an invisible magnetic fluid in humans and animals (Link 7). When the magnetic field reached an imbalance, it caused hysteria (see #9). To treat the hysteria, Mesmer used a technique, creatively titled mesmerism, which involved putting magnets up to his patients' bodies, causing them to fall into a trance-like stupor that apparently healed them upon awakening. The practice garnered a bit of a following in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately for Mesmer, when the French government's experts (which weirdly included Ben Franklin, a resident of Paris at the time) assessed his method, it concluded that the key words he used during his magnetic treatment were playing on his patients' suggestibility, causing the stupor (Link 8) The magnets were thrown out, but the intriguing debate between suggestibility and psychical powers was born, leading to the eventual creation of hypnosis and its silly cousin, stage hypnosis (Link 35).

7. Demonic possession: Another phenomenon that still appears in the minds of some today, demonic possession would have explained many modern mental disorders to our ancestors. Many forms of popular media, such as The Exorcism or The Bible, mention the presence of otherwordly spirits controlling a person's actions from inside them. With no real comprehension of neurology or abnormal psychology, outside forces causing otherwise unexplainable behavior probably seemed to be the most obvious answer (Link 20). Bipolar disorder, for example, can cause alternating periods of depression and mania, which causes a person to have intense, day long bursts of energy with little to no sleeping, spontaneous decision making, and an interruption of routine. A manic episode like this would certainly mystify the community, and perhaps cause a ritualistic "casting out" of a demon (Link 21). Schizophrenia would also be attributed to demonic possession, for obvious reasons. The presence of "other" voices in one's head could easily be attributed to other beings inside the mind. Many, many more psychological disorders could fall into this category, like psychosis, dissociative identity disorder, etc (Link 22).

In the mainstream lexicon, demons are problems that haunt or plague us figuratively, not literally. In this way, their general perception hasn't changed much; they are still difficulties that take time and energy to deal with, and many people still struggle with spirits of an 80 proof variety. But now, we cast them out through medicine and therapy, not Holy Water or isolation.


6. Phrenology: Phrenology was developed around 1800 by Franz Gall, who had a novel idea - what if your brain was the source of your intelligence and your personality? And what if you could tell someone's intelligence and behavioral pattern by measuring the shape of their head and studying the bumps and fissures on it? Phrenology contributions can be separated into three distinct categories - the true, the false, and the other.

True: Gall theorized that the brain was the organ of the mind. He was right about this, obviously, and paved the way for neuroscience today (Link 14).
Gall pontificated about different regions of the brain being responsible for different personality traits, another key facet of neuroscience.

False: You can't actually determine someone's intelligence or personality from looking at their head.
Or from measuring it.
Some phrenologists used phrenology to "prove" the superiority of white, European males over others.
Some people still use this argument today...sigh (Link 15).

Other: Giving phrenology as a personal service is a taxable source of income in Michigan, which begs so, so many questions. Was someone still practicing phrenology and getting off tax free from it? Was this a joke? Does Michigan know its racial demographic, and how many of their residents would have been hurt by this in a past life? Actually, if you're in the parapsychological crew, you probably believe they were hurt by it, because they had a past life. This will make more sense later on.
Essentially, Gall had the right theory and the wrong execution. And picked up some of the wrong followers along the way.

5. Lie detection: A search engine query for "how to tell when someone is lying" brings up millions of results, many of which offer basic but useful analysis on noticing the obvious psychological signs of lying. But before we had click bait to inform us to watch for a lack of eye contact and offering too much detail, humans had to find other way to suss out liars from truth tellers (Link 36).

In ancient times, cultures around the world used ordeals to determine the veracity of accused liars (Link 38). Some of these were relatively innocuous; in India, an accused liar would be subject to the weight ordeal. In this trial, s/he would be weighed, a judge would deliver an exhortation to the counterweight, and the liar would be weighed again. If the accused was lighter than before, s/he was honest; if not, s/he was dishonest. However, most ordeals were more gruesome. In Europe, an accused liar was resigned to the hot iron ordeal, where the potential falsifier stuck their tongue on a hot iron nine times. If they weren't burned, they had told the truth; if their tongue burned, they would be executed. Eventually, when ordeals proved ineffective around the 17th century, societies moved onto a safer, more humane technique: torture!

Torture ranged from the creatively gory contraptions used in Medevial times (Link 42) to the enhanced interrogation employed as recently as the mid-2000s by the CIA (Link 43). Unfortunately for the government and fortunately for human rights, torture is ineffective for lie detection, showing a high number of false positives and producing unreliable information generally (Link 37). Luckily, with its lack of a basis in psychology, it has become obsolete in the United States (Link 40).

In the never-ending quest for untainted truth, the 20th century brought along truth serums and the polygraph test. Truth serum, a drug administered to a subject with the intention of causing him/her to provide information s/he would not otherwise offer, certainly loosens the tongue, much like alcohol (Link 39). However, like that conversation you had last Thursday at the pub with the townee at 1 AM, much of the information given after receiving a truth serum is overly boastful and generally unreliable. The polygraph, on the other hand, measures one's blood pressure, pulse, respiration and other physiological measures to determine whether someone is lying. Sadly, it is not considered reliable either (Link 41). Some people, such as sociopaths, may not show any physiological change regardless of what they are saying. Others take countermeasures, like pricking oneself with a needle at random points in the test to skew the data. Finally, members of the scientific community doubt that these measures are even associated with lying, and a greater understanding of the neurological processes behind lying must exist before lie detection can be an objective process. Essentially, until voice stress analysis research is finalized, you're best off just trying to determine if the story you're being told makes sense or not (Link 44).

4. Graphology: Can you tell much about me from my style of writing? Graphology suggests you might be able to, if only I had written this piece by hand. Graphologists study quirks and styles in handwriting to determine the writer's psychological profile, personality traits and mood at the time (Link 16). Graphologists advertise their work as the ideal way to recruit candidates to jobs, tell personality compatibility, or even decide if you're working in the right career. All from your handwriting! It's all the rage in Europe at the moment, and it's just about to turn the corner in the United States.

If this all sounds too good to be true, well, it is. And you didn't even need an analysis of my handwriting to confirm it. Dazzi and Pendrabissi performed a study in which 101 college students provided an autobiographical writing sample to two graphologists (Link 17). They also provided personality information to the researchers, using the most common personality measure in psychology, the Big 5 Personality Traits (Link 18). The graphologists, using the written text, created personality profiles for the students. Not only did they not match the Big 5 test results, they didn't even match each other. This type of study has been repeated over and over, and consistently produces no correlation between handwriting and personality (Link 19).

On a personal level, I have terrible handwriting. When I took my high school SAT, I received a perfect score on my multiple choice writing section, and a 7/12 on my handwritten essay, a barely average result. Perhaps I simply had a bad response, but this pattern continued in my AP tests. After college, I took the GRE, which includes two essay responses, both typed. I received a nearly 100% increase in my score. Is it possible that my bad handwriting made me appear unintelligent to a grader? Maybe. So even though Criminal Minds used to have a graphologist on it, it is correctly considered a false science.

3. Dream interpretation: An unusual pre-psychological theory, because its usage remains popular today in lieu of a universally accepted theory as to the real meaning of dreams. Different cultures had vastly disparate explanations for the existence of dreams, beginning with metaphorical interpretation of symbols. This dream interpretation occurs often in the Bible, with an early documented example springing out of the glorious kingdom of Babylon, whose peaceful regime foreshadowed the tranquil nature of its modern location, on the border between Iraq and Syria.

The Bible's book of Daniel provides excellent anecdotes about Babylonian dream culture, mentioning that wizards, magicians, and astrologers could be hired for dream interpretation. Daniel, however, won the favor of the king after deciphering that the freakish creature made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, clay and mud he dreamed of actually symbolized Babylon and several other future kingdoms (Link 1). Suffice to say, assigning hidden meanings to dreams was even more popular then than it is now!

Thousands of miles away, in ancient China, dreams were considered more of an evaluation of reality and identity. The famous story of Chuang Chou comes to mind - Chuang dreamed of flying around as a butterfly, only to find himself to be human when he awoke. So, did Chuang dream of being a butterfly, or did a butterfly dream of being Chuang? (Link 2). The Chinese treated dreams as less of an identification of symbolism, and more of a philosophical exploration.

Freud, of course, later came into the discourse and followed the theme of symbolism. In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud outlined the many ways dreams served as wish fulfillment fantasies, distorted through mental operations so irrelevant to modern dream analysis that I can't be bothered to describe them. Essentially, we dream of what we want, and we have nightmares about our failures to receive our wishes. A skilled dream interpreter, like Freud, could tease out their real meanings (Link 3).

Today, scientists believe in several theories for dreaming, including memory consolidation, problem solving (Link 4), and random brain activity (Link 5), my personal favorite. However, most people still subscribe to the Freudian theory, and studies have shown that Americans are as likely to skip a flight if they dream of a plane crash the night before than if a plane had recently crashed on their specific route (Link 6).

2. Racist Eugenics: Many may wonder why I bothered to write "racist" in front of "eugenics". All eugenics are racist, right?

Not exactly. The concept of eugenics is first recorded with Plato in The Republic (Link 23), under the idea of selectively breeding a "guardian" or elite class in Greece. Being that Greece was homogeneous at the time, this had little to do with race, and everything to do with moral character and intelligence within Greek society. The term eugenics was coined by Francis Galton (no relation to Franz Gall), who wrote the book Hereditary Genius (Link 24). In it, he postulates that talent is hereditary, and societies should stop wasting time protecting the untalented (read: the poor) and instead focus on facilitating a greater "race" of people. And speaking of race, Galton did mention it, in a racist but weird way. His introduction to his amended edition of Genius notes that ideally, society would be best served if a new race sprung up that was superior over "the modern European", the way "the modern European" was to the "negro".

 Soon after, the United States became interested in eugenics, leading to over 64,000 forced sterilizations of the poor, disabled, and "feeble-minded", in the early 1900s especially in California (Link 33). This horror show even helped inspire Adolf Hitler in his mass genocide of non-Arians. This is the most common memory most people have of eugenics, which mostly died out due to moral problems after World War II (Link 25). Yet even after the Holocaust, forced sterilization continued to exist within the legal bounds of some American states.

Eugenics are beginning to make a comeback, as artificial insemination and surrogate mothers renew the cycle of trait selection. Some worry about the implications of this, and how it could create a gap between the rich and poor (Link 34). Your thoughts on the immorality of this unnatural process are your own, but so far, so good on leaving the racist aspect of eugenics behind.

1.  Parapsychology: The most theoretically appealing theory on this list! The Rhine Research Center, one of the most prominent modern parapsychology labs, "explores the frontiers of consciousness and exceptional human experiences in the context of unusual and unexplained phenomena" (Link 9). The Rhine Center, like other parapsychology institutes, attempts to explain everything science cannot. This sounds interesting and potentially insightful, until you remember that psychology, long ago, decided to study concepts that exist, not ones that consistently fail validity and reliability tests.

Parapsychology covers a litany of paranormal phenomena, but hones in most closely on telepathy (mind to mind communication); clairvoyance (knowledge of things hidden by space or time, like the order of a deck of cards, face down); precognition (ability to see the future - if you have this, contact me so we can hit the Powerball lottery soon); and psychokinesis (ability to interact with matter at a distance, like turns the dice at the craps table so seven and 11 hit every time). Seriously, it's tough to overstate how good a gambler you'd be with parapsychological powers.

Parapsychology peaked in popularity in the late 1800s, when many prominent educators and intellectuals whose names you've never heard joined the Society for Psychical Research in London (Link 10). The field lost this popularity quickly when a torrent of the Society's claims did not hold up to rigorous scientific examination (11 Stokes, 2015). For example, Charles Richet performed a clairvoyance experiment in 1884, sealing playing cards in envelopes and having a subject guess their identity. The subject was highly successful...until asked to replicate the feat in front of a group of scientists. His score fell to a chance level equivalent. Hey, maybe the scientists disrupted the psychical power in the room, and he wasn't cheating. Despite experiment after experiment like this, suggesting cheating in parapsychological experiments that are not repeatable, some people continue to believe in parapsychology.


Bonus: current pseudo-psychological theory - Conversion Therapy - A rousing (no pun intended) addition that would certainly have made this list outright 20 years from now, conversion therapy is the treatment of gay, lesbian, or otherwise not straight people. It is illegal in California, but practiced widely still across the United States, mostly by the many family therapists that belong to The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Although to paint a whole organization with one broad stroke would be unfair; the AAMFT official opposes conversion therapy, though some of its more cavalier members remain the primary practicioners (Link 30).

 The therapy presupposes that homosexuality is a mental disorder causing a lack of character or morality, a stance not supported by the DSM-5, the APA or any other health organization (Link 28). Furthermore, the preferred outcome of the therapy is for the patient to come out (so to speak) as heterosexual. The efforts to convert the patient are done either via therapies or by ministries, and the views opposing homosexuality are generally either cultural or religious in nature.

Conversion therapy is opposed by all major medical organizations. It is considered harmful to the individual, and harmful to society. It tells the confused client that their beliefs are a mental disorder, or against a higher cultural or religious power. The APA shows anecdotal evidence of growing self-hatred through these camps, as well as a lower threshold for noticing surrounding prejudice. So why is this just a bonus, and not on the list out-right? While the idea of moral fortitude (or lack thereof) causing a "disease" like homosexuality is surely pre-psychological, the misguided therapy itself uses some tenants of modern psychological treatment. In a bad way. So, even if your children are confused, don't send them to Gay Camp (Link 29).



1 (http://www.companionbiblecondensed.com/OT/Daniel.pdf)
2 http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk/butter.htm)
3 http://www.hermetics.org/pdf/Sigmund_Freud_-_The_Interpretation_of_Dreams.pdf
4 Psychoanalytic psychotherapy: A handbook (Matthias Elzer, 2014). (http://www.worldcat.org/title/psychoanalytic-psychotherapy-a-handbook/oclc/880937666)
5 Cognitive Patterns in Dreams and Daydreams (Aaron T. Beck, 2004) (http://lghttp.48653.nexcesscdn.net/80223CF/springer-static/media/samplechapters/9780826147455/9780826147455_chapter.pdf)
6 The Rise of Experimental Biology: An Illustrated History (Peter Lutz, 2002) (https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Rise_of_Experimental_Biology.html?id=KmKQMjlyhSwC)

7 http://www.mhweb.org/mpc_course/ellenberger.pdf
8 http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_inquiring_mesmer.html

9 http://www.rhine.org/who-we-are/about-us.html
10 http://www.worldcat.org/title/handbook-of-parapsychology/oclc/644575345
11 http://www.worldcat.org/title/parapsychology-a-handbook-for-the-21st-century/oclc/907811150  Parapsychology: A handbook for the 21st century. Douglas M Stokes, 2015. 

12 http://www.monoskop.org/images/9/93/Maines_Rachel_P_The_Technology_of_Orgasm_Hysteria_the_Vibrator_and_Womens_Sexual_Satisfaction.pdf
13 http://www.wired.com/2014/05/fantastically-wrong-wandering-womb/

(14 http://www.phrenology.org/intro.html)
(15 http://www.theness.com/index.php/phrenology-history-of-a-pseudoscience/)

16 http://www.britishgraphology.org/about-british-institute-of-graphologists/what-is-graphology/
17 Graphology and personality: An empirical study on validity of handwriting analysis. Dazzi & Pendrabissi, 2009.
18 http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/bigfive.htm
19 Tall tales about the mind and brain: separating fact from fiction. Barry Beyerstein, 2007, pages 233-270. http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198568773.001.0001/acprof-9780198568773

20 http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bible-Verses-About-Demonic-Possession/
21 http://bipolar.about.com/od/frequentlyaskedquestions/a/dsm-5.htm
22 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13674676.2012.706272


23 http://www.idph.com.br/conteudos/ebooks/republic.pdf
24 http://galton.org/books/hereditary-genius/text/pdf/galton-1869-genius-v3.pdf
25 https://people.creighton.edu/~idc24708/Genes/Eugenics/History%20of%20Eugenics.htm

26 https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/islamic_medical/islamic_06.html
27 http://www.learn-persian.com/english/Razi_Zakariya.php


28 http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/just-the-facts.aspx
29 https://exgaywatch.com/2012/11/bbc-gay-to-straight-documentary-exposes-ex-gay-therapy-as-parody-of-itself/
30 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jmft.12040/full

31 http://dying.about.com/od/thedyingprocess/a/interacting.htm
32 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224549909598363?journalCode=vsoc20

33 http://articles.latimes.com/2003/feb/16/opinion/oe-irons16
34 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/eugenics/

35 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DkD2lNezAc

36 http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/10-ways-catch-liar
37 http://www.cgu.edu/pdffiles/sbos/costanzo_effects_of_interrogation.pdf
38 http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2844&context=jclc
39 http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4375&context=jclc
40 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_D0mqlxmzU
41 http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=10420
42 http://list25.com/25-most-brutal-torture-techniques-ever-devised/
43 http://sputniknews.com/us/20141210/1015690115.html
44 http://lie-detection.com/

Monday, February 15, 2016

How Messi Killed La Liga

Leo Messi hates playing Las Palmas. He hates their treacherous field, where ankles roll in divets once occupied by grass. He hates playing Rayo, where the crowd boos and curses his every touch, none of which will ever be viewed by a global audience. He hates playing Levante, where an ugly, mistimed challenge might end his career. This is a man whose diminutive size and subsequent growing pains made him a target on the pitch and a favorite of the training room - injuries almost destroyed his youth career. He knows his time is limited, and he knows he must soak up money and exposure where he can. Yes, Leo Messi hates playing the small clubs of Spain. But soon, the fulfillment of his master plan means he'll never have to play them and their insignificant revenue streams again.
While many saw the recent vote for Catalonian independence as a political measure of pride, Messi saw a chessboard, his piece pushing the opponent into check, with mate on the horizon.

Messi enjoys a great deal of influence at Barcelona FC, more than any other figure in sports. The club brought the lad from Argentina, agreeing to pay his medical bills if he stayed on with their academy. He repaid them with years of loyalty, a litany of goals and more championships than Florentine Perez can count. For several years, it seemed Messi owed the club a debt for their dedication to him. But in recent years, he realized he had contributed his fair share, and began assuming more and more influence over the team. Zlatan Ibrahimovic first brought this to the public eye in his book, I Am Zlatan, in a passage about positioning. Zlatan played striker, but Messi wanted to spearhead the attack from the false nine. He texted then-manager Pep Guadiola that, if the club no longer needed Messi, he'd leave. They sold Zlatan, who refused to criticize the Argentine despite his passive-aggressive instruction to Pep. Messi had spoken, and even Zlatan was afraid to call him out.

Messi's shadow continued to envelope the club, who began following his lead on all personnel decisions. When he realized he needed top status in the locker room, he ordered the sale of Victor Valdes and the retirement of Carlos Puyol, threatening a move to Man City otherwise. Alex Song fared even worse - after suggesting Messi not tattoo his arm, the smaller man launched a strike directly at Song's testicles in practice, leaving him temporarily infertile and permanently benched. These three stood up to Messi; others, wisely, backed down. Andres Iniesta privately declared his allegiance by leaving notes and trinkets in his locker, promising to never speak against Messi. Dani Alves promised him the World Cup trophy should their teams meet in the final; thankfully, this never occurred. The entire squad agreed to Messi's plan. But Xavi Hernandez went further than the rest, completing a vampire-like blood oath of unity with Messi. Xavi would soon shake out to be the most important ally to Messi.

Around 2011, Messi grew increasingly frustrated by the quality of La Liga and the enormous taxes the Spanish government forced him to play. He couldn't stand the sight of his paychecks draining into the pockets of a country he wasn't from, all the while losing out constantly on wider audiences due to the poor television deals La Liga signed. He knew he needed to play more high profile games, more often. But how? He realized that year, after a commanding Champions League final over Manchester United in the UK, that if only Barcelona could play more international fixtures, more often, his brand would grow to a Michael Jordan-esque level. And so he secretly supported the concept of the Champions League usurping La Liga, and becoming a regular league, rather than a tournament. Many in his side agreed, particularly Xavi, who began seeking a proper, international sponsor for the club. Using his Arabic contacts, he hatched an illegal deal with the Qatari Foundation - sponsor Barcelona for an exorbitant fee, and I'll play in Qatar for a few years. The move brought in more money, power and influence, and Messi utilized it to imbue the squad with his ethos of Champions League football only. Players who disagreed, like Puyol and Valdes, were kicked to the curb, and Team Messi was born. However, he still faced the problem of removing Barcelona from their TV contracts and other obligations to La Liga.

Messi had many sleepless nights over this issue. He had many drafts - dissolve Barcelona as a club, then rebuild a new club inside the coddling arms of the Champions League. Bribe Sepp Blatter. Stage a hold out. But after a conversation with Gerard Pique, Messi discovered his solution - Catalonian independence. Barcelona would not play in the Spanish Premier League without being a member of Spain. And so he seized upon the critical political point for many Catalonians - taxation.

The Catalonian region accounts for 24% of Spain's economy, and in many ways buoys the struggling country as a whole, and Messi decided to make a stand by intentionally getting caught for tax evasion. If the star of the area doesn't pay King Filipe, why should he? This became his MO for recruitment. Barcelona would only add players who agreed to also publicly evade their taxes. This, more than jersey sales and goals, was the primary rational for bringing on Neymar. Messi also enjoys Neymar and Suarez's servile nature towards him, but their tax evasion made them more important allies off the field than on it. Mascherano was caught for the same issue, and all the Barcelona players are being investigated for it. Pep Guardiola, who was becoming bigger than Messi anyway, didn't want his team behaving in such a manner. His striker threw him out. Messi is not hurting his brand in this way. The evasion looks to be a mistake, or a victimless, white collar crime. He's not riling up the Spanish public with political statements, but instead setting a quiet example for teammates and Catalonians as a whole. He also poured hundreds of millions of Euros into the campaign for independence - through a shell corporation, of course. And he succeeded - Catalonia voted to become its own nation-state earlier this year.

The next step, of course, has yet to come. The Champions League is not yet a weekly entity. But it will be soon. While it is generally assumed that the raid of FIFA was timed randomly, try telling this to Xavi, and watch the laughter it elicits. He is winding his career down in Qatar, and knows the elections for a new FIFA president are looming. And who would be a better candidate than the nice guy of football, Xavi Hernandez? He is expected to put his name into the election in the coming weeks, with ads funded by none other than his old buddy, Lionel Messi. And once elected? His first order of business will be to create the European First Division, a league where the best of each country compete for football world domination. Every club will face relegation to another team in their home nation, except the one with no competition in their newly created country: Barcelona, or as they are soon to be renamed, M.Catalonia FC. What's the M, you ask? That's Messi's. Messi's Catalonia Football Club.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

NBA 2K15 Teams by Birth Year




1994/5 - Had to combine the youngest teams
C - Nerlens Noel
PF - Jabari Parker
SF - Giannis Antetokounmpo
SG - Andrew Wiggins
PG - Elfrid Payton
6th - Marcus Smart
7th - Julius Randle
8th - Aaron Gordon
9th - Zach LeVine
10th - Jusuf Nurkic
Mascot: Bruno Caboclo
Alternates: None

Good God what a mess. This team is small, thin, and can't shoot. They can absolutely fly, but Noel would have to average 18 boards and 6 blocks for this team to succeed. They lack depth on the wing, and going to Wiggins in prime time won't cut it in this tournament. I have the feeling that, down the line in 2019, the sight of these names together would jolt you into a heart attack, but at the moment, I'm sleeping on them. Luckily, they'll have Nurkic to talk crazy amounts of shit to everyone.


1993
C - Andre Drummond
PF - Anthony Davis
SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
SG - Bradley Beal
PG - Tony Wroten
6th - Anthony Bennett
7th - Steven Adams
8th - Ben McLemore
9th - Dennis Schroder
10th - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Mascot: Stauskas? Stauskas!
Alternates: Alex Len, KJ McDaniel

Drummond, David, and MKG in the front line. Good luck scoring on them!
Wait...that problem also sort of applies to their offense. There's no spacing and little shot creation. The've got the Brow to clean things up and drop 28, but starting Tony Wroten at point guard (Sixers numbers be damned) hurts, compared to the opposition. Bradley Beal would have to be a wrecking ball for any success deep in a theoretical tournament, and the combo of McLemore and Caldwell-Pope need to be lights out. I'd be afraid to play this team. but I'd also be afraid to play as this team. I'm not totally sold.

1992
C - Jonas Valenciunas
PF - Tobias Harris
SF - Harrison Barnes
SG - Victor Oladipo
PG - Kyrie Irving
6th - Jared Sullinger
7th - Shabazz Muhammad (maybe)
8th - Trey Burke
9th - Tim Hardaway, Jr.
10th - Rudy Gobert
Mascot: Dougie McBuckets
Alternates: Enes Kanter, Terrance Jones, Austin Rivers (just kidding)

Here's a team with the opposite issue as the 1993 squad. You've got plenty of shooting and offensive prowess, especially if Shabazz was actually born in this year, but Oladipo's your only real defensive leader. Barnes is pretty solid, too, but really you'd want to combine this year's guards with 1993's bigs. That's why I had to keep Gobert on over Kanter, even though Kanter starts in real life over Gobert. We need the size! It's still a very fresh team, and the lack of experience will work against them. Plus, we've seen that a tam led by Kyrie can only go so far. I'd see a quick defeat for these.

1991
C - Derrick Favors
PF - Tristan Thompson
SF - Kawhi Leonard
SG - Dion Waiters
PG - Michael Carter-Williams
6th - Brandon Knight
7th - Nikola Mirotic
8th - Terrance Ross
9th - Kelly Olynyk
10th - Alec Burks
Mascot: Royce White
Alternates: Kendall Marshall, Khris Middleton, Langston Galloway.

Small. Can't shoot. Won't defend too well. Outrageous turnovers. And speaking of Cavalier problems, how well can a team with Dion Waiters as the best shooting guard really play? It's a short team without a great shot creator; Brandon Knight off the bench is the best shot at scoring. Leonard is the obvious captain, but he's going to find himself short of help. Mirotic might end up starting at the four, depending on how Thompson plays. Throw this team in the trash.

1990
C - DeMarcus Cousins
PF - Draymond Green
SF - Paul George
SG - Klay Thompson
PG - Damien Lillard
6th- John Wall
7th - Gordon Hayward
8th - Greg Monroe
9th - Nikola Vucevic
10th - Jrue Holiday
Mascot: Quincy Acy
Alternates: Kemba Walker, Donatas Motiejunas, Avery Bradley

Look at the 1991 team again, and look back to this team. What a difference a year makes! You could go so many different directions here; you've got size (Cousins, Monroe, Vucevic), you could go small with Hayward and George at the forward spots, the shooting off the bench is nutty, the defense is stout, there's really no going wrong here. Cousins, especially, makes a difference. Only the 1985 team could possibly hope to deal with his enormousness, as his post-up potential will destroy everyone else. Imagine Saint Boogie anointing the block with all those shooters spread around him. Or Vucevic doing the same, with the reserves. There won't be a single second off for post defenders. This team's the youngest of the real contenders, and with that level of balance, they're a serious problem.


1989
C - Serge Ibaka
PF - Blake Griffin
SF - Jimmy Butler
SG - James Harden
PG - Eric Bledsoe
6th - DeMar DeRozan
7th - Isaiah Thomas
8th - Kenneth Faried
9th - Tyreke Evans
10th - Markieff Morris
Mascot: Kent Bazemore
Alternates: Brandon Jennings, Hassan Whiteside

This is a good, but not great side. Only a few all-stars. They're too weak at center and point guard, arguably the most important positions, to really contend. That Harden/Butler/Griffin combo looks awfully nice, though. Harden would be your go-to guy, but other than him, I don't see the shot creation. Actually, as I keep looking at this, with Evans and Thomas in the mix, this is definitely the most selfish bench crew in the tournament. If only we could move Dion Waiters birthday back to 89...
Also, they're broke and short compared to many of the other great teams. The defense will be superb in the starting five, but will drop off on the bench. There's just too much skill overlap for this to be a leading group.

1988
C - DeAndre Jordan
PF - Kevin Love
SF - Kevin Durant
SG - Russell Westbrook
PG - Stephen Curry
6th - Derrick Rose
7th - Chandler Parsons
8th - Nicolas Batum
9th - Ryan Anderson
10th - Brook Lopez
Mascot: Greg Oden
Alternates: Jeff Teague, Thad Young, Robin Lopez

Holy smokes! Curry, Westbrook, AND Rose?!?! Their point guard situation is arguably the deepest of any year, at any position, with Jeff Teague having to be left off just to allow for better balance on the roster. And I haven't even gotten to Kevin Durant. Kevin fucking Durant is on the same team as Chef Curry! Without a doubt, this is the best shooting team, with lots of depth in every position. Kevin Love might be a cause for concern, the way he's failed to mesh in Cleveland, but you can always swing Ryan Anderson in for a lesser version. He's basically the Kevin Like to Kevin Love. The shot creation is incredible, absolutely best in the tournament. The weakness might be in the shooting guard slot, where Eric Gordon was somehow the best at the position for this year. He, obviously, did not make the team, so Westbrook, Rose and Parsons will have to cover. I'm also assuming Batum will revert to his old abilities; if not, Teague takes his spot. One of the best teams.

1987
C - Amir Johnson
PF - Ersan Ilyasova
SF - Wilson Chandler
SG - Ty Lawson
PG - Mike Conley
6th - Danny Green
7th - OJ Mayo
8th - Josh McRoberts
9th - Trevor Booker
10th - Greivis Vasquez
Mascot: Andrew Bynum
Alternates: My left nut, my right nut

LOL. OJ Mayo leads this crew in ppg for a career at...14.5.
What a terrible team. I guess every year can't be great. Small without a go-to scorer, this team would have to employ a Phoenix style dual-point guard lineup to have any success. I feel awful for Mike Conley here, only gimmicky coaching could get them through a round.

1986
C - Roy Hibbert
PF - Al Horford
SF - Rudy Gay
SG - Goran Dragic
PG - Rajon Rondo
6th - Kyle Lowry
7th - Jeff Green
8th - Omer Asik
9th - Wesley Matthews
10th - Nikola Pekovic
Mascot: Big Baby Davis
Alternates: Gerald Green, THE JAVALAVATOR

A nice, balanced, second-tier team. The point guard trio of Rondo, Dragic and Lowry is nice, as is having Hibbert and Horford up front. As wet as Wes Matthews is, there's not nearly enough shooting here. Also, Dragic can't compare with Durant, Harden, LeBron or Lilliard as a late game scorer, exceptional as he is. The defense should be sturdy, especially with Hibbert manning the middle and Asik off the bench. If they can slow the tempo, they could rumble with some of the better teams. Bring on Frank Vogel as a coach!

1985
C - Marc Gasol
PF - LaMarcus Aldridge
SF - Luol Deng
SG - Aaron Afflalo
PG - Chris Paul
6th - Dwight Howard
7th - Joakim Noah
8th - Monta Ellis
9th - Al Jefferson
10th - Paul Millsap
Mascot: Darko Milicic
Alternates: Trevor Ariza, Taj Gibson, Swaggy P

THEY'RE SO FUCKING BIG!!! Imagine a lineup with LaMarcus at the 3, Marc Gasol at 4 and Dwight at the 5. Wait, their center hogging might haunt them late in a game when CP3 and Afflalo fatigue. Besides, that might be their best line up not because it's great to be huge in the NBA, but because their wings kind of suck. Ellis is small and non-traditional; he has to come off the bench due to his versatility. He can cover both Paul and Afflalo when needed, and he will certainly be needed. They might have to bring Swaggy P along to run the point a bit, in case of injury. They'll be insane defensively, but I'm not a believer in Chris Paul at the end of games. We'll see how well Ellis can maintain that bench role.

1984
C - Chris Bosh
PF - Carmelo Anthony
SF - LeBron James
SG - JJ Redick
PG - Deron Williams
6th - Andre Iguodala
7th - Andrew Bogut
8th - Gary Neal
9th - Marcin Gortat
10th - Nate Robinson
Mascot: Adam Morrison
Alternates: Zaza, Chris Copeland, Ray Felton?

The oldest contender. Lots of big names here, but the guards are weak. RIP to Brandon Roy's knees, which could have thrust this into a sure championship. Here's a reimagining of this starting line up in a way that could win:
C - Bogut
PF - Bosh
SF - Anthony
SG - Iguodala
PG - James
Now there's a team that can seriously score AND lock down! There's a ton of firepower, there's LeBron, there's the incredibly underrated Bogut, but the team falls off at Nate Rob. This is a top team, but we'll see.


1983
C -  Channing Frye
PF - David Lee
SF - Steve Novak
SG - Kevin Martin
PG - Jarrett Jack
6th - Devin Harris
7th - Danny Granger
8th - Jason Maxiell
9th - Will Bynum
10th - Chuck Hayes
Mascot: Delonte West
Alternates: Randy Foye, Ben Gordon, Carl Landry

YIKES. Aside from the general splashiness of this squad (Steve Novak, starting small forward!), there's almost nothing redeemable in this crew. Go-to option David Lee? Crunch time scorer Jarrett Jack? Defensive specialist Devin Harris? They're screwed. Unless Delonte brings LeBron's mom out to a game with him, then they might beat the 84 team.

1982
C - Tyson Chandler
PF - Nene
SF - Tony Allen
SG - Dwyane Wade
PG - Tony Parker
6th - Anderson Varejao
7th - Mo Williams
8th - Boris Diaw
9th - Chris Kaman
10th - Leandro Barbosa
Mascots: Gilbert Arenas/Kwame Brown/Eddy Curry
Alternates: Jameer Nelson, Pero Antic, Amare Stoudemire

One of the few competent older teams, D-Wade and Tony Parker can still really ball. And they'll have to, as this bag of old bones won't be getting buckets from many places. This team is easily the most likely to get carted off, injured, broken, or pass out on the court. Tony Allen might have to kill some kids for them to stay alive for long.

1981
C - Sam Dalembert
PF - Zach Randolph
SF - Joe Johnson
SG - Kyle Korver
PG - Jose Calderon
6th - Andrei Kirilenko
7th - Carlos Boozer
8th - Kirk Hinrich
9th - Luke Ridnour
10th - Drew Gooden
Mascot: Darius Miles/Smush Parker
Alternates: DeShawn Stevenson, Willie Green

A well-balanced team, aside from the Sammy D/Drew Gooden rotation at center. They're surrounded Z-Bo with shooters galore; he'll function excellently with that perimeter group. Unlike the majority of the teams in this exercise, they actually have interior-exterior balance, along with defined options. They'll also survive defensively, and that bench isn't half bad. Factoring in Joe Johnson's end of game escapades, you've got a team that might be shorter on talent than others, but is stronger on balance and matching parts.

1980
C - Pau Gasol
PF - David West
SF - Matt Barnes
SG - Jamal Crawford
PG - Steve Blake
6th - Mike Dunleavy
7th - Nick Collison
8th - Luis Scola
9th - Mike Miller
10th - Caron Butler
Mascot: Vladimir Radmanovic
Alternates: Al Harrington, Udonis Haslem, Reggie Evans

Among the worst teams, but at least they have actual NBA starters in 4/5 starting slots (EDIT: 2/5). Undoubtedly the palest group of all, they're relying heavily on Jamal Crawford as not only their leading man offensively, but also as their back-up point guard. In fact, he and Steve Blake are really the only guards on the team, with the 6'9 Mike Dunleavy slotting into the two when Jamal runs the one. In fact, Jamal's going to play 48 minutes per game.
On the flip side, they're big on the wings, and could present some difficult matchups by running Mike Miller or Dunleavy at the four. Actually, what am I saying, that'll never work. At least they have Pau and David West!

1970somethin
C - Tim Duncan
PF - Dirk Nowitzki
SF - Paul Pierce
SG - Kobe Bryant
PG - Steve Nash
6th - Manu Ginobili
7th - Kevin Garnett
8th - Vince Carter
9th - Shawn Marion
10th - Andre Miller
Mascot: Tracy McGrady
Alternate: Ray Allen, Rasual Butler

The 1970s years were too sparse to give individual teams to, so I've mashed all these old dogs together like a bad DJ at a cougar wedding. Far and away the squad with the biggest names, and likely the most Hall of Famers, this team will have a LOT of trouble stopping anyone. Duncan's the lone remaining great defender here, so they'll have to outscore and outshoot the competition. There's plenty of shot creation, but you'd have to assume the majority of them will be injured by the end of any tournament they enter. They'll survive on the glass, and have depth at every position, but they'll get killed by quick guards.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Podcast: World Cup Group A Preview

A preview of Group A in the World Cup, as well as injury news, thoughts on Landon Donovan being dropped, and Connor's least favorite teams.

Tags: Mexico, Brazil, Brasil, World Cup 2014, Group A, Preview, Croatia, Cameroon, Samuel Eto'o, Luka Modric, Madzukic, Neymar, Hulk, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Cesar, Chicarito, Giovanni Dos Santos, Hernandez, Greece, Spain, Russia

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Album Review: Young Money



History does not, cannot, exist in a vacuum. It must have context, baggage, precedence. Sometimes, something new appears without prejudice attached, allowing us to evaluate sans expectations. Even hardcore hip hop heads heard Kid Cudi first on A Kid Named Cudi or the Day N' Night single. Without any idea of who or what he should be, we could appreciate the music for what it was. Satellite Flight, on the other hand, cannot evade the many previous Cudi offerings we've come to be familiar, and our own feelings about his previous works inevitably shape how we perceive the new album. And this, amongst other reasons, leads to the failure of Rise of an Empire, the new Young Money album released on March 11th.