The Weekender: January 15, 2016

1) “Bennet Omalu, Concussions, and the NFL: How One Doctor Changed Football Forever” (GQ, 37 minutes, September 2009). If you’re interested in the topic, the Will Smith movie “Concussion” is based on this article and is very good; also, there’s the book League of Denial and the Frontline documentary of the same name. I’ve seen the documentary (but haven’t read the book) and recommend it as well.

Brown and red splotches. All over the place. Large accumulations of tau proteins. Tau was kind of like sludge, clogging up the works, killing cells in regions responsible for mood, emotions, and executive functioning.

This was why [NFL Hall of Fame player] Mike Webster was crazy.

Omalu showed the slides to Wecht and to scientists at the University of Pittsburgh. Everyone agreed: This was a disease, or a form of it, that no one had ever seen before. Omalu wondered what to call it. He wanted a good acronym. Eventually, he came up with CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy. He wrote a paper detailing his findings. He titled it “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a National Football League Player” and put it in an envelope and sent it to the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Neurosurgery. He thought NFL doctors would be pleased when they read it. He really did. He thought they would welcome a finding as important as this: scientific evidence that the kind of repeated blows to the head sustained in football could cause severe, debilitating brain damage. He thought they could use his research to try and fix the problem.

“I was naive,” he says now. “There are times I wish I never looked at Mike Webster’s brain. It has dragged me into worldly affairs I do not want to be associated with. Human meanness, wickedness, and selfishness. People trying to cover up, to control how information is released. I started this not knowing I was walking into a minefield. That is my only regret.”

2) Check out my friend’s email newsletter:  Rusty’s Electric Dreams is a free, weekly inbox zine covering the offbeat and weird (and subversive) by pop culture activist Rusty Blazenhoff. Even Pee-wee Herman loves it!

3) “On Kindness” (Medium, 21 minutes, November 2014). I’ll warn you: this isn’t an easy thing to read. It’s very well written but it’s also a very emotional, real mini-memoir, and comes with everything that packs. But ultimately, it’s beautiful.

Some people who have been baptized in familial and social rejection come to accept that rejection as a guiding principle for how to live life. It’s not how things should be, they may say, but it’s how things are—and anyone who doesn’t respond in kind is food for the sharks. These people swallow their pain and hold it in their guts, where it transforms into venom to be used to rebuff a world that’s done the same to them. I’ve met lots of people like this, and probably so have you: Adults who get mean around jock types who remind them of their high-school antagonists. Adults who are mean to everyone, because everyone was mean to them during those most fundamental years of their lives. It’s often difficult to be around these kinds of men and women, but ultimately it’s even more difficult to blame them.

Other people go in the opposite direction. It’s no easier to suss out why hurt affects us all differently than it is to understand why everyone likes different jokes or colors. We all have wounds, but different constitutions and conditions ensure that not all wounds heal the same. Indeed, some wounds never heal at all, weeping and aching until their victim succumbs, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly. In my mother’s case, rather than the pain of her youth hobbling her such that more pain was all she had left to offer, she decided early in her life that her sorrows were evidence of too much heartache in the world as it was.

4) “Here’s what It’s Like When Your Father is Released from Prison” (Fusion, 11 minutes, January 2016). One of the unspoken-of ills in society is the plight of the child of incarcerated parents. Not only are they left at least one parent short, but the crimes of their parents often creates a stigma around the kids — and further fractures the parent-child relationship. This is a really interesting look at the reunions of children (some grown) and their fathers when the latter is released.

5) “What It’s Like to Run an Arcade in 2015” (Polygon, 13 minutes, September 2015). On a recent vacation, we ended up playing a lot of pinball; I found this article when looking to see how feasible it would be to set up a pinball gallery. The answer? It isn’t.

Rent varies across the three locations: $1200 to $2800 for the 3200 to 5000 square foot arcades. Game machine prices run the gamut, depending on auctions and prices on sites like eBay. Upkeep for the pinball machines alone comes in at over $200 a month, and Game Galaxy has over 100 pinball machines between its three locations.

It’s a costly business, and it’s no secret that many arcades have been looking for other ways to supplement that income, including combining arcades and bars together. “[Most people] have illusions that beer and arcades are a perfect gimmick,” Wilson says. “If you don’t love video games or know anything about repairing them or how to maintain them, you will lose your hat faster than the few minutes it takes to sign the lease on your new spot.”

6) “Bacon Goes Kosher” (Tablet Magazine, 18 minutes, December 2015). A story about aew fad among observant Jews — non-pork “bacon.” It may not taste like actual bacon, but that may not matter. As the article notes, “the real kosher consumer is not sophisticated enough to know the difference anyway because we’ve never tasted the real thing.”

Have a great weekend!