American culture

Winners and Losers: Competition in the American Psyche

Somebody’s Gonna Win, Somebody’s Gonna Lose

Winners and  losers. That’s the name of the game.

“American Idol”  certainly tells us that. American coffee-shop customers watching the  bunched up “Tour de France” cyclists on the winding, stretches of a two-lane highway in the Pyrenees tell us that. The swift-footed American FIFA soccer team tells us that. The sweaty and bulky tv wrestlers certainly tell us that.

And the electoral college, what does it have to reveal? Well, no Spoiler Alert there:  Somebody’s gonna win. Somebody’s gonna lose. Or as one tv contestant said, “Second’s not fun. First is what it’s all about.”

So, what is it about this pursuit of winning? This mania to be at the top of one’s game? This drive for a promotion or a bonus. This need to pass the car in front of us on the Interstate 5? This compulsion to get another right answer? Continue reading


Teaching History and Culture through Film

When I retired from college teaching many years ago, I had become radicalized by my experiences with teaching International film and culture and African-American Literature.

Both courses led me to my belief that “story” is an essential ingredient in teaching students how to understand another culture. Once a student can identify with a person in a story, once they can follow a fictional narrative of a person’s life and conflicts, they are more apt to “identify”with that person, to humanize them. Continue reading


Instant Cures and Quick Solutions, the American Way

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Americans love instant solutions. Chris Prentiss, in a television ad promoting his book, The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure, does not claim outright that a cure for alcoholism can be acquired immediately. But there is no doubt that he views recovery as much less than a life-time endeavor. And there is little doubt that he views recovery within some kind of time-frame in which all the recovery/cure process will take place.

For all intents and purposes, once the cure process begins and the client surrenders to Prentiss’s approach, there will come a time when the addiction will be in complete remission (make no mistake about Prentiss’s model here; his time-frame for a cure is quite finite).

Prentiss’s how-to-reach-the-finish line approach is very similar to the world of television ads about instantaneous cures from headaches to menstrual cramps. The entire subtext of these pharmaceutical ads is all about the finishing line, the immediate conquest. Continue reading