Uptown Mosaic Magazine

Brazilian Travelogue – Day 2: Where Are You From

So far this has been a great trip.  Today we got out to explore São Paulo bit more.  Yesterday being Sunday meant the city was fairly quiet.  Today it was electric.  People were everywhere in the streets going about their daily lives. Whatever their daily lives entail there’s a lot of activity in São Paulo. Motorcycles zip down the streets and crowds of Brazilians move from street corner to street corner.

While we’re only going to one game there’s still lots of futebol to take in while we’re here.  Today’s mission was to go to FIFA Fan Fest. If you’re not familiar with what Fan Fest is the best way to describe it as an open air watch party.  An area is outfitted with a giant TV and people stand around watching the games. Every inch of Fan Fest is sponsored because FIFA is all about making money. After every game a band or DJ comes out to keep the party going. Fan Fest is a great way to enjoy games while mix and mingling with people from all over the world. Whoever thought of Fan Fest is brilliant.

Of course to get to the Fan Fest event we had to navigate the Brazilian Metro system. So we took our weak Portuguese out into the streets of São Paulo for another adventure.  Once our hotel concierge steered us in the wrong direction (the language barrier is a beast) we found our way to the Metro by using the 10 words we’ve learned so far.

If you’ve been following the buildup to this World Cup you know it’s been a problematic process.  Stadium building delays dominated the news but subway driver strikes, suspect infrastructure and a myriad of other problems lingered in the background. However, the Metro system was a pleasant surprise. It was clean, easy to use and fast. It helped that they system was very somewhat similar to DC’s Metro system. Train etiquette is similar to DC too except because Brazilians are in a hurry people don’t wait for you to get off the train before they get on. What you get is a rush of people moving in opposite directions. It took me a couple stops to adjust.

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The Metro system put Brazil’s amazing diversity on display. This a a country of all kinds. Not only is São Paulo diverse but it is very cosmopolitan. Since I know The Wife isn’t reading this (she was the first casualty of my frequent blog breaks) I can share this observation with you all. The women here are beautiful. Beautiful. Very beautiful.

We made it to and from Fan Fest without getting lost or irking any Brazilians. While at Fan Fest the most popular question was, “so where are you from?” In the space of a few hours we struck conversations with an American working on her thesis and this trip was part of her study abroad experience, and several English speaking Brazilians. We talked futebol, politics, culture and whole lot more. It was cool to meet with so many different people from all over the world in such a short space of time.

Until tomorrow folks!

Brazilian Travelogue – Day One

Welcome back to Uptown Mosaic’s An Uncommon Mind, dear reader and blog enthusiast! It’s been a long time since we spoke (a really long time). I’ve been here and there and everywhere but not here. Life has been mostly good. I’m excited to back in the blog saddle. Hopefully you’re excited to read it.
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The NFL is Fading…

September 5, 2013 by Omar Scott in An Uncommon Mind, Sports

This is it.  Today is the day.  Football season starts.  Everybody’s excited and full of joy.  Between you and me (and when I say that I really you and me since I’m down to one regular reader now), I’m not as excited about football season’s return as I have been in the past.  I used to bubble with excitement for days prior to the season kickoff.  This season, however, is different.  Learning about the long term damage playing football causes has caused me to reassess things.  I’m finding it increasingly difficult to cheer for people to do that kind of damage to themselves and others.

I haven’t always understood the legacy of physical damage football causes.  Really the first time it occurred to me was during the OJ Simpson trial when they documented the physical difficulties he was having as part of his defense.  Even then it didn’t sink in.  I figured, “hey, this guy is getting charged with a double murder so he’ll make any argument, reasonable or unreasonable, to get off.”  Still the fact that he could barely bend his fingers at age 47 was eye opening.

In the last couple years the parade of retired football players displaying erratic behavior and committing suicide has really awoken my mind to how brutal a sport football can be.  Think about it:  Junior Seau, Andre Waters, and Dave Duerson are just a few of the players who committed suicide and whose brains showed significant trauma.  The stories of players like Mike Webster and Ted Johnson are horror stories.  If I had a son (thank god I don’t.  Go Team Estrogen!) I would not allow him to play football.  I’m not alone in that decision even some football players don’t want their kids following in their football footsteps.

What really called me to question my enthusiasm was watching the Hall of Fame Game.  Every year the NFL trots out two teams to kick off the farce known as preseason to coincide with the induction of the new class of Hall of Famers.  Since the World’s Greatest Football Team, The Dallas Cowboys was playing and a former Cowboy was inducted into the Hall I decided to watch for a bit.  It was stunning watching the new Hall of Famers shuffle out to the center of the field to soak up accolades from the crowd.  Some of them were hardly older than me and they could barely move.

Sure these guys sign up to play football and have some understanding of the types of injuries they could suffer.  Sure they get paid ungodly sums.  However, football careers don’t last long.  So many players, even the superstars, can’t afford type of long term medical care there’ll need.  The culture of sports in general and football in particular encourages players to play through injuries that have long term implications.  In the short run there’s little that can be done about that.  In long run?  Who knows?  I’ve come to the conclusion that little can be done to make football safer.  On every play there’s a fairly decent chance some player will pick up a serious injury.  Even as the league has tried to improve its response to injuries they’ve still increased.

The NFL being the great hype machine that it is has done a great job of minimizing the injury factor while highlighting the big brain shaking hits that fans love.  I watched a report on ESPN’s Outside the Lines detailing the NFL’s efforts to downplay the effect of concussions on players.  It led me to believe the NFL views players as disposable entities.  As long as the machine keeps rolling everything is okay.  I even find the league’s recent settlement with retired players bothersome.  Sure they get what appears to be a healthy sum of money.   Some money is better than no money.  The fact that NFL admits no liability is troublesome.  In my opinion, the settlement amounts to sweeping a massive problem under the rug.

Will I still watch?  Probably.  I won’t watch as intently as I have in the past.  I can’t hang on all things football.  It’s too hard to enjoy.

Annual Super Bowl Pick

This section is for the hardcore betting fan that’s not sure who to put his money on this season.  Please note this pick is completely unbiased.  I made it based on all the football evidence from this offseason.

There’s a lot of teams that might take the whole thing.  But there’s one team with the players and coaching to actually do it.  If you’re betting put your money on a team from Texas.  Dallas, Texas that is.  The Cowboys will take the whole thing.

Profiles in Fear

July 18, 2013 by Omar Scott in An Uncommon Mind, Society

I have a pair of two year old nephews and I had the opportunity to see one of them this past weekend. Whenever I see them I can see the joy and wonder of life in their eyes. And since I’m on Team Estrogen it’s always nice to be around rambunctious boys once in a while. This weekend, however, was different. My nephew was his usual energetic self but in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial I was more worried about my nephews than ever. I don’t know what path my nephews will take in life but it frightens me to think they could be simply walking down the street and murdered because somebody felt “threatened.”

As a teen I was stopped several times for simply being a black teen driving in some of the DC area’s more tony neighborhoods. As cynical as I can be about society, I also held out the hope that twenty something years later authority figures (whether real or self-proclaimed) would not still treat young black men as the enemy. The frustrating fact of the Zimmerman trial is black youth are still targets.

Treating a young black male as the enemy is precisely what George Zimmerman was able to do. George claims he felt threatened and we now know Travyon Martin was armed and dangerous due to his proximity to the sidewalk. (Zimmerman’s lawyers suggested the sidewalk, in Trayvon’s hands, was a deadly weapon then Zimmerman’s brother repeated this asinine claim in a post-trial interview. Only in America is a sidewalk in the proximity of a young black male considered a more deadly weapon than a gun.)

Based on his non-emergency call, Zimmerman immediately projected Trayvon as a neighborhood menace. Zimmerman’s history of calls to the police to report young black man in his neighborhood and his statement, “these assholes always, they get away…” pretty much tells you his mind state that night. The question that reverberated in my head as my nephew bounced through my brother’s house was; how do we change that mind state? Is it even possible?

Some folks will argue, as Zimmerman’s brother and his attorneys (What was with those guys anyway? Their post-trial victory celebration interview was disturbing. They kept referring to the tragedy of Zimmerman being charged with a crime in this situation. They only begrudgingly mentioned Trayvon and attempted to subtly destroy his character. Would it have killed them to extend sympathy to Martin’s family?) alluded to in their post-trial interviews, that crime is a major problem in the black community especially among young black men. Yes, crime in black communities is a horrible problem but that in no way justifies treating each and every young black male as suspect. Black men should not be considered criminals for the offense of simply existing.

The sad fact is a 17 year old boy lost his life. A mother and father had to bury their son. George Zimmerman is free to lead his life. I’m not sure of the path and I wish had the answers for what actions to take.  However, if we don’t do something now this set of facts will replay themselves. If we don’t confront the mind state behind racial profiling we all lose. Little black boys are confined to a permanent legal underclass and society surrenders to its most irrational fears.

The Referee

As you may remember before my blogcation I occasionally talked about my two daughters.  No they haven’t grown up.  I wasn’t away that long.  They are, however, at an ever maddening age that requires me to develop a new parenting skill.  I now play to role of the referee for their escalating and ongoing battles.
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