A Few Answers To Questions You Always Wondered About

July 17, 2019 | No Comments » | Topics: Answers

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Why does Korea have such a high suicide rate?

I’m teaching in Korea at the moment, which recently surpassed Japan in suicide rates. Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world, among the top 31 wealthiest nations now, and suicide is the number one cause of death for people under the age of 40 in the country. last time I checked, anyway (about 2 months ago). Japan and Korea certainly share some similarities.

The week or so after I arrived, a 10 year old girl at a school near my town got a decent grade on a report card. It wasn’t the best grade, it wasn’t the worst. Her mom was pissed and, as a punishment, took her to the barber shop to get her hair cut way shorter than usual. A few days later the girl jumped from the 17th story of her apartment building. She left a bunch of notes written to her friends in crayon that said “Life is too difficult.”

Even in Asian countries that aren’t communist, the cultures are still collectivist. You’re not really you. You are a cog in your society. You’re expected to do your part, keep your head down, bust your ass, and not think too much about why.

Kids here, even the tiny elementary school kids, have longer days than I do.

The pressure is enormous to be AT LEAST as good as everyone else in the system. If your kid got a B on his test and the neighbor’s kid got an A, you’re gonna bust his ass until he gets that grade up. Anything less than everyone else is disgraceful.

You ever watch shows about the 1950s in America? Where the housewife’s always peeking out the window and saying “Our neighbors just got a new grill. We need a new grill,” or whatever? It’s EXACTLY like that.

Not only that, but kids who are different don’t get the help they do in the Western world. If you’re ADHD or dyslexic or autistic or colorblind or have a speech impediment or, fuck, artsy, there is NOTHING for you. NOTHING.

They’re also super repressed. I know a 25 year old school teacher who lives with her parents, has a curfew, and isn’t allowed to go on dates with boys until she brings them home to meet the folks. This isn’t unheard of.

They don’t really have hotels here, but they have love motels. These motels were built literally so people can fuck. The walls are super thin in most homes, so if you want to have sex and not have anyone else in your family know, you have to go to a love motel. This makes for some really frustrated teenagers, some really awkward romances, and some really sexless marriages.

Prostitution here is out of CONTROL. Brothels, brothels everywhere. And a ridiculous number of men cheat on their spouses because women aren’t really allowed to like sex. They don’t even show kissing on TV here, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a girl was considered a slut if she liked kissing boys in high school… much less giving head or ridin’ that dick any time in life after that. So guys go to get blowjobs and things from the cathouse down the street so they can stay sane. And the women just get really naggy.

There’s more to it than that of course, but I’m tired of writing. Point is, you take all that pressure and mix in a subtle difference and suddenly kids are throwing themselves out of windows.



What Makes LeBron James So Good?

If you were going to design the world’s best basketball player, you might do something like this:

Make him big enough so that he can play either wing spot and even climb into power forward should the need arise. Magic Johnson was 6-feet-9 and famously played center for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 finals. Ben Wallace was only 6-feet-9, and he was the most dominant defensive center in the game for a few years. Larry Bird was 6-feet-9 and he was the most dynamic forward in history. You don’t want to go much shorter than that because you start to give up size, and if you want to play inside out, size is critical. Not just height, but having the kind of frame that will support the weight needed to bang inside. Guys like Ron Artest and Shawn Marion are good modern-day equivalents. LeBron James is like Magic Johnson, only with 20 pounds more muscle, better conditioning and diet (in Magic’s defense he came up in an era where it was still OK to go out drinking and do a nontrivial amount of drugs the night before a game), and a football wide receiver’s hands.

This perfect player will need to be a student of the game and understand it from a coach’s perspective. He’ll need to know how to assess other players and motivate them, how to game plan and how to build a plan for skills improvement. When LeBron James was 9 years old, he was sent to live with a youth football coach. This coach taught him the game of basketball, and with no father in his life, LeBron became a student of the game from the various local coaches he had until he graduated high school. LeBron didn’t come into the league as a starry-eyed kid thinking about earning a few bucks, but a student of basketball for 10 years.

You’d want him to be able to score at will but also understand how to feed his teammates. It turns out that in basketball, five people take the court at the same time, and effort and energy seem to be among the primary indicators of success. One way to motivate a team and get the best effort out of it is to feed its members precise passes in places where they’re likely to score. Get them a few buckets early and they’ll kill themselves for you all game. When LeBron was in high school, he played for a team coached by Dru Joyce II. LeBron’s teammate was Dru Joyce III, who got most of the good touches. LeBron’s first taste at organized ball was keeping the coach’s son happy so he could get more playing time and more coaching attention. LeBron’s basketball genesis wasn’t about how to score; it was about how to win with four overmatched teammates against the toughest teams in the country. LeBron’s job was to equalize as distributor, and then eventually as lead scorer and left right up down left left right right God Mode.

At some point, you need to introduce pain. And not just the pain associated with being born of a single teenage parent who had to give him up when he was 9 to family and friends who could afford to take care of him. No, I’m talking about the kind of pain and humiliation that happens to an adult, the kind that makes you question reality. Not the kind that can be forgotten, but the kind that introduces a fight-or-flight mechanism that makes you rethink your whole life and that maybe everybody who ever believed in you was just making a horrible mistake. The kind of pain that Jordan felt when the Pistons shut him down over and over again and Isaiah shut him out at the all-star game. The kind of pain that makes you hate. LeBron hates the Celtics. And Tyson Chandler. And Derrick Rose. And probably Michael Jordan, at least a little bit. LeBron was reading everything anybody said about him in the media, and a handful of guys were saying stuff on the court. And then they’d beat him. This of course culminated in the most un-self-aware series of PR events in recent memory, something that resulted in him and his team getting boo’d in every arena they played in for a solid year.

No hero narrative is complete without a fall into the depths of despair. James’ fall resulted in him spending two weeks at his house in drawn-shades, beard-growing, isolation. Brian Windorst of ESPN writes:

After James left the arena that night, he said he immediately went into a two-week depression, walling himself off from everyone. He didn’t play basketball, he didn’t talk basketball to pretty much anyone. He didn’t even shave. Looking in the mirror after days of not shaving and daring himself to watch a few minutes of that hideous Finals game film — especially Game 4 — can apparently cause a man to admit it was time for some changes. 

The season after that he won the championship. Then he did it again. Then he got back for two more tries. LeBron James is, right now, the most dominant player in the NBA, having an effect on the game through his own play but also making everybody around him 30 percent better.

Where he ends up on the all-time list is still in dispute, but there’s no dispute now that he is firmly entrenched near the top. LeBron James is almost the perfect definition of what a basketball player should be, from his psychological makeup to his now famous ability to adapt his game quickly for any situation. He’s one of the best ever, and those don’t come around very often. 

– Jonathan Brill



Why are rich people more successful in court than poor people?

The problem is that my clients don’t enjoy the advantages of a well groomed lifestyle. Half of them don’t even know what I mean when I say “dress nice for trial tomorrow when the jury first sees you.” They think that means show up in jeans with their shirt tucked in, and if they know what kinds of clothes I’m talking about, odds are they can’t afford those ones. They don’t have impeccable hair cuts or nice things, and juries see that. The clients aren’t as relatable.

Their lack of education and lack of emotional training for a serious, quiet environment is a huge handicap as well. They may freak out at me in the middle of trial, talk or scribble on their notepad loudly, grab my shoulder a lot, speak under their breath when the jury’s in the room. When they testify, it tends to go one of two ways: (1) their grounded, simple sincerity wins the day, or (2) they give the prosecutor the kitchen sink by admitting to anything asked of them, true or not, or by trying and inevitably failing to outsmart a prosecutor who has 7+ more years of formal education and 20 years of experience under their belt.

Well before trial, those educational and cultural gaps between myself and the client cause problems. They don’t trust me as much; they often don’t respect me as much. They don’t bother prepping their case with me. I can’t explain complex concepts and expect them to understand after a few tries. A lot of the time explaining the way the law works will make them act out with anger, because they are not used to dealing with bad news quietly and constructively. They will make bad decisions in the lead-up to the case that leave us with handicaps before the trial even starts.

Then there’s the fact that the judge treats them very differently from a wealthier client. The judge knows what the jury often doesn’t: that this man has a long record, that he’s got experience in the system, that he hasn’t learned his lessons from past wrongs. Judges treat people with records very differently than they treat wealthy white people with no criminal record who grew up in the suburbs and have their teary-eyed parents watching from the pews. They don’t give my clients the same benefit of the doubt they might give a wealthier person in a suppression hearing or an evidentiary motion in limine. It’s very subtle, but it’s noticeable. And they’re definitely going to treat my client differently than a wealthier defendant for a sentencing after they’ve been convicted. That’s where it may hurt more than anything. It’s not just the priors and mandatory minimums that will fuck my clients — it’s also the fact that they don’t have the support structures at home to succeed on probation or keep their life in tact following a serious sentence.

None of this is to say that there aren’t also related issues with wealthier clients. Wealth isn’t a guarantee of intelligence or emotional maturity by any means. But I mean, come on — if I’m in a vacuum, having a medical doctor or a banker for a client is going to be a fucking cakewalk compared to having a homeless veteran with 20 things on his record. The doctor might be a headache of an entitled client, but he knows what way is up and how to act in a professional setting, to best reduce the chances that his trial blows up for reasons not related to the actual evidence against him. He’s not going to be sending the signals that trigger the subtle implicit biases judges and prosecutors walk through the door with everyday.

– NurRauch



How long would a normal person with some training, last in a ring against a really good pro boxer?

Years ago I was in a gym working out, and there was this guy working out in a makeshift boxing ring on one side of the gym, so I went over and talked to him. He said he was a semi pro boxer from Nevada, in my town with his wife for Christmas. After I talked with him for awhile I asked him if I could go a couple of rounds with him, and he agreed. So we went up to the front desk and I got a mouthpiece, some gloves, and that padded thing you wear on your head to keep from getting hurt. He didn’t have anything else but his gloves, which kinda pissed me off. He’s thinking I won’t be able to hit him. At the time I was young and in the best shape of my life, and although I knew I wouldn’t be able to beat him, I thought I would be able to get at least a few punches in. I wasn’t even close.

The first round he didn’t try to punch me. He just kept me from punching him. Easily. Every time I threw a punch he just batted it away. We moved around a bit, and I kept throwing punch after punch, and none of them even got close. After five minutes or so we took a break, and he told me that during the second round he would try to punch me. So we started the second round.

I couldn’t stop his punches at all. He didn’t even try to hit me hard, but it still jerked my head back every time. His gloves were next to his body, and then in the next instant my head was rocking back. That really pissed me off. I told myself that the next time he throws a punch, I’m not going to try to stop it or dodge it. I’m going to swing at him at the same time he swings at me. Maybe I can land one while he’s distracted. That didn’t work too well. He hit me in the face, and just batted my punch away at the same time.

If he had been really fighting I wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds. I was way outclassed. He did give me a compliment, sort of. He said that he was impressed that I would keep fighting, even though I was getting the crap beat out of me. He also said he was impressed when I tried to punch him while he was punching me. Of course he saw it coming a mile away, but he said that showed that I learned fast, even while I was being pounded to a pulp.

So, to answer your question, a normal person, even with some training, isn’t going to last very long against a pro boxer.

Gregg Reed

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