Are Penis Thieves Real?

Seinfeld's George Costanza fretted about "shrinkage." But are penis thieves really a bigger problem? [Credit: businessinsider.com]

Seinfeld’s George Costanza fretted about “shrinkage.” But could penis thieves pose a bigger problem? [Credit: businessinsider.com]

“One of the problems,” author Frank Bures said in a recent Atlantic interview, “is this whole distinction between real and not real.”

Bures is the author of The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death, and the Search for the Meaning of the World’s Strangest Syndromes.  His book examines conditions that the DSM-V, a manual used to diagnose and classify mental disorders, terms “culture-bound syndromes.” Continue reading

“Episodes,” Hollywood And Reverend Al

Season 4 of "Episodes," premieres tonight, a funny, smart and dead-on satire of Hollywood.  [Credit: Showtime]

Season 4 of “Episodes,” premieres tonight, a funny, smart and dead-on satire of Hollywood. [Credit: Showtime]

MATT LEBLANC’S EX-WIFE: You were arrested for driving drunk with our kids in the car!

LEBLANC: Yeah, well, when you say it that way, it sounds terrible.

Scene from Season 3 of “Episodes

The fourth season of “Episodes” premieres tonight on Showtime, promising another sumptuous feast of Hollywood send-ups. David Crane’s (“Friends,” “Joey”) handiwork has it all: self-obsessed actors, self-important executives, mawkish phoniness and bloodless betrayals, all set among ubiquitous lies and deceptions.  Crane’s satire is pitch-perfect: overdrawn enough to be funny, but real enough to be (almost) true. Continue reading

Tsunami And The Triumph Of Hope

Ten years after a tsunami ravaged villages like this on the Indian Ocean Coast, towns have been rebuilt, lives repaired. [Credit: endignorance.org]

Ten years after a tsunami ravaged villages like this that line the Indian Ocean coastline, towns have been rebuilt, lives repaired. [Credit: endignorance.org]

A decade has passed since a tsunami devastated villages in 13 Asian countries, which reminded me that somewhere I have a plastic sandwich bag filled with rupees.

The rupees are among the mementoes of a woman I cherished.  She went to Kudankulam, a fishing village on the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, ten years ago to provide medical care to the tsunami’s survivors. Continue reading

Ukraine And The Echoes of Ravenna

Ravenna's magnificent mosaics were realized during a time of upheaval that echoes today in Ukraine.

Ravenna’s magnificent mosaics were realized during a time of upheaval that echoes today in Ukraine.

There is something odd about how the ancient mosaicist of Ravenna’s church of San Vitale tells the story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.  When God presents him with the law, Moses turns away.  His gaze is fixed on the mosaic below, in which God prevents Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac, instructing him to offer a ram instead, thus fulfilling the patriarch’s expectation that God himself would provide an atoning sacrifice.

San Vitale’s mosaics are sixth century masterpieces of light and color.  They convey the Christian gospel with ineffable eloquence.  They also express political aspirations, long-forgotten visions of what Europe might be.  Their disappointments reverberate today in the streets of Kiev, Odessa and Donetsk. Continue reading

The Good News Pope Francis Missed

Pope Francis's inaugural encyclical celebrated the gospel and excoriated markets.  But did he overlook some very good news?  [Credit: Telegraph]

Pope Francis’s inaugural encyclical celebrated the gospel and excoriated markets. But did he overlook some very good news? [Credit: Telegraph]

In writing about the joy of the gospel, Pope Francis overlooked some very good news – about markets, about compassion, about poverty.

His first encyclical (Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of The Gospel”) has drawn attention less for its focus on missions than for its economic pronouncements. President Obama favorably cited the document in his recent remarks on economic mobility, while some conservative commentators have offered up harsh criticisms. Continue reading