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Showing posts from August, 2013

Ambition Redux

Ambition is considered an excellent quality in children as they grow in stature, measurable in inches and achievements. I was recently sent a photo of my grand-nephew proudly holding up his diploma at nursery school graduation. Already media-savvy with a director's eye, his little hands held up the paper at just the right angle for the camera to capture it contents properly. This 5 year old was beaming with pride, his brown eyes shining as little girly girls gazed upon him adoringly.

My great-aunt's heart was relieved to see a healthy, happy face downwind of the family lineage. Thank god, I thought to myself, we've got a really bright one coming down the pike. But another part of me went in a more cynical direction: if graduating from nursery school is such a big event, then what is there to look forward to, unless of course the kid drops out of kindergarten or elementary school before those graduations. Not unheard of, upwind of the lineage Grandpa Phil never made it past …

Let Them Eat Pita

Asma al-Assad, the 38-year-old British-born mother of three and wife of the current Assad, was feted in the February 2011 issue of Vogue for her panache in designer drag. The European Union soon after clipped her wings for condoning state-sanctioned human rights abuses. Bummer. Not allowed to leave Syria, she eluded authorities by shopping online, recently purchasing $16,000 in crystal from Paris as the rest of the Treasury was spending her leftover cash on chemical weapons.

This woman, whose countenance could earn her the privilege of being Princess Diana's second cousin thrice removed, was the hope of the Western world. Although she was born to Syrian parents in London, she could pass for a thoroughbred Caucasian. This morning on CNN, a rather naive reporter said she was hoping that Asma would flee the country and her dictator-murderer husband, somehow assuming that the pale skins are always on the side of justice. After all, Asma does resemble your average upper-class American/B…

Pavlov's iPhone

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology & Medicine in 1904. Among other discoveries, he observed in his experiments that dogs salivate before anticipated food is actually in their mouths being masticated. He called this "psychic secretion" and this observation had such a ripple effect that his name has been immortalized in the lexicon, i.e. "When I pass a boulangerie I salivate like one of Pavlovs' dogs." Thanks to this psychic phenomenon, a baguette will always transform itself into a fold of fat around my middle, as the whole point is that an ingrained association in the subconscious mind will trigger an overt response or action.

Pavlov's findings were embraced by generations of experiment-prone psychologists, including two therapists who were married and put their young daughter Lucy in a cage, demanding that she salivate before being let out to chow down. They were living on the Upper West Side of Manh…

Don't Shit Where You Eat

One of my favorite kind of days is the chance to be at home ignoring errands, bill paying, cleaning up my desk, exercising, driving even one mile for any reason whatsoever, or cooking meals. (No, I don't spend the day watching television.) Thankfully, my husband has been lured by the charms of Trader Joes' array of prepared foods, usually the fare of singles. He has used his wiles to survive gastronomically despite my sloth; thanks to his generosity of spirit in this regard, we are still velcroed together since our marriage 29 years ago. Otherwise, if "the way to a man's heart through his stomach" aphorism were true, our marriage would have been jettisoned long ago.

In the big picture, my self-imposed isolation is a luxury of the need-less. Microcosm reflects macrocosm. How do we as Americans live in the world happily,  taking up 25% of the world's resources with impunity while ignoring the impact to Mother Earth and the millions worldwide who toil to supply o…

War is Not For the Intelligent

Having had gone through the American educational system, I have large gaps in my knowledge of history and geography. To make matters worse, the revisionist text books offered by our schools rewrite the past to make the American way look as pure as virgin snow.

When I decided to home school my daughter for high school, the district required that she study the same subjects as her former fellow prisoners at Agoura High School. The grade 10 history curriculum was American History of course, for the umpteenth time since kindergarten. But I was damned if I was going to get one of those 300 glossy-paged tombs that handed out the same pablum that she had been fed up until then. So off I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a copy of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

The horrified look on her adolescent face was priceless as she read the chapter on Columbus discovering the new world; how he committed genocide on the Caribbean Indians, graphically documented in a first-ha…

The Mask With Two Sides

One of the most mind-boggling stories of the Holocaust is that of Rudolph Hoess, the Nazi commander who oversaw the construction and daily operations of the largest killing field ever created, the concentration camp Auschwitz. Personally coordinating the extermination of 2.5 million people in World War II, he was seemingly an even-tempered, happily married family man of Catholic faith. He enjoyed the semblance of an ordinary family life with his five children, in a grand house replete with a swimming pool, stables, and dog kennel (German shepherds of course). Literally right outside his lovely walled compound with a decorative see-through iron gate was the death camp. His villa had a view of the crematoria chimneys from the upper floors, and Hoess had a row of trees planted outside the compound walls, gratis the prisoners, that screened out the barbed wire walls of Auschwitz.

I can't fathom why someone of his stature would want to live so close to "work" when his children…

Leave "Names" Out of This

Disclaimer: it doesn't matter whether you attribute the love, compassion, light and grace in your life to God, Allah, Buddha, the All-That-Is, Great Spirit, Infinite Light or any of the thousands of names that tribal peoples around the world may have...or simply refer to these noble qualities as our intrinsic nature (my preference).

Thoughts come floating across my brain on a second-to-second basis and are subjective projections that form my truths. But whatever motivates a person within his or her private universe to become a loving and kind type of human gets my vote. It doesn't matter what you named it when it was born.

And yet, I still have this question for people who believe in an all powerful God: why does so much really bad shit happen if there is One Almighty Power watching over us?

Tea Party members need not reply.

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Godless Compassion

Some of you might have heard a recent news story about a bookkeeper at an elementary school who talked an armed-to-the-teeth psychotic young man out of shooting everyone in sight. Between her and a 911 operator, he was successfully massaged from the heights of Armageddon grandeur down to a prone position on the ground, hands behind his back, waiting for the police to get him -- all the while explaining that he hadn't taken his meds that day. Sad lad.

The key to this happy outcome, at least for the unshot, was the bookkeeper who kept saying, "I love you honey. Everything will be OK" to the angry young white man with weapon. She was so convincing and heartfelt that when Anderson Cooper swooped in for his exclusive interview, he said to her with a childlike expression, "Can you say that again?" referring to her sweet phrase that saved the day. She looked him straight in the eyes and said, "I love you honey. Everything will be OK." Anderson's face visi…

Don't Try This At Home

The common laptop bears an odd resemblance to the human body. As it ages, it becomes slower and less responsive, unable to move its parts nimbly or switch topics without a long pause. Steve Jobs, the god of laptops, was brilliant at re-creating them to be faster, brighter and better. Us humans are less fortunate, however, as no one is upgrading us every two years. We are faster, brighter and better at the beginning and decline steadily over time. Perhaps we should pray to the Almighty to a cut a deal with a Chinese slave labor factory that can genetically engineer our DNA, turning us into shining star athletes and models of ingenuity as we crest at age 100.

Sadly, as the Almighty doesn't always do our bidding and Steve Jobs is now in some etheric realm with god knows who, I have to take matters into my own hands. My baby, a three month old uber super duper laptop with all the trimmings, is already getting uppity with me, telling me it has no more space on the desktop for the latest…

To Live or Not to Live

My mother's modus operendus was an attempt to foresee potential danger lurking in the future and plan a strategy to avoid it, thus earning her the nickname "the General." Averting unseen disasters meant that I was not allowed to snow ski, or, as an avid horseback rider, take a horse over a jump. Too dangerous. After all, why tempt fate when one could play the piano or read a book.

Thus, an exuberant childhood activity such as turning a cartwheel was out of the question lest I freeze midway and break my neck. My mother's fears infected my psyche like lice to hair in a kindergarten classroom. So when my doctor called me one spring day in early March 2011 to tell me I had cancer and that I had to come in right away, my reaction was atypical: "I am leaving for South Africa in two weeks for the premiere of our new documentary, then going to Switzerland for the premiere there. I can't come in until early April." Sensing an intractable patient, he feigned patie…

Sleep Jamboree

The mysterious activity of the full moon kept me awake last night, way past the witching hour when all good girls are fast asleep with sugarplums dancing in their heads. I tried the usual trick of circling mantras in my skull like a dog chasing its tail, to no avail. Often this strategy lulls me into oblivion; the Buddhist version of counting sheep. When I confided this to Rinpoche (Tibetan term for an esteemed lama that means "precious one") he looked askance and said, "Mantras are supposed to wake you up if you do them properly."

Sheepish in external demeanor, my inner voice dismissed this truism with the desperation of an addict. Without a good night's sleep, the world is a dismal place where people places and things drift by my window-to-the-world like disembodied spirits.

As I could never fall asleep with a ticking clock within 100 yards of the bed, and the light of the digital ones disturb my autonomy as if being watched by a pernicious  and omnipotent HAL,…

Multi-One-Pointed Concentration

Gurus, sages and seers of the ages talk about one-pointed concentration as a fundamental skill on the road to enlightenment. Construed as a must for meditators, the ability to focus also applies to the requisite brain power needed to learn secret practices such as flying, dematerializing, drying wet sheets with body heat as they are wrapped around emaciated yogis' bodies in the Himalayan winter, shapeshifting, walking on water, or simply turning into a rainbow when the breath says its final goodbyes to its used up shell. With the cost of funerals these days, achieving rainbow body might be a practical alternative to the lay-away plan or dumping god awful expenses on next of kin.

It seems wasteful to make coffins that look like the latest model Cadillac, with polished mirror-like mahogany encasements, brass trimmings and padded white satin interiors that look like Eva Gabor's bedroom set. Of course funeral homes and coffin makers need to make a living, but think about the envir…

The Post-Cancer Twist

Yesterday I went for a swim at a friend's house, situated in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles – the very town that was the breeding ground and inspiration for a movie about over-privileged teenagers gone amok. One needn’t see the movie; the trailer will do if you can handle the nefarious monetizing strategy from the cyber-galaxy that makes You Tube as annoying as television, a.k.a. advertising before being allowed to watch the desired video.

As I slide into the 96 degree cement lagoon of chlorinated water, I thank god that my friend is a nice Jewish Princessa who appreciates Caribbean-style water temperatures; some of my other Los Angeles buddies come from hardier stock: the Bel Air doyenne whose Norwegian husband likes the refreshing assault of an unheated pool; my Welsh companions in Malibu who keep their pool under-heated because of its brisk shock-to-the-system quality -- not to speak of the Pacific Ocean itself, potentially bearable one day out of the year.

One could do an…

Radical Acceptance

In the beginning of 2013, a French journalist was captured in Syria and held for ninety days before being rescued by an opposition group opposed to an opposition group that was opposed to another opposition group in an ideological hall of mirrors. Most of the time shackled and threatened with death, but for the last stretch allowed to wander in a secured yard, the now freed journalist was asked how he maintained his sanity -- or if he maintained his sanity for that matter.
While more American soldiers commit suicide than those killed in battle in Iraq or Afghanistan, this European did not endure the horrors of post-traumatic stress, although he would have been perfectly entitled to it. Instead, he appeared quite normal, although he did admit that he would decline an offer for the same assignment again simply because he might be recognized as that guy who got away. Prudent fellow. But what was the key to his sanctuary of sanity?
Speaking in a matter of fact tone, he revealed his sleight …

Bing Doc-ing

Binging on documentaries has been my favorite pastime in the past few weeks. Thus, a bevy of marvelous new facts have imbedded themselves in my neuronal pathways. For example, human beings have created 180 new breeds of dogs in the past 150 years; before that, there was just the basic dog, descended from the wolf and made to be our friend and surrogate mate. Also on the menu was one about the physiology of mating. Apparently, sexual attraction and bonding is almost 100% chemical and subliminally based. Did you know that women glow when they are ovulating, thus making them more attractive to the pollinator?

On a more serious note, I watched documentaries about man-made ecological disasters, genocide, corporate thievery and other criminal acts. A few actually discussed how to improve the track record of Homo Sapiens, thus providing a proverbial safety valve that let off the steam in the pressure cooker, despite the horrors documented in so many of these moving pictographs.

After feastin…

Greetings

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It is 7:30AM on a sunny August day in Los Angeles, California. My husband brings me a cup of Morning Thunder tea and sits down beside me for our morning ritual of 29 years -- telling each other the dreams of the night before. His was an odd one; his dream body instructs him to remember upon waking that "he spent 352 hours on his new computer."

Never mind that he doesn't have a new computer, and why the number 352? Thus intrigued, I ventured into the Google search universe and discovered a website about angels, numerology and other items fascinating to a person the likes of myself.

Duly impressed when I actually found the meaning for the number 352, it seemed only fair to compliment the creator of the site with a "comment." But I got lost in a maze of cyber-clicks and in a case of sheer synchronicity landed as a squatter on a site called blogspot.com. An invention within the Google universe, it provides users with their very own blog site, gratis. As Facebook and…