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Showing posts from September, 2013

Nature or Nurture

Nature versus nurture usually refers to the impact of one's genetic load versus environmental factors on the development of personality and behavior. While both are undoubtedly partners in the tango, my vote goes to nurture as the leading man, or woman if she's a dominatrix, in the rotating mirrored ball of existence.

Surely Hitler must have been born with some pretty feisty genes, but had he not been rejected by a Parisian art academy and haughtily dismissed by fellow painters in Paris, WWII might have averted. Hitler did a jig in front of the Eiffel Tower when his troops invaded Paris and settled in for the duration. He could not contain his glee; he now owned the city that had once snubbed him - truly a sore loser, this mad conqueror.

And then there is the story of Ted Kaczynski, the Unibomber, with a last name as phonetically twisted as his mind. He was skipped two grades in elementary school and entered Harvard at age 16; this age differential, which began in childhood, imm…

Top Money, Top Dog

Wolf Blizter of CNN posed a question to a few million watchers: what if Tiger Woods, world renowned golf star, was given the option of either being remembered as the highest paid player in history, or alternately, the number #1 top ranked pro of all times?

The origins of golf date back to 15th century Scottland but as official record keeping only began in the late 19th century, one would need to consult the akashic records to purvey the top talent of former eras, then adjust for historical inflation. As current data keepers would not deem this a reliable inquiry, Woods could never really know the truth of his status amongst the gene pool of golf prodigies over the ages.

That aside, if one accepts current data from the number crunchers, the fame versus money question is quite interesting but hard to answer without knowing certain facts. 1) What is Tiger's net worth and is he satisfied or does he want more? 2) How much has as the richest player made to date, and what is …

A Dead Man's Earning Power

It was recently reported that Michael Jackson's family is suing for almost 2 billion dollars in money lost from future earnings that he would have made had he still been dancing his tootsies off on stage, or crooning into a studio microphone that would digitize his voice into infinity and beyond.

The scofflaw doctor who injected him with a lethal dose of sleepy-time is already doing his time in prison. He closed his Beverly Hills practice to dope Jackson on his world tour for a mere $150,000 a month. Therefore, he can't be fleeced for anything from the Jacksons or AEG, as certainly his legal fees far surpassed his salary, which he never even received.

Actually, Dr. Whatshisname should take his lead from the Jackson family and sue them and AEG for loss of future earnings as a would-have-been Beverly Hills doctor had he not-have-been a Michael Jackson tour doctor. Not to speak of his pain and suffering for this fatal error in judgement and lack of doctor smarts. After all, how mu…

Life As Oxymoron

For those unfamiliar with the word "oxymoron," it is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. For nascent etymologists:

Oxymoron is derived from the 5th century Latin "oxymoron", which is derived from the Ancient Greek: ὀξύς oxus “sharp, keen” + μωρός mōros "dull, stupid", making the word itself an oxymoron.-Mac Pro Dictionary (Fare thee well, Daniel Webster.)

The designation human being, taken in its entirety, is an oxymoron. People frequently say, "He's only human," inferring that a troubling action or frailty stems simply from the hazards of being a two-legged. But the second part of the moniker "being" infers something far more life affirming: non-neurotic, laid-back, relaxed, alert, calm, aware, in the moment, chill, being as opposed to doing, and so forth and so on.

The most extreme cases of 'human frailties in action' are psychopaths who live normal lives 97% of time, often with…

Health Uncared

In the United States, government-assisted health care for all ages has been centuries in the making. In a mystifying act of governance, our forefathers deemed it important to insure free education for their citizens, but not medical care. Excuse me sires, but if one is sick, injured or severely disabled, one can't go to school. Or work. Or take care of the ones in the beginning and the others at the end.

Why didn't anyone figure this out when our government was cobbled together? Maybe G. Washington, T. Jefferson,  J. Adams and other power brokers had a terrible fear of leeches, bloodletting, or hack saws, thus avoiding the subject by the sin of omission.

Now that we have anesthesia and antibiotics, it would have been logical for a smart Congressman or woman to vote for free universal health care, at least by the end of the 19th or 20th century. As it stands now, Obamacare resembles a Lego construction executed by a spatially challenged five year old, or 64 year old…

Different Shit, Same Day

For every thought, deed or action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Welcome to life in the dualistic, karmic world. Therefore, the September 20th blog "Same Shit, Different Day" sits perfectly in a mirrored universe.

The thought du jour comes from a memory that haunts me when it haunts me, imprinted on my brain thanks to the all-powerful medium of film. In a documentary about the Holocaust, an elderly female survivor recalls a beautiful spring day in the French countryside, home to the Catholic boarding school she was attending. The flowers were in bloom, the blue sky was filled with puffy angelic clouds, and the tall grasses were waving in a soft spring breeze at the edge of a virgin forest.

She loved this dewy morning; as a Jew being passed off as Catholic, she felt safe from the human carnage that raged around her oasis - until a convoy of Nazi soldiers roared up the circular drive to her school. Some local rat scum devil had reported her.

Surviving Auschwitz but with…

Neurotheology

Neurotheology is a field of study that measures the impact of spiritual/religious practices such as prayer, meditation and positive thinking on the human brain.

The Dalai Lama has long been interested in bridging Western science and Eastern philosophy in order to find a common language. Smart thinking. He regularly gathers leading scientists for symposiums, not to proselytize Tibetan Buddhism, but rather to find a way to translate what is meaningful and beneficial into a Western framework that can easily be assimilated.

Despite an atheist background, I have been a practitioner of meditation and prayer for 45 years. Thus, when I received an email spam that made it through the firewalls and filters into my inbox (reminding me of the sperm that gets the egg) with "neurotheology" in its title, I restrained my semi-automatic delete impulse and pressed open.

After a hearty introduction from Dr. So and So in the opening video, he goes on to tell us cyberstudents that there are 47 posi…

International Peace Day Upended

September 21st was International Peace Day. Perhaps the founder of this day purposefully chose the Fall Equinox -  a day when light and dark are in balance, a detente.

Apparently, 4% of the world population are aware of International Peace Day, at least thinking about being peaceful if not being peaceful. As the origins of an action begin with a thought, maybe a smidgeon of people on this planet really did contemplate non-violence on that noble day.

Unfortunately, Somalian jihadists were not contemplating the meaning of International Peace Day when, on that very same date,  they massacred 70 plus non-Muslims: they actually checked religious affiliation before pulling the trigger, sparing those who could recite a seminal Islamic prayer. The killing field was an upscale mall in the Nairobi suburbs; innocents were gunned down in what now seems to be a copycat crime -  mass murder of civilians with AK47's in spots where daily life takes place. 

Apparently, the gunmen are part of the 96%.

The Slithering Man

Unless one has been living on a planet in a distant galaxy, it is common knowledge that the internet is now used for matchmaking. Entrepreneurs are getting quite creative - or desperate. Apart from Christian Mingle, which advertises every three minutes on TV with "God's match for you," there are sites to meet fellow wine lovers, Jews, gays, the over 50's set, married people looking for a fling, professionals making over $100,000 grand a year, ad nauseum. You name it, you'll find it.

A lonely policewoman, tired of the macho guys back at home, decided to seek out her soul mate in cyberspace. From the heart of Africa, she found solace in a man from Ghana, who, like all internet Romeos, presented himself as handsome, kind, rich and especially in love with this women who responded to his foray into ladyland.

They actually had a stimulating exchange of emails, and when he proposed to her, she arranged to go to Ghana. Now remember, the woman is a tough gunsl…

Love Thy Lama

This title does not refer to a four-legged creature indigenous to the Andes. That would be a llama, although I love them too, especially for the endearing way they spit their little llama words and look down at me with big black googly eyes.

The lama to which I refer is a teacher of Buddhism, Tibetan style. Some things Tibetan might seem mysterious or incomprehensible to the western mind, and not for all tastes. However, my guide speaks English, gleaned from the hippies he met in Nepal during the 1960's. A respected teacher of Buddhism, he nonetheless found a kinship in these liberated children of materialism. Formerly and forever a hippy myself, we get along famously.

Some say that a spiritual teacher is meant to challenge you, to bust your egotistical chops and stretch you beyond your limits until the bonds of self-serving mind are broken. To me, this sounds like a medieval torture chamber and nothing to sign up for with unbounded glee.

A real teacher, like a real friend, is someon…

Same Shit, Different Day

My brain is normally abuzz with all sorts of thoughts. Some of the more creative two-leggeds (a Native American phrase not meant to ostracize people with less than two limbs but to distinguish us from animals) spew forth countless inventions and creative designs, most of which are never produced in the real world. I only have one genius invention rattling around my brain and anyway, no technology on the planet comes close to making it possible. Otherwise, my thoughts tend to run more in the philosophical vein than in the production vein.

There are so many things to write about, talk about, think about, but today the only thing that comes to me is something a friend of mine once said when asked how she was faring: "Same shit, different day."

Perhaps my malaise is prompted by the news that House Republicans have voted to gut Obamacare of funding, an insurance plan that is the only hope for people like me and countless others who are in robust health but have a history of a toena…

Karl Rove and the Pope

These days, humanitarianism is the only religion worth practicing in our global village. However, the globalism to which I refer does not apply to mall developers who advocate branding our planet with Starbucks, McDonalds, Walmarts, and Radio Shacks in every mega-complex east and west of the Mississippi.

I am an anthropologist by training. Thus, I cherish cultures for their unique habits, costumes, languages, headgear (especially of the beaded and feathered kind), and the myriad of other doodads that make people magnificently unique - and OK, their religious beliefs too. Note: I say "beliefs," as opposed to direct experience with an All Powerful Something-or-other.

Propagating humanitarian philosophies hit a basic level that does not negate individuality. Universal values such as human compassion, empathy and a responsibility for one's fellow wo-man are basic to our nature and transcend all differences. At the core of all varieties of human expression, there is a river tha…

Empathy Not For Humans Only

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, one of the most basic prayers is that all sentient beings achieve enlightenment - sentient beings connoting anything that has a face or demonstrates an aliveness in any way, shape or form. (Let's hear it for the plant kingdom too.)

Although enlightenment is a spiritual goal that is mentioned frequently in sacred texts and in the vernacular, I have no idea what that means. We can talk about enlightened activity, and in that sense one could postulate that it means compassion, love, wisdom, good acts, and so on. But according to the great teachers of the ages, the last obstacle to enlightenment is the desire to become enlightened - possibly because that desire implies an emphasis on the 'self,' which is always a sticking point if one wants to claim that his or her motivation is selfless or unconditional.

Lest this discussion turn into an exercise in theological masterbation, I will cut to the chase. Apparently, mice, as well as chimps, pigs, e…

It's All Relative

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This is a delicious, nutritious dish served up by a gourmet chef somewhere in the recesses of the American South. At first glance, one might think it to be escargot (a.k.a. snails, the kind I vanquish in my garden), the choice of Francophiles and bone fide French citizens. Upon closer inspection, it is a singing insect that fills the night air with a piercing sound that reassures the listener that pollution hasn't killed off every living creature yet -  the cicada, apparently the "other protein."

Astute analysts of our food sources show that raising cattle for beef consumption has far-reaching, detrimental effects on the environment that even contribute to global warming. (Go figure. McDonalds may be an even greater culprit than General Motors for our ever-increasing crazy weather patterns, not to speak of our ever-increasing girths.)

So, our little singing friends might be an answer to the devastating effect that hamburger and steak lovers wreak on our stra…

It Takes Two to...?

"Most men are cheaters—you know that, don’t you? I could meet a cheater tomorrow if I wanted to. But I’ve had enough men. I’m 98 years old, what the hell do I want a man for? What can I give him? What can he give me? Nothing." -Esquire.com

This tidbit from a soon to be centenarian (not withstanding premature death) is reassuring; old age doesn't necessarily equate with mildewed moxy. But it brought up an interesting point. In certain LA circles of the female persuasion, a good deal of men-bashing occurs, usually with a hilarious "men are pigs" pronouncement that is the ending to a sordid tale of romance gone wrong.

Then logic sets in. Doesn't a straight man need a woman to participate in the undercover sex game? For every male cheater who is castigated, what about the woman who agreed? Albeit, certain philanderers tell little fibs and say they are single, so women, wise up. Do a background check before accepting the crown jewels if you have any doubt. Cybe…

Love Under a Rock

Today I received a You Tube video from a wonderful friend of mine who is a trance channel; to sum up the video's message: "You are Loved." For the cynical non-believers, suspend your critical mind for a moment and listen, even if reading is not technically an auditory activity. And if you don't know what a trance channel is, google it if you so desire.

The channel came to my aid about twenty years ago when it was revealed that several of my under-aged loved ones had been sexually molested; not violent assaults but slimy 'cop a feel' maneuvers to their private parts, in both cases committed by supposedly trusted elders.

The turmoil that ensued was extremely painful. Although one can never know the extent of the others' pain, or how their perceptions would inform a future view of themselves, I certainly know how it affected me. A benign world turned into a hell realm of shattered beliefs. Righteous anger arose in my inner warrior that smites all wrongs...exce…

Putin's PR

When the New York Times published an Op Ed piece by Vladimir Putin on September 12th, 2013, they handed him the perfect bully pulpit. Let's put our hands together for freedom of the press.

A coup for the leader of Russia, he managed to stir up quite a brew of conversation amongst dueling pundits on TV news. I do recall thinking that the Op Ed piece was very American in its syntax and wondering what Russian employee of the former Soviet state had such linguistic savvy.

It turns out that this column came from the bowels of American culture; a PR firm in New York was paid 1.8 million dollars by the Russian state to handle its image in the US. And that sum was the firm's fee for less than a year's worth of work.

The world is upside down. The children of the proletariat revolution pay huge bucks to the children of capitalism to promote the children of the proletariat who are not longer the proletariat but still wear the garb of their forefathers. It just proves that money is still…

Warning: Your Thoughts Have Power

Why do some children from disadvantaged homes materialize well being while others fall into a gray zone of tedious survival or worse?

First, one would have to define terms. In our "more is better culture" the immediate association is that poverty is the primary disadvantage while affluence promotes well being. True, adequate medical care, nourishing food, decent housing, a safe neighborhood and access to schools with books and seats does provide some baseline insurance. But realistically, outward material things are "not enough."

In 1960, my mother did her PhD thesis on this very subject; she targeted children from Harlem, which was then a prison without walls for the descendants of slaves (although it was also a breeding ground for amazing music and other art forms). All of the young ones in her study came from disadvantaged environments in that their basic life needs were not regularly met. And yet some excelled in academics while others fell behind, unable to hold…

News Pastries

News appeals to me like a patisserie to a pastry lover. If you have ever gone into one of those dens of iniquity in Paris, France or Garden Grove, California, it is a tormenting experience. Tough choices to be made at every turn; a chocolate croissant or a tarte aux pommes; a brioche or an oven-warm baguette slathered with butter and jam...

When I open my email inbox every day, I am confronted with a similarly tempting array; a plethora of news stories from sites which have already filtered out the best of the best stories, not to speak of the online NY Times edition. I scan the headlines looking for the juicy tidbits that will fill the mind with "ah-has!" informing my world with new information that either confirms old information or introduces new ways to rouse my ire and stoke the fire of righteous indignation. And then there are the stories that are bypassed as mere static for the brain.

An almost infinite variety could be offered for discussion but then we would have to b…

Kindness New York Style

It is pure happenstance that I find myself in New York City on this infamous date. Apart from the collapse of the World Trade Center, it is also the day that my mother’s dearest sister and stand-in exhaled her last breath on this big island.
If New Yorkers have a bad rap for being rude or pushy, let me dispel this illusion poste haste. Our supposedly laid-back lady from Southern California found herself pushing into elevators ahead of polite New Yorkers, impatiently weaving and dodging her body as fast as her feet could carry her, cutting through hoards of people on Fifth Avenue like a car on a Los Angeles freeway trying to angle for the fastest lane to nowhere, and being reminded by one very brave waiter and one tired cab driver that “...this is New York, it’ll get done."
People on the streets and in the shops seem downright relaxed...not as in lounging by a poolside relaxed, but born of a conservation of energy whereby their focus is intent but not overwrought.
Perhaps there is…

The Praying Atheist