Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Stanford University recently reported that nearly 30% of all new couples in the US found one another through online dating services and/or social media like Facebook and Twitter. That suggests the unsleeping waves of change continue to roll and wash over us at rates never before known in history...!

But then there is Jonathan Franzen.

His epic new novel, "Freedom," comes out today, and already it's being prized as a candidate for The Great American Novel. Universally reviewed with kudos, critics are saying that in readability it ranks with "Gone With The Wind," and in quality it stands on the level of "The Great Gatsby."

The storyline has been called "a monumental tragicomedy about an apparently perfect Midwestern family, destined to be read 200 years from now."


In studying the spate of glowing reviews, there was only one which seemed to hold a grudge. The "Wall Street Journal." But then, we can't be surprised. Quoth the voice of free enterprise: "The novel may win praise for its highly polished narrative realism....but actually it's an elaborate, 500-page argument that the original sin of free-market capitalism lies at the root of all the hurt Americans inflict on one another...carefully engineered to make the case that our entire culture is poisoned by an infatuation with personal freedom."


When one's personal economic freedom is challenged by either uppity presidents or authors, it's time to slam down that Martini at the island poolside, and get on the phone to yours brokers and editors. I mean, when you "own" the American Way of Life, you sure don't want the Great American Novel taking any cheap shots...!

Monday, August 30, 2010


Ever envy someone...? Of course. It's natural, especially when that someone appears to have what we deserve. Shakespeare (one of my favorite persons to envy) said it best: "Oh, what a bitter thing it is to look into happiness through another person's eyes."

Don't know about you, but I feel this most strongly whenever I see someone of deep serene faith. People who have endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, yet hold comfortably fast to their faith in a loving God ready to welcome them home like a loving parent.

With the advent of modernity, questions on which philosophers and religious thinkers had been reflecting for centuries underwent an unprecedented change. With the rise of the Scientific Revolution in the 16th C came a new willingness to confront religious authority and beliefs. Sigmund Freud was among those moderns who rejected the existence of a God, and all the "man-made comforts that came with him."

Freud's uber-rival, Carl Jung, saw the landscape differently. He once said: "I do not simply believe in God. I know there is God." Which is very much the feeling I envy when I watch young Bible-believers singing their hearts out in a revival meeting or little old ladies tranquilly fingering their rosary beads in the back of a church.

However, there exists a very wide ideological expanse between Freud's position and Jung's. For lack of a more precise description, this is the modern philosophy of indulgent indifference. Part agnosticism, part existentialism, this is that expanse in which the modern West's educated classes tend to reside. "If religion is your thing, fine with me. Only don't try selling it!"

These educated classes are the ones each holiday season who put on their three-pointed Jeffersonian hat, and remind us of the "wall" between state and religion. They certainly have a point. And yet, walls usually have doors. It's those doors through whom the serene seem to pass. And -- by God! -- there's something there to envy.

In another 90 days we all get our annual opportunity to see which side of the Christmas Creche Conflict seem the most serene...

Sunday, August 29, 2010


A good place to start any discussion is the wit, and often wisdom, of Oscar Wilde. Here are equal parts of each: "America is the only country that went from barbarism to degradation without passing through civilization!"

From the eyes of a foreign elitist, that seems about right. From the eyes of the local booster's club (eg. Moose, Elks, Shriners, VFW, executive suites,Tea Party blogs), arrogant Oscar doesn't get it. Doesn't get the deliciously complex idea that Americans take pride in their raucousness, their shirt-sleeves bravado, their sassy sense of exceptionalism.

There may be something to this.

If God really does look after drunks and fools, then just maybe our recurring national foolishness has been as much asset as debit over the generations. Consider how we blundered into a miraculous treasure trove of natural wealth on this continent...how we lucked out raping the lands from the Native American who owned it....how we caught some lucky breaks in the Revolutionary War against the Redcoats....how we were lucky enough to have some immigrants who led the world in an explosion of new ideas and inventions....and how we continue to beat the odds as we prevail over natural and national disasters generation after generation.

Thornton Wilder alluded to the good fortune of humanity when he wrote the play "By The Skin of Our Teeth." He found a stunning record of survivor-ship, including America.Take for instance our current War on Terror. No doubt there are extraordinary warriors and operatives guarding us against these enemies. And yet, let the record show a large degree of our safety & security has been due less to us than to the bumbling morons the jihadists have picked to attack us.

Whether our luck holds out in the pressure-cooker 21st C is hard to say. Only fools will say for sure. But this much can be said with confidence: Luck runs in streaks, and it's always best to know how to ride or get off them. The casino in which America is playing today is perhaps the toughest test of its many streaks.

Getting back to Wilde, he didn't know much about Polish culture; but if he had, he might have found this proverb reinforcing his squinty-eyed view of America: "A guest sees more in an hour than the host in a year."

Saturday, August 28, 2010


The United State circa 2010 >> there is 1 birth every 7 seconds and 1 death every 13 seconds. Which means we're keeping ahead of the cemetery curve. But just barely...!

Instead of arguing the various theories to these statistics, lets simply consider statistics themselves. And our obsession with them. No better place to start than this morning's sports pages. Bulging with batting averages, pitching averages, fielding averages, strikeout averages; and now passing and interception averages. For anyone with an enduring affection for the magic of math -- well, loving math today means you never have to say you're sorry!

However, here's the problem.

Soon the assistance of statistics graduates into the comfort of statistics; and before you know it, educated humanity start to believe they can master large parts of their fate. For instance: DNA prospects for disease... mathematical prospects for stock market gains.... military prospects for victory....team prospects for the playoffs...oh, and the big one, actuarial prospects for death.

Some people live for food, for drink, for fun, for sex; others seem to live for the reassurance of having all their numerical ducks in a row.

As the kids would say: Whatever floats your boat! Only when you're no longer a kid, you have to grant that they [meaning Grandma & later Doris Day] were unerringly right when they sang: "Que Sera Sera." Because this surely is the 11th commandment: "What will be will be!"

This is not to deny humanity's control of its fate. We do have some. But hardly as much as our love-affair with statistical predictions might have us believe. Otherwise, the biggest team payrolls would always assure a pennant, the smartest broker would always assure a killing, and the biggest armies would always assure a victory.

Again, as the kids would say: Gotta hang loose. Be ready for anything, not just the sure thing. And if you ever need a slap-in-the-face reminder, check the obituary pages. They're always right there near the sports pages.

Friday, August 27, 2010


We are linked by blood, and blood is memory without language. So it is that everything we are, once was; and what once was, still is. Good, then, to occasionally take time to relax the ropes on our relentless climb. There are places down below from which we've come that warrant a wistful glance or two.

Consider for instance who we once were. A hundred fifty years ago we were Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn. At least we smiled at their raucous adventures. Today, they'd probably be sent to the principal's office. At the very least, diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and put on meds. Our national sense of youth and daring all too often suppressed in the name of order and civility.

But a warning here...! As author George Ade puts it: "Nothing is improbable until it moves into the past tense." When the climb ahead gets tougher like it is today, we may enjoy glorifying the past at the cost of remembering its flaws. In the age of Mark Twain, America still bought and sold slaves, still barred women from the vote, still chained the mentally ill, and still had more outhouses and unpaved roads than libraries and national parks.

But now a counter-warning...! If our national past was flawed, what is one to think of our national present? Lets see, today vast millions of us think our President is a Muslim...was born in Africa....wants to create death panels for the elderly ill...is in secret alliance with Wall Street billionaires [that is, when he's not in secret alliance with the labor unions the billionaires hate]...and has already earned the decision "worst president in US history.".

In a democracy, where "the people" are the drive-shaft of the machinery of government, one can be easily terrified by such profound ignorance. As if the drive-shaft is permanently busted. And just to verify this fear, we are reminded that vast more millions of "the people" prefer movies that feature gore and glory, sex and sadism, and especially vampires and vendettas. Shifting to television, more millions of "the people" say they vote for "American Idol" contestants more than they do for president.

Small sidebar. Among America's chosen "Idols," several have been disallowed because they were charged with: Battery...killing animals...and having affairs with judge Paula Abdul. What is one to say? Idols with feet of clay? Or America's best at their worst?

Anyway, there is a large groundswell these days of "the people" who seem to have made up their mind about which America they prefer. Past America, or as the paraders chant it, "the real America." But of course there is no such place except the America we each see in our own memories. Are Tom & Huck heroes or troubled kids? Is Black Jim a repressed philosopher or ghetto vagrant? Are the riverboats plowing the Mississippi loaded with free-enterprising capitalists or poker-playing hustlers?

Your call....

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Meeting places are very special places in our lives...!

For instance there's our eyes...our smiles...our lips...our thoughts. Then there are farm stands. That's right, farm stands. Those little crate & barrel edifices are the meeting places between city and country, urbanite and farmer. the world of glass & steel and the world of earth & harvests.

Speaking for myself, I've loved farm stands since the first day Dad stopped at one with me back in 1938. Back before the War. Back when America still seemed simple and uncomplicated. Oh, the Depression was still hanging on, but Dad liked to travel the back roads if Illinois where he could briefly escape the turmoil to pick some wonderfully fresh lettuce, and corn, and especially tomatoes. His mother came from Sicily where you make just about everything with big, plump tomatoes. Like she would always say: "God didn't make them a mistake..."

Farm stands today stand in a far more complicated and hurried world; still, they seem to have the same sweet
smells of God's green earth. They are still an unhurried meeting place between busy city-dweller and patient farmer-family. And yes, there still are snug family farms in the Midwest if you know how to find them. Dad always did.

It begins the moment you stop and park. You find yourself easing -- not rushing -- out of the car and ambling over to smell the produce. The folks behind the stand are usually in their 60s or 70s. You know, when you start having the time to do lyrical things like this. They are spectacularly proud of their crops. The great leafy heads of pale-green lettuce, the tasseled cobs of fresh-plucked corn, the neat pyramids of squash and radishes and cucumbers, plus of course those arrogantly red fat tomatoes insisting you hold them in your hand to really experience their great worth.

The earthen fragrances here are so rich and uncompromising, you just know you're in a slightly different place than any other in the whole wide world. And you love it. You really really love it. To the point you kinda hate getting back into your car, because cars are city and farm stands are magic!

Dad died many many years ago. Mom too. That make me an orphan, and frankly I hate it. Maybe you know what I mean?

But those unpretentiously majestic farm stands still stand. All down the byroads of the Midwest. Still a grand meeting place where you can meet the earth. Meet the slow. And in some inexplicable ways, meet Mom and Dad one more time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


All right, everyone knows the ship-of-state is listing, maybe even sinking. The SOS has been sent out. Now what? How are the people on this ship responding?

You'd think in only one logical way -- everyone working shoulder to shoulder to save the ship. Instead, here in the fading summer of 2010, most everyone is arguing toe to toe. Crazy....? Yeah, you could say that. Lets take a quick look:

* In 1st class there is a smug calm, because they believe they have the money to get the first life-boats. As for those other passengers, well just remember the old Darwinian battle cry: "When you've got it, keep it!"

* If you are one of the celebrities on board, you have your public to think of. So get out your best wardrobe, put on your best for-the-little-people smile, and remember such classic role models as Paris Hilton, Lady Ga Ga and Tiger Woods!

* If you are among the bankers on board, you pretty much do what you always do: Blame "unforeseen circumstances." Then at that precise moment, you yell out: "Kill the captain and throw his crew overboard!"

* If you are in 2nd class through steerage, you turn to other alternatives. Huddling close together and praying still has appeal. The easiest thing to do, of course, is listen to the apocalyptic voices among you, and rage with them at the conspiratorial forces of fate. Say like that conspiratorial captain, if the bankers haven't already killed him!

* If you are among the young, you likely strip to the waist in readiness. Angry that you may never reach your life's port, but still confident your fate is still in your own hands!

* If you are a member of the band, you remember what they did on the Titanic. They remained at their posts and played "Nearer My God to Thee." Only modern music has pretty much forgotten sentimental old melodies, so you strike up a roaring new Rap piece. No one can understand the lyrics, but what the hell, we're sinking anyway!

Now if in real life this ship-of-state actually survives and limps into port, chances are everyone on board will do three things: Find someone to blame...take a big chunk of the credit for getting here...and then in time book passage on the same kind of ship taking the very same kind of route.

Are we crazy...? No, we're just humanity...!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Here's a statement you can either accept, reject, or ponder: "The way you get to know yourself is by the expressions on other people's faces, because that's the only thing that you can see." Comes from the balladeering American poet Gil Scott-Heron.

While he makes outrageously good sense, he raises an old haunt with me: Who is the real me....?

If you care to ponder this, you may bump into the same perplexities I do. Is it really the Me I see in those other faces? Or is it the unvarnished Me I see in the morning mirror? Or just maybe is it the Me I still keep dreaming of being?

My best guess is it's all three Me's, depending on when and where I find myself. At work...at home...at church...at the company picnic....at the family Christmas...stepping off the commuter train on another Monday morning....or going to bed a the end of another tough day. Like a diamond's many different facets, I am all these facets when seen from each of these particular places and angles. Yet, still the same stone.

OK, I think I can live with that explanation. However, today's culture complicates it. Consider the intrusion of so many other faces in my life! There are all those perfect-faces in the movies which explode on the screen humbling you as if standing before the "David" or "Venus"...all those relentlessly smiling-faces in TV commercials insisting you too will smile if only you buy this today...all those artificial reality-faces on shows pretending these absurdly staged scenes are real life.

And now -- now science brings us yet another face to contend with: The botox-face! Studies show that botoxed faces have deadened muscles which can't react exactly as do regular muscles. Thus they may send others slightly skewed emotional messages. Messages that can confuse, even enrage.

Well, frankly I'm seriously confused as it is. So I'm giving up faces for the duration. All things considered, mine is hardly worth arguing about!

Monday, August 23, 2010


The New York Times has grabbed on to the flashy tag "Sofa Wars" to describe what's happening right before our digitalized eyes. To be more precise -- the many ingenious digital ways in which entertainment moguls have unleashed their scientific brigades to find and promote new ways to keep us glued to our sofas...!

You have to be over 70 to have even a faint recollection of the simplicity of 5-channel television. That's when you came home at night, had dinner, and then sat with 5 channel choices, no cable, no satellite, no on-demand, no DVR, no programming after midnight, and -- shock of shocks -- no remote from which you could sit on your sofa commanding all the digital powers of the cosmos.

Google now wants a piece of the action, along with the other on-line services that can bring to our sofa thousands of network re-broadcasts...movies,,,,videos...music...news...video-phone calling....and whatever current gore and gossip our libidos crave.

What Sofa Wars are all about is NOT the value of technological advancement. Or informational outreach. Or instant communication with our world and its many peoples and ideas. Most everyone applauds these. What the Sofa Wars are really all about is the value of passivity!

Adults today frequently chide kids for being too passive with all their video/phone diversions. "Get out and breath some fresh air," we instruct them. Meanwhile, back on the sofa, mom and dad and just about everyone else may -- in evolutionary-time -- be growing bigger buttocks and smaller brains as we become the passive receptacles of what the Great God Screen aims daily and directly into our sensorium.

I mean, even Galileo, Newton and Einstein left their virtual laboratories at times.You know -- just to remember what [dare I say it? ] the actual world still looked and smelled like....

Sunday, August 22, 2010


If you're among the millions who yearn to understand why our world is in such constant chaos, you have at least two routes of investigation. First, follow your passions (eg. Tea Partiers, conspiracy theorists, birthers, deathers, and assorted wingnuts). Second, follow the lessons of history (especially along the great fault lines of humanity).

Fault lines are usually understood to be those points of contact where contact between different forces is likely to trigger trouble. One blistering example often in the news is the great San Andreas fault line running dangerously down the spine of California. When the opposing tectonic plates beneath the earth grind against one another, trouble can emerges in cataclysmic quakes.

Now deploy this example throughout the planet...throughout the civilizations... throughout the races. Almost inevitably -- where and when these opposing forces collide -- troubles are likely to emerge. Either in the form of earthquakes and tsunamis....or civilizational feuds and wars....racial tensions and killings.

In some ways it's just that simple! And just that complicated!

* Where the planet's fault lines stir (eg. California, Iceland, the Mediterranean islands), troubles blot the pages of geological history. And while these lines can also create geological blessings like rich fuel and soil deposits, troubles are inevitable in the mix,

* Where the civilizations' fault lines stir (eg. ancient Persia and Greece, medieval Spain and the Islam, modern Jews and Arabs), troubles flare in human history. In these three and dozens of other cases, one civilization finds it unthinkable to co-exist with the other civilization, which it often takes to be, in today's parlance, the Great Satan.

* Where races' fault lines stir, neither the planet nor the civilizations necessarily tremble; but trouble nevertheless rumbles. To take one simple, bloody example, here in Chicago the fault lines can be drawn around our far west and far south communities where minorities like African Americans and Latinos cluster, bumping up against largely white communities to the east and northwest. Want a simple lesson? Read the weekend police blotter in the police stations near these fault lines.

So there it is -- a slightly pretentious but entirely practical lesson in how the fault lines of our world rarely cooperate, mostly collide. Why I can even find examples over family dinners where siblings bump into one another's opinions about life, love, and losing teams. It's never pretty...!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


One of the sillier city debates in Chicago is whose town is it -- the Cubs or the Bears?

Most sports aficionados don't refer as much to the Bulls or the White Sox for some reason. And yet, the Bears hardly sport a championship record in the NFL. And the Cubs -- well, they are document-ably the losing-est team in MLB history.

And yet we are now witnessing the annual transition from another disastrous Cub season into another dubious Bear season. With the pathetically predictable commentaries by cocky sports columnists about: What went wrong? Who is to blame? Why we should hope for better results? Which player is ready for a breakout season? Blah, bah, blah

Having no claim to any sports acumen myself, all I can report with assurance -- absolute assurance! -- is that as the Cubs' Wrigley Field gets ready to shut down for another season, some will miss the following:

* The glorious ivy covered walls
* The slap-dash color of the beer barkers and hot dog vendors
* The old-fashioned dignity of the hand-manipulated scoreboard
* The giggly bosom-bouncing teenage girls with neither knowledge nor interest in the game
* The chattering student groups chaperoned by their uptight teachers
* The chattering senior-citizen groups chaperoned by their attentive social workers
* The bare-chested, umpire-indicting guys who are here to live out their own dreams

What we will not miss:

* The barnyard look and stench of the men's washroom
* The absurd prices for every drink and meal they have you kidnapped into
* The posts in the stands behind which you can never see that big play
* The giant of a fan whose gigantity spills over into your small seat space
* The babbling sports experts next to you busy explaining the game to you

So, farewell charming, ancient Wrigley. We have loved you since childhood, even though you have broken our little hearts for 102 ugly years now. Despite everything, ours is a love affair that is destined to last regardless of who is mayor, who is president, and who we are in another war with. Is this crazy or what...?

Friday, August 20, 2010


World War II may have been America's "good war," but it was also its costliest. Right now, though, our two Middle East wars are on track to come in a strong second.

Research scholars Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes project the total cost will range between $ 7-8 trillion, nearly twice this year's federal budget. This in addition to the supreme irony that the US military has become the world's greatest single consumer of oil, as it fights to protect the oil deposits it is spending.

But over the generations, students of the mind have arrived to challenge the costs identified by students of the military. They have found psychological costs spiraling beyond any possible estimation. Clearly there are other wars costing other budgets to which we can not so easily put a number.

Consider for example the research at Baylor University.They have projected the costs of the nation's wars-of-the-mind. The millions who suffer mental illness...the trillions of dollars in medical care and facilities....the inestimable losses from damaged lives and families.

In one recent study there, they questioned 3500 couples to analyze what were "the deeper issues operating under the surface of their arguments." Not surprisingly, they learned how words in arguments are codes for feelings churning beneath the argument. Unexpressed or repressed feelings whose consequences often lead to divorces, broken homes, the shattered lives of children, and the generational continuation of these psychic damages for years to come.

As one reporter put it: "Wars are tragedies with a price tag in dollars and lives, but they eventually have an end. Mental wars are tragedies that just keep repeating the tragedies down through the years from one life to another."

The next time a peace marcher parades by, maybe they'll agree that wars of the mind cost even more than those of the military. Lets ban them both...

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Size matters. The size of our bank account, our car, our waistline, and especially our aspirations. At least this seems to be the case in the history of large nations like the United States. In a sense, our culture has been largely shaped by the large spaces within which it has been able to emerge.

Unlike the tight cluster of small nations say in Europe, here we have had more room for more of everything: Larger farms, larger cities, larger cars, larger highways, larger homes. One pregnant example of how sizes matters is the way in which many American families could spread out so that each person has their own room. A sociological factor rarely in play in denser cultures.

In recent decades, though, the pendulum has shifted sharply. We still have large farms and cities, but cars and homes and even dreams have shrunk. The metallic gluttony of our old gas-guzzling cars is today dismissed as conspicuous consumption. The average size of homes has decreased in some regions by more than 200 square feet. Surveys reveal Americans now believe this and later generations may never again reach the same rates of growth and security marked by our post WWII years.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is frequently quoted as warning, "In life there are no second acts." In nations too...? He went on to say, "At 18 our convictions are hills from which we look; at 45 they are caves in which we hide." Any way you look at it, the life of a person and a nation changes with time. Like a roaring river, it shifts beds and carves out unpredictable new tributaries that find their way to entirely different shorelines.

Here in a new century, a good deal of unpredictable national shrinkage is occurring right before our eyes. Jobs, incomes, Gulf seafood supplies, Alaskan oil reserves, the number of teachers in our city schools, the number of course options, even the number of school districts that can still hold classes for full 5-day weeks.

To some -- a healthy national reckoning with reality. To others -- a painful diminishment of the American colossus. I can live with either assessment. What I can't get comfortable with is that some of Mom's old rules of engagement might likewise be shrinking in the face of new realities. Mom always preached and poked: "Sit up straight or you'll ruin your posture!" Now -- I can't believe this! -- now Canadian researchers are telling us that moms may have been wrong, and that "slouching when you're sitting is actually better for your back."

I swear, I may never again believe in anyone's predictions. Including this one...!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Philosophers, poets and even some rockers have this penchant for probing what makes us human. Is it a soul? A gene pool? An evolutionary set of predispositions? A Freudian complexity of repressions? What?

The number of choices -- in either prose, poetry or guitars -- can all probably be reduced down to one. Not that this is the only one; but it is the one where everything else starts: Pride....! That foundational instinct for survival and supremacy that whirs like a little engine in all of us from the moment of our risky birth.

To understand human pride is to understand the history of the world. Perhaps in just 3 easy chapters.

Pride often goes under other names. Confidence...self-reliance...ambition....courage....and today's hot ticket: be-all-you-can-be. Whatever, pride helps explain why CEOs will sell their grandmother to beat the other guys, athletes will kill to win, criminals are devoted to beating the system, the system is devoted to beating the people, generals see no substitute for victory, and nations fight to be first.

* It all started in Eden where Genesis reports humanity's pride just couldn't resist playing God. Thus the infamous Apple. We are told that as a consequence, humanity "fell from grace" and has been stuck with our flawed and painful human nature ever since.

*Several eons later came Coca Cola, the enormously popular American soft drink which by the 20th C had become number one in the world. But when number two, Pepsi-Cola, was for sale, corporate pride in Atlanta headquarters scoffed. Today Coke has to share market with the competition they could have bought out.

* Iraq was invaded by President Bush for a dozen different reasons, starting with the elusive WMD Dick Cheney still knows were there. But when Bush said, from his gut, "Bring 'em on!" his pride and bravado spoke for most of the American people's pride and bravado. But, once again, pride came before the fall. And as we fell into aimless bloodshed, we have learned only to do it all again in Afghanistan.

See, what did I say...? The history of the world in 3 easy chapters on human pride. What, one wonders, will be the epilogue to these chapters.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Big debate going on here in 2010. It's called TMI...!

Well, sure, there are lots of debates going on -- from every national capitol to every corporate headquarters to every kitchen table in the world -- but this one is among the more foundational. Has to do with who you and I are becoming as homo sapiens. Meaning what you and I and our children may look and think like over the next 10 to 20 years.

TMI stands for a new battle-cry: Too Much Information....! The techies who coined the phrase are opposed by the techies who reject the argument. Started when a techie, Nicholas Carr, wrote a major article in "The Atlantic" titled 'Google is Making Us Stupid.' He argued, with sheaths of data, that being plugged into the Internet via its many entry points like Google, Twitter, email, smartphone, ipad, etc. is starting to re-wire our brain circuits.

Carr, while granting the enormous informational value of the Internet, argues that our brains are so inundated with information (usually conflicting) that we can "no longer focus, and so we graze." Like a tourist in New York City who wanders the streets agog with the enormity of visual and audio distractions, aware of everything and understanding nothing.

Until, that is, he or she reaches Central Park. At last pauses, sits, begins to focus on this one remarkable venue. Something perhaps like primitive man did when he developed the alphabet and eventually the book. A time and place and product with which to focus, to concentrate, to reflect.

Homo sapiens' historical trajectory has been: From an existence of 360-degree physical distractions... to an age of focus and intellectual growth.... back again to today's existence of 24/7 digital distractions. Kinda sounds like Mom and Dad and Teacher begging Jane and Johnny to "pay attention," "focus," "do your homework."

Oh,excuse me. I can't stay with this right now. I'm getting another tweet...!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Is morality absolute or situational...? Is there a coherent natural law with which all humanity is similarly endowed...? Are there any fixed rights & wrongs in this life...?

Philosophers and theologians have debated these large questions for centuries. But sometimes it take the littlest of actions to renew the debate. Consider Sin City (AKA, Las Vegas) where the city council is considering a ban on hula hoops. Hula hoops...? In a community where gambling, crime and prostitution are winked at..? Well, yes, because according to councilman Starvos Anthony, "they're blocking tourist traffic, and we need our tourists." Next, consider the British aquarium which has decided their topless mermaid should have a bathing suit, because "she's a little too buxom."

Silly examples, yes, but these and others like them seem to say: Lets get real, folks, moral values are inevitably situational and therefore relative. Even consequential examples -- like lying, stealing, killing -- are inevitably defined by each local culture and its local mores. What's bad to you may be heroic to me, end of silly argument!

If agreed, read no further. If, however, there are still some questions, then consider two of the foundational choices available: (1) Morality that is situational must mean it comes from somewhere within each of us where we are existing (2) Morality that is absolute must mean it comes from somewhere outside of us no matter where we are existing.

Maybe, just maybe, it comes down to Darwin and/or God....!

Today's Darwinian neuro-biologists examine different genes and genetic codes they suggest can explain the natural evolution of each culture's moral values (its sense of good and evil and divinity and death). In contrast, Judaic-Christian-Islamic philosophers examine what they call humanity's god-given, inalienable rights (its sense of good and evil and divinity and death).

One camp says look inward; the other says look upward; the consensus-seeker says lets do both. But adds -- lets do it now at the prime of our lives, rather than waiting so long that our prime is past...

Sunday, August 15, 2010


A new battle-cry: "Leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole!"

This corollary to the global-warming agenda is buttressed by UN figures in which 14 countries have reported record high temperatures for 2010. Putting it on track to be the hottest year ever recorded. [In Iraq, where US troops patrol in heavy armor, temperatures topped 126 degrees in July].

The all-purpose verb "transition" comes urgently to mind. The planet may be transitioning from one status to another. Environmentalists like Al Gore are arguing for a corresponding transition in the way humanity uses and dispose fossil fuels.

The struggle has been joined, and the combatants engaged. While the eventual results are still open to debate, there is little debate about the appearance of this efficacious verb throughout our history. We are repeatedly -- respectfully or reluctantly -- transitioning from one stage of life into another.

I believe this fact was first reported as the Angel of God was driving humanity out of the Garden. It is said Adam looked desperately at Eve: "I think we're going through a big transition here...!"

So many points in time when other commanding shifts occur. With children: Cute to brat! Young women: Single to un-married! Mature women: Beautiful to handsome! Men: Hunk to dignified! Marriage: Warm to cold! Home: Nest to empty-nest! Celebrity: Star to super-star! Celebrity: Super-star to forgotten! Sports: Game to grudge! Politicians: In to out! Nation: Great to empire! You and me: Life to death!

The rhythms to our existence are in these ways predictable. However, predicting is not always the same as preparing. Anybody on Wall Street will tell you that. And surely anybody on Main Street over the age of reason should be able to tell you that.

Trouble is, our reason all too often fails us. What then to do...? Some get a license to carry concealed firearms. [Sean Hannity, Howard Stern, Don Imus and Donald Trump among many]. Others get a license to pray. [Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists among many]

Lock & Load...? Look up and Love....? There's a choice.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


A popular argument over dinners and drinks and putts is: How the media slant the news. Everyone starts with an agreement the media do; but not everyone agrees in which direction: Right or Left.

Short of fists, one way to settle this is to tally up how the media use key words. Say like torture. A new study from Harvard's J. F. Kennedy School of Government reports that the four leading US newspapers consistently describe water-boarding as torture when it occurs in foreign nations. Not so after it was justified by the Bush administration in 2004.

From 1930 to 2004 the "NY Times" called it torture in 44 of 54 articles while the "LA Times" did so in 26 of 27 articles. However, beginning in 2004, the "NY Times" labeled it torture in only 2 of 143 articles while the "LA Times" did so in only 3 of 63.

The study raises questions: Do patterns like this represent a kind of state-run media? Or are the media simply reflecting national policy? Or are the media essentially placating the paying public? Unfortunately, there is no known tally that can be used to definitively answer such questions, because every writer and reader uses and hears words relative to their own body of life-experience. In effect, it's all relative...!

Something like so many other phenomena in our lives. Take for example a recent phone-call from a long ago, far away friend. Thirty years had slipped away since we last spoke, and yet her voice conjured up instant memories and affections and images. No way for science to measure or quantify this relative emotion. Oh, evolutionary biologists may try to isolate some gene or two that will reduce this little whiff of magic into a code.......but my thought is forget your codes, forget your quantifications, and simply taste a moment in time which is entirely relative and subjective to the two of us!

Editors should not fall back upon this small indulgence, but there is a vast difference between torture and love on the scale of human emotions. One demands precision; the other, simply permission.

Friday, August 13, 2010



It always helps to hang one's thoughts on those of someone whose thoughts have reigned supreme throughout history. Say like Leonardo de Vinci who famously said: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

So simply speaking: What is the most dangerous idea in the world today....?

Some have said, "The current idea that being human is not all that important!" Others say, "The bilge of free-range ideas spilling out of the Internet!" Still others argue, "Relativism!" Not a few have tossed in, "Capitalism!" Then there are those from Alaska to Arizona who insist, "It's Obama!"

This is no survey; but it would be fascinating to hear back some answers to this question.


Seasons come, seasons go, all part of the cosmic symphony that all too often we take all too much for granted. But one thing's for sure -- you can always tell when the music is shifting into a different key. Right now it's happening again. Right on schedule.

Fall is in the air....! That certain distinctive bite of pungency that catches your nostrils in the late afternoon. Just as winter's frigidity, spring's fragrance, and summer's fire do when it's their cue.

However, there's something special about the symphonic segue from August into September. September is not only a new month and a new season, it's also a new beginning. Not January -- that's simply a name on a calender -- but September which always augurs the unofficial beginning of the new year. The start of school...the start of the TV season...the start of the holidays...along with that little extra burst of emotional energy which comes from winding down what-has-been and starting up what-is-once-again-possible.

Everyone feels the key shift, each in our own way. Mothers usually have wardrobes to change and homework to watch over....fathers often have new job assignments and quotas...teachers and custodians and coaches and crossing guards are all resurrected from their brief slumbers...and kids, well, kids reluctantly realize their summertime Tom Sawyer/Becky Thatcher gig has come to another end.

Oh, sure, there are city committees crunching budgets, snow salt supplies being ordered, and another November election to fight over. Each in their own way important. However, what's truly important in these next several weeks is that our planet is starting to tilt into a new seasonal orbit and into a new seasonal key to the symphony.

If we listen with our hearts, it seems to be in the key of: "Here's another chance..."

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Think about it -- what do all these have in common: Garden of Eden...parting the Red Sea...King Arthur ...the Crucifixion...Jesse James...the Lincoln & Kennedy's assassinations?

At first glance, very little. But on careful glance, very much. Each is a part of our history which has become a part of our mythology. Mythology meaning collective beliefs, not intentional lies. Or -- to put it in the parlance of today's Washington punditry -- these are some of the narratives by which we understand ourselves. Much like the narrative our families tell about their origins, their white sheep, their black sheep and why we gather in times of celebration and sorrow.

For most families and most historians that's all that's necessary. Some, however, want and intend to know more. Especially in today's more inquiring age equipped with so many precise scientific tools of inquiry. And so archaeologists, geologists and anthropologists are forever busy turning soil and sand in the places where these events/myths/narratives were first reported.

Searchers have probed the Fertile Crescent for signs of Eden...geologists have speculated about where and how the Red Sea may have allowed a passageway...the Arthurian legends have brought anthropologists scouring the English countrysides...the possible site of Jesus' crucifixion have been tramped over for almost 2000 inquisitive years...and the conspiracy theories behind the deaths of famous outlaws and presidents never fail to fascinate.

But when all is said and done [and that's not likely ever to happen] we observers are left to wonder. To wonder whose facts are most valid? Whose doubts are most reasonable? Whose postulates are most acceptable? Whose intentions are most honorable? Once we have sifted through these, then and only then can we decide whether to worry about these remarkable narratives and their magnitude...

....or simply to wonder about these remarkable narratives and their message!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Right now Al Pacino is addressing this question on Broadway (have I bragged that Al is a distant member of the family?). In "Merchant of Venice," his Shylock speaks in terms of a pound-of-flesh. In caste societies, the value of a human life is often determined by the family lineage. Here in America, flesh and lineage are not as important as cash. Here money is the mark and the measure of a person. Period...!

Now at one time, Hollywood directors like Frank Capra made movies about the average person as in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" and "It's A Wonderful Life." At one time illustrators like Norman Rockwell made artwork about the average person as in scores of classic "Saturday Evening Post" covers and calendars.

In today's America, money is still the mark and measure of a person; but usually the person has to be a celebrity before most of us bother to care. And thus it is that billionaires running vast corporations make and keep their billions without many headlines. It's the celebrities whose money we most pay attention to.

Which is why publications like "TV Guide" drool over stories with titles like "Top Earners" in which they snappily write: "From Hugh Laurie to Jersey Girl Snooki, it's our annual roundup of who makes what on TV."

For what it's worth -- and in the final measure of a life it isn't worth a hill of beans -- here are these top-earning TV celebrities circa 2010. The question has to be: Do these dollars represent their value? For instance, my life was recently saved by carotid artery surgery whose total doctor/hospital bill was over $30,000 for three hours of intensive work. How to match that up with Snooki from the reality show "Jersey Shore" who makes $30,000 every episode for -- lets see now -- for being Snooki?

Then there's pretend doctor Hugh Laurie who makes $400,000 for every episode. And Charlie Sheen who rakes in $1.25 million. And Catie Couric at $15 million a year, And Oprah Winfrey at $315 million a year.

Well, why go on...? The point here is that free-enterprise societies tend to value a life in terms of the money a person's enterprise has earned them. Which makes a kind of sense. And yet, a kind of nonsense. Our value as humans really emerges from our value to the world and to those with whom we walk in that world. And that, surely, is not so easily tidied up into a dollar figure.

I'm thinking here of the day my son saw a woman collapse in a store who he revived with CPR. As the medics arrived, he quietly walked away with the sublime knowledge that his life had saved another life. How would "TV Guide" put a dollar figure on that...?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Everyone knows Woody Allen is an award-winning film maker, brilliant comedian, and lifelong neurotic. He has kept New York therapists in clover for more than 40 years. But if Woody is crazy, he's crazy like a fox.

Allen would have us consider life as a great tragedy filled with countless joys...an endless search for a divinity who isn't talking...a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get it right even though we usually get it wrong.

To Google his many anecdotes and punchlines is a sheer delight. But out of them all, this is one of my favorites: "I'm not a hypochondriac, I'm just an alarmist!" He then adds: "I see change as symbolic of aging and death, so I resist all change in all forms!"

However, if change is alarming, then Woody and the rest of us can expect to be in a state of perpetual alarm. Fifty percent of all the energy that humanity has ever used is being used today. Ninety percent of all the scientists who have ever lived and explored live and explore today. The cumulative body of human knowledge is estimated to have doubled by about 1950, and has been doubling every 10 years ever since. I mean, hold on, because change has changed. It comes faster and more profoundly than at any time in recorded or imagined history....!

Caught up in this tsunami of change, we can either paddle our little boats away as fast as our little Woody alarms can take us. Or, we can head directly into the changes, riding the waves with a carpe diem shout. "Scientific America" recently released their projections for which pending changes are most likely to happen. Here's what they have to offer us paddlers: SYNTHETIC LIFE: Almost certain! CLONING OF A HUMAN: Likely! ASTEROID COLLISION: Unlikely! NUCLEAR EXCHANGE: Unlikely! SELF-AWARE ROBOTS: Likely! POLAR MELTDOWN: Likely!

Oars down...! Now, which way...?

Monday, August 9, 2010


The catch-all adjective "cool" has a hundred different meanings. Generally, it means whatever one wants it to mean in contrast to whatever one means by dull. Or is that being gratuitously complicated...?

Leaving the linguistics to others, here is Forbes Magazine's arguable choice for America's Ten Coolest Cities: New York City, Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, Oakland, Orlando, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington DC.

The survey asked the city locals a batch of questions about eateries, night spots, and other cool social diversions. Here, though, is one question they did not ask: What do your citizens think of their nation's government?

There is good reason to suspect the local citizenry would have been of two minds. One mind is usually anthropomorphized these days in the form of angry paraders, shouting dissenters, and fork-tongued politicians who maintain "government is the problem." Their corollary is "government can't do anything right."

This is not to dispute their angry logic, but to pose a follow-up question. Why is it, then, that millions of Americans buy novels and watch films in which this very same government is energetically portrayed as a cunning, skilled body of achievers with a vast array of modern technology at their fingertips? Say like CIA agents equipped with fleets of helicopters and GPS systems as they trace and track evil-doers throughout the globe? Say like FBI agents and Coast Guard crews keeping 24/7 watch on both criminals and invaders? Say like hard-hitting Swat Teams charging into dens of treason and terror with the swiftness of the ancient gods?

Here's the point....

America's general population is something like the Bleacher Bum population at Wrigley Field. One mind (or minute) they are taunting the players as idiots who can't play the game; the next, they are cheering their players' home run or diving catch like they belong in the Hall of Fame. So, OK, in a ball park this kind of quirky fandom is all part of the sport. But the sport of government is a little more serious, with a lot more at stake.

There was a time in America when what people said and sang on the Fourth of July was really a part of their DNA. Today, we are advised, good citizenship is critical citizenship. And that has the ring of truth to it. But only, only if an authentic sense of citizenship accompanies the criticism...!

Just maybe the "coolest" thing about any American city today would be a population informed and mature enough to exercise its inalienable right to complain with as much reason as rage. Now THAT kind of "criticism" rises to the level of "constructive."

Sunday, August 8, 2010


It's been said that fear is forward, because no one is afraid of yesterday....

I'm afraid most psychiatrists would disagree, for it's our yesterdays that so intrigue them. An intrigue that can also be found in this from Albert Einstein: "The most beautiful things we have experienced during our lives are the mysteries, for mystery is the source of art, science and friendship."

Well said, Professor, and yet the operative word "mystery" calls for some clarification and definition. Or, wait, does it...? There are those -- from shamans to poets -- who might argue that mysteries by their very nature defy clarification and definition. They simply and magnificently are!

Here's the scene.

Corner saloon...three guys at the bar arguing about their baseball teams...tempers flair...finally guy one belts guy two who in turn belts guy one...after a little while, they all laugh over their temper tantrum. Nearby watching all this is the local priest, a college professor, and the resident drinker.

The priest might reflect on humanity's flawed human nature which permits such irrational outbursts. The professor might reflect on the sociological implications of three out-of-work bread-winners getting testy at even the slightest irritant. The resident alcoholic might simply shrug, "Hey, forget it; they will!"

The scene makes one think about Socrates's celebrated: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Was he right? Sounds right to the priest and professor. But then perhaps the mystery of three sensitive egos bumping into each other over too many beers is best left right there at the bar. It happens, it happened here, it's over, end of thinking about it. Tomorrow, this little today will become nothing more than a forgotten yesterday.

So there's the choice. To ponder or simply to push on? Be it a bar fight, a first love, or a new career, should life and its many mysteries be cheerfully bitten into like a piece of ripe fruit? Or reflectively re-captured into something like a still-life painting for all to examine?

While the priest and professor debate the question, the resident drinker is ordering another round. One wonders who will wake up in the morning the most content...

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Three situations thousands of miles and meaning from one another. Consider what they say to you...

In our American Midwest, that distinctive dedication to all things good and past -- the Amish communities -- have now spread far beyond their Pennsylvania/Ohio roots. They have quietly reached into 28 states in their inexorable march west in search of affordable, fertile farmland. Their population of friendly persuasion has doubled in just 20 years, reaching 249,000.

In the Korean peninsula there is a harshly different population that calls itself communist. A sealed-off, regimented society of millions, it is hardly "friendly" in its concept of persuasion. After losing all three games in the World Cup, the North Korean team was subjected to a 6-hour "public reprimand" in Pyongyang where it was charged with betraying the nation's "great ideological struggle." The team coach was fired, and is now working as a common laborer.

Then there is Washington DC -- land of the free and home of the brave -- where there is a very different kind of population. The proud population of undisturbed protesters who are blessedly free to march and complain whatever they wish. Right there within sight of the White House and the Capitol. Without this right to disagree with their government, our idea of democracy would be meaningless.

One small after-thought....

While the Amish and Korean populations represent mostly their own beliefs, the Washington DC protesters represent the global beliefs of democracy itself. Bred in ancient Greece, nourished in England, and institutionalized in America by our Constitution, democracy is a precious but delicate plant. To keep it flourishing it needs to be fed. But also weeded.

What weeds...? There is the 223-year-long question. Our courts have consistently argued that about the only restriction on our 1st amendment rights would be "yelling fire in a crowded theater." Having emblazoned that principle upon the national memory, the gnawing issue each court case is how exactly to define that metaphorical "yell."

Aside from the obvious examples of treason, you have to wonder about disinformation. Organized disinformation whose "yell" now has the Internet/Cable outreach of millions of citizens in a millionth of a minute. A new nine will be sitting on the Supreme Court this October. Every protester will be watching. Not, however, the fired coach who has to wonder about the "ideological struggle" he and we are still in.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I have two very good friends whose goodness stands a millions miles apart from the other. One is a serious, rational-minded scholar; the other an affable, emotion-guided roustabout. Both have lived a long enough life to have come to some conclusions about it. The first has this keen, scientific view that asserts, "take nothing for granted!" The second asserts nothing, but seems to believe, "there's a lot to take for granted!"

I'm still trying to make up my mind. It's something like watching a "Star Trek" episode and trying to decide if Mr Spock or Captain Kirk is my hero.

There are a great many Spocks in today's more scientifically-enlightened age. They quite properly insist upon facts and statistics and evidence before they believe. [If they were Bible-believers their role model would be the Apostle Thomas who would not believe in the risen Christ until he placed his hands into His wounds from the Cross].

I was thinking about that as I recently scanned the results of various scholarly research which reached conclusions such as: Ghettos breed crimes in our cities...letting children dress like porn stars is ill advised...leaving kids on their own in front of television is harmful...the study of comparative religions shows there are many different ways of understanding God...Social Security and Medicare are endangered because people prefer instant gratification to long-range planning.

My friend the happy roustabout shrugged when I shared these footnoted conclusions with him. His longest statement on the matter was a roll of the eyes as he stretched out his one-word commentary: "Sooooo?" I took that to mean that he didn't need the research to reach the obvious. 70 some years of intuitive instincts had already informed him of these conclusions. [Made me think of Grandma Mary who used to smile generously whenever I rushed home with a dazzling new fact that she had probably been living with for the last 50 years].

OK, so maybe this is all saying that Kirk and his flurry of passions appeals more to me than Spock's precision of premises. I'm not sure, because, well, that would be too un-scientific of me. On the other hand, that just might be true. After all, Grandma Mary never got past 8th grade, and yet I always found myself going to her for advice until the day she died, still listening to me with her generous smile of understanding...

Thursday, August 5, 2010


College football teams clapping hands as they break from the huddle get it....theatre casts silently valuing each other just before the opening night curtain get it...monks in daily prayers together get it....group hugs at anniversaries and birthdays and wakes get it too.

"It" is that shadowy reality that accompanies us even in the most private rooms of our most private solitudes. Like a Dickensian spirit, it is the vigilant reminder that we are not for a moment possible in this world without others. Parents, siblings, teachers, clergy, co-workers, ER attendants, police, and yes power-line and street-cleaning teams.

No one solos in this life. No one....!

Whence then this cocksure warrior stance that speaks words like: It all starts with me! If I can dream it I can do it! I'm being all I can be! Sure, this is what sales managers and Amway speakers get their audiences to stand and chant. But they lie, and I can speak with embarrassed authority. For I accepted checks for writing some of those lies for some of those executives.

I once wrote something for Daniel Schorr, the celebrated journalist who died last week. He was the guest speaker for one of the Fortune 500 companies holding their annual sales conference in Vegas. The words were in his style and rhythms, but the message was not. Freelance writers for big corporations are usually hired to sculpt high-energy rhetoric for speakers too busy to write their own stuff.

Every speaker that day took my hired words and delivered them with varying degrees of lectern comfort. Not Dan. When he scanned my draft he said, "Look. kid, I'll just wing it up there!" And he did. Instead of the usual corporate blather about profit and progress and prosperity, Schorr lectured.

His pitch was a bit jarring for this audience of hustlers. He reminded them that no one solos in the symphony of life. Your notes make no sense without the harmonies of others to go with it. Which is why he went on to say things were very different from when he got on Richard Nixon's infamous "list." Back then, Schorr attacked a president for documentable actions. In contrast to more recent attacks by dis-informed malcontents who object simply to their vague but cocksure instant-gratification frustrations.

In other words, fellas, if you're going to fault your boss or your president, have a reason besides large doses of raw anger about how-things-just-aren't-going-right. Tea anyone....?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


It's popular, even prestigious, to connect-the-dots. A skill that gives the connector the claim: Intellectual. The claim, of course, depends largely on which dots of history one chooses to connect.

A few totally un-connected dots that have some intellectuals writing about today: New medical hopes are growing in the HIV battle...homicide rates in most large cities are dropping...scientists are recommending flats over high heels to prevent painful thickening of tendons...traditional corner saloons and bistros are disappearing by as many l50,000 in France alone...US battle divisions in Iraq are standing down.

Where in the world is the line that connects these dots of facts into a coherent diagram of life...? Several options, but here's one that proposes a straight strong line directly to the past!

Consider say 75 years ago. There were no HIV epidemics to battle.....fewer homicide surges to drop...too many saloons & bistros for the chain restaurants to shut down...no battle forces there to stand down. [Oh, as for that high heels thing, sorry but looking good has always triumphed over being smart]

Here's the point. America admires youth and youth admires now. And yet, perhaps it's time the young not only the old say this. Say that not everything old is bad. The merits of the past serve us best on the mantle rather than buried in the ground. The good-old-days were good as well as old. This label "nostalgia" may have to be kidnapped back from the doubters and returned to the dreamers.

Not everything 75 years ago was worthy, but more people then seemed to think so. And believe so. And fight so. This is no literary delusion by a few vintage authors and Hollywood screenwriters, but right there in the history texts. The laurel Greatest Generation was not not so much bestowed as it was earned. Which is to say we just might want to do a splashy Broadway-type revival for all the disappointed cynics and disillusioned collegians to see. And maybe cheer.

Better yet -- to re-read the best pages from that old script, and see if there isn't a part in there for them....!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


The word Azazei isn't used in daily conversation, but its meaning is in use every day. It's the Hebrew word for "the goat sent out to bear upon him all our iniquities." More commonly understood as: A scapegoat...!

We love scapegoats, because they conveniently "bear our iniquities" rather than we having to bear them ourselves. Like the pitcher who blew the lead in the ninth...the quarterback who threw the interception ...the parent who didn't give their prisoned child enough quality-time...any sitting president who, well, who's there to be scapegoated for anything that goes wrong that we surely had nothing to do with.

There is an infinite number of scapegoats to choose from, but consider just two: Adolf Hitler and Mitch Miller.

A peculiar pairing, granted, but they do have this scapegoat thing in common. Hitler has become the premier scapegoat of modern times. The most hated, the most evil, the most death-wielding of madman tyrants. Few people -- least of all Germans -- will stand up to explain let alone defend him. Now, however, there is Hollywood's award-winning director Oliver Stone and his upcoming series on Showtime.

He recently made a Mel Gibson like remark that he's had to, as they say, clarify. Stone stated that Hitler did far more harm to the Russians than to the Jews (30 million deaths to 6 million). His math was right; his message was not. And so now Stone himself becomes a scapegoat. To all those Jews here and abroad who consider him yet another malevolent instance of global anti-Semitism.

The one thing that can be said with assurance is that everyone with strong beliefs will need a good, solid scapegoat at one time or another. To help the world better realize how their honest beliefs are under dishonest attack. One can only imagine what it would be like to have a Sunday morning network interview featuring scapegoats Oliver Stone, Mel Gibson and Eli Wiesel; sparked with remote comments from the Holocaust-denying President of Iran and Albert Speer Jr (son of Hitler's munitions minister who after the war married into my family living in another Hollywood-scapegoated narrative: Corleone, Sicily).

A digital maelstrom of Azazei all compacted into 60 of the most teratogenic minutes on network television!

There is evil fun in projecting the splash of Washington punditry following such a program. In contrast, there is no fun in reporting some of the reactions to the death of 99-year-old Mitch Miller. His popular sing-along network shows in the early 60s may have been the last time America gathered together in families to savor a mythical Norman Rockwell America. Now, often reviled as that corny hypocritical age of phony moral values which today's cool generations can rightly snicker at (see films like "Pleasantville" for snickering details).

Mitch will be remembered by some (as Hitler is by all) as the goat for the "iniquities" fellow millions at the time participated in gladly. Now, conveniently, those millions can look back with rolled eyes and say: "Me? No, not me!"


There is an infinite number of scapegoats to choose from, but consider just two: Adolf Hitler and Mitch Miller.

A peculiar pairing, granted, but they do have this scapegoat thing in common. Hitler has become the premier scapegoat of modern times. The most hated, the most evil, the most death-wielding of madman tyrants. Few people -- least of all Germans -- will stand up to explain let alone defend him. Now, however, there is Hollywood's award-winning director Oliver Stone and his upcoming series on Showtime.

He recently made a Mel Gibson like remark that he's had to, as they say, clarify. Stone stated that Hitler did far more harm to the Russians than to the Jews (30 million deaths to 6 million). His math was right; his message was not. And so now Stone himself becomes a scapegoat. To all those Jews here and abroad who consider him yet another malevolent instance of global anti-Semitism.

The one thing that can be said with assurance is that everyone with strong beliefs will need a good, solid scapegoat at one time or another. To help the world better realize how their honest beliefs are under dishonest attack. One can only imagine what it would be like to have a Sunday morning network interview featuring scapegoats Oliver Stone, Mel Gibson and Eli Wiesel; sparked with remote comments from the Holocaust-denying President of Iran and Albert Speer Jr (son of Hitler's munitions minister who after the war married into my family living in another Hollywood-scapegoated narrative: Corleone, Sicily).

A digital maelstrom of Azazei all compacted into 60 of the most teratogenic minutes on network television!

There is evil fun in projecting the splash of Washington punditry following such a program. In contrast, there is no fun in reporting some of the reactions to the death of 99-year-old Mitch Miller. His popular sing-along network shows in the early 60s may have been the last time America gathered together in families to savor a mythical Norman Rockwell America. Now, often reviled as that corny hypocritical age of phony moral values which today's cool generations can rightly snicker at (see films like "Pleasantville" for snickering details).

Mitch will be remembered by some (as Hitler is by all) as the goat for the "iniquities" fellow millions at the time participated in gladly. Now, conveniently, those millions can look back with rolled eyes and say: "Me? No, not me!"

Monday, August 2, 2010


Conspiracy theories today are a confused public's easiest way to find some purpose to the random purposelessness of a chaotic world. With some villains, at least the absolute terror of existing in a world in which no one is in charge is relieved a little. At least now there is some kind of explanation, and he/she/it can be identified and pursued.

This is what Oliver Stone and tell-all blogs are for....!

Not to say there are no actual conspiracies and conspirators, because there are. But lately some of them are getting more inscrutable than ever. Consider for example the newest and sneakiest -- what they've done in all those crowd scenes in Angelina Jolie's hit movie "Salt."

Oh, you hadn't noticed...? Well, conspiracy fans, here's the secret lowdown. All those people in all those crowd scenes aren't really people. That's right, they've conspiratorially used 500 inflatable dolls instead. The plot...? Well, now they can avoid hiring extras. Save a bundle. Get it? They are slowly but insidiously out to replace actors with dolls. Just like they already have replaced tollway cashiers, bank clerks, assembly line workers, and half the American labor force with computers.

Look, my friends, this is big. Very big. They are saving costs at the expense of people's earnings all in order to line their pockets with added profits. It's cowboy capitalism at its robber baron worst. You never thought about it this way? Well, we have private meetings at undisclosed locations every few weeks where we can share what each of us has gathered about these conspiracies. Including of course the on-going UFO master plot.

Who are "we" you ask? Well, we're the American people, and we're mad as hell and we're not going to take this anymore. Who are "they?" Well, they're all those invisible rich bastards who live in gated estates, drive foreign cars, own jets and yachts and overseas plantations, hob nob with fellow conspirators like that guy without a birth certificate in the White House, and in general are descendants of the ruling classes from the lost land of Atlantis!

Don't laugh...that's what they count on. And as soon as I'm released, I intend to go public with this on all the networks. Which won't be easy, because "they" own them too....!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Everyone likes a crystal ball now and then. It just seems so darn intriguing...magical...mystical...and hey maybe a chance to defy the gods and part the curtains into our future. This bone-deep curiosity is what keeps shamans, astrologers, horoscopes, mediums, Chinese fortune cookies and high-paid economic forecasters busy.

A first cousin to crystal balls are miracles. Now these are the superstars of the amazing! We are led to believe the uneducated believe in them, the educated dismiss them, and the recipients find it hard to explain them. The respected philosopher George Santayana spoke for the prosecution when he dismissed them this way: "Miracles are propitious accidents, the natural causes of which are too complicated to be readily understood."

Frankly I was more skeptical of miracles until I read his dismissive explanation. Because it is no explanation at all! Too complicated to be readily understood...? Well, yeah professor, that's precisely what both believers and recipients say. If these events were "understandable" they would not be miracles!

Science to the rescue.

Just as the highest authors of humanity were once robed priests and priestesses standing before Egyptian/ Athenian/Medieval altars...now they are jacketed neuro-biologists and cosmologists standing before Bunsen burners/petri dishes/telescopes. Different breeds and different methodologies; but the same cocksure voice of authority. One breed believed in miracles by saying they were too complicated to be understood. Today's breed doesn't believe in miracles by saying the same thing: too complicated to be understood.

Like you, I've been brushed a few times by what I felt was the miraculous. But Mr Santayana is quite correct. These experiences were far far too complicated for anyone else to understand. Actually, for me to completely understand. This much can be said. All miracles are true...and some even happened!