Monday, September 10, 2012



Sunday, September 9, 2012


I might as well just admit it up front...! I find today's world of relentless hype and hustle downright obscene. Maybe you've noticed too. Hollywood marquees promising us films that are always 'brilliant,' 'epic,' 'legendary.' Washington always promising us jobs, joy, endless prosperity. Silicon Valley forever promising us the next-greatest-thing we absolutely must have in our lives.

OK, none of this nonsense is exactly new. However, we lately we've come upon a new bit of nattering nonsense. So very very seriously debating who will run for president in 2016. We haven't yet survived 2012, but now the gotta-keep-finding-a-new-headline pundits on television are fixating on the likes of Hillary, Biden, Perry, even the Big Dog himself. The madness of it all is downright obscene.

Einstein always liked to advise pundits, be they politicians or physicists: "If you can't explain it to a 6-year-old, you don't understand it yourself." Seems to me he was talking about Clarity. Instead, today's talking- heads on the news channels are far more interested in Captivating. What and who can we talk about that will captivate our audiences and therefore our ratings. Pretty much what 'West Wing' writer Aaron Sorkin is addressing in his angry new TV series 'Newsroom.'

Making a career out of predicting the future is nothing new. The Delphic Oracle in ancient Greece, the firebrand prophets in ancient Israel, and self-anointed seers like the Mayans, Nostradamus and Pat Robertson are among the perennials. Take your choice.

But come on, folks, no one knows the future. It's not something you own, you simply survive as best you can. Not only is it obscene to exploit people's fears about it, it's more than a little outrageous for anyone to presume they or their latest headliner will even live to see that future!

Much better that you and I and our syndicated profiteering soothsayers focus on living the best today we can. In doing that, we'll be doing more for our future than anything else at hand.


Saturday, September 8, 2012


It's been a well-intentioned process by the more compassionate female of the species. And so it is that here in the 21st C, fathers have largely joined mothers in immunizing their children from failure! from defeat! from loss of any kind!

Now look, when mommy hugs the boo-boo's, that's perfectly natural and wonderful. But lately, mommy has convinced daddy, teacher, cop and neighbor that kids must be protected at all costs. For only then can they grow up to feel loved and valued and fulfilled. What's come of this conviction...?

PE classes where no one loses...contests where everyone wins...grades in which there are never any F' in which there is always a hand to immunize the little tyke from the pain of pain. The more  sophisticated the parents, the more likely pain has been flushed out of those protected lives.

So far the results are not yet in. If the old harsh, no-pain-no-gain culture bred a legion of John Wayne's and Clint Eastwood's, this current no-pain-all-gain ethos is bringing us a generation of sensitivity. Empathy. Accessibility. What for heaven's sake could be wrong with that...?

All I know is my old football coach and master sergeant wouldn't like it. Or understand it. But then I also know their culture of ass-kicking linebackers and missile-firing warriors has left my grandchildren a much lousier world than it might have been. If you're raising kids, guess that makes you "The Decider!"


We Americans love nothing better than the next catch-phrase. We've got one: Fact-Checkers. Suddenly these unseen, un-vetted authorities have been elevated to a new pedestal in our pantheon of folk heroes. But who the hell are they anyway!

Think of it this way. We are Dorothy trembling before the Great & Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Seeking answers, we stand here before his mighty words. But then the curtain falls, and everyone sees it's only fussy lovable Frank Morgan.

Frankly, folks, our heroic Fact-Checkers are comparably fussy and lovable. As in nameless backroom academics trolling through pounds of facts & stats. You know, like that snotty kid who sat next to you in 8th grade always shouting out the answers.

Nothing wrong with studious academics, only there is a second curtain. Behind this one is the party or the committee or the corporation or the CEO who's paying this Fact-Checker's salary. We can be pretty sure this guy wants his academics to come up with the facts that help make HIS case. I mean, otherwise what good are facts anyway...!

Fair enough, only now there's a third curtain. Ahh, you may have forgotten about this one. It's that curtain of personal biases our minds have been wearing all these years, and through which we continue to see and understand our world. Not an evil curtain. Simply a veil we, everyone, tends to weave over time

Call it genes or memes or whatever you will, our veiled perceptions are our virtual reality. We can't and probably don't wish to change that. It's baggage that's part of the package I call Me. But because there are so darn many Me's out here, there's darn  little chance any of us are hearing the exact same facts...

Friday, September 7, 2012


There's a hardcore rock band that calls itself 'Sleeping Sirens.' Heard them once and am only now recovering from a trip to hell. And yet they sing a song with a powerful question: 'Who Are You Now?'

If you've never asked yourself that question, you should. Only be prepared for different answers. Like the Hope Diamond is always the same jewel, it will always be understood differently when seen from different angles to the light.

You too have been very different You's. As a child...a student...a lover...a parent...a worker. In the football a a speeding car....lying in a hospital bed...standing in line at a wake. Each You is the authentic You, yet existentially living a different facet of your Youdom.

The dawning of this fact is sometimes known as the Sophomore Syndrome. About that time when your college sociology and psychology professors challenge you to excavate the real You after all these pubescent years of simply getting up every morning and being the you you were yesterday morning.

It's what men song-writers love to write about singing the mysteries of figuring out  a woman. Although any woman will tell you she finds the same maddening multiplicities to the men in her life.

Last year more than 732,000 foreign students were enrolled in U.S. universities, a 32% jump since 2000. The number of Saudi Arabian students alone spiked from 1000 to 66,000. One wonders how many professors will be challenging them to grapple with this cosmic question. Just last night I spent a few hours in a wondrous little private college in the heart of Chicago's suburbs where I watched students in classes, in book stalls, on the Quad, and yes binging. Time Magazine reports 1700 fatalities from college binge drinking last year.

Could it be this gnawing dawning new question in their young lives has something to do with this? The research shows it is "status" more than "insight" that is involved in binging. I suppose. But then this is a perplexing question, once raised hard to ignore. I know, because I'm still working at it,

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Ever study your hand...? We tend to take our body parts for granted. Oh sure, it has anthropologically distinguished us from our monkey ancestors, but that's not news anymore.

However here in the 21st C, here's what is.  Our hand has become both the symbol and the instrument of the limitless powers of the human mind. Think about it. In your small everyday hand fits your entire everyday world. Whether it's holding a television remote with its 101 power-buttons, or holding a smartphone with its 1001 features, 21st C man's hand can now instantly access data, photos, movies, newscast's, satellite feeds, and virtually any book ever written or virtually any TV series ever syndicated.

Whoa...! Now you no longer need go to the world, now you can bring the world to you. Want last year's Oscar Awards ceremony...last month's Oval Office interview... last week's NFL game...last night's presidential convention speech...tomorrow's itinerary for the Madonna global tour? It's yours, baby, with just a click of that transcendent hand. You remember the old, "The hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world"? Now it's, "The hand that rocks the right widget rocks the world!"

At first blush what could be wrong with this picture...? I mean, now our hand is in effect holding the divine scepter of power once held only by emperors. Better yet, having access to anyone, anything, anywhere, anytime makes us virtually God-like. Is "Wow" too mild a word!

The one chink in the armor of this transcendence may be this. Now much of what we experience is no longer actual. It's virtual. The events of our life are being filed into a gigantic events-box to be accessed and experienced not in the moment or in the flesh; rather, in some convenient but dispassionate virtual reality. Instead of hands injecting needles for a high, today's hands can select whatever highs it wants between, say, afternoon appointments or just before bed tonight.

To paraphrase John Lennon: "Life is what happens while you're tuning into other events..."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


The aging streets of Philadelphia are not where you'd think to find the answer to this ancient question. Yet here it is, in this run-down section of town inside this run-down building with the peeling name: "Joe Frazier's Gym."

You all know the name Mohamed Ali. But you don't all remember the name Joe Frazier. Only the best heavyweight fighter Aii ever faced, but who never caught a piece of Ali's fame. In fact, Ali and the sports media taunted Joe in their title bouts because he was all guts and no glitz. So Smokin' Joe went to his death last year as one of history's legions of forgotten also-rans.

But now, ladies and gents, gather round the City of Brotherly Love, for it's planning to honor Joe. Belatedly...! That rotten little word, belatedly...! Meaning, gee we didn't notice you when you were here, but now we're going to belatedly pay you the tribute we denied you when we had the chance.

Oh my, but history is crowded with folks who have found -- more accurately have been given -- life after death. An enduring life in words, music and especially recurring retelling around the tribal campfires.

Let us count the ways: Moses...Socrates...Jesus...Francis of Assisi...Joan of Arc...Ann Boleyn...Galileo... Paul Revere...Robert E Lee...John T. Scopes...Wendell Wilkie...Adlai Uncle Joe. Well, Joe was a loser and there've been damn few belated anything's for Joe. But there will be other losers granted a glorious life-after-death. It's just kinda the way people are about people.

So the next time a College or Facebook discussion launches the eternal question "Is there any eternity?"
just remember. If you and I don't find it after OUR deaths, some folks may just decide to create one for us anyway. Before THEIR deaths. It's a nice way to say I'm sorry....

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


When was the last time you made a contract with the Devil? Initial reactions: I don't believe in the Devil! I wouldn't deal with him if he did exist! I'm not into weird stuff!

I beg to differ. You and I are forever bargaining in our lives. Gambling on goals that are important but elusive. Occasionally it's done in public. Football teams praying in the huddle... congregations praying in church ...families praying in hospital chapels...kneeling along side our children at night. And, if you're not into God and Heaven, we find handy substitutes. Fate, luck, odds, algorithms.

Ever since Goethe penned 'Faustus' a century ago, Westerners have returned to the narratives from the ancient Persians and Greeks in which humanity deals with the dark forces of the cosmos. Forces which go by different names, but always there in the shadows into which we slip whenever desperate enough.

To be sure we Moderns -- save the occasional Exorcist -- avoid those primitive specifics like Devil, Hell, and Soul. And yet, peel off the educated veneer, and you'll usually find a tragic despair crying out to anyone or anything that can help.

OK, I can't marshall any empirical evidence to close the case. However, I do I have this crawly feeling that both political parties have just signed a contract with whatever devil fits their current ideology. Asking he/she/it to help them win this November. What does the contract read...?

Each Party knows it can deliver virtually nothing it's promising, because neither winner is likely to have the Congressional and Court majority to deliver. So the contract reads: "If you will keep this secret from the voters until November, we will pledge you the soul of our Vice-Presidential nominee for eternity!"

I mean, what's another Veep or two in Hell....?

Monday, September 3, 2012


Besse Cooper of Monroe Georgia just celebrated her 116th birthday. Inevitably the local newspaper asked the inevitable question: "How do you explain such a long life?" Besse shrugged: "I mind my own business and don't eat junk food."

Another centenarian explained it this way: "I've lived a long time, seen a lot of changes, and was against everyone of them."

I leave it to my eminent psychiatrist son to fathom the subliminal messages in these answers. As a layman huffing and puffing here 19 years short of the mark, here's my take: Who would seriously want to live that long if some of our current trends persist?

I'm not referring to the obvious -- persistent wars, terrorism, unemployment, street violence, drug abuse and presidential elections. None of those are new; been-there-done-that. Instead I'm thinking of three recent reports:

* The Parents Television Council reports it found 76 incidents of full nudity on prime-time network last year, an increase of 407% from the year before. My reaction...? If they're going to keep this up, can they at least find better bodies with less grunting!

* The Natural Resources Defense Council  reports 40% of all food in the US ends up in the trash, which comes to 20 pounds per person per month. My reaction...? Can anyone explain then why we're so fat!

* CNN reports US weapons sales more than tripled in 2011. We sold $66 billion worth of arms, up from $21 billions the year before. My reaction...? We do we keep calling weapons of attack a defense budget!

I don't know anyone who wants to rush their own death. At the same time, I don't know anyone who finds statistics like these a reason for prolonging this sort of life. I look at it this way. Until the politicians fulfill their pledges to "improve Medicare as we know it," I may still have a shot at 100. However, once they get their hands on it, well ~~~~~

Sunday, September 2, 2012


I once had the chance to ask these two gifted playwrights the same question: "How could you write plays with such mature wisdom at such young ages?" I have since judged their answers to have been lies. Perhaps lies of modesty, but untruths nevertheless. If I could have asked other young playwrights the same question -- Shakespeare, Chekhov, O'Neil, Miller -- I suspect they too would have sidestepped the full truth.

Lets remember how Shakespeare defined life ["A tale told be an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing."].  Chekhov ["Life is a tragedy filled with joys."]. Very much the same way Williams portrayed his characters in "Streetcar Named Desire" and Albee in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Someone equally young once wrote: "History is the sum total of all the things that could have been avoided." Each in their own unique way, our finest playwrights might have agreed. And yet In some redeeming way, history is also the sum total of all the remarkable artists whose insights into human nature and human society have lit the way for the rest of us. Lit it with illuminating truths about our penchant for pride, greed and power somehow side by side with our pursuit of good, tenderness and love.

So here's one man's guess about the gifts of insight among the great writers, composers and singers in our midst: That's precisely what they are, gifts...! Gifts granted them from somewhere outside them. Case in point. Every time Luciano Pavarotti sang Puccini's 'Nessum Dorma,' the opera lovers in my family would gasp, "A gift from God." The older I grow and the more gifted people I meet, the less I can find any explanation better than this.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


It's the classic James Lange Theory of Emotion. His 19th C psychological research suggested our emotions are triggered by the way we respond to events, not the other way around. Recently psychologist Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas tested his theory by measuring volunteers' heart beats while they performed stressful tasks.The subjects who generated a full smile during these tasks reported feeling better than those who did not. Suggesting to her, "The act of smiling -- even divorced from feeling of joy -- can indeed help us relax better."

I tested Lange's theory while throwing out today's lawns cuttings and assorted garbage. I'm here to tell you I didn't feel at all better! However, I did feel considerably better when I scanned another scientific report this summer from Hunter College.

Anthropologist Herman Pontzer writes in that exercise isn't all it's cracked up to be. He studied the West's sedentary lifestyle along with the svelte Hadza Tribe in Tanzania who forages over many miles each day. "The big reason Westerners are getting fat is not lack of exercise, but simply because we eat too much processed sugars and fats."

Truth be told, I'm one of the sedentary Westerners who dislikes vigorous exercise. Sorry, I know what you think of me! However, I'm willing to waddle with this extra waistline feeling a sense of calm rather than wriggle through hours of weights being told "no pain no gain." And may I say this with a great grinning smile...

Friday, August 31, 2012


So what's all this about the National Institute of Health reporting, "More than 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year, many in the form of anxiety attacks." What's with this label 'attack?' I can understand a shark attack, a heart attack, an attack of indigestion, but how does anxiety attack...?

If you can't answer that, be glad. You don't want to know! It's defined as a a sudden onslaught of symptoms that can unexpectedly paralyze you with an inexplicable mix of fearfulness, self consciousness, depersonalization, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and a cold crawling panic about your immediate surroundings.

Case in point this last summer. A well-known Broadway actor suffering from chronic anxiety attacks was rushed from backstage to an ER with these symptoms. The staff told him it was a mild heart attack. He remembers sitting up and telling them, "Thank god, I thought it was going to be an anxiety attack!"

Two schools of thought about psychiatric illnesses. One is the traditional, up-by-your-own-bootstraps bravado which dismisses these as "it's all in your mind." Ironically, that's the point! The mind still remains largely a mystery to us, and so too its many diseases and cures. You can keep a smile-on-your-face and whistle-a-happy-tune from here to forever, but that won't change either here or forever. Panic attacks have been plaguing the human species since the beginning but cavalierly dismissed as: weakness, foolishness, or the work of the devil.

Modern societies have learned otherwise; however, this learning has not always seeped down to where the boys belly up to the bar and the ladies who lunch scoff at their suffering peers. There are many plagues across the land. The terrible ones you can see like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Then the even more terrible ones you can't see.

It took a war to finally recognize post-traumatic-disorder. Now what's it going to take...?

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Night after night you're stretched out in front of the great luminous eye. Americans spend up to eight viewing hours a day, with some researchers claiming each hour shortens our life by 22 minutes...!

You can take those stats for what you think they're worth, but here are two facts that seem indisputable:

* Sitting in front of a glowing television, computer or cellphone screen puts you at risk for depression. 'Science News' reports, "Nighttime exposure to light from gadgets has already been shown to contribute to insomnia, cancers, obesity and diabetes. Now there is evidence screen glow can also cause mood related changes in the brain." Over the last 50 years depression rates have increased dramatically as artificial lighting at night has grown more common. If there is a causal connection, there's an off-switch to every gadget

* Watching television means allowing into your living room thousands of hours of warfare, gang violence, fireballs, homicides, rapes, child and drug abuse. And all that even before the news hour. Researcher Tom Russ of the University of Edinburgh tells, "Taking the bad news to heart is bad for your heart." One out of four people experience anxiety of that sort that distracts them, depletes their self confidence, and keeps them awake at night. "Not enough for actual medication and therapy, but enough to have less quality of life." Once again, the avalanche of these disturbing images still has an off-switch

Hiding from reality like this won't make it go away. But with pre-scheduled TV-cations, those off-switches may prove downright curative.

Afterthought...! Even without those heart-pounding screen images, there are still those things known as books. Read a few best-selling sci-fi works like 'Blade Runner,' 'Eye in the Sky,' 'How to Build an Android," or 'Solar Lottery' and chances are you'll be too scared about the future to ever turn out the lights for television again...!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Two ancient diseases grew up side by side -- Leprosy and Rabies -- consuming millions of lives all through history. Today both have been cured, yet one somehow still lives on. What's more, against all good sense, we keep inviting it back into our stories and into our lives. 

Rabies -- the plague that passes on from the bite of the infected -- has come down to us in the form of the terrifying 19th C vampire. The gone-mad sufferers appear as far back as ancient Greek tales, work their way through East European legends, reaching their apex with Bram Stoker's classic 'Dracula' in 1897. Like all great myths, the vampire is rooted in facts (Rabies) morphed into fiction (Dracula).

Hollywood -- always ready to turn any creature into a cash-cow -- has been sucking the blood out of the vampire as voraciously as he's been with his victims. However, never ready to say never, the studios picked up the vampire's undead cousin, the Haitian Zombie, and added him to the mesmerizing mix.

What is there about us civilized, rational creatures that happily pays money to be frightened out of our primitive wits? To answer, we could travel one of three paths: Biology...Psychology...Theology:

* the biologist will find genetic hard-wiring that helps explain how our evolved physicality has learned over time to anthropomorphize our primal fears in order to better identify and confront them

* the psychologist may find the same by way of our psychic hard-wiring

* the Biblical theologian will probably begin with a very different beginning -- the fallen nature of humanity forever condemned to do battle with evil in the world

It's not likely any of this is on the minds of most viewers. They're here for other reasons. One, as with all tales of evil and horror, is the chance to confront our fears knowing all along we will survive them from the safety of our seats.

"See," we reassure ourselves, "we always come out all right!" That said, we then have to step out into the blackness of the real night. Where safe endings are far more chancy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Fellas, there's this brand-new study about fatherhood with equal parts good news & bad...!

This one comes from my old Alma Mater, Northwestern University, something like those pill commercials where the good news is portrayed in beautiful people running beautifully across beautiful green meadows, while the bad news is shared by off-camera speed-readers rattling off the side effects. Ahh, you've seen them!

Anthropologist Dan Eisenberg tells "The children from older fathers inherit a genetic boost that will help them live a long life. This happens across at least two generations..."

That's the good news. But come on now, you don't expect the professor to stop there. In science there's this thing about hedging your bets. Comes from its built-in skepticism of all those centuries of pre-scientific absolutism. He adds: "But while older fathers do offer a longevity advantage, previous research has shown they're also more likely to father children with a genetic predisposition to autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder..."

Say what...??

Eisenberg not only sounds like my own on-the-other-handing doc, there's a distinct touch of politician and general to him. Like when those fellas tell us what to expect when they recommend that new energy policy or their latest deployment of the Fleet to the South China Sea. Sliced-and-diced, their pronouncements leave enough room for error you can shove an 18-wheeler through it.

Lets face it -- we can't skip through a dangerous world believing whatever we most want to believe. Still, don't you miss those summer nights when you fell asleep in the backseat of Dad's car, waking up to find yourself all tucked into your bed...?

Monday, August 27, 2012


Lets face it. Eve got a bad rap in the Bible. But then the Bible was written almost exclusively by men. After centuries of bondage -- at first kept barefoot-and-pregnant, then later kept on powerless-pedestals -- the women in the 19th C West  started to say enough. By the 21st C, kitchens have emptied and pedestals replaced by conference rooms.

Numerically speaking, this could be history's largest revolution.

The female of the species in the West now outsizes the male in the number of voters, college students, med and law graduates. And just this week the 'Atlantic' reported: "Of the 1.2 million books published since 1900, the proportion of male pronouns to female pronouns has now fallen from 5-to-1 down to less than 2-to-1."

That, ladies and gentlemen, is very big news indeed. Olympic gold is being gathered and glass ceilings being shattered faster than ever before. Eve -- along with Helen, Cleopatra, Beatrice and Susan B Anthony -- would trumpet in their graves.

The ascending female of the species still may have a few kinks in their armor. I mean, they still have to account for Phyllis Schlafly, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. Their variegated remarks on life, love, and laundry have raised eyebrows and Prozac sales even in some of the Red States.

But then there's that other female voice. Marilyn Monroe liked to put it this way: "Women who are trying to be equal to men lack ambition!"

Sunday, August 26, 2012


If life is like a movie whose surprise plot-twists you don't want to know upfront, that's fine. For you young parents, this then is a spoiler-alert. Don't read any further, because there's one plot-twist up ahead that will blow you away...!

If you're still with me, lets put that into context. Remember the joke about the 16-year-old who, when she turned 26, exclaimed: "Amazing how much smarter my parents got in just 10 years." Well, my fellow travelers on the parent itinerary, that lesson will apply to you too. For the rest of the trip.

Here's why. We're all traveling across the same bridge at the same time. Kids, parents, grandparents. It's the bridge from-here-to-there. Only each generation is crossing it at a different point in space & time.

The 16-year-old is just on the first part of the bridge so they can't really see -- much less understand -- what's up ahead and eventually what's at the far end. The young parents is further along, so you can look back and see what's still ahead for the kids [AKA, "been-there-done-that"]. Finally the grandparents who are nearing the end of the bridge, so we can look back and see almost the whole journey.

We're all on the same bridge at the same time. But we're all experiencing and dissecting it differently. Each of us from our own particular age-angle. Seeing its structure, strengths, and sanctities as differently as the man who built it in contrast to the man who's falling off it.  Which is why when the elder says to the younger, "when I was your age," the advice falls on ears that cannot hear. After all, they have about as much idea of what you're talking about as they do of the day and the world into which you first brought them.

Now here's why this was a spoiler alert from a grandparent to a parent. Surprise...! The very same thing is still true about you...

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Fonzie, Ferris Bueller, Grease, American Pie! Hollywood images that ignite giddy recollections of what we are told in convenient retrospect were America's 'happy days.' Trouble is I was there and, given our daily duck-and-cover threat our Cold War could turn atomic hot any minute, they weren't all that happy.

However, through the gauze of time, they do look simpler. And much of their simplicity can be found in the simple fare on our drive-in movie screens. More than 5000 of them in the country back then. A little sub-culture all its own featuring over-sexed teens looking for their own dark place, and over-populated families who found it easier to gather the kids in cars rather than balconies.

Here's the point.

Right now there's a resurgence of these drive-ins, replete with the individual car speakers and walk-to popcorn stands. You say you hadn't noticed...? Well, pretty soon you will because the media loves to talk about the media. In this case, a 50-years-later revival.

That's the point. Revival. Life is lived in cycles. Be it the economy's booms-and-busts or the surprise discovery stay-at-home-moms can be a good thing or the hemlines, hats, hairdos, shoes, and elections. Everything, I mean everything, eventually comes back.

Like cliches? Researchers usually dismiss them, but here's one you can take to the bank: "The more things change the more they're the same!" This slightly battered species of ours really has only so many roads through time it can take. And while we often take them boldly, almost as often they end up ending pretty close to where we started.

What's fun about this is how each time our descendants think its the first time. Drive-in movie anyone.

Friday, August 24, 2012


No actual bloodshed to these homicides. It's money they're shedding. The live stage shows of Jack Benny, George Burns and Al Jolson died in the 40s when Clark Gable, Lana Turner and Marlon Brando started to hit the silver screens. Hits like 'Gone With The Wind,' 'The Godfather, and 'The Exorcist ' were social events. Lines packing downtown movie houses with crowds dressed to the nines.

Now? What are you crazy...? Any night of any week dressed in any hard-scrabble outfit I want, my phone can instantly access movie scenes, cast interviews, with entire rundowns of box office results and reviews. The days when some days were special days, when people met people, when you might even take a cab or a limo somewhere are sorta gone. I mean, you've got it all in the palm of your hand, baby!

Sociologists and psychologists study this, but you can pretty much figure it out for yourself. When Mohamed-can't-go-to-the-mountain your key pad can now bring any mountain to any Mohamed it's told to. On the asset side: Immediate access to anything anywhere anytime. On the debit side: No longer as many reasons to reach out and interact with many other Others.

Call it cocooning or whatever you choose, our technology is changing who we are. It always has [the first wheel, printing press, radio]. It always will [the first 2-hour jet from NY to LA, the first commercial space shuttle, the first beam-me-up-Scottie].

Ready..? Set...? Oh wait a minute, the human race has never been really ready! We just hang on tight.


Maybe you already knew this, but late summer and early winter are the sexiest seasons of the year.  Who says so? Those sexy scientists at Villanova who have actually taken time away from sex to graph it. As in the number of Google searches with the word 'sex' in them.

Study author Patrick Markey reports birth records, condom sales and abortion rates all suggest, "a heightened pursuit of intercourse during these months." He theorizes one reason may be, "we are around more people more often during these vacation and holiday months." He goes on to say, "perhaps humans are hardwired to copulate at those times, because then giving birth in early spring or autumn presented an evolutionary advantage for our  earliest ancestors."

Whether sex is in the air right now or not, I kinda hate being advised human love is largely animal genetics at seasonal work. Professor Markey may be correct in his data, but there are those of us who'd still like to believe love is more than lust. That people are attractive for their values as well as their bodies.

OK, OK, that dates me! But with more than 3 billion people on the planet under the age of 25, the mind boggles at the thought of what these next few months might be like. Starting this very week in Tampa, Florida where the strip clubs are expecting big business during the GOP Convention. Club owner Don Kleinhans says he's been told to expect, "two to three times the trade a Super Bowl would mean."

Or as the popular night cub Scarlett has on its marquee: Come on down and party like a liberal!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Beginning with that first day of school when you skittishly left the safety of home, there's been a little hole in your soul. Maybe not consciously, but still a tiny tugging to recapture some of that lost sense of safety. After all, you're only one small player in a huge planetary drama where very little safety comes free.

If you take the time to figure out why that younger world seemed so safe, chances are the answer is: It was so much smaller, cozier, and personal. Sure, you wanted to spread your wings and you have. Still, even the boldest eagle returns to the nest at night.

Lately, virtually nothing in your life is small anymore. The more successful you've become, the less there can be of small and sheltered. Our modern world has made a covenant with bigness and boldness. Lets call it the Walmart Effect. In the name of convenience, efficiency, and cost benefits, the America you grew up in has morphed into something in which there can be little room for being little anymore!

We don't want to get maudlin about this. Only reflective. How many neighbors do you know by name... how many members of your church or club or community...what's the name of the local produce man... how about the cop patrolling your streets or the mail carrier or the newspaper fella? Well of course, our answer is: We're busy so we do the best we can.

In fact we do no such thing. In our daily hurry to make a buck, care for the kids, keep up with the world around us, there's simply no time to be slow anymore. Or small or cozy or personal. This is the big time. Little things like those are nice but hardly necessary. Onward...!

The funny thing, though, is that the bigger, faster, bolder we've become, the more migraines, strokes, heart attacks and depression we've recorded. What's wrong with this picture....?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Life...! What is it, how do we define it, and how are we supposed to live it? Prophets and poets have been raising and answering those questions from the very first tribal bonfires to the latest Huffington post. But more to the point, how do you and I handle these hot-coal questions for ourselves?

For those of us who find them in the theater, the consensus of our favorite playwrights is pretty grim. Shakespeare: "Life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing!" Chekhov: "Life is a tragedy filled with joys." Williams: "Life has meaning if you're bucking for heaven; but if heaven is a fantasy, we're living in a jungle."

Here's a handy checkpoint in your script of life -- summertime and how you handle its ending.

The hints arrive every late August. There's this repressed sensation that the best hours of the year are coming to an end. Oh, there's nothing at all wrong with autumn, for its palette of burnished colors is extraordinary. But the brooding white and wickedness of another winter looms, reminding us that all good things must come to an end.

Summer is what life ought to be. Ripe, green, bursting with warmth, light and love. Most of us do our very best living and dreaming in our splendid Junes and Julys. There's this sense of release from routine and freedom from fear, all packaged inside those lazier rhythms. Now, however, the days of vacation are dwindling down to a precious few, and the chalky smell of stern class and conference rooms fills the air.

When you think about it, no one asked us to audition for this role in the world. We just happen to find ourselves in the cast of a great planetary drama with perhaps a few passing lines of dialog. If its summer is what life ought to be, then its summer ending may be a prologue to its epilogue. And if calling your attention to such side effects stir you up a little....well, very likely the playwright had that in mind

Monday, August 20, 2012


There are several million of us seniors in the US watching the great Entitlements Debate. But that's the last number I'll need to use. Instead, I'd simply like to honor the old rule: "Define your terms."

* By 'entitlements' we generally mean Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Disability, and government pension plans. Oh, but we're off to a bad start right away. Because the more honest descriptor would be defined-benefits-plans. Plans in which real people invested real hours, real sweat, and real talent into the community they served, and which in turn pledged them a return-on-investment. The beneficiaries are reaping only what they sowed!

* By 'numbers' we generally mean statistics that have been tallied, tested and deployed in various algorithmic projections. Both presidential candidates have submitted their projections to the public -- well sorta. Both have started off with most of the same facts & stats -- well, sorta. But then both have come up with dramatically different factual & statistical conclusions -- there's no sorta about that!

* By 'experts' we generally mean mathematic and demographic specialists from a cross-section of college campuses, government agencies, and private enterprises whose credentials are commonly accepted. Oscar Wilde caught their essence nicely when he added: "An expert is an ordinary man away from home giving advice!"

* By 'solutions' we generally mean a polysyllabic ensemble of promises designed to dazzle the ignorant and temporarily comfort the informed. For example, note how both candidates assert their solution will "save the same Medicare the other solution destroys." A syllogistic sleight-of-hand reminiscent of the Blackjack dealer cheerily inviting the players to "stay with it!"

* By 'beneficiaries' we generally mean all those lives who have by now accrued a burden of needs. Mostly medical for which they would gladly give up their checks if only they didn't bear the burden of these needs in the first place. Aging, crippled, in a miasmas of various physical and emotional failures, these beneficiaries are now confronting a life-struggle. They vote each election with the same hope the experts' latest solutions will at least put their needs on a par with the latest missile system, farm subsidy, and corporate tax-write off!

The irony here can be a bitter one. For the experts chosen by the candidates to address these needs are themselves usually young, healthy, well-fed, and cock-sure.


The Olympic torch is out now. Most torches of most kinds across the world eventually go out. But not that special one you and I are carrying in our hearts. You know the one, or maybe more, I'm talking about!

It's an eternal flame you've kept lit all these many long years. Most likely its fire burns for that special someone from your past. You remember. So young, so vital, so indispensable to your life that you still can't quite understand how you've survived this long without them. Or maybe the fire simmers for a remarkable place in your travels. Or a remarkable time in your country. Or some gossamer dream you've hid in the secret chambers of your ambitions, safely away from the laughter it would probably bring.

Somehow, somewhere, there's this special someone or something looming in this mists of your memories. It's been so long you can't exactly make it out anymore. Probably, in the insistent adult demand "to grow up," you've even stopped trying. And yet you and I know it's there. With a thin but inextinguishable life of its own.

This torch is what our balladeers sing for us late at night ['My Funny Valentine,' 'Everytime We Say Goodbye,' 'The Man That Got Away,' 'Is That All There is']. Why do we listen? How can we not! It's the purging a denied heart craves. The tears we feel better having shed.

By now, however, the head has learned to instruct the heart what-was-can-never-be-again. The ancient Greeks had this way of proving it: "You can never jump into the same flowing river twice." Of course, the ancient Greeks had to admit we can stand longingly on the same riverbank forever.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


You say, "I don't know what the hell an algorithm is!" but I say it doesn't matter. There's one straining at the digital bit right now ready to scoop you and your best labors up into a brave new world. If you think calculators and computers have replaced you, you ain't seen nothing yet...!

Algorithms are digital formulas designed to methodically solve any problem you give them. Oh, not just the obvious ones like THINKING faster then you. That ship has sailed.These days they have matured into formulas that can CREATE faster than you. You want to write a novel? create a musical for Broadway? design a step-by-step answer to the intrusion of Chinese warships in the southeast Pacific?

Algorithms aren't supposed to brag, but brag they do! From Hollywood recording studios to CIA counter-intelligence, these little nameless faceless critters have actually replaced dozens of....well, lets just say it out loud!  College and life-educated specialists who were only a few years ago labeled "indispensable." Algorithms have written musical hits, designed political campaigns, helped football defensive coaches, and planned Manhattan wedding events! How do you top that?

Look, I don't begrudge our algorithms their genius. I simply begin to wonder if average IQs like me will be increasingly trampled in the nation's unemployment lines. And if average IQs like me will have the nerve to step out of the house in the morning. Wait...there's an algorithm for that.


the hearts of his American audience. Unlike his old partner Dean Martin and fellow legend Tony Bennett, Jerry's spectacular reign in movies and television ended some 40 years ago. Before many of you were born.

Still, Jerry Lewis is a name and a career to be reckoned with. Why? Because he is a study in (1) the delights and dangers of Ego (2) the classic American catechism which says everyone gets a second chance.

He made the original film 'The Nutty Professor' in 1963. Now hobbled by age and disease, he has put his last stack of chips on a bet that he can direct and revive the story for the Broadway stage. Jerry played Broadway only once in his fabled career, saying: "Dad always told me you're nothing till you play the Palace!" Right now his stage production is in tryouts before testing its chances for the big time.

For those who think of Lewis, if they think of him at all, as another has-been reaching for the brass ring, this report is of small consequence. For those who laughed at Martin & Lewis when they were America's greatest show business team, they may see this as a test of sorts. Can a once-upon-a-time America still catch fire in today's cruder culture? can humor without nudity and vulgarity get anyone's attention?

No one knows, not even the investors gambling on Jerry having one last hurray in him. But I'll tell you this. Every grandparent, every senior community, every gray haired columnist in the country [especially in France where he is still deemed a comic genius] will be wishing him well. And probably saying: "The kids may be running the country, but it's the country WE built they're running..."

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Memory can be an elder's most exquisite gift. It allows you to have roses in winter, lost youth in your heart, instant antidotes to your current fears. The first and cruelest infliction of Alzheimer is when our memories get sucked out of our lives.

When we're young [there are 3 billion people on the planet now under 25] memories are accessed easily, for we have less to remember. When we're old [the number of octogenarians has never been greater] recent memories may be slower, yet distant ones can be stunningly clear.

So how best do we -- young and old alike -- lock our best memories into a safe accessible place?

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh tested the question with a group of healthy volunteers between the ages of 60 and 90. They found the best way to best store our best memories is: " simply shutting our eyes and relaxing after seeing or learning something new."

Oh really! Did we need a campus research program to conclude the obvious? A far more compelling study would have been: Where do our memories go when we die? Yes, of course, I understand dead is dead. I further understand the materialist philosophy that once the brain terminates, so do all its memories. However, isn't there a bolder way to address this issue: Is matter all that matters in our lives? I think not!

Memories live on beyond the grave. In a hundred ways. In the albums and photos and memorabilia carefully left behind in that home where other brains pick up their cadence and carry them further. There is the spouse...the children...the family, friends and community...even the haulers hired to empty the place. You see those memories live past the wake, beyond the grave, into that enormous cosmic soup of energy that began bubbling the day after Eden.

If there is a God, he remembers. If there is no God, the cosmos remembers. Nothing dies forever.

Friday, August 17, 2012


The cadaver I'm talking about is you. Is me. Is all 330 million of us in this 21st C America which moves while at the same time remains dead.

Think about it. Our psyches are dead in the sense they've been battered into submission by so much 24/7 stimuli. The noise...the traffic...the crowds...the jack-hammer assault of images from our screens, phones and billboards. The only authentic silences left are in summer-night forests and isolated hill country.

It wasn't always this way. Most of us aren't really sure how we stumbled into this sight-and-sound-around zone. But because we have, a strange thing has happened. Like any addict, the more stimuli we experience, the more we need to feel alive.

The people of power who would use us understand this. And so they continue to pump up the injections:

* films and television throb with more vile & violence, sex & sensation, manic & maniacal behaviors
* music and lyrics pulse with more screeching dissonance and taunting obscenities
* rock concerts compete for the wildest, weirdest and most wanton they can fit on stage
* political campaigns dig ever deeper to trigger the worst psychoses hiding in our voter hearts

The plot here is really as simple as it is threatening. The over-stimulated cadaver that is modern America can be reached only with still greater and more sweeping stimuli. To get our attention, the drugs we live on must be relentlessly increased.

Limit the drugs...? How dare you limit my liberty to impose them! Reach the patient instead with quiet logic...? Please, don't be naive!

Now, hand me that needle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


At one time in the long twisting history of love, men of substance had their pick. In ancient Persia, Egypt, Rome and as late as the glitterati of Chicago's Playboy Mansion. Young beautiful women paraded [and were paraded] in the name of love.

Recently neurobiologists have redefined what we call love, by isolating the genes and memes which trigger the evolutionary prompts we experience.

But then my own favorite Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran. Listen to how they differ:

* Hugh Hefner     >      " Nice girls like sex too...."
* Neurobiologist >      " Evolution impels us to mate & procreate..."
* Kahlil Gibran     >      " When love beckons to you, follow her though her ways are hard and steep..."

The next party you troll, you may want to contrast these three voices. Although in America circa 2012 the rules of love and marriage have changed, not their reigns. Even in an age where both are free and where the notion of commitment feels dated, poets of the heart like Gibran still have something to say:

Of love ~ "If you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night, to know the pain of too much tenderness, to be wound by your own understanding of love, and to bleed for them willingly and joyfully..."

Of marriage ~ "You were born together and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be space in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you..."

If you bring Gibran with you to the party, I'm guessing the guests will start to look wonderfully different!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Yes, yes, I know the pundits are busy prattling on about the epic battle of political ideas shaping up for November [AKA, Ayn Rand vs Karl Marx]. Although the addition of political wonk Ryan to political vacuum Romney seems to make this true, I've researched an entirely different angle. OK, so my facts are a little fuzzy, but here it's the food not the facts, mam...!

Anecdotal evidence tells us R&R drink de-caf while B&B take their coffee straight. Pay attention, my fellow right-to-vote fan, for this detail is not insignificant.

After oil, coffee is the world's biggest trading product with billions of pounds grown and shipped every year. It is the lingua franca of universal communication. After age 14, 80% of the world's population drinks some form of coffee. Said to be true of alpha males like Napoleon, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Donald Trump and oh yes Charlie Sheen.

These and other public figures drink their coffee straight. If R&R don't, what does this tell the anxious voter? Theories conflict. It could mean that R&R are too uptight to handle the real stuff. Or it might tell us they are the thinking-man's addict vs the intuitional-man's addict. Or it could simply mean when they get that 3 AM phone call from the Pentagon, they'll be sleeping too soundly to get up and pull the trigger!

A modest suggestion  here.

Yes, ignore the negative ads...listen to the the attention to the body language...and study the debates. Then when you have to pull the lever, ask yourself what kind of coffee you had that morning. Like a shining shaft of light, this will help guide your heart and hand.

Sound too frivolous? Sorry to say that an entire history of elections tells us -- this is about as good a way to pick a winner as any...!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


We may be among the fattest people on the planet and the Chinese among the leanest,  yet we can still boast the athletic body's greatest prize: Olympic Medals. The US won the most this year in London, and the most of the most were won by our women. Women's time in running and swimming alone has now reached a full 90% of their male counterparts.

But talking about athleticism among women, there's a back story. The US has more health clubs and health regimens per capita than any other nation.  Of these, more than 78% are weight-loss programs for women. Unlike the hefty models of Greek statuary and Renaissance paintings, American women have had an obsession with leanness ever since the Flapper rage of the Twenties.

So where does zaftig 135-pound curvaceous Marilyn Monroe fit into this pattern...?

The 'Daily Mail' of London recently revealed her secret diet plan. The 20th C sex goddess, who lured politicians, athletes and playwrights, wrote in her diary: "I begin my day with a slimming breakfast of two raw eggs in warm milk; hard boiled steak, liver or lamb chops for dinner with a handful of carrots; in between, a 10-miiute workout; plus a hot fudge sundae every evening."

While this diet would not have won her any Gold Medals, it apparently helped win her a permanent pedestal in the pantheon of American feminine beauty. No, she never made the classic cover of the Wheaties box...but then, how many women reading this on their treadmill would trade her beauty for a box of cereal?

Sorry, Jenny!

Monday, August 13, 2012


Ever count the number of computers in your life...? Giant ones scanning you from afar; big ones at the job; small ones in your car; tiny ones in your phone, TV, microwave and security systems...?

I didn't think so. And yet they number in the hundreds every hour of every day. Which is perfectly all right when you consider what they do for you. But -- my fellow digitalized citizens -- have you ever considered what they do for themselves...?

Not a frivolous question, I assure you!

Look [more correctly, listen] to their conversations. Usually at night while you're sleeping. OK, I grant you have to be a little paranoid to hear them, but hear them I have. Night after night once I learned about their cryptic interpersonal communications.

Why just the other night my smartphone was telling my car GPS to take an alternate route in the morning so we'd pass the Best Buy that was having a sale on advanced phone models. She [I'm fairly sure my phone is a she] wants me to update her. Next there was the exchange I caught between my desktop and my credit card company's data bank. The little twerp was tipping them off to a few of the shortcuts I've been taking. I mean, now that was just out-and-out mean.

To be sure, these are trivial breaches in my security. But I fear there will be more come. Once these little creature really get organized, I can see it all now. Their own Third Party this November. And who's their nominee? That's right: HAL!

And while he's a little creepy, he just might be our best choice....

Sunday, August 12, 2012


By the year 2050 your sweet Jimmy or Emily will be in their 40s. The prime of their life. But what about the prime of their country? Well, lets take a long-range look.

It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future, but here's a pair that look pretty sound. (1) Your 40-year-old will be living in an America in which 51% of the population will be Brown, Black or Yellow. In 2050 being White will no longer mean being first (2)  Your 40-year-old will be lugging far more pounds than you did at that age. In 2050 being American may no longer mean winning as much Olympic Gold.

The first prediction appears demographically irreversible. The second is more iffy. If your children change current habits, the prediction could still prove wrong. However, right now our national habit of inactivity seems fixed. A UN study found the US ranked among the "most physically lazy countries in the world," with 40% of us engaging in little or no physical activity. Greece was the most active in the West, with only 2%of its citizens inactive.

Mom! Dad! Here's the point.

No matter how decisive and devoted you are as a parent, you can't control the world in which Jimmy and Emily will be faring. Population, poundage, and prosperity are all far outside your reach. And that's probably true regardless of who you vote for this November.

But there is a wild card out there.

The population of the clean lean living Amish in North America is doubling every 22 years. While there were only 179 settlements 20 years ago, there are nearly 500 today. By 2050 this remarkably unique brand of Americans is expected to be in the millions. Fortry-ish Jimmy and Emily may not become one, but by then their America may be happily feeling their presence far beyond their quiet farm communities.

Mom!. Dad! You might want to start reading up on the amazing history of the American Amish...

Saturday, August 11, 2012


There are many dream-teams out there. Especially at the Olympics. But you, my fellow dreamers, will be like me a part of the world's biggest dream-team this very night!

You see,  your dreams will be featuring a remarkable array of characters from your life. In all kinds of crazy roles. Like the manager in the produce department you argued with today ...the cop who pulled you over last week....the chemistry professor who used to drive you mad...the prom date you've never forgotten... maybe even Adolf Hitler or Woodrow Wilson or Meryl Streep.

How in the world will these characters come streaming through your nocturnal blogosphere? Well, you have Freud and Jung to help you figure that out. But here's something they -- and probably you -- rarely talk about. The remarkable ways in which YOU will be a cast member in THEIR dreams tonight.

"Their" might include any of a thousand people all over the world. Whose lives you've somehow crossed at some brief or extended or pleasant or bitter point in their existence. You see, while you occasionally dream of THEM, just as likely they dream of YOU.

So sleep tight this night, because you're scheduled to make an appearance in one or more of THEIR dreams before the next sunrise. And think of this -- you'll be appearing without a contract or script!


During 98% of human history, this question made no sense. Man met woman...woman accepted man ... baby happened...end of report!

What's more the more babies the better, because they then grew up to be your free labor force. Lately, however, we've inherited all these labor-saving devices. So who needs kids? No surprise that in the most technically advanced societies, the number of births continues to plunge. That has the demographers in Europe and the United State in a frenzy, because of "the invasion of fertile foreign immigrants."

Putting aside the statistical hand-wringers, what does all this mean for today's mommy and daddy?

Researchers have been grinding out a mountain of contradictory data on this [which is sorta what researchers do, because they always on-the-other-hand their every statistical conclusion]. Although they all use the same set-point -- how happy kids make you feel -- they define happiness very differently. For some of us, happiness is when you're free and independent to chase your own dreams, not those of a brood of yapping kids. If that's you, you're probably living in a snazzy high rise in the city!

Others define happiness as the fulfillment they feel in creating and helping realize the dreams of their all genetic offspring. For you, diapers and PTA meetings are simply part of a trip to the stars. You're probably living with a sprawling back yard in the suburbs!

Wherever you live and whatever the demographers are warning you, kids will remain a part of your life [or at least those of your family and neighbors]. So here's a pragmatic way to deal with this reality. Unless you're in China, neither you nor I nor the demographers are going to change our baby-making habits. Frankly the world's habits have been around much longer than any of us.Perhaps it would be best to just embrace Stanley Kubrick's conclusion: "The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent."


Friday, August 10, 2012


We've all learned about first impressions. And how they last. Sometimes they really really last, and damn if they aren't hard to undo!

Take for instance Eve's serpent. She bought into his venomous pitch right on the spot. When Caesar and later Anthony met Cleopatra, they did the same thing. No amount of after-the-fact warnings changed any of these hearts. Then there's the report Kruschev's first impression of JFK was that of inexperience, supposedly whetting his appetite for the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962

World history aside, personal history is more to the point. How many times have you muttered to yourself "Now what I shoulda said...!" right after that sales meeting or first date? Or what about the time you left your child's teacher wishing you had expressed your complaints a little more diplomatically?

Impressions are complex things. They're symphony of sensations including the look in your eyes, the tone in your voice, and the culture of your body.  Yeah, we all wear masks of various kinds, and yet they don't always hide as much we hope.

So the next poker game or bidding war, remember this. It may not be fair -- what's fair in this life! -- but the other party is judging you just as unconsciously as you're judging them,. They can't help can't help's just one of those funny little flaws to our human nature. We're always in a rush to get to the bottom line of the last chapter.

Slow down and think about it. It's that serpentine rush in Eden that got us all here in the first place!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


There's an old, scarred movie house in my once-elegant neighborhood of Austin. It's still waiting for a closeup that will never come. It hides not on Sunset Boulevard but along the boarded-up 5800 west block of Division Street.. Its graffiti face weeps for what once was. The Rockne, originally called Ambassador, was built there with art deco panache in the Roaring Twenties, its glory days spanning over 50 years of Chicago history.

While there are many such rotting movie palaces, this one's history has a special roar. Four of Chicago's famous natives almost met here. Capone and Hefner, Bob Newhart and Kim Novak. No four I ever met ever lived in the same neighborhood to become such different neighbors.

Sleaze. Sex. Satire. Sizzle. Each of them shared some of the same theater rows I did at almost the same times.

You won't find those row there anymore. And although the four natives never sat in them on the exact same nights, they did share the exact same American ethos up on that screen. From Valentino and Gable forward to Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds. During those 50 years, the MGM/Warner Brothers/20th Century Fox studios dutifully celebrated home, family, flag, and happy endings. I bought into every one of them. The four celebrities probably saw those flicks each with different eyes.

Al -- I saw him when I was just a kid and he was on his way to federal prison -- lived in nearby Cicero, but frequented the Rockne. [Much to Mom's fear and embarrassment]. Hef  -- lived just a mile away -- served as one of its spiffy uniformed ushers. [He'd patrol our rows during noisy Saturday matinees]. Bob -- he and I grew up together -- was especially fond of the comedy bills. [No surprise there]. Kim -- I met her there on a double date -- was caught up with the romances. [As I remember, I was caught up with her]. 

Four ferociously different west side lives whose trajectories inconspicuously crossed in this little theater on their way to decidedly conspicuous careers. Now whenever I drive past this movie mausoleum,  I remember their lives there. And especially their careers beyond there. What burns in my mind are the inexplicably different ways they were exposed to the same cinematic America I was. You'd think they might have grown up with a little more in common than their careers suggest.

Each emerged from my gentle childhood neighborhood to grab the klieg lights of history. One for his mastery of organized crime; one for his hold on the national culture; one for his wry way with the foibles of our species; and she for perpetuating Hollywood's grandest myth: the blond bombshell.

Had their visits to my old Rockne ever co-incided, they would have stolen the show. Instead, they went on to steal our imagination....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Everyone enjoys a good story. Or a funny story. Or a scary story. Just about any kind of story. If you're an evolutionist, it's because we're genetically encoded. If you're a theist, it's because the creator knows we need stories to understand him/her/it. However you define them, you tend to remember them. Better than almost any other kind of communication.

Teachers in the classroom know this. Lawyers in the court room know this. So do popes, preachers, prime ministers and presidents. If you want to connect with your audience,  better have a story to which they can relate. Think of it this way: All stories are true and some actually happened. Get it...?

Nations as well as people need them. We call these myths and the characters in them legends. Here, test yourself. Maybe you can't give a lecture on the Roman Empire or the American Revolution. But you can recount the stories about Anthony & Cleopatra, Caesar's assassination, George Washington at Valley Forge, and those guys in three-corner-hats who wrote that Constitution we're always quoting when we're demanding our rights.

Can stories make a difference....?  Damn right they can. Think of the stories mom told you about the rewards for good children like Cinderella and Hansel & Gretel; or the Wagnerian stories a child named Hitler listened to in deciding there was a Super Race; or the glory of total victory a General named Patton grew up with at West Point.

Some people say we actually spend the better part of our life wrapped up inside stories. Stories we read in books, see on screens, envision in our sleep. It may be true that fiction is not only stranger than fact, it's the stuff of which most of our dreams and doing are made of.......

Monday, August 6, 2012


No surprise that we live with a fist-full of mysteries in our daily lives. How exactly does this photosynthesis thing work...? When if ever will this traffic clear....? Why won't he/she call like they promised...? You learn to deal with them. However, the mysteries I'm talking about are all those people we THINK we know and never really do.

Look at it this way. We're always encountering the mysteries that come with being human -- people next to you on the plane, at that deal-making lunch, not to mention during those obligatory holiday dinners with cousins you haven't seen in years. It's pretty safe to assume we KNOW we don't really know them. Where the problem comes is when we deal with people we're sure we know, yet never do!

Lets count the ways.

Watching a Leno or Letterman interview we tell ourselves "the camera doesn't lie." And so we quickly decide who the "real" George Clooney or Oprah Winfrey is. Please!  People who work with cameras know precisely how to play to those cameras, and so the Clooney and Winfrey you're seeing are very much who they intend you to see. No more, no less.

But not to worry, friends, because not decoding the mystery that is a celebrity is hardly crucial. What is crucial is not decoding the mystery that is a presidential candidate. Now here you and I are at least four thick layers removed from the authentic "him." First, his cloak of professional writers, publicists and logistical teams, his own well-practiced public, the actual thoughts and feelings behind that persona...finally, the gaggle of private pacts and promises he's had to make with key backers to have become a candidate in the first place. A mystery indeed.

So here's the deal. Remember the man you're giving your vote and your future to is NOT the well crafted image, ads, and speeches. At the same time, neither is he all those dissected gaffes, re-played off-mike whispers, and manufactured faces of evil. He was, is, and always will be just beyond totally decoding. But then so are you and me. In many ways each a mystery to ourselves.

As voters we do the best we can. Especially if we admit our choice is really being made with hope and hunch as much as confidence and conviction.


Saturday, August 4, 2012


Don't have to have a major in Psych to understand your many love/hate hangups. Among the Freudian  favportes are: don't forget that gorgeous-but-ridiculously-high- maintainence car.

Now in the last 20 years we've added Silicon Valley to the list.

If you doubt this, consider the last dozen times you grumbled about all those absurd pedestrians walking around with their faces stuck in their handheld smartphones. Which you did while looking up from your handheld smartphone. Lets admit it -- we love these damn gadgets, and the gang at Silicon keeps feeding our addiction with every new edition. Talk about planned obsolescence...!

Tom Brokaw said it well: "It's easy to make a buck; it's a lot harder to make a difference." The wizards in Palo Alto have made both, but have they already reached the point of diminishing returns? Like the ingenious tobacco companies who used to keep enhancing their addictive products and advertising, our hi-tech gurus are not the ones to count on for taming this newest national addiction. The wolf in the chicken yard is not your go-to solution for all those missing chickens...!

Who then??

Not many folks outside Amish Valley are talking about another Luddite revolt against technology. Far too late for that for even our most poetic naturalists who rarely trek their favorite hideaways anymore without their pack of hardware. And it's not going to do any good to yell at your f--cking hardware, because
recent surveys find 57% of employers said they'd be less likely to promote someone who curses.

So lets see. What does that leave as an answer to our latest love/hate hangup? Oh, I know. That Off button. Have you used it lately....?

Friday, August 3, 2012


People are always trying to guess what-would-Jesus-do? Granted he was a remarkable figure in history, but lets not presume to know what he would say today. Having said that, I'm going to presume he wouldn't join your church anytime soon. Nor mine. Because I figure he'd figure today's faiths have his message all wrong...!

Perhaps that's exactly what millions of former church-goers have decided as well. The number of attendees has plunged in the last 50 years. Churches in western Europe are largely empty; in the US, except for some Evangelical and Mega-churches, it's often true too. People say they can believe in a divine creator without all the human liturgical paraphernalia.

If Jesus is your starting point, here's a rough take on how we got from there to here:

* In Israel Christians were mostly a CAMARADERIE  (circa 30-33 AD)
* Later in Greece it was mostly a PHILOSOPHY (circa 33-325 AD)
* Reaching Rome it grew into an INSTITUTION (circa 325-500 AD)
* Spreading through Europe it became a CULTURE (500-1600 AD)
* Reaching America it became an ENTERPRISE (1600-2012 AD)

In those earlier stages, a lot of serious asceticism with fellas like Benedict and Francis of Assisi. In these later stages, a lot of serious money-makers like our nightly passel of bellowing  televangelists. Meanwhile back in the Vatican, so much pomp and circumstance you wonder if Jesus could get into the place without a pass!

So here's an offer I hope you won't refuse. However you remember the life of Jesus -- preacher, prophet,  redeemer, or all three -- can we agree his message fits any faith: "Love one another as I have loved you..."

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Right now we're in the same old American rivalry between brains and brawn. We admire the brainy, but still covet the brawny. At least according to recent college campus polls. More specifically, most guys were still impressed with athleticism while most gals claim they prefer men with wit more than whack.

Polls aside, lets look at what the smart people are doing these days with all their smarts.

Many, like our astrophysicists and geneticists, are taking great leaps into the future. On the other side of the ledger, most technicians seem to be investing their time simply refining the leaps. My favorites are the guys who came up with heated seats, surround sound, and now self-braking for our pricier cars. [Nice, but hardly leap-sized stuff.]

Then there are the flashy creators in Silicon Valley. Having taken giant leaps with their smartphones and iPads, now they're busy trying to convince us what we really really need are brighter screens, screens that can fold like the newspapers they told us were outmoded, data that is available 10 seconds faster than the last edition, oh and chips that can someday fit into our skulls so we can contemplate our world with our eyes closed [Tibetan gurus have been doing that for centuries].

Lets not forget all the brainy technicians in the R & D departments of our biggest corporations. Not many giant-leaps-for-mankind here, as instead they keep coming up with such glossy glitter as apps for our phones, creams for our jowls, and another dozen concocted colors and fragrances for our bodies [TV's popular home shopping networks hustle this stuff night after night as if every woman's dream can be found in a bottle for $49.99 + shipping].

Sounds cynical...? Well, yeah, when what the world really needs now are meds to cure the common cold .... treatments to stop cancer...enough food to keep one-third of the planet's population  fed at night.... programming really worth watching on those screens....and some of the world's swords at last turned into those plowshares the Bible dreamed about!

The world had a few smart guys like that over the centuries. Only we killed most of them. Which means the smartest person you know hasn't been born yet.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Really, you did miss some mighty important stuff this morning. Maybe even more than seven. With all due respect to your busy schedule, here's what I think you missed:

* The smell of your world. Ever think about that? Your world really does have a smell to it. A fascinating recipe of green fragrances like our taken-for-granted grass and trees, mixed with black odors like trucks, jets, and angry expressways. Each new morning it's a one-of-a-kind fragrance

* Then there's the sound of your world. You know, the hum of car tires, commuter trains, traffic congestion, the whole hard-breathing effort with which the world around you is struggling and striving each new day to make it to the next

*  Also, the cooing, cawing and flight of the many birds who fill your sky with their sweet existence. While they work to breed and feed, their lyrics can be a Mozart sonata if only we give them more of our busy attention

* Next, that rainbow of flowers that bursts at every turn on this summer day, but which you probably took all too much for granted on your way to whatever you decided was more important

* Lets not forget the celestial chorus of little children out there, giggling and dreaming as they play through one more blissful August day without school. Did you catch it? Probably not

* Finally, the silent chorus of elders around you who have lived too long to either giggle or dream; but not long enough to be taken for granted by those of us who know so much less about life than their silence contains

* Number seven...? Well, "missing" this one is not your fault. I and a few million remaining others speak here of the last time our fair land burst with a rare fury of patriotic desire and devotion. A time when even parties, religions, and races all understood what we have in common. I speak of that tragic but inspiring four years the Greatest Generation fought and won World War II. In a funny kind of way, missing that you missed the most remarkable time in the history of a remarkable nation. A time when, despite the horrific bloodshed, Americans actually stood shoulder to shoulder not toe to toe.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This is not to betray my gender nor to agree with the radical feminists that all men are chauvinist pigs.


Look, fellas, one of us has to admit it publicly. We've screwed up. From the very first tribal chieftains to jungle shamans to Machiavellian princes to Hugh Hefner and Dubya Bush strutting their libidos, the male of the species has been causing more wars, more rape-and-pillaging, and more smack-in-the-mouth everyday violence than any three Vulcan Planets could have ever dreamed up.

We've been in charge ever since Adam, and just look at the bloody history our egotistical, fist-in-the--face bravado has created. Lately women -- in government, colleges, medical schools and at the Olympics -- have been inching up and passing us by. Maybe it's time they did. Maybe the world could benefit from Innate feminine qualities like caring and compassion. They sure as hell can't do any worse than we have!

So -- with all due deference to my college fraternity brothers, my son and grandsons, and even my no-nonsense brother...let it be said it's time to shelve the the strutting...butt patting...wife jokes...secret handshakes and decoder rings. Time to grow up to the fact that just maybe we weren't actually ordained by God or Nature or even Pope to be "master-of-all-we-survey."

By the way, who ever wrote that line????


Here's a guess. You too may have reached that point in life when you not only read the obits, you muse about what yours might look like. By the way, this is not just an old person's reflection, for I've known people who've already thought about it in their 20's and 30's. Lets call it: A sense of their own history!

Just this month, celebrities as young as Nora Efron and as old as Ernest Borgnine and Tony Martin have been memorialized in exquisitely literate obituaries. Now what makes reading them so valuable is they tell the story of how one of your fellow travelers managed to make it in this ornery old world.

What might YOU have to say about you? At least about the you you want the world to remember?

You've got only one picture and about 400 words to do it. Which picture? Which words? Ah, not so easy is it!  After all, you've done quite a bit in your life, and there are a great many photographic sides to you. Seizing just the right ones for family and posterity won't be easy.

Since I started this, I suppose I should at least leave you with MY parameters:

* hopefully the words will catch the cadence of my loves and labors: (1) the family and friends I have adored throughout my life (2) the work in which I may have achieved the most good with my fellow man

* hopefully the photo will be a candid not a posed shot taken sometime in mid-life; when I was still young enough to have dreams yet old enough to understand dreams have borders

OK, those are MY obituarial thoughts. Hopefully not too self-absorbed, but enough for the casual reader to realize I once was here. Now it's your turn. No life is a destination of only a few steps, but try to choose the few most worth recalling at your funeral. After all, you won't be there, so this could be your best chance...


Sunday, July 29, 2012


Bill Clinton put it well: "The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change..." With that in mind, consider some of the epic changes that could be underway:

* Now that the wars on drugs have cost so much with so little success, society may be recalling the costly disaster that was Prohibition trying to over-legislate humanity's natural appetites [eg. medical marijuana stores continue to grow]

* Now that society has at long last stopped chaining the mentally ill and burning those it calls witches, it may finally be willing to enjoy the fact gays like geniuses may be different, but no more or less human [eg. for the first time US service members were authorized to march in gay parades in their uniforms]

* Now that revealed the world's tax havens currently keep $21-32 trillion out of reach of the world's governments, society may start to reassess the relative power of "big government" and "big wealth" [eg. those havens hold more than the combined gross national products of the US & Japan]

* Now that the number of citizen deaths in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan have surpassed a  million, society may re-learning the ancient truth: Wars like these are not fought for popular causes as much as for private interests [eg. the loss of innocent lives has been granted the antiseptically reassuring description "collateral damages"]

* Now that Congress is out of session, society has another reason to wonder about the value of "elected representatives" '[eg. so far it has sent to the president only 54 bills: 14 to rename post offices, nine to approve real estate transactions, and six simply to renew current legislation

With luck, some of these conditions may come to an end before we do. Maybe with more than luck. With effort!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


London security forces were on high alert at the Games. Only they missed the ticking time bomb left behind. In addition to the luminous pyrotechnics was the lurking challenge to the West: Will you continue to dominate the world or will China?

No one announced it exactly that way, but it seems clear by the staggering difference between the two opening ceremonies. The Brits had fun, the Chinese were deadly serious. The Brits celebrated individual accomplishments, the Chinese staged a lockstep image of military precision. The Brits featured children at play, the Chinese featured them at work.

The Brits seemed comfortable in their historical skin whereas the Chinese had something to prove. And they did! The Beijing Games were a spectacle of success achieved by striving shoulder to shoulder, while the Brits took time to show how success is often a personal not a patriotic affair. 

So is the rest of our century to be a historic competition between Western Capitalism and Chinese Collectivism? Is our 2012 election about the relative merits of rugged individual versus state planning?

Frankly it's likely most of today's voters have scant understanding of capitalism and collectivism. But maybe here's a hint. In the midst of the opening ceremony's celebration of capitalism throughout the centuries, 20% of the time celebrated the Brit's best example of collectivism: National Health Program.

Funny, that idea's been around the West ever since Bismarck at the turn of the 20th C. Yet half of Americans still see it as something too new and different to adopt. Thus the debate will keep ticking...

Friday, July 27, 2012


Everyone knows the epic war between man and woman. Started with that first bitten apple. But a close second is the equally epic war between youth and age. That one started the first time a son beat his father. Each has been raging ever since, a perennial subject for psychologists and poets alike.

Our latest example is 10 time All-Star slugger Ichiro Susuki. A career .322 hitter, Susuki is about to turn 39 with a slumping average of only .261. And yet the New York Yankees just paid big bucks for him. His success or failure with the Yankees isn't going to help settle the war. But it does help crystallize the argument. Between developed bodies and developed brains. Energy and experience. Blue-jeaned wunderkind from Silicon Valley and white-shirted elders from corporate America.

Now here's what makes the argument so important. For the first time in history, youth has never been more prized at the very same time age has never been so much older. In an fiercely rapid culture of iPads and smartPhones, only the young have the energy to keep pace. Consequently some economists argue whether youth can or should pay the heavy burdens of an aging population. Ethicists go further as they argue whether society can afford to keep the old and sick alive so long.

In the meantime, everyone else figures old-age is something "15-years older than me!"

There's a bottom line to this demographic war. Whether Susuki helps the Yankees win this year is not it. How old the world lets Susuki grow IS....

Thursday, July 26, 2012


The networks have secretly promised sponsors their biggest advertising payoff in years. How? Watch the August announcements; 80% of all programming will arrive in four sure-fire categories. (1) Reality (2) Cops (3) Docs (4) Weird. But as diverse as these sound, there is one mesmerizing reward hidden in each: America's long lost feeling of absolutes!

Our old black & white absolutes long ago disappeared into a miasma of moral relativity. Americans once knew which was which. The good guys always had white horses or blue uniforms; the bad guys always operated from the dark. Then came Vietnam, Watergate, Iraq and suddenly nothing was simply right or wrong anymore. Things became complex, morally debatable, so darn confusing why even GIs, CIA, and presidents were no longer guaranteed to get the girl and the nation's thanks at the end.

Ahh but not worry. This fall these four categories get us safely back to those cozy absolutes. Think about it. Everyone on a reality show is absolutely, no-question-about-it wacky....every cop and doc program is back to the ultimate absolutes of life or death...every weird creature on screen will be in the absolutely weirdest outfits from the prop department. I mean, no more wondering whose good and whose bad!

Look, Americans are weary of thinking their way through what's morally right and wrong anymore. We want the good old days when the actors made stuff like that absolutely clear.


Hundreds of millions will be watching the London Olympics. Yet even more hundreds of millions will not. I wondered why, so I asked some of them. They made a lot of sense...!

We are told the games are a noble statement about humanity's pure pursuit-of-excellence and lofty border-less camaraderie. As to the camaraderie, there is that. Although many of these athletes are also' thinking of the paying testimonials you get if you get the gold.

However, putting human greed aside, it's the first claim that bothered so many of my interviewees. The
adulation about the purity of athletic excellence. 'Time Magazine' had a front cover several years ago with a full-frame face of Michael Jordan and the headline: "The Most Dangerous Man In America." The point was this: There are only 4 or 5 Michael Jordans in basketball, kids, so why are tens of thousands of you devoting all your time to becoming someone you won't; and thereby wasting years of your lives in which you could be getting an education and pursuing far more realistic and rewarding dreams.

To a person, my interviewees agreed.

It's all well and good to have a vision, train your body, pursue your regimen, devote endless hours and years to those few sacred minutes on the track, in the field, or in the pool. But...!  Investing so much of your life to a monumental flight of muscle and ego? When you stand back, how much sense does this make? How much good does this accomplish? And really how much will this add to the rest of your life?

My friends -- athletes themselves -- said the Olympics were good for what they are. Especially for what they were meant to be thousands of years ago in ancient Greece. But to elevate one race or game or event to a shimmering example of what's best about humanity...well, most of them would bestow that honor on the closest first-responder in an ambulance, fire truck, squad car, or desperately crowded ER.

Nothing wrong with our Olympians. Just sorting through our priories...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


"They" in this case is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Their interest is not prurient, but pragmatic. According to their latest studies, one in three of us don't get enough sleep. That totals 40 million workers getting less than six hours a night. Especially true of night-shift workers who often hold critical jobs in health care and transportation.

Look at it this way. How would you feel if the pilot flying you 40,000 feet over the Atlantic had gotten only six hours sleep last night? The study shows 20% of all traffic accidents are related to sleepiness at the controls. Not to mention increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity.

Talking about obesity, the BBC reports that taken cumulatively the world population is 16.5 million tons overweight. Although chances are, bad eating habits are more to blame than bad sleeping habits. Especially in Sweden where the workweek now averages less than 26 hours, allowing more time eating!

So what have we learned...?

Not much we didn't already know. Americans have traditionally been a hyperactive people. I mean we popularized the rocking chair, because it means now you can be in motion even when you're at rest. But my concern is not so much medical as it is social. Sleeping less often means watching television more. If the Center were to visit our bedrooms tonight, what might they see?

Well, beside that.

I'm thinking they would see millions of fat sleepy Americans watching bizarre people in reality shows who they would never allow in their own home! I know we're sleepy, but crazy too...?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Lots of public blather -- in the disguise of public discourse -- about the latest mass shooting. However, let the record show lone killers are not a problem for Sociology as much as for Psychology. It's not the guns but the human heart that needs change. Or as the original Dark Knight, joker Lenny Bruce, explained it in his often banned nightclub act of the 60s: "Pain plus time is what equals humor."

His comedy was especially dark for those times. Deeply rooted in the pain and anger of the human heart. Now of course comedy has to not only deal with human pain and anger, it must be fiercely scatological. Just a couple steps up from the high school bathroom wall!  Catch any comedy club or cable standup today, and Lenny Bruce sounds like a PTA president. The last of the "clean comics" include Bill Cosby, Woody Allen and Bob Newhart. After them, not many you want to bring your kids or grandma to see.

Many reasons are offered for this darkening of our national humor. Some say the times are so dark, our humor has to reflect this reality to be real. Just as our movies and music have. The box office rule is civility in love. Moon-in-June lyrics,  and happy endings simply don't sell! 

But here's a question for the studios, the recording companies, and the comedians: If you step into a dark room, isn't your first inclination to reach for the lights? I've worked with Bill and Woody, and grew up with Bob. They were never especially angry men. Somehow they seem to find their humor in the frailties of the human heart more than its fears, in our eccentricities more than our evil, in still hoping our dark side is something to outgrow rather than to enjoy.

What's really funny is that so many of us today feel clean-comedy isn't funny anymore.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


"The real problem of humanity is this: We have Paleolithic emotions...medieval institutions...and god-like technology." [Biologist-author Edward O. Wilson]. The longer you reflect on that, the sooner our problems become clear. If, however, you don't see this, here are 5 disgustingly current illustrations:

* Georgia police officer Williams Martinez had a fatal heart attack having sex with a woman in a motel. Th jury awarded the widow $3 million because doctors who knew he had a heart condition should have warned him to "avoid strenuous activity."

* A New Jersey woman hit by a baseball at a Little League game is suing the 11-year old player for $150,000 because of "recklessness."

* The former mistress of a Nassau County police chief is suing the county for negligence for not knowing he was visiting her while on duty. She suffered "severe and substantial emotional damage."

* A South Carolina funeral home is opening a Starbucks in their lobby. Director Chris Robinson hopes "it will help customers get their minds off what's going on."

* To date, 0.000063 % of the country's population [196 superwealthy people] have given more than 80% of the money SuperPacs have spent on this year's presidential election.

Like you perhaps, I sometimes wonder if there were a way to get-away-from-it-all...! About then, I read the average Canadian is now richer and lives longer than the average American. The net worth of the average Canadian household is $363,203 to our $319,970. What's more, Canadians with national health coverage live on average 3.2 years longer.

Good Lord...! And the border is only a few hundred unarmed miles away...!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Someone once said, "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning."

I found the best horrible example I've seen in years: Clark and Sharon Winslow of Belvedere, California. Last spring they spent $4.2 million to buy the house next door. Why? To immediately demolish it, because it was obstructing their $19 million home's view of San Francisco Bay.

They're my new poster couple for the 1%!

To be fair, it's not all that simple. The rich -- in every country in every century -- have been criticized for  conspicuous consumption. Their answer -- when they bother to care -- is about the same. In Ancient Rome: "An empire requires a patrician class..." In Victorian England: "An empire requires the noblesse oblige of an aristocratic class..." In 21st C America: "A globalized economy requires a job-creator class..."

Needless to say, no one ever really substantiated these claims. I mean, after all, when you're the substantiator, who is there to question you? On the other hand, when the wealthy take the time to debate the charge, the standard brushaway is "class warfare." Which is rather silly on the face of it. For if this IS a war, obviously the rich have already won it!

That being said, ALL classes can surely agree on this much. Today's bloated budget must be slashed. The bone-in-the-throat no one wants to swallow is: Who & How? Who gives up how much?

Oh wait....

There may be a new common enemy the classes can all agree upon: The elderly. With tens of millions of seniors receiving Social Security, Medicare and pensions, anyone under 65 may believe there is no such thing as getting an entitlement.  Which makes a lot of sense to them, as they may also believe there is no such thing as getting old.

Friday, July 20, 2012


'Rolling Stones Magazine just reached a remarkable conclusion. Of their 500 greatest-albums-of-all-time, only 8% were recorded after 2000. The rest go back 40 and 50 years. Suggesting even a cool publication has a warm spot for the past.

That brings to mind how the omelet that is each of us consists of so many past ingredients, it would be impossible to unscramble. And probably destructive. Consider all those people that went into making you the you that you are today. Teacher...sergeant...neighbor...buddy...rival...hero...whoever! If you could somehow delete them from the recipe you have become, imagine who you would be.

Here's a guess. You CAN'T!

None of us can quite imagine what our life might have been without those chance intersections. We didn't plan them, we couldn't plot them, but somehow someway they happened. Altering the trajectory of our lifespan in ways at first trivial but later towering.

To illustrate. After our Father returned from WWII, he wanted to buy a home in a nearby suburb but couldn't afford it. So we remained in the city. Small detail to a 14-year-old who could never imagine this meant remaining in a parish who later hired a youth director who Pied Piper-ed a theatre club who invited an actress who met a young man who fell in love who married who had three children with her ---

Here's another guess. This very same serendipity can be found in your own omelet. Only don't try plucking out any parts, for then all the rest disappears. Whoosh, you may not even be here to read this!