Tuesday, January 31, 2012


From the Dallas assassination of Kennedy to the summer sightings of UFOs, some people always see plots. It usually turns out, no plots. More like patterns.

Currently there is a compelling pattern which divides us into the 99% & the 1%. And while this is indisputably true financially, there are two equally true yet less apparent patterns dividing us. Each closer to say 80% & 20%:

* The Power Struggle ~ Most times most headlines are about the grand struggle for power. Google, Apple, Comcast; NBC, CBS, ABC; NFL, MLB, NBA; Iran, Israel, Iraq. But lets be frank. Aren't the people most invested in these struggles no more than about 20% of us? Technocrats, studio execs, team owners, elected officials, generals and their various entourages and fellow profiteers. The rest of us...? Come on, these struggles interest us but bottom line don't always impact us.

The brutal reality is we may be faithful news junkies and keen observers, but whatever the outcomes -- even of a war! -- won't necessarily affect our everyday lives. To use an extreme case study: The celebrated French Resistance against the Nazi occupation in WWII never involved more than about 20% of the citizenry. The rest...? Unlike their passionate portrayal in "Casablanca," they mostly went on living their lives; only now under a different flag.

* The Science Struggle ~ There is little in our lives today that doesn't have some spectacular scientific overtone. Medicine...technology...energy...transportation...nutrition...weaponry...male pattern balding ...erectile dysfunction. Whereas you once looked for the answers to life's questions in your holy books, now more likely in your pills, DNA, and genetic profiles.

Can't be sure, but lately this seems to be about 80% of us. The other 20% -- often including the scientists themselves -- will tell you over a private drink that in all honesty they're still testing their answers. But meanwhile, the masses, dazzled by the media hype, have begun the same mistake their ancestors did: Deferring to the imposing voice of science as they once did to their imposing chieftains, shamans, and clergy.

Be it a struggle over power or science, the operative word is "struggle." Both these campaigns call for serious rather than frivolous strugglers.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Award-winning author William Faulkner may have been a pain-in-the-ass personally, but he always told the truth boldly as he saw it. When challenged by a young fact-finder reporter, he snapped: "Look kid, facts and truth really don't have much to do with one another."

Let me show you what he meant with some last-year facts. Half of all US workers earned less than $26,364 last year, whereas a typical household in the nation's capital earned $84,523...just 1% of Americans accounted for 22% of the $1.26 trillion spent on health care...passengers left behind a total of $409,085.56 in change when they passed through airport security...Ronald Reagan's name was invoked 221 times during the first 16 GOP debates with George W. Bush's name spoken 56 times.

The more you check the facts the more Faulkner makes sense.

And here's what he might have added. The usual reason the facts don't always convey the truth is because of the unseen hands at work in the gap between the two. There are always behind-the- scene advisers...promoters...pollsters...spin-doctors. Of course we all understand this. What we may not understand are the less obvious hands at work doctoring the product.

Example? It's sitting right there in your very own music collection. Seriously. Play any musical hit from pop to rock to Broadway, and yes even to rap. But don't just listen to the singer. Listen to the orchestration backing them up. That where the magic either happens or it doesn't. Ask any singer and they'll tell you. In the making-a-hit business, the name of the game almost always starts with [and how right the name!] the arranger....

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Do you remember who said:"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you." That was the ancient Greek politician and pop hero Pericles. Now 2500 years later, who can doubt him?

Lets get something straight. Politics -- like this year's campaigns -- may be tasteless; still, it's fundamentally noble. The mission of the politician is seeing to it this thing we call society holds firm and fair. Without that, nothing else will much matter.

But here's why it always gets messy in a democracy: Freedom! Just like in ancient Greece where democracy first began, we often get messed up with all this freedom of ours.

Candidates are free to say whatever cockamamie distortions and lies their hatchet-men can throw ....the media are free to dig up and twist whatever dirty little secrets they can find....fat-cats hiding behind their billion-dollar empires are free to pay for any pol who will back their empire...political parties like the Tennessee Tea Party are free to demand schoolbooks "stop repeating criticisms about our Founding Fathers intruding on the Indians and owning slaves."

Heck, Chef Paula Deen was free to pitch Southern-fried cooking when all along her own diabetes told her it was wrong. And then there's a 400-pound convicted felon free to sue New York City prisons "for suffering emotional damage because they failed to stock any clothing beyond size 6X."

So here's what it comes down to, fellow citizen. We wouldn't, we shouldn't, relinquish our freedoms. Freedoms are what America was and is all about. However, just like behind every faith there is doubt, behind every freedom there is obligation. How do you and I manage this...? Here's a simple test. Watch what happens when hurrying drivers all reach the same intersection which has no stoplight, only stop signs.

Most times most of us manage safely through. Now that's democracy working! Pericles would be proud. And you...?

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Fables are funny things. Very often they tell us truths simple facts and stats cannot fully convey. Consider some of the big ones: Eden...The Red Sea...King Arthur...Valley Forge...the Kardashians. Ahhh, but this is an American election year. Thus the fables tumble out like political Topsy's.

How to find this year's grandest political fable...? As Lewis Carroll put it: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." So shall we take the nearest yellow brick road on the way to our nation's White House. As great economic and social issues lie in wait, each of the eager political seekers are wrapped in all kinds of phantasmagoric public images via the media.

Some images self-created; some created by their paid minions; still others by their worst rivals. Usually, though, not a single image represents the true man. Or his true agenda. Which, dear voter, makes for a colorful fable, but one helluva of lousy way to pick a president.

Newt...? either rolly-polly visionary or backroom viper! Romney...? business magician or mannequin from Massachusetts! Santorum...? noble Christian knight or crazy corpse-in-the-living-room zealot! Ron Paul...? Kris Kringle of our old American ways or nutty uncle from the attic! Then there's that complex otherness already in the White House...? either obstructed Messiah or Kenyan Muslim trying to make us another failed European socialist state!

Tally these phantasmagoric election year images, and the score comes out: WHAT...?? That's right, dear voter, we're traveling this yellow brick road toward an Emerald City whose Wizard we are being asked to choose from among candidates who have each been spun out of hyped cotton candy.

Will the real candidates please stand up...? Wherever you're hiding....!

Friday, January 27, 2012


Got a little flyer in my mail box yesterday. Threw it away. Usually do. Probably so do you. Why...? Because in a culture where everything is promoted as big, spectacular, the largest of its kind, well there's simply no room for little home-made flyers about local handyman services. Or some local shop that just opened in town.

Look, we've got big malls. big chains. big franchises. big international conglomerates for our needs. It's the age of McDonalds and Walmart. Little locals may be nice, but they're out of their league.

Wait a minute.

Exactly what league is that? You and I didn't form it. You and I may not even want it. You and I -- if old enough -- can still remember an age when the leagues were all fairly small. And local. Maybe not always as efficient or economical. But always more personal and handy. We knew the retailer and he or she knew us. Heck, they probably attended our church or were the cross guards for our kids on their way to school. Cozy, you know what I mean....

Until around 1950, the average American was born, lived and died within a radius of 50 miles. A car trip to the Grand Canyon or to New York City was a once-in-a-life-time-if-ever event. In contrast to today's culture in which weekend trips to London or Rome are hardly unusual.

Why these thoughts now....? Aside from an admitted affection for cozy, these very same thoughts are tucked into today's presidential debates about the size and role of government in our lives. In such a big world it seems foolish to deny the need for a government big enough to help us navigate a big world. At the same time, it would be foolish to deny the popular wisdom: "Think globally, act locally."

The fancy name for that is: "Subsidiarity." Matters should always been managed by the smallest local authority possible. Have a problem with your water main...? Don't call the state capitol, call your local alderman. A problem with your mail...? Don't call Washington, call your local postmaster. A problem with your kid in school...? Don't call the US Department of Education, talk to the teacher.

See..? Small and local aren't just reveries for old folks. Often they're what helped old folks grow old so well.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Ever meet a cop out of uniform? Or one of those goliath-like firefighters, humongous Bears linemen, bicep-ed Cubs sluggers, a member of Congress, or a Church Cardinal? Be honest, now, they all looked a lot smaller and more commonplace than they do in the papers or on the 10 o'clock news. Well, maybe not a 300 pound Bears lineman, but all the rest.

These occasional encounters are good for us. Something like noticing "that man behind the curtain." It's not to say people of stature have no real stature. They usually do. However, it's good to occasionally stand toe to toe with stature, rather than always gawking up at it.

The lesson here -- and lets face it, there are lessons everyday of our lives if only we notice them -- the lesson here is that in a democracy there is no royalty, no aristocracy, no caste system. Well, let me correct that; none by law or by inheritance. Wherever they do exist they have come by merit. In other words, their stature grows not out of accident but achievement.

Which is why we often like to think of our democracy as a form of meritocracy. Yes, we are all equal; but no, we can't deny some of us are more equal than others. Which is why we have generals and GIs...CEOs and line-workers...pilots and passengers...teachers and students...parents and kids.
Okay, that last one is not always based on merit; but speaking as a parent, it's based on necessity.

Currently the world's on Facebook & Twitter fire with billions of people-without-stature angry about those who, one way or another, have it. An ancient battle-line which has used terms like patricians & plebeians, aristocrats & peasants, and now 99% & 1%. Same battle-line, same war, same passions to either seize or to hold.

In the end, the little guys have almost always lost. Later they become heroes. Say like Spartacus. Notice though that while the movies give cinemtic stature to these little guys, it's always the big guys who are still around to make the movies.

In this election year, in every election year, we little guys once again hear big guys tell us how great the little guy is. An interesting question to pose might be this: Do either one of us really believe it?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I'm sure you'll understand. It's all part of the delicious rhythms of my morning routine.

Turn on my coffee maker, slip into my least ratty looking bathrobe, and venture forth onto my driveway for the papers. [Yes, papers, for even with all the flashy screens and scrolls at my disposal, my generation has an emotional attachment to anything you can fold]. But this time I notice something different. Something quite terrible.

There are no birds singing. Anywhere. The sun is still in the sky, the drone from nearby O'Hare Field continues, but nary a sparrow, wren or crow. I don't know about you, but I notice the birds. Their warbling and wrangling among our Oaks and Maples is like the scenery to my morning drama out here. A play without scenery feels incomplete. So does a morning without birds.

Yes, yes, I know all about them flying South in winter, but some of them should already be back by now. My God...! What if they never come back...? The neighbors find my bath-robed study of the sky a little peculiar. But then, they often find me peculiar. This sudden obsession freezes me in place with a question that often haunts me. Maybe you too. "What if things never go back to before...??"

So much is taken for granted. Eyes and limbs to experience our world; taste and smell to enjoy our food; family and friends to know what love is; schools and careers to discover what purpose means. But really, how often do we put these things out on the table look at? That's like asking how often do we count the breaths we take in a day.

We don't. And that, fellow breathers, is why I stand here in my driveway searching the skies for my morning birds. Once you finally realize something is missing in your life, at last that's when you feel their actual worth. Their enduring and indispensable worth to you.

And yes, you can feel this even standing here in a ratty looking bathrobe....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Okay, hate may be a pretty strong word. But when you scan the bloody epic of our history, the score clearly favors hate over reason. About 50 to 1. Why is this...?

Take today's bloggers. A galloping-growth industry whose 13-39 age group has become a global sub-culture capable of swinging elections and overthrowing entire regimes. From their desktop screens to their everywhere-in-the-world smartphones, they are blogging, tweeting and emailing in staggering multi-billion numbers each day. Doing it with the penache of those who feel sure they have reached the promised land.

Those who've been left behind [often chose to stay behind] deny any regrets. It is their conviction -- perhaps desperate hope -- the way-we-were is the way-to-be. After all, the age of writing and printing has been with us for sacred centuries, while these bratty newcomers are mostly just setting fire to those long, proud traditions. Look, Aristotle, Jesus and Shakespeare didn't need blogs, tweets and silly abbreviations! Another passing fad like the Telegraph, Pony Express and BetaMax!

We all know some of these admirable literary holdouts. Give me my book and my pen; my library and my archives! To be sure, there is nothing wrong with tradition, with the way-we-were, with those shoulders upon which today's kids can stand. Being of a certain age, I too sing anthems to my childhood world. I respect every wisp of joy and genius from that earlier time. Only the ancient Greeks warned long long ago: "No man can jump into the same river twice."

The river of time rushes on without stopping. Whenever we chose to jump in -- even if from the same shore we call ours -- the river we're jumping into is no longer the same as it was a moment ago. Frankly, this is the reason I hate getting all those Consumer Reports in the mail. Every issue is another hit list of products I have held sacred. Campbell Soups...Butter...Bayer Aspirin...Olive Oil... even my Italian Endive and Risotto have each been dissected or dismissed in the light of changing facts.

In confronting this forever-dawning new world, I have a choice. Either change my ways or cancel my subscription. Right now I'm watching that damn river roar past my shore, and I shake my head. More than likely, I'll send you my decision by email....

Monday, January 23, 2012


Look, no one calls them-self a Redneck. Or a hothead, a racist, a zealot. Too negative and surely not us. I mean, so we have strong feelings, but they're always saddled by equally strong thinking, right?

The funny thing is, right now there's a thinking man who has intentionally shaken off this saddle in order to play directly into our feelings. In sharp contrast to Newt, there's also a candidate named Romney and a president named Obama. Each, however, seems much too saddled to appeal to an angry nation. Anger begets passion and passion demands instant gratification from the masses..

The nice word for this is Populism.

When times are hard, the populous want fast, furious and fundamentally simple answers. The very feelings that made our early heroes so heroic to us. Davey Crockett. Kit Carson. Buffalo Bill. Even Jesse James. Western legends of gut-level courage and fast-draw decision. In contrast to all those Dandies and Bankers back East.

Newt, a fast-draw legend...? Hardly. Except when he wants to be. Listen and learn. The high-IQ, rolly-polly wife-swapper comes across as this year's best raw-meat populist in either party. Watch the audience cheer him chew up his rivals, swallow reporters whole, and sneer at a strange, Kenya-based Black guy who spends all his time thinking!

Populism in American political history has brought us dozens of passionate candidates, and even a few presidents like Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt and Warren Harding. The 2012 election may be another case-study in passionate populism vs eastern education. In other words, forget the issues -- today's crucial debates about jobs, taxes, energy and terrorism. This time around it may all come down to which Goliath in the ring we cheer for the sheer gratification of his furious, fast-draw Goliathism.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Do you know how old your are...? No, not your birth-years. Your attitude-years. The way you take on your world each new morning?

If you don't much think about the question, it's safe to say you're attitudinally young. Which, in America, is the thing to be. But, according to some, that's precisely what's wrong with youth. They can only see forward. Too young to have much of a past, too hopeful to fear the future, they intuitively think forward.

Just this week the legendary Kodak Company filed for bankruptcy. The eulogy in the media was: "Nostalgia is fine, but it keeps you from moving forward."

Personally, even when very young, I always had this fascination with the elderly. At dinners, parties and services, I felt scrawny and callow standing next to men of size and substance. Yes, I could point to my stars; but they could point to their accomplishments. "Moving forward" is really only a verb, not an accomplishment.

In our community there's a sprawling public park just down the block from a lovely senior home. The kids and their parents flood the park; only minutes away, elders wait to die. There's something wrong with this picture. Occasionally some of the kids are lured into the home on little planned visits with their pets or hobbies. Usually the result is surprising gratification on both parts. But outside in the hurly-burly of everyday life, past accomplishments are expendable. Oh perhaps a few of their authors get a statue, but even then the young pause only briefly on their way "forward."

When the kids and their parents in the park look out, they see one world; from their bedroom windows, the elders see another. One filled with the faces of their families and friends, their heroes and heroines, their favorite venues and values. Now long gone. Like the entries in their old telephone books sitting next to phones with which they now have so few to call.

And yet, I am tugged by the insistent feeling that we should be calling them! If only to ask them -- as we would a traveler back from say the Holy Land -- "pray tell me, what was it like, so that I might be more ready to move forward?"

Saturday, January 21, 2012


It was the revolutionary year 1968. While the streets were filled with anti-Vietnam protesters, a few of us true believers met in a Washington DC hotel basement. It was the only place we could book a meeting with this peculiar Canadian professor and the even more peculiar star of the recent "The Graduate."

We were a handful of media instructors who back home were trying hard to convince our schools and their chalkboard faculties that there was a new ecosystem in the world: 24/7 media. McLuhan was pitching his peculiar idea about an emerging "global village" in which "we shape our tools and after wards our tools shape us."

Dustin...? He was more of a celebrity afterthought, but soon proved he too was a true believer. And had he still been alive, Friedrich Nietzsche might have fit right in with his "will to power" vision of the uber-men [AKA, media moguls].

But enough name-dropping!

The point is, the global village is not only here, but expanding exponentially with thousands of websites and billions of users all in instant global connectivity. Really, there is no longer any Here & There; nor Now & Then. Like it or not, even willing or not, this mediated ecosystem has swept us all up as if in an electronic tsunami. Forget your elitist protests about the "vast cultural wasteland," for we are all travelers in it. From the way we get our news and our data, to the way we buy, and sell, to the way we transact our lives and values.

Navigation then becomes the order of the day. How to either navigate our travels or be navigated.

As usual, this requires attention to any devils-in-the-details which may be lurking. Consider, for instance, how YouTube's modest seven-year history is about to go pro. Right now professional producers, writers and networks are planning a hundred new channels which will grab and fragment even more viewing audiences with even more virtual experiences.

At the same time, the global village now as two new start ups. Klout, tracking your every on-line behavior from Google to Facebook to Linkedin; and Reputation.com, tracking and scoring what it calls your social forensics.

In THIS village, you'll never be alone ever again. Never. Never. Never....

Friday, January 20, 2012


No one has to tell us we 7 billion earthlings live, not for one another, but for ourselves. Darwin calls it the "survival instinct"...Capitalists call it "free enterprise"...Wall Streeters like Gordon Gekko call it "greed" ...most religions call it avarice. Actually it's a rather thin kind of life, because its outermost limits are limited just to yourself.

A thicker kind of life is more like Monks and Amish lead. Communitarian societies in which how-it-effects-others is part of any decision you make. That's thicker living, because there's more room in your life for the feelings of others. No surprise then that these are the people we usually choose to be our friends, our fellow riders on the commuter train, those we invite for dinner.

And yet...! All this seems to change when it comes to our politics. Here we choose our friends differently. Not so much by their kindness of spirit, but more by their kind of labels. The labels we wear these days are bold, brash and cocksure. On one side: "American Free Enterprise." On the other: "European Socialism." Both sides roaring labels they can barely explain, but they're damn sure about their roar!

How strange. The same people we find likable personally, we may find unlikable politically.

My philosopher-barber put it to me this way: "I see these two opposites like a tightrope and a safety net. The tightrope is where the gutsy are free to take their chances; they like risk up there. But down here there's gotta be some kind of safety net; not only for us little guys, but sometimes even for the gutsy guys. Because everyone falls sometime. Which is when I expect my government to catch us. Why else am I paying taxes!"

He summed up his case with a flurry of scissor trims: "I don't want to eliminate their tightrope, but I sure as hell want to thicken the safety net. My way -- we're closer to 50:50 instead of 99:1"

He had the scissors, so I agreed. I think even without them, I'd agree.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The child curls into your lap and plead, "Tell me a story." It's a request that echoes down the centuries from children to tribes to nations alike. We all need stories in our lives. Tales that can make us feel good, feel proud, feel there's a purpose to us.

Hunter-fathers and village-shamans were skilled at this. So were the firey-eyed prophets who came out of the deserts, along with the rich imaginations of a Homer, a Dante, and a Dickens. I remember my top sergeant recalling tales of his years fighting under Patton in WWII; perhaps the only thing I ever learned in the Air Force that made any sense out of killing.

Not every story is true, if by true we mean precisely accurate fact by fact. But then neither were the stories of the parables taught by Jesus nor all the news reports of the West by Mark Twain. Still, is there any heart that can honestly dismiss these as lies? As mis-information? As events that could not be?

When enough of these stories collect, they become all sorts of realities in the lives of their listeners. Some, religions like Judaism and Christianity. Others, philosophies like Stoicism or Existentialism. Still others take on the mythic proportions of legends such as the Greek or Norse Gods, King Arthur of ancient England or the Teutonic Knights of ancient Germany, right down to the Kit Carsons and Jesse James of the American West still played out on our screens by the John Waynes and Clint Eastwoods.


Yes, the great oral and written traditions of humanity's stories have now emerged most completely in the cinematic format of the movie and of television. Today's stories -- no less indispensable to our emotional lives than ever -- now come to us by way of our cameras. Film is perhaps the ultimate art form for telling us stories, for in it are all the art forms of sight and sound majestically woven together.

What was once a 10-cent Saturday treat at the local movie house has now been elevated into the most powerful persuasions in our lives. So when a Spielberg tells us of ETs, a Scorsese tells us of our society's under-cultures, a Spike Jones reports the culture in Black, or an Oliver Stone uses his cameras to make a searing political point...when artists like these fill our screens with stories, they are thereby filling our heads and hears with messages virtually impossible to forget.

No storytellers in history ever had it so good. No listeners in history ever had it so hard to decide which stories are true...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Like you, I've had some extraordinary dreams come true. Walking the white beaches of the Bahamas... strolling the crooked streets of New Orleans French Quarter...climbing the Eiffel Tower...sipping Chianti in a Tuscany trattoria. Then there was beholding both the Sistine Chapel and the Grand Canyon, struggling to explain either.

But now Apple has come up with Siri -- my very own voice-activated virtual assistant. The new app is available in the iPhone45. Simply by speaking into it, Siri will tell me where I am, where's the nearest Chinese restaurant, call a cab for, and tell me what the traffic will be like on the way.

Siri -- speaking in clear conversational English -- even has a saucy sense of humor. Ask her to "talk dirty," she'll cheerfully answer: "Silt. Gravel. Compost." Call her a bitch and she'll top you: "Why do you hate me? I don't even exist!"

We all remember sci-fi encounters with ET's. Creatures with small bodies and enormous heads, for it is their brain not their brawn that counts. Given a few thousand years of evolution, is this how our distant descendants are likely to look? Abs on the beach and pumping iron in the gym will no longer seem very important. On the other hand I ask you, what will be left to physically experience this phenomenally physical planet...?

I still want to smell the rich Colombian coffee bubbling over my cup in the morning. I still want to sit down and tuck in my napkin as the spice of the antipasto and the Bolognese of the pasta collide in my nostrils. I still want to feel the smash of the cymbals during a Beethoven symphony, to tear up at the National Anthem, to feel a giggle in my throat watching the giggle of my grandchildren, to be overpowered by the jaunty yellow of the sunrise and the garish red of the sunset.

I don't wish to KNOW these things. In my head. Or from Siri. Rather to SENSE them right down to the pit of my tummy and the tingle of my toes. Nothing against change. Or Siri. Or Apple. They represent human progress. Only we don't need to take the human out of the progress!

Or do we...? Siri didn't answer me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Oscar Wilde famously quipped: "Be yourself, everyone else is taken!"

However, in a rabid celebrity culture like ours, it would seem most of us want to be someone else. Someone rich, powerful and especially famous. Fame is the obsession of the young and the dream of the old. What makes this fixation so silly is who we usually choose to think of as famous.

Take a moment. Aren't they always the rich-and-famous from the worlds of show business...the arts ... sports...big business? The headliners and headline-makers? But here's the bottom line test. What could or would any of these do for you in the middle of a life-crisis? Surely your own life and safety is the ultimate measure by which you measure another's value to you.

Not to get too theological on you, but it's been written: "Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Which famous celebrity can you imagine doing that for you? I believe the correct answer is: None.

And yet, people all around us are doing exactly that every hour of every day of every week in the year. And while we don't know them by name on a marquee, you and I know them well whenever some crisis rips out of the ground beneath us or from the sky above us. From earthquakes to tornadoes! crimes to fires! storms to floods! highway accidents to hallway accidents! failed hearts to failed lungs!

First responders.

The name hardly does them justice, these strong young legions of skilled eyes and trained hands. They appear out of the 911 night in ambulances, atop snorkels, in repair trucks, or on rescue boats. If there really is something noble to our imperfect species, it may most be found in these hourly acts in which one life reaches out in the service of another.

Oh...and not one of them from the rich-and-famous 1%.

Monday, January 16, 2012


"Whatever..!" "You know...!" "Like...!" The three worst verbal fillers in our language, according to the latest Maris Public Opinion survey. Like, who didn't know that??

In a software security survey, the three worst passwords were: "Qwerty," "Letmein, and "Password."

I submit that in any Worst-Of surveys, the American Reality Show stands tooth, claw and nail above any other. Network executives and Jungian psychiatrists can explain why their bizarre social popularity, yet I'm not sure they can assess their haunting social consequences. After all, how many avid reality-show viewers are going to tell a perfect stranger why they are so perfectly strange in their television tastes!

In the 1980s, Senator Daniel Moynihan produced a groundbreaking report which said "the more often the deviant behaviors in a society, the less those behaviors seem deviant..." His examples included the usual suspects: Divorce, teen pregnancy, teen smoking, children out of wedlock, and handguns.

You can design your own list, as each night the networks fill their screens with deviance that doesn't quite seem as deviant as it once did only a few generations ago. A progression -- or regression -- of social acceptance, easily predictable right in our own families and neighborhoods.

However. Today's cheap-to-produce reality shows push the prediction a giant leap further.

Rather than simply exposing the viewers to these practices [eg. the total number of televised divorces and affairs in a year tracks over 11,000 and counting], the Reality Show actually celebrates them. The wildest, zaniest, least inhibited, most exhibitionist participants the better. The mind boggles at the sight of "Jersey Shore," "Bachelor," and "The Housewives of..."

Come on, loosen up. Have a laugh. It's all just in fun.

When you put it that way, I suppose you're right. Reminding me of a time when the punks and wise guys in my classroom were sent to the Principal's office where embarrassed parents confronted their wild off spring. Oh, but I forget! In today's open-minded, reality-show culture, we're no longer embarrassed by anything. Nor do we confront anyone. It's called live-and-let-live.

Strangely enough, the title of the next Reality Show which plans to bring their cameras into your next door neighbors' bedroom....

Sunday, January 15, 2012


At one time, each of these pairs was an opposite: Beautiful & Ugly...Truth & Lie....Real & Imaginary. No longer! Especially that last one. Our cameras and computers have seen to it we can no longer tell if what we're seeing is really real.

On our screens -- and lets face it, virtually everyone everywhere is looking at a screen -- cameras and computers can airbrush or distort any real reality into whatever imaginary reality they want. Something almost Orwellian about our world. OK, if that seems like stretching the point, what about Spielbergian...?

While some of us have learned to spot the camera and computer tricks, there is a third C at work on our synapses: Conventions. Not the back-slapping, member audiences in Las Vegas hotels. Rather, those generally accepted standards of society (eg. people wait at stoplights, children attend school, etc).

Nobody writes these social conventions. They just bubble up into our consciousness from generation to generation. The Hollywood and network screens then take it from there. Scene after scene. For instance have you noticed how the driver always seems to find a parking place right where he stops to get out ...leaves his lights on...finds the closed doors conveniently unlocked? Or how the police always have helicopters and SWAT teams right at hand? Or how federal agents are always steel-jawed, buttoned-down teams with powerful GPS systems at their command? Or how the FBI and White House are always populated by unnamed planners & plotters whispering in private hallways?

Who wouldn't become sensitized to the imposing notion of "Big Government!!"

Granted, Americans have been suspicious of big-bad-government since the days of King George III. And the Confederates felt the same way when they seceded from the big-bad-Union. [Rick Perry is still on record suggesting the same for Texas]. Many family and neighbors see big-bad-government whenever their screens flash images of Washington DC, airport pat downs, and CIA headquarters.

At the same time, I also see government whenever I see my mail carrier coming down the block...state highways being upgraded...federal regulations protecting my national parks, drinking water, drugstore prescriptions, and coastlines. I think to myself there really IS a difference between the baby and the dirty bath water....

Saturday, January 14, 2012


According to Jay Leno, "Politics is just show business for ugly people." According to Uncle Harry, "Once they get elected and see light at the end of the tunnel, they go out and buy some more tunnel."

Why do we slam politicians? For one thing, it's easy. Like screaming at the bloodied quarterback from the safety of a sky box. We've been doing it ever since George Washington. Oh yes! all those heroes on our pedestals and our bills were once laughed at and lampooned far more brutally than even today.

Some consider this mob mentality. Others see it as how a free democracy works; the way the law believes even 12 of the least likely jurors usually come up with the best verdict. On the the other hand, when you consider some of our past leaders, the saying "Anyone can become president" takes on a whole new meaning. On yet another hand, George Burns put it this way: "Politics is like trying to be popular in high school; which is like trying to be mayor of a city that won't exist in four years."

Whatever! our politicians always use the same two words: Liberal and Conservative. The words have a gazillion different meanings in the mouths of different politicians. Perhaps the best definition is: A liberal is a conservative who just got mugged; a conservative is a liberal who just got arrested.

The funny thing about this conservative (red state) and liberal (blue state) dichotomy are some recent results. David Brooks of the New York Times reports there are now two conservatives for every liberal in the country. Most of them maintaining we need less federal government and greater traditional morality. Meanwhile, Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune argues: "As America has grown more secular, most indicators of moral and social health have grown better not worse. Crime has plummeted, teen pregnancy is down 19%, divorce rates are dropping, and abortions among teens are half what they used to be."

Chapman, an avowed libertarian, ends with a smile (or is it a smirk?): "Mississippi has the nation's highest rate of church attendance and the highest rate of murder. So please spare us the sanctimonious fairy tales. Secular America is doing just fine."

Now the debate becomes: What do we mean by "fine?"

Friday, January 13, 2012


The "99%" is simply the latest compliment we are attaching to the vast majority of us. Who, in a democracy, like to think of ourselves as "we the people" nobly proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. Sorry, folks, but as a long-time member of the "99%," I believe there are less ennobling but more accurate names for us: The Majority...the Masses...the Mob.

Want to see what we "the mob" really look like? Just look at us pushing and shoving in the malls...in the sports stadiums...on the crowded expressways....queuing up for the latest Hollywood hit. Not so impressive looking. What's more, we're even unimpressive in impressive settings like marching in Fourth of July parades...filing into churches and temples...holding candle vigils...marching off to war.

Truth be told [few leaders like to use the truth in public], we the 99% are often human herds following the tail of the buttock immediately in front of us. Call it going-with-the-flow or following-our-star, if you like, but in truth, we the 99% are usually just instinctively responding to whatever seems best for us. In the 1960s we sang it this way: If-it-feels-right-how-can-it-be-wrong!

However, when in the name of democracy we the mob operate this way, well human herds can be cow-poked into all kinds of crazy directions. Say, buying the hottest new widget on eBay...the slickest new candidate on the campaign trail...the most mesmerizing new televangelist....the inside-trading stock tip...the latest face we're told is a singing sensation. Pretty much any damn thing the big boys with the big bucks have decided to woo and wow us with.

Tragically, this can also include wars. Wars against whatever "enemy" we the mob are being advised we must fear. Hitler pied-pipered 60 million Germans that way. Frankly, Lyndon Johnson similarly convinced 250 million Americans Vietnam had attacked us. George Bush said the same about Iraq.

Buying into the latest "wonder widget" is a herd instinct that's probably harmless. But buying into the latest "enemy" is a mob instinct that's usually horrific. As a general-president who knew better [Eisenhower] warned: We-the-mob need to be careful we save our righteous furies for the right enemy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Ever try to sit there and ignore a ringing telephone...? Nine out of ten can't. I'm one of the nine. Nietzsche offered us an explanation: "Humanity is afflicted with the yearning to know the unknown." Personally, I like that. Gives my maddening curiosity a touch of class.

Lately the professorial minds have opined that our ringing Twitter and Facebook are doing wretched things to our beautiful minds. Too much input for any mind to authentically digest and use. They back it up with MRI evidence that's impressed my mind, as it reels from its every hour every day assault of information. I mean, when's the last time you walked Michigan Avenue in Chicago or Park Avenue in New York and saw more than nine people who WEREN'T staring down into their smart phones?

And yet.

That's right, there's no opinion you can slice so thin there's only one side to it. The other side here is those psychologists who believe Twitter and Facebook sharpen our minds in this hardscrabble world. Quoting one: "Our air of self ignorance ends as all these posted likes, dislikes, and comments make us intensely aware of who we are and how our thoughts track with others...." I myself have been tersely "de-friended" four times and "f--k you" at least once!

I'm not sure if these have enlightened my self-understanding, but I certainly have discovered the dangers of the un-nuanced written word.

Right now my phone is ringing in the other room. At the same time, my copy of the New York Times sits here reporting there is an earth-like planet, Kepler-22b, located 600 light year away which could sustain human life. Am I curious about what's out there...? Whether an advanced civilization exists there or has long ago died there...? Yes, yes, I am. But right now Nietzsche's "yearning" has more to do with Joan's phone call than any from an ET.

After all, a wife waiting in the rain is a far greater force than any creature from any Kepler-22b!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


First the Redcoats, then the Beatles, now Queen Victoria.

The latest Brit invasion is the Masterpiece Theatre production: Donston Abbey. Cheerfully preceded in recent years by Upstairs Downstairs and other mesmerizing Victorian works such as Pride & Prejudice, Vanity Fair and Wuthering Heights.

What's a nice girl like a Victorian heroine doing in a helter-skelter, smash-mouth American culture that lionizes NFL brutes, rapper troglodytes, and bare-knuckled pols..?

Here's a theory. You mustn't allow today's bare-chested tough guys and their tattooed ladies in the sports bars to deceive you. As they already deceive themselves. You see, while Americans have always prided themselves in the quick quip and the fast draw, deep down somewhere resides a Victorian gentleman and lady trying to get out.

OK, I said it was just a theory!

And yet, there's so much transparent logic to it. As our faster-than-a-speeding-bullet culture continues to pick up speed -- 24/7 news cycles, blogosphere chatter, smartphone exchanges -- the human animal here often finds itself exhausted, without knowing quite why. With all these digital tools, toys and talismans at our fingertips, we find ourselves on a breathless treadmill in which there is not a whit of time left for the form and formality of that Victorian zeitgeist charming us on the screen.

Really now, even the hottest fan and coolest financier has to respond to all those charmingly attired ladies and gentlemen speaking such luscious English and engaging in such precisely paced social rituals. All in settings and with servants that make our daily lives look disappointingly spare.

Oh, don't expect the folks at the Super Bowl, on Wall Street or at the local PTA to openly admit a repressed longing for a time slower and seemingly steadier. Like I say, it's only a theory. But here's a corollary to the theory. Just maybe this majority of us repressed commoners are what makes democracy work in elections like this one. Generally speaking, we are not nearly as involved and passionate about our politics as are the zealots among us on the extreme right and left.

That being said, this is why most extremists never win the presidency. So much for the mad monarchs that British form and formality all too often generated.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Try this.

Take a puzzle or a game like Monopoly and Scrabble. Open the box and watch the pieces tumble out. Do you find a message in that pile of pieces? No more than you find one in society's everyday pile of pieces otherwise known as: news reports, statistics, ads and quotes. The only message to be found in this daily jumble is the one you and I bring to it by the way our mind assembles the pieces.

Which is another way of saying the facts and the truth are often more in our minds then in our world. Which recalls the story of the interviewing reporter trying to get a story: "Yes, but besides that Mrs Lincoln, what did you think of the play?"

Quoting the Bible...the review...the speech...the report...the budget...the suddenly discovered love letter, is humanity's ancient mistake of sending a blind man to figure out the elephant he's feeling. Ten blind men will probably have 10 definitions. And who among us can boast we are without blindness?

This, then, is our task.

If we are to dare pretend we are free minds with the right to decide, that right must be joined to this obligation. Never again call the parts the whole! A single report, a single passage, a single statistic out context is often the same thing as a lie. In its selective singularity -- by the one reporting it -- it becomes a text without its context. Therefore it's able to prove black is white, good is evil, beautiful is ugly, honesty is deceit, and the person who challenges me is a demon.

Is that stretching the point...? Look at the record. Joan of Arc burned at the stake...Lincoln shot sitting next to his wife...John Lennon gunned down on the street...oh, and then there was that man from Galilee nailed to a cross.

Let the record show that the entire record is what needs to be shown....

Monday, January 9, 2012


Societies have a great many laws. Thousands of them. Too many probably for anyone to know let alone obey. Among them are laws that don't appear on any books. As it were, they've been written on the human heart. And there's not a day in our lives these three don't somehow apply:

* the law of contradictions
* the law of the survival of the fittest
* the law of unintended consequences

The law of contradictions says two antithetical propositions cannot both be true. Seems to make sense. Until recently. Some of us are still trying to understand how the Tea Partiers -- now in control of John Boehner's House -- insist government is bad at the very same time they insist on their government entitlements. I've tried to locate the protester last summer who screamed: "Don't let the government touch my Medicare!" No luck, as she is probably busy tapping into it as we write.

Further defying the law of contradictions, the Tea Partiers go on to explain: They are not opposed to government benefits per se, only to "unearned" benefits. Upon closer examination, this ends up meaning any benefits extended to African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and the very young. Driving home their point, one recent state poll of Tea Partiers found that 83% opposed any Social Security cuts while 78% rejected any changes in Medicare.

How to reconcile such contradictions...?

Perhaps with that second unwritten law: The law of the survival of the fittest. Loosely translated into this year's political campaign: I've got mine because I earned it; if you don't, that's your problem, not the government's. For instance, if the upcoming Super Bowl were to be played by this law rather than the rules of the NFL, well it would roll out without either 10-yard-markers or referees on the field. You know, the biggest, baddest, boldest warriors win.

All of which brings us to that third law, the one about unintended consequences. Picture for a moment a Super Bow and a society without any governing rules and regulations. The biggest, baddest ,boldest win! Now go ahead and study that picture. Where do you see yourself? You and I and all the rest of the 99%.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


You won't believe this, but you simply have to. It's right there in the Kansas police records...!

A fugitive who took a couple hostage in their home is now suing them for $250,000. The accused murderer, Jesse Dimmick, claims the couple "Accepted his knife-point offer of money to hide in their house, but the couple later breached their oral contract by escaping while he slept. As a result, he was shot in the back by authorities and has accrued large medical expenses."

The celebrated social satirists -- Will Rogers [1930s] and Mort Sahl [1960s] -- based their comedy routines on the same opening line: "I only know what I read in the papers." Today they would have to add TV, Cable, and Blogs; but the premise is still the same. Virtually everything we know and talk about with one another is what we read or see in the media.

Here's my problem. Virtually everything we see and read there is hardly worth knowing let alone talking about.

Yes, yes, weather forecasts, traffic reports, stock markets, yesterday's scores, current medical warnings -- yes, these can probably be called news-you-can-use. But have you ever tracked and tallied this stuff? I mean really, how much of it is worth knowing by lunchtime tomorrow...? You might counter by pointing to the in-depth reportage from the media's best editors, columnists. economists and social observers. I quickly grant there are those. And yet when is the last time you've NOT been able to guess the same recurring subjects to their reporting! Terror threats ...Middle East threats ...China Threats...Energy threats ...Civil Rights threats...Crime threats. Closer to home: Problems with our politicians...our taxes...our schools...our gangs ...our cops...our clergy...oh and of course Angeline & Jennifer.

The problem, dear citizen, is not in our stars but in ourselves. Somehow we've come down through the ages deciding the bad stuff is the stuff that counts. The stuff we must concern ourselves with at the water cooler, over dinner and at the club. Meanwhile, much of the other stuff gets taken for granted.

Say the birds singing in grand chorales outside our morning window, the youngsters hop-scotching down our blocks, the early-day truck crews making the rest of our day possible, the veined hands of our community seniors beginning another day in which the rest of us might learn from them, the dim roar of jets overhead bringing remarkable new people and ideas into our city, and to be sure that symphony of sights and sounds from our verdant parks and boulevards and lake shore.

A thought. Each of them will still be worth talking about by lunchtime tomorrow.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Hollywood and television have mastered the coming-attraction gig. Their screens explode in color and volume as they assault our senses with extraordinary images of extraordinary people, plots and products.

As for the people....the screens feature everyone from Tom Cruise scaling tall buildings to Mitt Romney drinking small town coffee to Law & Order cops swooping in for the arrest in helicopters. The folks who shoot these coming attractions are cinematic masters at editing say 90 minutes of raw footage down to the precise 30 seconds they want you to see.. I mean, when's the last time you actually saw anyone rappelling the Sears Tower, any pol once elected coming back to your corner cafe, or any actual police helicopters dropping off so many beautiful cops?

As for the plots...Hollywood remains the master magician with their coming attractions bursting in theatres in digitalized promises of: Greatest, grandest, glorious, gratifying. Promises that afterwards simply don't fit the 120 minutes you just drowsed through.

As for the products...well, I ask you, how many of those advertised cars you bought actually swept you up rugged canyon trails, roaring across steaming deserts, or screeching up to Vegas hotels to be greeted by gasping models staring at your strut?

By and large we all live lives of quiet desperation. And so it is that coming attractions -- that promise us some of the power and glamor we gave up expecting after selling our last comic book collection -- can act like the promised Balm in Gilead. Somehow, somewhere, something out there offers us something better. Just when we needed it!

Most of these coming attractions are not so much mirages. More likely they are mirrors. Mirrors held up to our deepest desires and highest hopes in an otherwise modest existence. The glass is so polished, the images so glittering, we find it hard not to respond. The thing we have to remember is that all that glitters is not gold, all the desires that beckon in our lives are not necessarily desirable.

The optimists have the right to tell us that life is a fat piece of juicy fruit just waiting to be bitten. The pessimists have the right to quote pessimists like Bertolt Brecht: "He who laughs has not yet heard the terrible news." And you and I...? We have right to choose.

Friday, January 6, 2012


To watch television is to witness thousands of deaths each year. On the streets, on the battlefronts, on the highways. However, the two most horrific deaths you'll witness tonight are the slow but inexorable deaths of Democracy and Domesticity.

Each death is a ghoulish yet subtle dance whose steps at first seem altogether familiar and innocent. Once something becomes innocent, it's harder to detect its ghoulishness.

Take Democracy....We were taught in school that its cherished liberties depend upon an active and informed citizenry. Active is easy, informed is not! Watch the day-and-nightly ways in which the citizenry out there is wowed and wooed by the latest slash-ad campaigns...big-name endorsements...smartly orchestrated rallies...especially prime-time camera-time carefully allocated by the media. Watch carefully, because what we're watching is well funded marketing of human products in the name of Democracy.

Take Domesticity...We have grown up with the assumption it-takes-a-family to make up a neighborhood, then a community, and ultimately a country. I mean, there's all that home-is-where-the-heart-is stuff from our movies and Mothers Day cards, right? Wrong! Over the years, the home is often where the family occasionally meet for dinner, in between school, jobs, games, and exotic finding-myself-experiences. Homes, such as they are in today's fast mobile culture, look more like sleeping quarters than their traditional image of character builders. Where few mothers any longer feel secure or fulfilled.

No doubt you've have heard the eloquent evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, speak of "memes." Something like the genes in biology, memes are said to be the ideas floating around in a culture like living organisms. The vector of their transmission from one person to another is language by which they leap from brain to brain.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Dan Brown's blockbuster book/movie raised some old yet fascinating charges about the Vatican. Just recently, Leonardo DaVinci scholars raised some old yet fascinating charges about the restoration work being conducted on his masterpieces. Is there more here than meets the eye?

I think you'll think so too.

The scholars are arguing about the smallest of details to the delicate restoration process. Rather like political scholars are with the smallest of the Iowa caucus votes. But there's a big difference! The votes in tiny Iowa are but a tiny fragment of a tiny story that will be here today and gone tomorrow. In sharp contrast, the tiny story to the squabble over these masterpieces is not only here today, but it was here yesterday and will continue to be tomorrow.

The difference...? It's between the timely and the timeless.

In our 24/7 electronic whoosh of reportage, it's easy to get caught up in what's new and what's happening. People by the millions now rush through the day with earphones plugged into their heads so they can't miss a beat or a byte. However, as you read about the devoted scholars lovingly hunched over a 500 year painting, you have the feeling the every-hour-on-the-hour reporting outside seems a bit silly in the presence of something so immortal inside.

The works of masters -- DaVinci and Rembrandt, Bach and Mozart, Shakespeare and Emerson -- have stood the test of time. Reminding us that what-has-been is often of greater importance to humanity's heart and soul than what-is-now. Just maybe the nattering crowds that spill into our streets and malls and conference rooms each day are far too concerned with the glittering tyranny of impermanence.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


All kinds of clouds in our life. Storm clouds, cumulus clouds, clouds-of-dust-and-a-hearty-hi-o-Silver.

The one that now counts the most is the one you and I understand the least. That invisible global accumulation of humanity's everyday data. Data from think tanks and basement bloggers...from our billion-dollar military complexes to our secret band of hackers...from the local college campus and medical center to the international Hadron Collider in Switzerland to the IMF in Washington.

It's been estimated that the accumulated knowledge of humanity first doubled by about 1800. That mass doubled by 1900. That mass by 1950. Well, you get the staggering exponentiality of it...! By the year 2020, some of these cloud-makers estimate this permanently stored leviathan of digital information at our disposal will be 35 zettabytes.

What in God's name is a zettabyte?

Funny you should ask. A zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros. Now let me put that into a very simplistic example. When you and I hear the traffic report on our station, the rapid-fire reporter sounds something like this: "Traffic from the Loop interchange to 53 south is 40...from the Ike to I94 28... Edens at Peterson 13 to the Willow cutoff now backed up 45 from 295...reverse lanes in all directions currently closed."


Not sure about you, but when that's read in 7 seconds while I'm maneuvering on the Rockford cutoff behind ten semi's, frankly I don't understand what the hell she just told me! And that, my confused computerized colleagues, is the tiniest fraction of an example of how it is beginning to feel in a world where there now exists a billion billion more clouds of information than the human brain can effectively gather... sift...interpret...understand...and [the real crunch-point] use.

Does that mean we turn off the Cloud...? We can't. Turn off our minds...? We shouldn't. Start eating our lunch everyday lazily staring up at the real clouds...? That last one has a nice feel to it. Only...!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Look, we all know there are many curtains behind which stand many surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise -- and here I'm beating the NEW YORK TIMES to a scoop! -- is a small circle of executives who rent a locked conference room in the Plaza Hotel [room212]. These 14 men and women meet six times a year to strategize most of what 330 million Americans are feeling.

Feelings...? That's right. Feelings are the agenda; fortunes are the goal. Here's how it works.

These are the power-brokers in the feeling-business. The nationwide ventures which package, promote and project what most Americans are feeling about their lives...their jobs...their leaders...their future. Two from network television; two from the cable channels; two from Hollywood; two from the printed media; two from the blogging community; two from the theatre community; two from the sports community.

I've never attended the secret conferences, but if I told you who these 14 are, it would be easy for you to understand just how they seize and stir our deepest feelings. About our heroes & villains; dreams & fears; passions & purposes. And as go a nation's feelings, so go their votes! their purchases! their beliefs! their devotions!

We live in an age which speaks to the power of the human mind, but at the end of the day we all discover it's been our heart not our head that rules. Which is why the 14 cast ballots to determine who and what will get the next multi-million-dollar treatment. In television (hit series, news coverage, Sunday Morning interviews, guest shots on Dave & Jay)....in films (the stars and scripts) ...in headline coverage (from front page to op-eds)...on the stage (whose plays and music get financed).

The next time you support a candidate, cheer a team, love a movie, fantasize about the latest hunk and heroine... do you actually think YOU'VE discovered them? Come on, folks! They and what they represent in your life have been carefully discovered and planned months ago. In life there are no coincidences.

But, hey, that's OK. If you want to believe your feelings are authentically yours, fine. And if you want to believe my secret society is authentic, that's fine too. Take your choice....

Monday, January 2, 2012


Time is a fragile thing. Poets, painters and physicists each try to define it. You and I get to live it. But what should we do when it's over? As in that old calendar you just took down from the kitchen wall?

The pragmatists and environmentalists among us will simply say: Dispose it. I say: Study it. Take a little sliver of 2012 time to reconsider what you and I didn't do with 2011 time. It's something like the difference between the tea drinker who throws away the brewed leaves and the one who studies them.

Here's what I see in my 2011 calendar. The days that were used for tasks, appointments, deadlines, family dinners, parties, weddings and funerals. The everyday rhythms of my life that were scheduled and most times kept. But there are other dates! I see them scattered among those now expired hours, never to be regained or re-lived again:

* The days I spent dreading the bad weather that never came
* The days I hated going to a job that now I wish I still had
* The days I canceled attending an event that I now regret missing
* The days I never got around to calling my old friend who never made it to the end of the year
* The days I failed to experience such delicious cliches as: Health is wealth
* The days I didn't have time to look at the lawns and birds and kids just outside my window
* The days I forgot to kiss the ones I love
* The days I forgot to notice how I was aging into someone not just older but different

Well now. Your 2011 calendar will have other days to it. Gone now. Never to be lived again. But this little exercise is not meant to bury your Caesars. Nor to praise them. Simply to hold them up to the light of your best reflections. Some of them may draw a smile, some a tear, many a shrug.

But if held to the light just right...2011 could very well be your very best map for traveling your 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I LOVE HUMANITY...IT'S THE PEOPLE I CAN'T STANDYou know how every beauty queen stands up there, fixing her crown and holding back the tears. What's th

You know how every beauty queen stands up there, fixing her crown and holding back the tears. What's the first thing she wishes for? That's right: "world peace." Dumb as she makes that sound, it's really the mother of all wishes.

Which is how I feel when I look out at my world from a long shot. The sweeping fields of lush green and yellow ripening in the spring...the cobble-stone streets rambling through country hamlets...the sky-seeking towers of our great cities...throngs of happy families giggling through Disney World...caring teachers happily herding their kids through recess...little ones building sand castles...congregations praying in the pews... crowds standing with their hands on their heart at flag-led parades and games.

People en masse can be people at their best. Because you're experiencing them like a Currier & Ives or Norman Rockwell painting. Humanity! The pinnacle of the Creator's [or if you insist, Evolution's] handiwork down the eons. The one strain of planetary life which has grown and conquered all in its way.

Now here's the problem.

I can't speak for you, but when the long shot tightens, and you find yourself shoulder-and-sweat next to them, something happens to humanity. The nobility gets grainy. Standing behind humanity in an growly checkout line, I seem always to get the shopper who waits till then to take out her coupons... driving behind a serpentine stretch of rush-hour traffic, I always find the hesitant first-time driver... on planes, I wonder why the passenger next to me is without exception the largest, latest most luggaged one on board...and as for the theatre, I can bet my life that 15 minutes after it starts, the usher will be jabbing a flashlight in my face to guide the entire party of late-comers to the very damn middle of my aisle!

I want to love my fellow man; and woman too. I believe in world peace, Santa Claus, and all the Rockwell calendars in my house. I really really do. But why, why, are people so different than humanity....?