Saturday, March 31, 2012


Both literary giants -- Thomas Wolfe and Thornton Wilder -- reached the same conclusion about the same time during the Great Depression. You can't go home again! Not really. Not safely.

In "Look Homeward Angel" Wolfe captured for all time how the reality of Then is unachievable ever again. In "Our Town," Wilder's Emily tries from her grave in the third act, only to taste the bitter ashes re-captured time can mean. Seems the sentimentalists and memorialists among us should take heed.

But I didn't.

More correctly, I couldn't as I drove through my old neighborhood on the far west side of Chicago. Where searching for your best memories is a hunt that can only take place with your heart, not your eyes. The sights you lived are long gone. The canopy of elms caressing quiet side streets...the cozy red brick bungalows and white frame houses...the within-a-walk mom & pop stores...the churches, the schools, the movie houses, the big parks and little prairies...the lilac and peony bushes at every corner...the aproned mothers putting out laundry in their back yards...the milkman and iceman easing down the alleys in his horse drawn wagon...the unlocked front doors and over-the-fence gossiping ...and yes the morning and afternoon newspaper and mail deliveries from folks you knew by name.

All gone.

And yet as I parked for a silent while in front of my old home, I thought I could still hear the clink of teacups Grandma would fill along with her blueberry muffins whenever she visited. I could still smell the zing of Mom's pasta dishes waiting for Dad every night at 6 when he came home from his office. I could -- I'm sure of it! -- feel the cushion of love and protection that swaddled my younger brother and me during the bite of the Depression and later the wounds of the War.

Home here was safety. Security. A gentle castle-fortress against the slings and arrows of a cruel time in America to which I would flee to in a moment. Wolfe's hero couldn't. Wilder's heroine failed. But as I sat there in the 2012 gray reality of aging homes and locked doors, somehow I could experience everything in the sepia tones of my youth. When inside this shuttered home there was still a fantasy of fun...laughter...homework...bills...and lives that time has tried its best to fade out.

But has failed magnificently.

Friday, March 30, 2012


A warning to today's woman -- there's another Adam out there sorta putting you down!

Here's the deal. Psychologist Adam Pazda of the University of Rochester has been researching the effects of the color scarlet worn by women. He reports in that when a woman wears reds and especially scarlets, men assume she is communicating an interest in intercourse. Why? "When female chimps achieve peak fertility, a rush of estrogen opens up their blood vessels, flushing their faces and giving males the signal that it's time to mate...."

I don't know a lot about our primate origins, but this Adam seems to suggest they are still pretty active here in the 21st C. He may be right. Darn if a great many of his fellow researchers don't also suggest we're only a short evolutionary step away from said origins. Making you wonder if thousands of years of great architecture, music, literature, art and honorable pursuits by our species pretty much all comes down to merely working out our evolutionary destiny.

If that's what we're discovering, perhaps our species had best get used to it. Being just another species on this just another of a billion planets. And while I suppose I can learn to adjust, I'm having real trouble adjusting to Disney's newest hit "Mirror Mirror." In this re-make of the Grimm fairy tale of Snow White, Disney has not only portrayed the cute seven dwarfs in the more primitive nature of the original, he's struck a cruel evolutionary blow to my gender.

Mind you, I haven't seen the film yet, but alas the reviews report Disney knocks Prince Charming off his great white charger. In other words, sassy Snow White doesn't really need him -- or any other Adam -- to save her. She pretty much does it herself!

Great theme for today's independent women. But what about Adams like me? Who've always thought, yes, we could be some fair damsel's Prince Charming? Now, however, we're being told: Forget it, zippy, the gals in scarlet probably aren't wooing you; probably they're laughing at you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Progress is a wonderful thing. And yet like everything else in life, it doesn't walk a straight line. On its way from A to Z there are a great many little letters you didn't expect to find in the alphabet of time. Take photography. It was developed in the 19th C...progressed to moving pictures in the 20th...but now here in the 21st maybe it's time to stop some of the action!

From Hollywood to television to our ubiquitous home videocams, everything now is in action. Busy, intense action. But here's the thing. The visuality of action may be great for experiencing what's happening; but lousy for examining what just happened. There for an instant, then it's not!

No way today's society will ever stop the action. But there still IS the still camera. And all those magnificent still candids which capture and freeze their subjects in time forever. As with paintings and murals, here we can examine, explore, excite to the drama of this particular moment. Its venue... composition...faces...oh and especially its eyes and hands which tell us so very much not otherwise as noticed in film or video.

There are legions of photographic exhibits and collections. But I'm thinking an even more accessible use of our time. The daily newspaper. Why not take the time to study these photographic moments in time. The joy of victory...the passion of purpose...the moment of sorrow...the instant of panic... especially the unguarded splices of time in which the leader or celebrity is caught and caged inside a frame which our memories will never be able to forget.

Better even than the exhibit or the newspaper, why not those neat but dusty old family photo albums? Tucked inside those covers -- if only you can remember where you ticked them -- sleep hundreds of moments-in-time that probably go back generations. Want to get in touch with those faces? those lives? those parts of your existence? Grab a cup of tea, and sit back to enjoy your favorites. It's something every person should do before someone does it for you at the wake.

And every nation too! It's why we require our kids to take history. Traveling through the history of their country should be one of the most consequential collections of moments they'll ever have....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Ever since Sophomore Philosophy, I find myself quoting philosophers. It's cool, it's academic, even if it is a tad sophomoric. But sometimes these fellas really nailed it. Take my favorite Dane, Kierkegaard: "Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate."

Speaking for a few hundred million of us, I'm anxious. About a lot of things. Whether in the right way or not is something else that makes me anxious. In no particular order, these are among my anxieties. You may recognize a few. Frankly I hope so, for I don't relish wallowing in anxiety all alone:

* I am anxious about the loss of predictability in my world. At one time there were certain absolutes I could count on. God is in charge [now we're told he never was!]...We're living in a post-racism America [instead the number of white militia groups has jumped from almost none to almost 1300 since the 2008 election!]...After 65 we can retire [instead almost 20% of the workforce are seniors!] ...Detroit was calamity city [now Miami and others are passing it up in calamitous fashion!]...another absolute: My lilacs bloom for Mothers Day [so why are they already starting in March!]

* I am anxious about the won't-go-away sexism which persists in pretending 53% of the population is still second class status. How so? In a hundred different ways, the latest the silliest. The prestigious European Chess Union has just introduced a dress code that bans female players from plunging necklines [seems the boys just won't ever let go of that Eve thing!]

* I am anxious about the drums of war whose beat has never stopped since the day Cain bumped off Abel [families and countries have carried on grudges ever since!]

Anxiety breeds fear and fear can become terror. One of the reasons so many of us muffle our terrors in the anesthesia of drink, drugs, spectator sports, and one of history's sickest displays of distraction since the old Roman Colosseum: TV Reality Shows. The people and the behaviors on these 60-minute spectacles instantiate those nether regions of our psyches which have made psychotherapy as important to today's anxiety-ridden humanity as castle-moats were a thousand years ago.

My therapist would agree. For instance, right now he's anxious that I pay my over due invoice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Rolex...Piaget....Monet...Baum & Mercier. Anyone can wear them, but at up to $75,000 each, not many of us can afford them. Or should even want to. Because, you see, they are arguably the biggest frauds sparkling on today's richest wrists.

If you have to ask why a fraud, no need reading the rest of this. It's this watch wearer's modest opinion the fraud comes from all that these dashing digits and dials promise you. I mean, yeah they can tell you the time. But sundials can do that. At these prices, these pretentious baubles should be able to do something more. A lot more.

But they can't.

I ask you -- can they stop time? reverse time? fast forward time? spin time so you and I can affect time? I think not. So what's that extra $74,500 buying us?

When men flash their Rolex's, it strikes me the same way they showcase their 150 mph sport scars that must be driven on 75 mph roadways. Or the sensational rock concert singer who intoxicates their audience only to leave the building without autographs. Or what about the drinks and drugs and campaigners who woo and wow us with an ecstasy of promises they never really deliver.

Today's expensive scholars in the fields of psychology and neurobiology also appear to promise more than they deliver. They try brilliantly. But in the end what they provide us is only more and more information about less and less. By brilliantly understanding more and more about our physiological parts, may not this allow us to ignore the whole that is more than the some of our parts? I was thinking that when scanning the latest study from Oxford researchers examining the way Popranolol may be able to "cure racism by affecting specific nerve circuits in the brain."

Back to Rolex and the gang. Time, Messrs Rolex, is such a fragile and at the same time mysterious cosmic power, perhaps you might reconsider your considerable talents. Try coming up with a watch that, on the hour, plays another passage from one of the world's Great Books. You know, those authors who struggled just as brilliantly to fathom as well as to tell time....


Rolex...Piaget....Monet...Baum & Mercier. Anyone can wear them, but at up to $75,000 each, not many of us can afford them. Or should even want to. Because, you see, they are arguably the biggest frauds sparkling on today's richest wrists.

If you have to ask why a fraud, no need reading the rest of this. It's this watch wearer's modest opinion the fraud comes from all that these dashing digits and dials promise you. I mean, yeah they can tell you the time. But sundials can do that. At these prices, these pretentious baubles should be able to do something more. A lot more.

But they can't.

I ask you -- can they stop time? reverse time? fast forward time? spin time so you and I can affect time? I think not. So what's that extra $74,500 buying us?

When men flash their Rolex's, it strikes me the same way they showcase their 150 mph sport scars that must be driven on 75 mph roadways. Or the sensational rock concert singer who intoxicates their audience only to leave the building without autographs. Or what about the drinks and drugs and campaigners who woo and wow us with an ecstasy of promises they never really deliver.

Today's expensive scholars in the fields of psychology and neurobiology also appear to promise more than they deliver. They try brilliantly. But in the end what they provide us is only more and more information about less and less. By brilliantly understanding more and more about our physiological parts, may not this allow us to ignore the whole that is more than the some of our parts? I was thinking that when scanning the latest study from Oxford researchers examining the way Popranolol may be able to "cure racism by affecting specific nerve circuits in the brain."

Back to Rolex and the gang. Time, Messrs Rolex, is such a fragile and at the same time mysterious cosmic power, perhaps you might reconsider your considerable talents. Try coming up with a watch that, on the hour, plays another passage from one of the world's Great Books. You know, those authors who struggled just as brilliantly to fathom as well as to tell time....

Monday, March 26, 2012


"Hunger Games" obviously must be a great work of art. The proof is in its record-breaking receipts this weekend. That IS the way we judge such matters, isn't it?

Without disdainfully dismissing the question with tales of great artists who have died penniless, let's consider for a moment why cinema such as Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and The Matrix are ringing up such hot ticket sales. Especially with the young. Its noun "hunger" is for me really a verb which cracks the question wide open. Modern western society hungers -- desperately so -- for someones and somethings to help fill that aching, empty feeling in our collective gut.

Empty gut in the midst of such glorious glut...? How can that be...?

Well, here's how. Man really does not live by bread alone. We need more. Want more. Seek more. The proof is in the sour pudding of so many rich and successful celebrities looking for fresh fulfillment from everything from fast cars to fast women to faraway gurus. They -- we -- are always looking for something. The irony is, always just after we have at long last "have everything."

What's this sad, old plot have to do with today's bright, new cinema? Damn near everything, because these film fantasies sweep us up into the one thing our modern scientific age has taken away: Magic! The magic of wonder and power and heroics and destinies so beyond our own Earth bound limitations that they allow us long forbidden thoughts of gods and immortality and eternal rewards.

Religious cynics like Bill Maher like to scoff: "Crazy dreams by herds of illiterate sheep herders from thousands of years ago!" You just may have a point, Bill. Because, you see, people have always had crazy dreams of something more to their existence than just their existence. To some of us, it seems that magic apparently still sells tickets. And, more important, still lights up hearts.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Now just stop for one damn minute....!

Instead of hurrying from frantic moment to another frantic moment in your very busy life, just stop long enough to experience everything around you that should make you feel proud you're human. I realize how flawed we are -- god knows, it hits me smack in the libido every morning I shave -- but I'm still glad I'm a flawed human rather than a perfect pelican.

Here's why. Because of all the farms, dams, roads and bridges that have made this raw planet a viable home for us. All the schools, hospitals, concert halls and houses of worship whose erection has made this home honorable. All the staggering architecture, statuary, paintings, theatre and music which have poured magnificently from out of the minds and hearts of our species in order to distinguish us from the most magnificent pelican ever to soar.

Civilization -- it's been achieved by our species alone. Why...? Always for me the operative question. The one that must be answered by each of us if we honestly expect to remain human.

After thousands of years of philosophical and scientific why-thinking, here's what it all comes down to. Well, for me. Because I admit to aching for graspable conclusions I can live with; not simply more arguable possibilities I must wrestle with.To the best of my understanding of the best philosophers and scientists in the best light possible, you and I have been programmed from the get-go.

All these works and words and wonders from all these humans all these centuries tell me our species just can't help itself. It knows only how to continuously reach! stretch! seek! Returning to the operative why-question, take your choice [because you do have one]. Either we've been programmed for evolution or for eternity. Everything written in between is simply finessing the answer!.

Speaking for evolution Darwin spoke brilliantly: "At some future time the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate the savage races throughout the world." Speaking for eternity, Augustine spoke brilliantly: "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they finally rest in thee."

I'm still working on this, fellas. But I hear a clock ticking.......................

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Can we be honest here...? The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory. Two bloody examples help make the point: America's fixation with Race and with War.

Start with our war mentality. Ever since the 20th C, seven wars. Spanish-American, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan. Only two because we were attacked. In each of the other five, the hawks talked about "preemptive strikes" rather like they are now about Iran's atomic facilities. What is it with us? Why do we find it so easy to hear the beat of the drums and the call to arms?

The costs of these seven wars -- in lives and treasure -- is incalculable. Take our current one which so far has cost us: $1.4 trillion, 6,390 Americans dead, 47,684 wounded, and more than 150,000 Iraqis and Afghans dead. With close to 600,000 returning GIs suffering from PTSD, brain trauma and depression which will further sap the vitality and potential of the nation for years to come.

But if there is madness to war, there is evil to racism. Our latest illustration took place with the "pre-emptive" killing of Trayvon Martin, the black teen in Florida. Of course this is merely the grotesque tip of an ugly iceberg that has tormented our democracy from 1609 when we first brought slaves here, to 2008 when we first elected a black president, to this 2012 election year in which every "pre-emptive" racist is finding other reasons for saving the Republic from this Kenyan-blooded half-breed who is somehow leading us into opposite directions at the same time [socialism & fascism, pro-Wall Street & anti-Wall Street, more peace-feelers & more drones].

Now here's the thing about "pre-emption." It gives you the first punch. So whether it's Mullahs we are told are ready to launch weapons 6000 miles into the heart of Manhattan...or black hoodies down the block...or that bum eying our gal in the bar...there's only one thing to do. Hit the sonofabitch now and ask questions later. Much much later.

Friday, March 23, 2012


If only I could be...!

How many times we've played that game with ourselves. Kinda fun; kinda therapeutic as well. Why? Because you and I are so very very human, we hardly ever ever like ourselves just the way we are.

Maybe a different texture of hair, tone of complexion, type of body. Oh and age. Yes, yes, we often wish we could be a different age. When we're kids we wish we were adults [ dumb wish! ]. When we're adults we wish we could be younger [ sounds reasonable! ]. When we look around at our times, we often wish we were living in better times [ whatever that means! ].

So here's the deal. Study today's latest pop icon -- MAD MEN -- and figure out why it's so popular. For one thing, it portrays a population of characters not too young, not too old, and living in what seems to be one of America's good-times [especially if you're male and attracted to all things slick, urbane, and free for the grabbing!].

There are always such iconic scenarios in our history. Always just past and just out of reach. In the early 19th C, Americans dreamed of their young pre-Revolutionary frontier times. In the early 20th C, the dream was usually the tall-in-the-saddle days of the Wild West. The Roaring Twenties also grew fashionable the further away they became. Now it's Sixties' turn with the gang on Madison Avenue.

Here's an open secret. There IS not better time and there IS no better age. You only get what you get at the age you're getting it. The best way to win this game is simply to play it the best way you can whenever the deal comes around to you....

Thursday, March 22, 2012


So what do you think, is life really like a football game....? Lot of people think so. You know, drawing parallels to the "game plan," the "line of scrimmage," the "long pass." Especially to those action words like "execution" and "second effort" which bring the sales meetings cheering to their feet.

Between you and me, I scripted such meetings, but never quite believed the metaphor.

A better game might be chess. Here it's not brute strength and gutsy gambles that count as much as cunning and keeping your opponent off their game by planning your moves many plays ahead. Seems to me, political parties and entire nations are forever playing chess with their opponents. Which in itself is harmless; except when they manipulate the lives of people with no more regard than they do chess pieces on the board.

Recently Dick Cheney's aid, Scooter Libby, was charged with leaking news about CIA agent Valerie Plame...a few months ago Iran captured an American they are holding for a public spy-trial...a few years ago America sent pilot Gary Powers on a no-return mission over the USSR. Surely every year throughout history every king, president, prime minister and even pope has found reason to "sacrifice" someone's career and/or life guessed it, the "team."

Our own master chess player, Richard Nixon, once captured this part of the game in one of his infamous mixed metaphors: "The pawns are left twisting slowly in the wind."

The longer you live, the more resigned you are to this slimier part of the game of life. What's still hard to accept is the gutless guile in the way the players brush away the fallen pawns with hollow claims that "they were willing to give their all." They gave, yes; "willingly," is a whole other game!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Sometimes it's hard to be cynical about cynicism. There's just so much lately to be cynical about. Not that people are any worse than before; only that now we see them in action day and night on any number of our small and large screens. There's no way to escape them.

Think of the world like Shakespeare did -- a stage full of players. Lately, virtually every public player is right out of central casting. Just like in film and television, there is this central pool of potential public performers from which the powers that be choose and cast. The greatest directors will always tell you: Good casting is 90% of a good play.

Need someone to speak for the science community...? No problem. We've got a cross section of distinguished gray-haired and/or eccentric wild-eyed folks in white coats who can play the part. Either on the screen or maybe even as a presidential czar. Want a popular quarterback...? The preferred look here has always been young, handsome, glib and if possible even accurate.

CEO...? Detroit likes them silver-maned in three-piece suits. Silicon Valley casts the twentysomethings in bluejeans. Computer whiz...? Both Hollywood and Washington usually give the parts to those best at flying fingers over sizzling keypads, matched to intense gazes into the numbers exploding across the monitors. We also like them to sound like they really know what all those polysyllabic words mean

Politicians...? Now these parts are usually filled by attractive folks who can read the teleprompter with gusto, wear tieless bluejeans with aplomb, and have a sealed lock on every skeleton in their closet. Pundits...? These Johnny-come-latelys to the national stage come in all shapes and sizes; the only real requirement is they can talk and interrupt faster than anyone else in the studio.

Got it now....? Cue the cast. Curtain up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


In the 16th C John Calvin pictured it this way. We are "predestined" from birth, yet in order to explain our "free will," he said life is like freely traveling a twisting mountain road which only God can see ahead to that approaching crash. But now what if WE could see ahead to exactly where our free will is taking us...?

Think the Fast Forward button!

Imagine what it would be like to posses the godly power to fast-forward our life, say 24 hours. To see not only where our free will is hurtling us, but also the consequences that will come with it:

* taking this flight rather than the next, we can now see if our plane lands safely
* making a key decision at work, we can now see tomorrow's fallout at the board meeting
* asking our partner that long repressed question, we can now see if it further opens communication or slams it shut more than ever

Or what about on the world stage:

* a president jumps into a testy campaign issue whose heat by tomorrow would have cooled if only he had let it alone
* a banker closes an iffy deal only to learn tomorrow he sealed it with an indictable partner
* a manger calls for his runner to steal second base only to find his X-rays tomorrow show a season-ending injury

Oh to see the future. Even by a day. What power this would give us, and what histories could be altered. The only problem is, who among us is really equipped to play God? To hold in our bare hands these thunderbolts of time? To survive the consequences of their echoes?

You see, seeing today what is to be tomorrow is what sometimes makes even Gods tremble...

Monday, March 19, 2012


In my little quadrant of the world, spring has arrived early and exuberantly. But let me direct your attentions to other than the harmonies from the trees and the blossoms from the earth. Drive to your nearest upscale fish restaurant and there behold death on display.

That fish tank near the front door proudly filled with fresh lobsters.

The scene lures the kids and even a few adults. But what exactly is the lure here...? Are we announcing the coming menu or pronouncing the approaching demise? Are these lobsters who were bothering no one being held up as a victory of our fishing fleets or are we implying our sensitivity to their aquatic comforts?

I admit I should be joining the rest of the party at the table where our waiter is extolling the virtues of the chef. However, I linger at the tank, watching with sad eye these denizens of the deep. Locked inside a sealed tank, their claws banded together until the final denouement back in the kitchen.

By now every patron in this place must surely understand we are all part of nature. But while environmentalism is on my mind, even more so is the slow death of my fellow creatures. A metaphor perhaps for so many of us outside the tank, as we too rest incuriously in comfort zones meant eventually to be our exit zones. and me and the people we will soon be eating with. How many of us really understand where and why we are? How many realize their clawing initiatives have been stifled? How many presume this is all there is? How many ever look outside their comfortable confines to recognize there is so much more?

I have to return to the table. However, this night I am going Vegan!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Rough guess. By now everyone over the age of 13 would like to smash in their sets whenever one of the four networks airs their latest passel of pitiful programming. Squeezed inside ill-fitting labels like sitcom, reality, game, news or interview, these shows are driving the adult viewership to cable.

But before we snobbishly dismiss the pop culture of the networks, lets pause in honor of the historic role it's played in our lives. By the sheer insistence of its nightly presence in our homes, network television has helped humanize and normalize once forbidden feelings.

Today's independent woman...? Thank programs like Mary Tyler Moore, Cagney & Lacey, even Roseanne. Gays...? Thank you Ellen DeGeneres, Will & Grace, and Queer for the Straight Guy. African Americans...? Hats off to the Bill Cosby Show, Sidney Poitier, and Diahann Carroll. Learning how to laugh at our own stereotyping madness...? Who better to watch than the mad master of all stereotyping cliches thank Archie Bunker!

Folks like me spent years in the classroom learning that there actually is such a phenomenon as the "teachable moment." When the learner is ready, the teacher will appear. Often in the low-IQ guise of network television. And there are other unlikely suspects. Your local beauty parlor, barber shop, corner tavern, and sports bar. Wherever people are gathered in a relaxed un-threatening setting, some of the most remarkable little truths can sneak out.

But wait.

Before we become too celebratory about our progress, check out this report from the Southern Poverty Law Center: "In part because of fears that whites will become a minority in the US, the number of patriot militia groups rose from 149 in the last presidential election year (2008) to 1,274 for the 2012 election year."

Better cork the champagne until this November when we learn just how much of the asylum has been taken over by the inmates.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Various studies purport that women use more words per day than men [30,000 vs 15,000]. That's open to debate. Some add that women also use more signals and silences per day. Now that one strikes this husband as far less debatable. Throughout history, the female of the species has had far fewer vocal opportunities, thereby perfecting these more nuanced alternatives.

One effective way to stop a bellowing male in his huffy tracks is with an arch of the eyebrow or an icy silence. Weapons for which most civilized men have yet to find a viable defense.

However, the high art of signals-and-silences can become deadly dangerous when practiced by heads of state. One chilling example played out exactly 50 years ago.The Cuban Missile Crisis. With atomic weapons aimed and poised between the Soviet Union and the United States, Kennedy and Kruschev played a game of cards-down poker that shoved the world to the edge of annihilation. I know because our little family had prepared our own basement-bomb-shelter that harrowing October.

Lately we repeatedly hear reports like, "The US Embassy sent a signal to...", "The White House signaled Congress...", "The Taliban's terrorist attack was their clearest signal yet that...", "The European Union is now signaling its willingness to..."

Does anyone look the other person in the eye and just say what they mean, for god's sake? I remember feeling this frustration in high school whenever I'd ask Peggy or Nancy for a date, and they never quite answered with any of those handy 30,000 words! A smile, a giggle, a blush, a shuffle of their penny-loafers, but not one decipherable word.

I wanted to spit spiders. Instead I usually reported back to the boys something like: "She was so surprised I left her speechless." However, when great leaders of great powers are toting guns in Dodge City, signals-and-silences may look good for their closeups back home; but the room for error comes at a much higher risk than any of my adolescent heartbreaks.

Come on folks, at this level of play, coy is no longer cute. We're supposed to be living in the greatest age of human communication in history. Soooo....?

Friday, March 16, 2012


Anyone who's ever used or intends to use an Apple iPad has a stake in this story..!

An apple is where everything started a long long time ago. But even after all our troubles from biting it, the human race is still loving it. Only this apple is the galaxy of glittering digital baubles from the empire built by Steve Jobs.

The "Oh Wow...!" he is said to have exclaimed as he was dying may have been at the sight of even grander digital baubles in the beckoning hereafter. Or, just possibly, at the sudden realization baubles don't glitter that much when seen in the bigger picture.

If that sounds something like today's critics, you're right. You see, while the buying public loves every Apple they see, sociologists and psychologists are concerned about the impact their impersonalization is having on human discourse and even human brain functioning.

Couple hundred years ago, an angry passel of workers in England got upset with the way the new mechanization was changing THEIR world. These Luddites went out and attacked every machine they could find. A hundred years, later a gentle legion of farmers in the United States took a different approach. Rather than attacking THEIR new mechanized age, the Amish simply withdrew to their own unmechanized world.

We all know the Amish as a quiet part of our American population which sticks close to their lands and their ways. Simple. Secure. Apart from the modern world, they thrive inside their own world. What seems to be a very good world indeed. While the angry Luddites are long gone, the contented Amish seem to thrive.

As far as we know, most of them with nary an apple in sight. Except the kind they grow.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Emily Dickinson is remembered in different ways. Gifted poet...reclusive daughter...gentle misfit. The Belle of Amherst was all of these things during her short lifetime. And more.

The more, as seen from the vantage of today's modern woman, was Emily's enduring self sufficiency. Once she returned from a brief stay at college, she settled into a splendidly insular life inside the attractive privacy of her father's home. From there she dined, slept, engaged in extensive correspondence, and penned over 500 poems now considered among America's finest.

What can such a frail distant woman of her times possibly have to say to the strong modern women of our times? At first glance, nothing. At second glance, perchance a glimpse into a lost world. The once heralded world of the home. Not the home of today's busy families who dart in and out between jobs, schools and play. Rather, the home of the 19th C middle class culture in which the woman-at-home was not seen as prisoner. As discard. As someone who can't make it in the real world.

OK...! I'm a man and a man has no right judging what's good for a woman. Emily and all the other home-nestled Emily's have slipped into the fog of another age. And so it's quite agreed here in 2012: We can never go back to before.

But whenever I read Emily I can't help envying some of her privacy, her security, her very her-ness by which she knew who she was and seemed entirely comfortable with that. The lures of the outside world weren't all that alluring. Hers was an inside world where she found everything she needed.

Mine was a mother much like that. Once upon a time there were millions of them. I try to imagine what that was like. Oh wait...! New millions of women [and men] are once more finding out. As they too discover working-and-being-at-home is an ideal not quite as dead as we thought....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


There's the story of the true believer who fell off a deep cliff and was barely hanging on by a tiny tree branch. He called up, "Oh God please save me." A mighty voice came back, "Just let go my son." As the branch weakened, the panicky believer looked up again, "Is there someone else up there...?"

After a proud 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica finally closed this month because they too didn't hear anyone else up there. The Goliath of printed ideas has been slain by the David of digital data, because it didn't listen to the right voice. There are not many left to mourn its death, because they are too busy tweeting, googling, and emailing. I take it you are among their ranks.

I was a history consultant to Britannica when they entered the field of film. A bold step beyond their traditional books. But when it was time to take the next bold step from film to Internet, they hesitated. We all hesitate at times. Sometimes wisely, often disastrously.

Life doesn't come with an owner's manual. So each cliff becomes another test. Which voice to hear...? Even more to the point, which voice to listen to...? At one time in human history the only voices we heard were those of family, clan, tribe, village. Eventually there were other voices from other villages near and far. Today's generation is the generation in which at last we have become one village. The global electronic village in which there are a billion billion voices every day.

A cacophony or a symphony? Frankly, both. So how's that tree branch holding lately...?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Time is what the engines of our lives run on. Eventually, though, they will run out of it. Knowing how to know when -- now there's a cosmic secret to be wished for.

Or not.

Would we really want to know? To know when our little engine is about to stall and sputter out? Having this would be to have the knowledge of the gods, a knowledge mere humans are not well equipped to manage. Yes, for some it could energize our sense of purpose. For most, it would paralyze our sense of existence.

The subject may have added interest this time of year as the time of our daily sunlight grows longer. University of California astronomer Steve Allen explains: "As our days grow longer, somewhat unpredictably, there are fractionally fewer days in the year. Eventually today's calender may need to be amended yet again."

Allen's concern will become important in say another 1000 years. Meanwhile, back here in 2012, the engines keep running and the clocks keep ticking. Especially our own clock. What to do then with our remaining ticks...?

Well, lets see now. There is a presidential campaign...rising oil prices...spreading culture wars confrontations in the Middle East...border jumping in the Southwest....the IRS....major league baseball's 143rd season...and the 62nd anniversary of that starry June night I first met her.

Each one of these -- the good and the bad -- comes with the fuel of time. Each to be lived as best we know how. So that when time finally runs out, we might be so privileged as to say: "The trip was well worth taking. The destination was well worth trying for."

Start your engines...!

Monday, March 12, 2012


This heading could have used a prettified word like: construct. When used as a noun, a construct is defined as "An abstract or general idea put together out of component parts." But if you notice the dust balls in the corners of your rooms, they may better illustrate a construct. A little particle from here, a tiny fleck from there, and eventually it all gathers up into what you think you see.

Whereas dust balls just happen, constructs are usually created. As an embarrassing matter of fact, constructs are the way we understand most of the people in the world around us. Picture the fast-talking publicity agents in Hollywood's hay days. They didn't discover stars, they created them!. Sometimes out of little more than a unique head of hair, set of eyes, pair of legs, pair of breasts; a special quality of voice, way of laughing, mix of the sexy and sassy. And if their creations could act a little, well that was a plus. But first there are stars; later maybe we can help them become actors.

Wait. There's more to the tale of the human dust ball. If this Pygmalion practice were limited only to Hollywood, no problem. However, the practice prevails every day, every where, among every one of us. In a world with too many people, places and principles, too many of us succumb to this easier way of figuring one another out.

Sports..? We make our players into constructs: Heroes or goats; flashy or sullen; on the make or over the hill. Politics...? Visionary or flip-flopper; scholar or stupid; one of us or one of them. Religion...? Crazy fundamentalist or stodgy traditionalist; devoted cleric or horrific predator.

The next party, reunion, or political rally you attend, behold the moving, talking human dust balls in attendance. Human constructs -- you have intuited to be the truth -- with whom you are reacting. "Who does she think she is wearing that..!" "He looks like my Father trying to look like Robert Redford..!" "I saw her marching in that parade...!" "One look at him and you know he's lying..!" "They sure don't make 'em like they used to...!"

Recognize yourself?

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Among the dangers of getting older is getting bored. The I've-seen-it-all-before syndrome is rampant among the gin-playing gents in local senior homes and the whispering widows at local weddings. To their credit, they're often right. To their shame, they could be missing the point.

I dimly recall how as a youngster I could never find anything much wrong with the movies the critics were panning. Now I can rarely find anything much right. I'm obviously succumbing. Take the morning news which I can predict with virtual certainty: Rumors of war...terrorist plot foiled...anti-American demonstrations...starlet in rehab...stunning new prescription promise...mob museum opens in Vegas...local school scores plummet...another book on why Jefferson really loved his slave, why Lincoln really was killed, why FDR really knew about Pearl Harbor beforehand, oh and why Rasputin really was a nice guy after all.

Once you've been around the bend a few times, you suspect some great editor-in-the-sky recycles these stories every 90 days or so. The sign on his or her desk reads: There's nothing new under the sun, but you've got to keep them guessing!

So is there a point to all this or not...? The gents and I kinda think there is. It's in the very unvarying rhythms to our daily world. So unvarying at their core as to become universals. Universals which have never really changed from the day we lost the lease on Eden: "Earning our bread by the sweat of our brow"..."There will be wars and rumors of war"..."Expectation is the root of all heartache" ... "Give every man your ear, but few your voice"..."Holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal" ..."Ambition is the last refuge of failure"..."Cowards die many times, the valiant but once"..."A jug fills up drop by drop"..."A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval"..."Ahh, women.They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent."

Every one of these universal thoughts was penned hundreds of years before this morning's headlines. And yet are these not more than news, but rather news-you-can-use? Arguably the best thing about getting older is starting to understand the universal Human Condition. If you do, chances are you'll never have to read another newspaper again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Grandmothers and old uncles were famous for patting us on the head and posing this question. And at one time in America the answers came easily. Boys wanted to be, in order of preference: President, fireman, policeman, cowboy, Hollywood hero. Girls: Wives, mothers, teachers, Hollywood heroine.

As they say [exactly who "they" are is never defined] It's complicated.

Not many guys today want to get into the snake pit that is the modern presidency. Firemen and policemen are portrayed as corrupt pensioners stealing from the public trough. Cowboys have lost their status to hedge fund managers and astronauts. As for the girls, choices in their lives have dramatically expanded. Stay-at-home moms are no longer on every girl's pedestal, as an entire world of careers beckons.

On the upside to this historic shift is choice. Nothing is out-of-the-question, because everything is possible. On the downside is a mountain of choices which can sometimes overwhelm the seeker at the very start of the trip up. Whereas at one time, in a less socially mobile America, one's place in the sun was fairly well mapped out for us, now WE'VE become the map.

Two glitches to those maps:

* Some young Americans substitute freedom for purpose. Their dreams of who they want to be is...well, not to be anything prescribed by society. These are the dreamers, the seekers, the poets who envision finding their own Walden Pond while the rest of the world spins madly and avariciously out of control. As some of my envious peers grumble: Nice work if you can get it, kid!

* Then there are some young Americans who have hitched their wagon of dreams to the star of science. I've heard them explain it won't be long until science finds a cure for death. At a time of their choosing, their preserved brains will be attached to robotic bodies for life ever after!

What a world...! What an age...! What will grandmothers and old uncles be asking then...?

Friday, March 9, 2012


Hang on tight, folks, because the dreams are all coming true. Twenty-first century society is hurtling us into newer and wider orbits of digitalized living in which we are thinking, acting and growing faster than ever before. Conquering disease, famine, space and perhaps immortality itself.

Mark Twain was living in just such a time at the dawn of the 20th century. He applauded the progress of his generation. Remember, though, he had come from a simpler frontier age. In later reflecting on his sentimental travels with Tom and Huck, he wrote to a friend: "Don't part with your young illusions. Once they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live."

One such illusion -- hardly understood by anyone holding a smart-phone or an Ipad -- is the American Corner. Those cozy intersections dotting every urban community in the land with such as: The corner drugstore...corner bakery...corner barbershop...corner saloon. Maybe not always exactly at the corner, but darn close. And close was of course the name of the game.

These locally owned local establishments were there so you and I and they could stay close to one another. After all isn't closeness another way of saying community, and isn't community the necessary heartbeat of society?

Sorry to report what you already know. What's at the American Corner these days is probably a strip mall. Or if not that, certainly a franchised establishment of some kind whose owner lives in New York, manager comes from Seattle, and promotions are packaged from Philadelphia. Closeness to them is better ways of getting their products closer to your purse.

Nice people, you know what I mean. But not close enough to be called your people. That's because they are organized to see you as a statistic on their computerized cashier tabs every night. They know what you want not from you as much as from your stats. Very much like today's brilliant neuro-biologists have "thingifyied" us into genetic codes and neural responses, today's franchised American Corners are "thingifying" us into buying graphs and charts.

A small price to pay for progress...? Perhaps so, given today's highly competitive global market. However, exactly HOW small is still under consideration by us illusionary river-rafters....

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Are you ready for this? There's the Mob...New York Mob...Vegas Mob...and now Chicago Mob Wives coming to TV. I kid you not. Five hot-looking babes who have the dubious distinction of being related to local mobsters. As it turns out, I once wrote an "authorized biography" for one the Wise Guys, because his grand-daughter wanted his reputation "salvaged." I'm not going to mention his name, because her family killed the deal. Which frankly was better for me than killing the intended author.

I bring this up to make a point. The press always labels the Wise Guys. The Don. the Nose. the Fist. the Barber. Exactly the way they do politicians. And we, the dumbed-down citizenry, accept the labels as the man. This is crazy!

Washington was not the kid with the cherry tree...Lincoln was more than a rail-splitter...Teddy was not simply a Rough Rider...FDR's jaunty cigarette-holder did not really capture his persona [ this on the authority of his Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes's own grandson here in Chicago ].

So why do we continue this habit of cariciaturizing complex subjects? Simple. It makes complexity simple. Romney does not equal Capitalism. Santorum does not equal Medievalism. Obama does not equal...well, any one of the dozen labels slapped on his resume by his detractors. Anymore than my deceased mobster was "just a sweet grandfather to me and my kids" as my anonymous benefactor wanted his posthumous label to read.

Although I have to say, my first draft would have made intriguing reading for some Chicago locals.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Everyone from philosophers to poets to Hallmark Cards try to define life. I've read quite a few of each, but frankly wake up each morning with a whole different conclusion. I suspect the explanation to life is a moving target.

Take Chekhov: "Life is a tragedy filled with joys." On rainy days and Mondays, I agree. Then there's The Bard: "Life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." That hurts. The gang at Hallmark see life as everything from a chirpy new morning to a baby's gurgling smile. If only.

Then you scan the day's headlines.

Women now more likely than men to get tattoos ....plans to use cow stem cells to make test tube hamburgers...hackers perfecting cyber-warfare...with 8% unemployment, 600,000 jobs go unfilled because workers lack skills...scientists at University of Nevada say political choices hardwired so why have fan sues San Diego for right to use the F-word at games...Miami overtakes Detroit in race for most-miserable-city....Chicago Cubs camp high on pennant hopes.

When life deals you a mixed hand like this in your morning news, well it's hard not to feel a little silly. Spinning here on a planetary glob in space with billions of slightly evolved blobs all simply struggling to survive.

I used to visit this corner tavern in my old west side Chicago neighborhood. My brother advised me to stop trying to figure life out, and simply share a brew with those who had already stopped. My very first visit was a surprise. The owner had another Chekhov quote over the bar: "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

I'm not sure those words would have made as much sense posted in a school or a church. But in a tavern with fellow puzzlers, it cleared up a lot of the mystery for me. As for my drinking comrades, they'll have to post their own blog

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I have a dear friend who's a lawyer. I don't hold that against him, and he doesn't hold it against me that I'm not. One of the things we have in common are words. He, as seems most lawyers, loves them in great quantities. I prefer pithy and to-the-point. Therein lies a story repeated daily across the world.

Take Rush Limbaugh [please!]. Today's headline reads: "A Rush To Leave Limbaugh." Short, cute, to the point. My friend says you can't stop there, you need all the facts. My answer is I've got the only fact I need right in that headline. Actually headline after headline. You see, while you can't headline a scientific report or a historical biography, you can the daily drone of daily news.

The pithy and to-the-point is an art-form. Consider political wits like Bill Maher (liberal) and Dennis Miller (conservative). They can, in one slashing line, cut through mounds of political blubber to hit the very nerve-center of wordy issues like contraception, gay marriage, and taxing the rich. To prove the point, watch -- sympathetically -- as wordy politicians try to stand toe to toe with these wits on a stage or in front of a camera.

This is not to say brief is always better. But it most emphatically is to say it takes a keen mind to find the bottom line to what the bubble-heads try to say speech after speech. Or as Mark Twain once told his audience: "I'm sorry I took so long, but I didn't have enough time to make my speech shorter."

Talking about contraception, there was a recent headline about a New Orleans sanctuary where two chimpanzees became pregnant even though all the males had been given vasectomies. The newspaper could have offered a detailed medical analysis. However, do I really need to know all those facts when I can't tell one chimp from another? A much better and shorter story would be: Can the chimps tell one of us from another? Or, frankly, do they even give damn?

You see, my friends, we are inundated with billions of daily words and bytes. And yet the dazzling growth in the quantity of facts offers little assurance their quality has grown as well. Take another example of where to-the-point has a point. NASA astronomers have detected a 460-foot-wide asteroid heading our way. There are oodles of delicious facts they can present. But really now, fellas, all I need to know is your target date. February 2040. Frankly, that means anyone over 60 like me doesn't have to give a damn.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Pretty hard lately to know when you're seeing and experiencing the actual thing. Versus the virtual thing. Or is there really any longer any difference between the two? On Facebook the two meet, interact, overlap, often become one and the same.

Consider how we use Facebook on-line to do almost the same things we do in-life. Project our image, flash our talents, hide our blemishes, search out people with whom we can share, maybe pitch a few of our best thoughts, sometimes annoy or be annoyed, and occasionally get rebuffed as in "deleted." Sounds pretty much like my actual 9-to-5 world.

There are, though, some who fret about Facebook and security. As if there actually is any virtual security left. Come on folks, anyone who knows how, can already find out who, how, where, when and why you exist. This capacity is the tip of an iceberg known as cyber-marketing and cyber-warfare. Take comfort in the fact neither of us is probably that important to anyone else.

Perhaps Facebook is just one more step in the evolution of human ingenuity to extend ourselves. Say like the way the hammer and the pistol extend our hands; radio and television extend our speech; and our kids and grandkids help extend us.

Here's another way of looking at it. Some believers believe immortality not as a place but as being remembered by those who survive us. Working from that belief, anyone of us who has left behind our words, music, art or handiwork has thereby become immortal in the minds and hearts of those left to care. From Homer, Shakespeare and Bach, to Jefferson, FDR and Sheila.

Who's Sheila...? Look close in Tom Cruise's breakout movie "Risky Business." Tom has of course become immortalized on those reels of celluloid. But in one classic scene, my actress friend Sheila has achieved the very same status. She is the school nurse where Tom is sent after a skirmish. Without a single line of dialog, her quizzical reactions to his plight have already become immortal in the minds of anyone who's seen the film.

Whenever I see it, I think of all the ways in which you and I are being captured in these digital days. Why it's virtually impossible for any of us not to actually become immortal...!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I'm sorry, but to hell with Kansas!

The fight is over, ladies and gentlemen of your repressed district school boards. Darwin's theory is no longer simply a theory. Evolution has proved it's one of history's most important scientific discoveries. So please stop sucking up to your parents' most repressed fears about monkeys, flying or otherwise.

However, not content with their well earned victory, some evolutionary biologists are now holding Darwin for ransom. They want their victory to be much larger than simply explaining how species like ours progress. Mark Pagel wants evolution to largely define who we are. Not the way the ancients did with their Olympian gods & goddesses. Nor the way modern psychiatry does with their Ids & Libidos. Pagel proposes it's pretty much all about our genes.

Pagel, himself an accomplished biologist, is no Glenn Beck parading silliness for science. In his new book, "Wired For Culture," he makes a strong case for you and me as Salmon struggling upstream. Fighting against the odds of life so our genes will somehow be spawned and thus survive.

So forget the moneys, Board & PTA presidents. It's the genes you have to protect your kids from! If, that is, you wish to design their education into your own generation's image & likeness. A tradition especially strong in America where locally boards decide the curricula, the books, and the teachers.

Professor Pagel -- who has no children attending Kansas schools, because he lives in England -- tells us "our bodies are just genes' ways of making more genes. In effect, our bodies are survival machines that carry genes from us to the next generation. In turn, the culture of the next generation is just another way of making more genes."

Checking my grand-childrens' eyes, ears, hair and world-views, the professor may be right. But only as far as he goes. Where he stops is at that fundamental who/how/why question about the genes themselves. Seems to me as long as biology refuses to meet those questions, schools boards in Kansas will continue to hold Darwin for ransom. Preferring to have their children think of their genes less like Salmon and more like gifts.

Say, maybe Kansas could start a third party for this year's culture wars.......

Saturday, March 3, 2012


The original "How To Win Friends & Influence People" has been a 15-million best seller ever since it came out in 1937. Since then -- even long before then -- its core formula has been a winning one for shamans, oracles, gurus, how-to-authors and positive-thinking writers alike. Why...? You know why...! They all offer you the golden goose to ride through life dropping golden eggs wherever you venture.

This is not to kill the goose. But have you ever been backstage during one of these big-name seminars whose flashy titles range anywhere from"You're The One" to "Bring On The World." It's not unlike peeking behind the Wizard's now-infamous curtain. A band of brothers who have each made their fortune in different ways, and are here joined at the hip of their bulging personal portfolios. CEOs ...retired generals...Hollywood action selling authors...and occasionally some warrior-women who can talk the talk with the best of the boys.

You've heard of candidate's "stump speech?" That's what these folks are working from. The gig is easy and the pay is extraordinary. Most of them jet in that morning, do their thing for the cheering audience, then jet out that night. What's known among the rich-and-famous-in-sales as a "quickie."

Is this to say these are con-artists? Not really. Having worked with many, I have to believe they half-believe their own story of living-the-American-Dream. And if that dream grows a little larger with each seminar...well, what the hell. Your very princely presence should be enough for the hungry little guys in the audience to feel their pricey registration fee was worth it.

Oh, about the title above. As a contract speech writer, I can bear witness that the easiest way to lose friends and alienate people like these is to imply, even politely, they just might want to admit something to their zealous audiences: "Me telling you how I got rich is no guarantee you will too. Or that you should walk away believing rich is the same thing as success. "

No surprise....! Not one of them I know has ever said this.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Most of us live in America. Usually grateful for the chance. But if someone not American were to ask, "How do you picture yourselves in the world?" what image might you use? I submit there may be only two from which to choose. As a great frontier OR as a small life raft.

Each image is somewhat fundamental to our perception of ourselves. But which is more valid? For generations -- and now for ambitious capitalists and candidates -- the frontier image perfectly captures the American cowboy spirit of rugged individualism. But then, as our world and its frontiers have shrunk, there are those like the President who talks about "we're all in this together." Together as in a stout little vessel struggling through an ocean of domestic and diplomatic crises as great if not greater than ever in our history.

No doubt about it. A frontier is the splashier of the two images. And it made sense for the first few hundred years. But now in a complex age of globalization, it's hard to believe any one nation can ride alone tall-in-the-saddle. In the last 25 years, every act of terrorism, financial meltdown, and international competition has made even the cowboys on Wall Street and K Street realize, yes, "we're all in this together." Something like a life raft in which everyone survives best if everyone else does.

But wait! This image isn't so very new and different after all. It was Benjamin Franklin who warned his ambitious fellow freedom fighters: "We must all hang together, or we will assuredly all hang separately."

I'm guessing that, in their passionate rugged-individualism, some of our capitalists and candidates may have forgotten that piece of all-American advice.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Harry Warren wrote the musical hit "You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me" the same year the Great Depression hit its lowest point, the same March I was born, and exactly 50 years after philosopher William James wrote: "Ninety-nine hundredths of our activity is purely automatic. Life is nothing but a mass of habits." Big year, 1931...!

I doubt there's any significance to these co-incidents, except to say all three of us are still around. Well, in James' case, he's not but his psychological principle is. Our habits dominate our thinking. Even long after they make any good sense. A few familiar ones:

* Habitual labels -- Democrats get us into wars, Republicans keep us out; Catholics vote their faith; WASPs vote their pocketbook -- hardly fit today's society if indeed they ever did

* Another habit is to assume we have entered an age of more workers than jobs. In fact, demographers project the world's supply of working-age people will soon be shrinking

* A favorite habit of politicians is to portray small businesses as the main engine of job growth. In fact, although 90% of our companies are small businesses, their combined enterprises account for less than a fifth of all US jobs

* Ask any gambler and they will habitually reassure you about a hot hand. However, reading statistical experts like Daniel Kahneman, they prove that "while collections of random events do behave in a highly regular fashion, any causal explanations of these events are inevitably wrong." Betting a hunch rarely earns the player a bunch at the end of the night

* One more habit that was popular back when I was born. Expect Italian babies to have dark eyes like their mothers. I have blue. But before you scandalously start wondering about that, Dad was one of those princely blue-eyed Sicilians. So everything checks out

Of course everything here is totally open to debate, because you see, if Quantum Mechanics is right -- hell, we don't even know which parallel universe you and I are in! Right, Harry...?