Sunday, July 29, 2007

On Objectivity

Do you ever get tired of arguing; defending (as well as attacking) from your own set point of view; of being just another argumentative 'talking head'?

I do. I get tired of me treating knowledge as nothing but a ball game, a zero-sum activity, one winner, one loser?

What I desperately desire NOW, from from me as well as everybody else, is more and more honest discussion; exchanging opinions and knowledge so we can both (all) find the objective truth.

I know...I am passe in that desire. Who believes anymore in objectice truth? That is old fashioned, primitive. Our post-modernist intellectuals all argue that knowledge is opinion; all 'truth' is not objective fact but merely another subjective point of view; Einstein-ian relativity applied to knowledge itself.

There is no such thing as objectivity they say. Absolute fact or universal truth is a self-deception; an illusionary quest.

Perhaps so. But I'd like to believe that--even if I am forced to bow to post-modernism and accept that I can never find absolute truth--the fact is that I discover the greatest joy in trying to find old fashioned absolute objectivity and truth!

Perhaps a new truth is nothig but a better lie. Perhaps the search for singular truth may be a fool's quest, but I want to live happily in a totally subjective existance--which requires a good lie, a sustainable self-deception. Lie to me; but lie to me well.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mercy and Justice

Mercy must not steal from justice; justice must not steal from humanity.


When you are young, you love being in crowds. The hope is always you may find someone special; the bigger the crowd the greater the number of contacts, the greater the possibility of meeting that someone. When you are older, your hate being in crowds; they remind you of how rare specialness is; the crowd becomes an undifferentiated mob, a herd. It reminds you that specialness is rare; and, more poignantly, how little time you have spent with the few truly special people you have met along the way.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Specialness #5: What is Special?

How does one determine what is special? I mean, not in an individual sense, but in the sense of an objective, dispassionate, common-to-all list of 'specialnesses'; what things are the most 'special'-among-specials among all human beings? what is intrinsically special to all human beings at large.

The problem in coming up with such a list is: There are so many individual variables entering into each of our decisions about what we consider special, such as: some people believe in God; some don't; therefore 'special' for the believers leans toward non-material things and the non-believers believe in the supremacy of material things: in fact, the non-believers generally don't even believe in the existence of the non-material!

There are some people who are not even aware of all the 'special' things available in life; they don't even have a clue (although TV and the computer is quickly eradicating all such knowledge/access distinctions). Others can't afford anything 'special' even if they know of it; they can barely afford to eat; the only thing special to them is to day. Economic level invariably affects how we choose what is special to us. People tend to ratchet down their expectations of specialness to what they can afford. After all, if you believe things are hopeless, why hope?.

Perhaps the best way of coming up with a list of 'most-special-things-among-specials-things' is just that: base it on economics, the great leveller. What do rich people--those who can anything they want--consider special; people who can afford to purchase anything in life, who live beyond by contamination of practicality...the people who say: I can live anywhere, so where do I choose to live? I don't have to live in a certain place because I don't have to be near work...etc.

What are the things that the wealthy, those who can have anything they want in the world, surround themselves with? What do the people with all the choices choose?

First of all, they like peace and quiet; space, interior (square footage) and exterior (acreage). And when they do trade off exterior acreage, as when they choose to live in a city, there is always as compensatory and definite request for culture, the arts. That's why New York is so appealing to a certain segment of the wealthy. They want, in exchange for space, the proximate availability of opera, dance and theater. Art must be special.

Health is also important to the wealthy. That's why they go to the best doctors. They also want nice weather. Education. Cleanliness. Travel. Beauty, aesthetics; they are particular demands of the wealthy.

They also want to be around people who treat each other decently; with respect. That's why they go to the best hotels where the workers smile at them all the time. They seek good tasting, nutritious food; quality drink; both served to them with a smile and efficiency.

They seek work, but only of a special kind. Work is rarely 'special' in and of itself...unless it has the 'specialness' of meaningfulness (contribution to humanity)...or the specialness of competitive conquest: winners feel exceedingly 'special'.

(One thing the wealthy don't especially seek is more God.)

However...the rest of us, those of us who have few of the above special things, who have little space, or health, or culture, who are uneducated (relative to our intellectual possibilities), who work for money but not with any significance beyond the paycheck, who eat quantitatively but not qualitatively, without service, who eat at at fast-food restaurants, travel limited, are not living in way that make us feel 'special', are really not content.

We only live without those special things--with a smile--because we must. Point in case: the minute one of us acquires wealth--and the choices inherent in it--we seek space, health, beauty, cleanliness, etc...all the 'specialness' options available to the wealthy.

So to determine what is really 'special' to human existence, we must look to the wealthy. The wealthy's list of special acquisitions is an objective, universal, fundamental list of 'special items' and special desires.

While the rest of us may appear (or play at feeling) 'special' when we live without those things, we're really not feeling 'special'. We may wear designer 'clones', we may grow gardens in window boxes, attend our children's ghetto school graduations and cheer; chant "blessed are the poor; for they shall attain the Kingdom of Heaven..."; but its all bullshit.

We are making do; holding our heads up. After all, we have pride. (Perhaps pride is the most 'special' of all human specialnesses!)

To conclude: a warning to the wealthy: the rest of us living off our own bullshit can only last so long. It may be ours, but it is not nutritious. So while you have properly set the standard/definition of 'specialness' by your choices, the rest are eager (pressing and impatient) to follow. Beware of revolution. (Or worse, voting largely Democratic...bringing the labor mvement back from the dead!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Specialness #4 (SEE Specialness #1 blog, May 26, 2007 for Intro)

The following is a partial list of things that make us feel special (so we can avoid feeling small in this infinite universe):

Living in a hillside home.
Climbing a mountain.
Wearing six inch lifts when you're 5'2" tall.
Knowing a celebrity star (and therefore hoping their celebrity 'specialness' transferred to you...thereby lessening your anonymity).
Calling a celebrity-star by their first name: such as 'Paris', or 'Angelina', or 'Brad'.
Wearing 'brand' clothes...eating 'brand' food...brushing your teeth with 'brand' toothpaste...etc.
Having no 'love handles' at the age of sixty five.
Having an exotic name: 'Kateecha', 'Adrianna', 'Hannibal', etc.
Dismissing the homeless, the aged, and the physically challenged as self-indulgent.
Being loved by God.
Being loved by anyone.
Believing in God.
Not believing in God.
Having children.
Not having children.
Caring for the environment.
Driving a Prius.
Having a pet; OR having an obedient spouse (forgive me for repeating myself).
Having money.
Having no money: 'blessed are the poor'...
Marrying a young wife.
Marrying a rich husband.
Having your blog read. be continued.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Recognizing a Cynic

Cynics double-check especially good news.

Toward a Permanent Palestinian/Israeli Peace

The solution for the Palestine/Israel dilemma: knock down the wall, let Hamas/Fatah own (and run) their own casino's in the newly-created Palestinian State like US Native Americans do here on reservations. Poverty will be instantly greatly lessened, lobbyists and politicians will have a new source of funds, and Israelis can then gamble on poker, craps and baccarat instead of cross-border militant attacks and the eventual use of the atomic bomb. Muslims are not supposed to gamble, I know; but...that doesn't stop the Saudi royal family. Jerusalem as the new Vegas; what do you think?

Saturday, July 14, 2007


As I get older, my perspective on myself and world I live in grows more distant; as if I were to be zooming out on Google Earth from a tiny portion of my bed to a vantage point high above the house, above the city, above the state, country, the planet itself; all life. I am ever-growing minuscule, travelling swiftly but not at all, preparing to disappear into the dust of the universe from whence I came, content that I have enjoyed my momentary subjective size and importance, that the earth has contained me, and I have contained the earth. Goodbye earth. Welcome infinity.

Immigration Idea

I offer three basic ideas as part of a solution to the immigration question:

(1) Grant amnesty to all illegal aliens already here. They should not be ex post facto punished for our past ostrich-in-the-sand, "don't ask; don't tell policy."

(1) Deny any and all NEW illegal immigrants any citizen benefits, including education, health services, citizenship for illegal immigrant children born here, etc.; thereby dis-incentivizing anyone in the future thinking there are any benefits in coming here illegally. And, prosecute severely (and I mean SEVERELY) any employer who is caught in the future hiring an illegal immigrant.

(3) Create a guest worker program: allowing in-and-out worker visas, if and when needed.

What do you think?

Michael Richards, Re-visted

The newspapers were revisiting Michael Richards the other day; an article about the 57 year old ex-Seinfeld actor visiting the Far East, chilling out on eastern philosophy. He of course needed chilling out after his You Tube widely disseminated rant on blacks during a stand-up comedy routine in a nightclub a few months ago.

I felt obliged to revisit the rant. There it was. He was out of control; obviously. Art, including the art of comedy, demands a little aesthetic distance; both between artist and himself, and between artist and audience. Discipline, structure, form is required in art; and a bit of 'chill', no matter how heated the topic, is required to achieve the most effective comedic goal of focused passion, disciplined chaos, controlled hysteria. Instead, there, on You Tube for all the world to see, Michael Richards lost his 'cool' or chill, or form, or discipline, and for that he was properly castigated.

But racism? Come on! Point one: Most of the jokes in comedy stores are racist, or sexist, or blah-blah-blah-ist. Comedy seeks comedy relief; and relief demands tension; and "ist" topics (along with mother in laws and gender and George Bush) are inherently tension-filled, hence the necessary and proper stuff of comedy.

But to tar Richards as racist simply because he went after some black members of the audience with the "n" word...and only after they went after him with the "h-b" word, or the "o-t-h" word ("has been" and "over the hill" words). They implicitly called him an "old man" (some might say he deserved it; what the hell is he, a millionaire I'm sure, doing stand-up at 57 for?); a strong example of age-ism. Richards could no more control or change his being old than they could control or change their being black. Both groups were trading sword blows in "ist" stereotyping.

Point two: what the hell do you think you aim for in a fight: some one's muscularity or some one's vulnerabilities? So when they went after his age; he went after their race. If someone punched me in the nose, I would not punch them back on the shoulder. If I had any sense I would aim for their balls...their vulnerability, no? One you start a fight, hecklers, protect your soft parts or don't start the fight. Especially with an experienced fighter...or didn't anyone know that a comic is a socially-approved dealer in hostility. Nice people don't puncture other people's balloons.

Richards was out of control...but even if it had been a disciplined artful comedy fight, which this one was go for the testicles first. With style, and grace, and 'chill'...but you do it.

Maybe he'll learn how the Buddhists deal with hecklers on his swing through the Far East.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Capitalism, Productivity and Anxiety

A society's economic growth is based on increased productivity; which is fed primarily by its willingness to tolerate and encourage its citizen's anxiety.

In order for a society to grow, that is, feed and clothe the same number of people at a higher level of quality, or sustain the same living style for a greater number of people, a society must increasingly produce more goods with the same effort per hour. The key to maintaining that 'growing' possibility is: developing better (more efficient) time saving technology (airplanes and the computer), or developing better more efficient time saving workers; the theory generally undelaying the latter category is: smarter (more educated) the worker, the more efficient the worker will be in using their brains (just another machine in this equation) with or without the technology.

Totalitarianism, of course, generally tries to get people to work harder and/or efficiently with orders, top-down style, and, if necessary, threats and coercion; capitalism does it a little more subtly--but just as toughly: by granting overtime bonuses, an ever-looming possibility of unemployment and/or 'titles'; you are the Corporate Manager of Waste Engineering (i.e., you keep the toilets clean). The theory in capitalism is: increased money, job-insecurity and titular respect better encourages people to work harder and more efficiently. At the end of the last century: US capitalism 1; Russian totalitarianism 0.

Anxiety is the fuel that runs capitalist growth. I believe the willingness of free people in a free society--especially like America--to invest their sense of predictability and sureness and certainty for the possibility of later higher reward is what underlays the growth of our productivity. Without a nation of people willing to 'gamble' their people's ease and comfort, of, say, their 'nine to five' existence, and take on the anxious-inducing burden of a higher mortgages, self-employment, creating one's own business, precariously balancing family and peace of mind ('the kids don't see enough of you, they may turn to drugs now and a psychiatrist later; and the spouse may play around on you because you are working every night and on weekends building a 'second business').

The ballast of free enterprise is sine qua non choice of people to increase their possible anxious state in return for the possibility of greater rewards. And that willingness to personally/socially invest in that precarious existance is the source of America's great worldwide reputation for energy, and is what make Americans seem crazy to the rest of the world. SEE: Europe. Europe has in the past half-century reduced its levels of anxiety-creation by creating governmental social programs that have granted workers less working hours per week, paid all medical and drug bills, mandated longer worker vacations, etc, while they (Europeans) have been encouraged at the same time to have less children (speak about an anxiety-tempering activity!!) Japan also is notorious for maintain a social and economic structure that provides ongoing stability to its citizens; and often much to the deterioration of its economic muscle. But America (especially, Republican America)...and increasingly China and India...has turned to their people's willingness...and push their anxiety tolerance level to greater and greater heights in the drive for ever greater productivity piossibility gains...and personal and social economic growth. Whether these increased levels of anxiety will be long term boon or bane for these nations--including other nations who may choose to emulated their 'style'--or whether these free-free enterprisers will find in the long run such anxiety-inducements are more costly rather than revenue-enhancing in their productivity growth stimulation remains to be seen. The world economic map--and the word's psychological/social condition--of 2050 awaits.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


What ever happened to soul: as in 'body and soul'; 'soul searching'; 'soul music' (as distinct from rap and hip hop)? I find that 'soul' has so disappeared from the contemporary lexicon that I question my very spelling of it. (Thank God for 'spell-check'.) Soul was once this indefinable essence, the spirit of living, the seat of human transcendence over the purely physical; the inner non-material essence of the existence.

Has 'soul' gone the way of all flesh...or rather, the way of God? God is dead; is soul buried with Him/Her? Has soul has been supplanted by scientific replacement(s), we have molecules, genes and genomes, Darwin and physical evolution...even the arch-religionists don't speak of soul much anymore...or maybe it was always too Roman Catholic in its implications. Has born-again Jesus replaced the nature soul?

I miss soul. While I never really believed in its other worldly existence...I miss it like I miss a beautiful building that had be torn down for practical, logical reasons: it was old, it was falling apart, it was blocking the growth of new, more beneficial edifices; but I still yearn for the old building, its aesthetics, its beauty, its very time-worn-ness. I miss the reflective comfort of its long-time standing, its structural solidity, not to mention its shape, its form, its very being...its 'soul'.

The existential challenge for me: With what can I replace the 'mysticism' that the word soul gave me? Secular humanism? Spirituality? Go back to Jesus? No; I will continue to embrace the old-fashioned, never-possible-to-be fully-defined soul like a private lover, known only to me. Daily, silently, I will shout the silent cry of 'soul' to a seemingly uncaring world.

So the next time you see acting according to my best instincts, exemplifying the best side of my nature, moving in rhythm to my ideal desires and beliefs, when I manifest courage and dignity and patience and charm, know that I am filled with my silent, secret, loving 'soul'.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Beyond Escapism

I remember the great writer/director (probably the greatest writer/director in the history of American film) saying that all he asked from one of his films that when it was over the audience would think...just for ten minutes, after leaving the theater. He added, in his characteristic style: he didn't dare ask for more; at ten minutes he knew he was already pushing his luck.

The Need for Discomfort

JFK: "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought" quoted by the playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker in her lecture at Georgetown University, "The Importance of Being Uncomfortable".

'No pain, no gain'. Or in compputer-ese: 'GIGO: garbage in, garbage out'. It makes one think of PC-thought, no? Soooooo easy.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Movie Review: "Sicko"

I repeat this movie review from my acting blog 'Cliff Osmond on Acting' for those of you who read this blog and not the other.

"As my wife and I walked out of a screening of "Sicko" last night at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the man behind us said: "Well...we all knew all that...but I'm glad he said it."
Did I enjoy the film? Yes? Did I think it was brilliant? No. Do I recommend you see it? Absolutely.
Michael Moore is not a documentary film maker; he is a populist propagandist. He would have been equally as successful under a Communist regime as he is today, in a capitalist one. He takes a point of view; and sells it. Brilliantly and unabashedly.
The essence of "Sicko" is--in case there is someone who doesn't already know (is that statement a measure of Moore's already attained accomplishment and success?): the American for-profit Health Business is sick (as in diseased): Health Insurers, Drug Companies, Doctors, Hospital (especially HMO's), Washington Lobbyists and Politicians (does anyone know anymore where one group ends and the other begins? Forget 'a 'open door' between them...there is NO door), Health Corporate Capitalists, Health Corporate Executives, and poor old George Bush. Always poor old George Bush. Where would Moore be without Bush? Forget Bush...blaming him is too easy a way to ward off our self-responsibility. Bush-ism is a symptom, not the disease.
Moore is offering this for audience's to contemplate: $$$$$$$ corporate indifference and greed have tragically denied 'the people' (that is, the 99% of us...who don't own 80% of America...only 1% does) more, better and cheaper health care. In making his case, he provides brilliant tragic and comic anecdotal evidence of same. His solution: 'single payer' universal health care', a health plan that is offered by every other modern industrial nation in the world; in support of which he takes us on a filmed journey to some of those other countries (France, England, Canada...even Cuba).
Is Moore wrong? no. Is he right? Yes. Is he simplistic and one-sided? Yes? Must he be? Perhaps so. Hitting stupid people (us, the American electorate) aside the head to get them to realize they are being taken for an unproductive health ride often requires a two-by-four and not a pillow (that would be a set of impartial and objective statistics).
"Sicko" is a docu-prop, or 'agitprop' piece, as they used to say, like "Gore's global-warming-warning "An Inconvenient Truth" documentary. Moore's film is not as good. However, it is, in its own way, just as effective.
For the reasons I would rather have Gore as President rather than Moore, I would rather "Sicko" have seen a more focused, in depth, balanced (if such a thing is even possible in a documentary) analysis of the health (or un-health) industry. While Gore is getting funnier (I saw him cracking really witty spontaneous jokes the other night on a 'serious' talk show; and Michael Moore is getting more profound. Is that a tectonic shift?
A final overview: Money, greed, consumerism, and corporate license is at the core of our problems in America; health and otherwise. [As I more fully expressed in an earlier, December 24, 2006, 'Cliff Unedited' blog, "ISLAM versus CAPITALISM, The New Hundred Years War":] The challenge: putting a human face of capitalism. Christianity did it in the Nineteenth Century. Communism forced it in the Twentieth Century. What is going to do it in the Twenty-First Century? Islam? (My God! Is that what really behind all the 'fanaticism'? Think about it.)"


It was the Summer of 1964. Or maybe it was 1963? I don't remember exactly. (After 40 years there should be a statute of limitations on requiring the specific remembering of dates.)

We...the cast of characters to follow...were in City of 29 Palms, in the high desert area of California, a medium-long driving distance from Los Angeles. We were staying at a motel. And I think the motel also had a restaurant; although the dinner event may have happened at an adjacent nearby outdoor restaurant. I remember...we ate outside; I do remember that. The air was balmy cool; beautiful outdoor high desert cool. It was the night before we were going to start two days of location shooting on a film.

I remember (as I have throughout my life) Billy Wilder, the host of dinner, who wrote and directed the movie we were shooting. It was called "Kiss Me, Stupid". He had ordered Chasen's Chili from the famous Chasen's restaurant in Los Angeles. He had had it flown to the local airport, and driven from there to the restaurant where we were eating. Obviously Billy liked Chasen's Chili; and obviously he liked entertaining. The dinner was going to be charged to the production company I not; Billy had too much class for that...although he did have a percentage of the production. Billy had quite a bit of his own money, didn't need to 'cheat' on the expense account...Billy already had four or five or more Academy Awards by then; money flows to these honors.

We had already eaten; we were all sitting together, perhaps at the same table. Perhaps we were having drinks after dinner. Maybe dinner was over. (I don't know...once again I invoke the over-forty-years-ago amnesty on all such specifics.) Billy was there, Dean Martin, Kim Novak (although she may have left by then. Kim was a very private person), Ray Walston, Felicia Farr (I don't think her husband, Jack Lemmon, was there, although he, too, might have been), and IAL Diamond, Billy's writing collaborator, and co-producing partner, ubiquitous as always, removed...watching...commenting silently, occasionally with a single line of penetrating wit. Izzy (IAL) was Ivy League owl smart, sardonic, peering through glasses at the follies of the world; and himself. He always wore white socks and loafers...and a tweed jacket and open collar shirt; buttoned-downed, as was his personality. Billy once joked that Izzy was going to become a Black Muslim; to be known as IALX.

As brilliantly funny as Billy Wilder was, Dean Martin was funnier. Not Jerry Lewis funny, wild, crazy, antic funny (Dean and Jerry had dissolved their partnership by the time of the dinner in question), but original, inventive and sure-fire, witty funny; the quickest mind I had ever met. He was a laid-back humor/punch-line shark. If he had been a baseball player, he would have had a .896 batting average. He could hit any verbal curve or a set-up fast ball...whatever his conversation partner threw at him. Everyone...Billy included...acknowledged his mastery in the way other artists do: just sit back and let the man-on-the-roll hold court.

That night Dean was harpooning his Business Manager and general 'entourager' (lapse of memory again: was it Greg? Or was it Garrison? Out of New York originally, I think...but spiritually out of Vegas). Greg (we'll assume that was his name) was recounting episodes from his and Dean's life together on the road...hotel by hotel, motel by motel, drink by drink, girl by girl. Greg thought he was as good a ladies man as, like any good unknowing, unconscious straight man, Greg was setting himself up, asking to be skewered...and Dean was obliging. Laughter flowed from Greg's straight-man bragging, like blood spilling from a soon-to-be-dead-but-still-sputtering-bull-in-decline).

The conversation got interrupted by some tourists, maybe a dozen, all overweight, polyestered, loud and fawning... who bypassed (if they even recognized) Dean, bypassed Billy, bypassed Kim and Felicia (and Jack, if he was there) and honed in on Ray Walston. Ray had recently completed starring in the series "My Favorite Martian". It had been a very popular show. It was one of the reasons Billy had cast him to replace Peter Sellers, who had had a heart attack, a month into the initial shooting of the film. (Somewhere in some one's archives are a month of shooting Peter and I did playing a wannabe songwriting team living in Climax, Nevada. I want the footage.) The heat attack had happened at home, in the bedroom, and, allegedly--and probably--while he was having energetic sex with his new wife, Britt Eklund, a beutiful blonde he had recently married at the suggestion of his astrologist. The astrologist had told him he would marry the next blond he would meet. Peter bumped into Britt in hotel lobby...and the rest is their history.)

From the hospital after the heart attack, Peter had asked Billy to wait, to delay our filming until after he recuperated, but the insurance company wanted Billy to start over all over again with someone else, quickly. The doctor's said Peter's recuperation would take six months and the insurance company was paying salaries during the suspension of filming. (I personally bought a house with the money I had already made during the suspension.) Billy recast with Ray (a tragic creative mistake as it turned out...Billy had first tried Jack Lemmon, Danny Kaye and Dick Van Dyke, but they were all tied up...he had used Ray once before in "The Apartment", and so...) and started filming, causing, by the way, a permanent disruption between Billy and Peter. They had planned to do "Sherlock Holmes" wit Peter O'Toole right after this film. That film happened, but not with these two stars. Another tragic happening.)

The tourists giggled and fawned and asked for Ray's autograph. Dean, Billy, Jack, Kim and Felicia remained silent, respectful of Ray's moment in the sun. Their eyes twinkled however, with unspoken comment. The tourists left. Ray over-modestly pooh-poohed the tourist signings (this writer's admission: I never particularly liked Ray. Several years later we had an argument in Park City that was a hilarious session of mutual blood-letting. He hated Billy; I always admired and defended Billy. Not that Billy needed support. The vitriol of the evening had spread from there).

The general conversation in the desert went on. Within a minute or so Ray (for what reason I don't remember) left the group; but as soon as he was gone, a stunned silence ensued. The pause lingered and lingered. Everyone was waiting for the quip by Dean. But Dean only generously said: "Well, you gotta admit. Ray has a tremendous following." Another pause. "Yes," Billy finally said. "A tremendous following of dreary people." Dean literally fell out of his chair and onto the floor. Dean 62; Billy 1.

The evening continued. We...(what do I mean, 'we'...I don't think I said two words all night. I was a young kid of twenty-six who had caught Billy's eye in a small part in "Irma La Douce" and he subsequently wrote the co-starring part for me in this next film, "Kiss Me, Stupid", alongside Peter and Dean. Felicia and Kim were cast after us. I still have the initial script, with my name, with Peter's and Dean's name, typed onto the initial cover page. Touch it and you're dead.)

I maintained a dutiful silence that least I think I did. I'm sure if I had said anything I would remember it...because anything I said would have been stupid; and I would certainly would remember the embarrassment!) The chili was great; the idea of flying it into the desert was surreal (especially for me, this kid newly exiled from New Jersey inner city); Billy was generous and brilliant as usual; Izzy was his usual enigma; Dean was the funniest man I have ever met; Kim was beautiful with her milk-skin softness and dazzling eyes; Felicia was sweet, bubbly and kind; Jack (if he was there...even if he wasn't there, I knew his personality; we had worked together before and would again...he would have been, that night,invariably charming, bright, fun, ad professional; and I said, I never liked Ray. Me? That evening, with the all-embracing desert, sunset, margaritas, chilli and people... was the closest I have ever come to royalty.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

On Issues versus Problems

Remember when people used to have problems with each other, not issues?

I find that semantic change telling. The psychiatrists/psychologists/semanticists wanted to eradicate guilt from the adjudicating equation. End the blame game. No fault divorce; no fault insurance. No fault disagreements.

However, I think something has been lost in the ‘translation’, in the social transformation, in the desire for the guiltless dispassion that the word 'issues' bring.

Problems imply solutions, something to be worked through, something negative, and something interfering, something to be resolved; whereas issues stand alone, neuter, left to be discussed. And discussed. And discussed; even to the point of never having resolution; sometimes not even clarification.

I miss the sense of personal responsibility and engagement in the word 'problems'. A worthwhile argument: ‘I'm against you’. The 'issue' becomes personal. Heated.

Discussions ought to be heated. From heat comes light. And from light comes illumination.

I think that is why we have so many 'issues' between people today: no one is willing to take things personally, to take passionate responsibility of their beliefs, errors and mistakes, to call them and deal with them as problems. To engage each other in friction…which,of course, is how we all got here in the first place.

Without the recognition of each other’s problems and our passionate involvement in wrestling with them, we have no solvable issues, only the biggest problem facing modern humanity: distance from others and personal disinterest.

Monday, July 02, 2007

"I cried because I had no shoes; until I met a man who had no feet."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Promises without Performance

Of what value is a law if it is not enforced?

One of the concerns I had with the recent Immigration bill (the one that did not pass recent Senate vote) was a dual pronged concern about enforcement. First, I thought, what if they pass the provision requiring harsh penalties on employers for hiring illegal immigrants and never do anything else about it: they merely slap law breaking employers hands? And two, they create amnesty (or extended process of achieving legal citizenship) for illegal immigrants already residing in the US but do nothing to stem the next flow (i.e., the 'big border wall' proves pourous)...assuming, of course, one wants to stem the flow.

Isn't that promise-but-not-performance exactly what went wrong with the last illegal immigrant bill? The politicians looked pro active to the electorate in passing legislation, but the flood of immigrants continued. Perhaps that's why the polls showed that so many of the present electorate is so disenchanted with the President's and Edward Kennedy's proposal? Politicians are once again promising to flex a legislative muscle without any real commitment to follow it up with executive enforcement. When they create legislative sleight of hand like that...and I believe they do it increasingly and with consciousness aforethought...they are lying, conning, manipulating and humiliating the American public. And I don't like being played for a fool.

Although maybe we the public electorate deserve it. The politicians feed us with sound bytes of solutions because we are so ready swallow them; we are eager to ingest lots of promises (legislation) but we don't demand equal performance (execution); we look for fast, easy ideas similar to the way we look for fast, easy food: we want to create a show of eating a lot cheaply (political involvement) without demanding long term intellectual/political nutrition from it. Little wonder why we re getting increasingly fat, unhealthy...and politically weak?