Friday, November 20, 2009

Beware the Latest Threat to Human Life!

Jellyfish are Taking Over the Ocean!

Despite their pacific sounding name (pun intended) jellyfish are quickly becoming a threat to other ocean life and to human beings. See the harrowing report on how many giant, icky jellyfish are propagating off the coast of Japan, and how deadly the sting of the box jellyfish can be. Did you know that 500,000 people per year are stung by jellyfish in the Chesapeak Bay? I didn't even know that many people swam in the bay. It seems like a 100% guarantee that if you go swimming in the bay you will become just another statitic.

Clearly this is a job for government intervention, and the answer is not just throwing dollars at the problem (the jellyfish will just eat them). No, the US of A must recruit the only known weapon against this menace:

Nick at Night, send us Spongebob so we can sleep at night!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Men Can Be So Stupid

There's a new study out that indicates that men basically beat up their wives if their home football team, when favored to win by 3 points or more, loses. This seemingly unimportant upset in the larger scheme of things, seems to be incredibly upsetting to many of us men, who then take out their frustrations on their spouses.

So how should "society" respond? Perhaps an ad after such a loss by the home team, discouragin their male fans from reacting this way, sort of like a "drink responsibly" add: "lose with dignity"? Who knows. But clearly those of us with testosterone in our gender package have issues.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Favorite Philosopher

Not Socrates, not Aristotle, not even Yogi Berra. No, it's Allain de Botton, author of The Consolations of Philosophy; Status Anxiety and How Proust Can Change Your Life, among others. He writes beautifully and captures the essence of mundane events and otherwise ordinary characters, and elevates them to a sublime sense otherwise missing from everyday reflections. You need to read his books to see what I mean.

He recently started a "school" for people interested in tying philosophy to their everyday life. He aptly called it The School of Life. On the website he has contributors of the same ilk. One just wrote a short piece on why bankers' wealth gets our goat but that of rock stars doesn't.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hapless Again - The 2009 New York Mets

As if things weren't bad enough for the 2009 New York Mets, the latest news that Johan Santana is out for the season with bone chips in his elbow seems like that's as bad as it can get. But wait, there is still more than a month left in the season, so who knows what else can happen. Will a hot prospect get injuried in his first at bat, or after throwing his first pitch? What new twist can this team give to losing a game at the last moment? Unassisted triple play. Done. Missing third base. Ditto. Dropping an infield pop fly. Been there. Perhaps an outfielder will toss the second out of an inning into the stands, thinking it's out number three and the winning run will score for the opposing team. Maybe someone will bat out of order, forcing Jerry Manuel to use a non-pitcher to pitch in a late inning game. Let's just wait and see.

I was going to mention as emblematic of the season the offer of free Mets tickets from an online pawn broker. I guess that's the most positive association that one can make with the Mest these days, but even they have pulled the offer.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What will McDonald's name them and Will Sarah Palin be on Board?

Unable to control the growth of its imported camel population, the Australian government has decided to shoot 650,000 camels from helicopters and sell them for meat and other uses (whatever those may be). Any guess as to what McDonald's will call this tasy new treat? Will it be on sale on "hump" day? Rumor has it that Sarah Palin, fond of shooting wildlife from helicopters, has asked to go on a ride-along to test her skills against the slow-footed targets.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Large Man Fired from Job!!

A large man who lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay area was fired yesterday by his employer, a company normally known by the first letter of the alphabet. This large man was purported to have shared a golden thong with other workers at his previous job, which was with a competing business in the same industry in New York City. The official reason for his firing was his poor performance, although other large men who comment on this industry said his poor performance might have been the result of drug use. This large man had previously done commercials for underarm deodorants, but it is not certain that this line of work is still available to him. It is rumored that another competing business in this industry may wish to hire hime. They are quoted as saying they could "use his stick", which might help them reach their ultimate goal of jumping on each other on a dirt mound and then running inside and spraying liquor into each other's faces.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bill Clinton Travels to North Korea to "Get Away from that Nasty Bitch"

Former President Bill Clinton spent the last few days as the guest of North Korean dictator Kim Jong II to "get away from that nasty bitch", rumored to be former first lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Asked about dealing with a ruthless dictator like Jong, Clinton responded "Are you kidding me? This is a piece of cake compared to being asked 24/7 "You did have sex with that woman, didn't you!?" Clinton was surprised and disappointed to learn that Korea (both North and South) have a centuries long tradition of underwear wearing interns. "It just makes the cigar thing easier", he was heard mumbling under his breath. "All I want to do is come home with a couple of hot Asian babes" said Clinton to Jong. Upon hearing this request, Jong threw away the nuclear development cessation treaty his staff prepared, and turned journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee over to a beaming Clinton. "I love take out," where the last words heard from Clinton as he boarded a jet plane back to the United States.

Friday, July 31, 2009

White House Beer Summit Triggers New Trend

Since the recent arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by Officer James Crowley, there have been dozens of arrests since the announcement of the beer summit of african american professors by white police officers. "I wanna have a beer with the President" said Office Bryan Sweeney, of the Princeton Police Department, "that's why I brought in Professor Dawson of the Physics Department." Dawson was charged with disorderly conduct by Sweeney after Dawson criticized Sweeney for giving him a parking ticket in a tow-away zone.

Apparently, not all arrests have been involuntary. At the University of Chicago, Professor of Black Literature Oscar Hayes, arranged to be arrested by Officer James O'Hara. "I told O'Hara to stay in front of the student union at lunch, and that I would snatch a student's purse and would let him grab me before I got on my bike" The plan worked as intended, and both Hayes and O'Hara are scheduled to have a beer with the President later this week. "I'm bringing a Pilsner", said Hayes. "Sam Adams" said a grinning O'Hara.

The White House appointments office has been overwhelmed with scheduling beer summits for the next month, and is considering buying a few kegs and maybe having a symbolic tug-of-war on the White House lawn with the 42 pairs of arrestees and arresting officers. Some of the more enterprising white officer/african american professor couplings have created a new website called "We need to raise awareness of this simple and easy way to get a sit down with the Commander-in-Chief, something that few white, middle-class police officers and african-american professors rarely experience."

Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Arrested Again by Same Officer

AP News

In a shocking turn of events, Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., arrested at his own home as a result of a 911 call reporting a prowler, was rearrested in Washington by Police Officer James Crowley, the same officer who arrested him in Cambridge. Both Gates and Crowley were invited by President Barack Obama to the White House to reconcile over a beer.

According to Officer Crowley, he was approaching the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue when he saw a man with a beer can inside a paper bag. "Clearly this is illegal in any jurisdiction", said Crowley. I saw the concealed liquor inside the bag, near the White House, and my law enforcement instincts kicked in. I immediately wrestled the perp to the ground and put the cuffs on him."

Enraged by this latest indignity, Professor Gates, through his lawyer issued the following statement. "What the fuck!"

Alarmed by the news, President Obama tried to calm both sides by offering a peaceful sit-down at the White House. "This time it will not be BYOB and maybe we'll smoke a joint, I don't know." Prof. Gates is rumored to be considering changing his first name to Bill to, as he said, "Get some respect from the Man."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

More Words on Jacko

I was watching one of the memorial shows yesterday where they played his videos over and over. I realized today that I was watching with a different eye than when he was alive. I was more in awe yesterday of his talent while watching them than I was in the past. Today, I thought, hey, wait a minute, I never really liked "Thriller". I thought it was slightly disturbing and somewhat melodramatic; the "Bad" video I remember feeling that it glorified bad guys and Michael Jackson as one of them was not believable (nor were the other "bad" guys since most of them were so obviously just dancers). I also remember being repulsed by his jock grabbing in his videos and on stage. A skinny, wimpy guy like MJ acting macho by grabbing his groin? Kind of out of place.

So I was thinking to myself, "Why the change of mind?" I believe it's what happens when just about anyone dies: we tend to look back at them in the most positive light, and see their acts as purer or better than they actually were, and maybe even impute motives that weren't there. So, I can't agree with labels like: he was the greatest entertainer ever (not for me). Andrea Peyser of the New York Post may have gone too far, but I think the gist of her statement, that Jackson's death has blinded us to many negative aspects of his life, is right.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Michael Jackson

What did Michael Jackson and his passing mean to me? For starters, many of his old songs when he was young and a member of the Jackson Five evoke a lot of childhood memories. We were contemporaries by age, but ages apart as far as talent and impact (obviously). "I'll be There" and "ABC" will always bring back memories of my family's permanent settlement in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, at the age of 9. There are other songs by other artists that bring me back to those times, but I think Jackson's, ironically and portentously, have a ring of innocence and stray from most of the anti-establishment music from that era. The irony and the portent can be found in Jackson's later claims and defense to be an innocent child-like waif, and his attempts to live a child-like existence in Neverland. Songs like "Thriller", "Billy Jean", and "Wanna be Startin' Somethin'", will remain personal favorites.

The problem with Jackson for me was that there was a big chasm between who he was on stage and who he was personally. This wasn't about being reclusive and inaccessible, but more about being an enigma that was hard to understand, hard to label or categorize beyond being weird and unusual. In those occaional polls where people are asked to pick one person in the world they would like to spend an hour with in conversation, I doubt that Jackson's name would ever come up. What would one have said to him or asked him?

His plastic surgeries didn't help, nor did the controversy over his skin condition, if there was a skin condition. These factors made Jackson enough of a mystery, but the allegations of sexual molestation and his bizzare behavior during the trials only made matters worse. I wanted Jackson to be innocent, but it was hard to believe he was just based on his weirdness. His claims that there was nothing wrong with grown men sharing beds with young children did not help his case either.

Did we know anything else about Jackson other than his weirdness? Anything about his outside interests, if he had any? No. The world knew him simply as a child star who went to become a superstar in his own right, and whose behavior and appearance became stranger as he got older. What else was there for us to consume about Jackson? Pehaps that was only available to his inner circle and handlers, but not to his fans and the rest of the public. May he rest in peace.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review: The Genius of Instinct by Hendrie Weisinger

I was expecting much more from this book but I found it generally disappointing. First, Dr. Weisinger has a very poor writing style and could have used significantly more help from a good editor (and a proof reader). There are some obvious typos and some bad grammar (the use of disconnect "with" instead of disconnect "from", for example). The good doctor uses a slew of cliches sometimes even bringing home a point with a terrible allusion to something from popular culture. One example: there is one sentence referring to the lion kings being aware of the circle of life (maybe this was subtle product placement for the Disney movie). In another place he mentions how a clan would face extinction, which could be final. I wasn't aware of the non-final version of extinction.

As far as the content, Weisinger's thesis is that Mother Nature (whom he refers to sometimes as if it were an actual person) has endowed us with instincts that have helped us survive for all this millenia. Because these instincts have brought us succesfully to were we are today, we should become familiar with them and use them to our advantage. This logic holds up well; however, Weisinger's presentation of evidence to support this is often very speculative, running something like this: since this instinct seems to work today, it must have worked in the past to get our ancestors out of some pickle or to help in the process of natural selection of certain traits (and those who exhibit them) over others. He then conjures up (not "conjectures up", as Weisinger often writes) some very detailed scenario of what must have happened and how. Dr. Weisinger must have had access to some primitive Youtube application when researsching his book. It might have helped if Weisinger included references to actual studies and perhaps footnotes, since so many of his claims rely on other people's work.

On the positive side, perhaps the last fourth of the book or so, Weisinger's tale is a little stronger, with an excellent description of and prescription for how to apply novely to increase motivation and curiosity.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Review: Be Heard Now! by Lee Glickstein

Book Review: Be Heard Now! by Lee Glickstein

Before I even finished reading the book I applied Glickstein's lessons and succesfully ran two consecutive one-hour meetings without my usual panic and self-consciosness. The key for me was relaxing about needing to perform and making soft eye contact with the meeting participants. I have been shy and borderline social-phobic and these kinds of encounters always caused me major anxiety. I was able to visualize the meeting participants and their receptivity to my presence. It made all the difference in the world. I am now looking forward (amazing!)to taking the next step of public speaking and larger presentations.

Glickstein is the creator of Speaking Circles, where individuals can learn public speaking in a safe, non-judgmental environment. You need to read the book for the details, but this is very different from Toastmasters, where members comment on technique and content. Speaking Circles are about your relationship with the audience, rather than about the content of your talk.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Book Review: Status Anxiety by Allain de Botton

Allain de Botton addresses the issue of status anxiety or the feeling that we are not doing as well as we should in comparison to our peers, neighbors or some other reference group. This feeling can appear as a low level of discomfort when you find out your college buddy is on another cruise while you've never been on one, to strong anxiety and even depression when you see yourself as a loser in comparison to others. Now, these comparisons are all in relative terms: you don't feel jealous of Bill Gates because his wealth is in the stratosphere and therefore incomparable, but you do feel jealous of Bob in the next cubicle because he makes $10,000 more than you and you've both been with the company for five years.

How do you address these feelings? Via five ways - via philosophy, politics, religion, art and bohemia. Each of these provides a reframing of the relationship of the individual to the values of the larger society. For example, politics reveals to us that the markers of contemporary success, which we may not have achieved, are ideological constructs of the ruling class, constructs which may have had no vlaue 50 years ago and may have none 50 years from now. Religion in general places value on the individual as an individual rather than in his or her accomplishments and possesions, and thereby relieves the pressure to meet the expectations of the larger society. There are similar effective palliatives provided by the other disciplines and the bohemian attitude.

If you suffer from status anxiety, as you probably do, read this book and get some major relief.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Maryland Shenanigans

Spent Wednesday April 15 thru Sunday April 19 in Maryland. Stayed at the Best Western Hotel in Lanham.

One observation: Maryland must have the strongest ADA-type laws. It seems as if every parking lot has at least 20 spaces reserved for people with disabilities. If you want to park at the WalMart, you need to find a spot in Virginia.

The Best Western was very nice. However, on weekends the first floor bar becomes a major party and pick up spot for the locals. It seems that some of them actually rent rooms for the weekend, with expectations of hooking up with someone. My wife and I overheard one woman giving some very loud customer feedback for a good half hour. So many people come on Friday and Saturday nights that we had to park at the far end of the lot. On Sunday morning there were only a few cars there, plus one used condom.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Hey, there it's been awhile...

Hello to all of my adoring fans who have been waiting breathlessly for my next post. Well, here it is:

I continue to read voraciously. I have an average of 15 books out at once combined from both the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. I love these places.

I also continue posting my review on I try to post honest and helpful reviews. A good number of commenters, about 25% or so, find my reviews to be unhelpful. The problem is that only a few of them say why. I do not read other reviews before I post mine. I do read some after I post mine to see how some might differ. In some cases I have learned from these diverging reviews. I am grateful for them.

Anyway, I will keep all of you adoring fans up-to-date with more frequent posts. See ya!