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INVICTI

Today as I rode my bicycle northward on Beverly Glen towards Mulholland Drive, I encountered a long line of cars idling in the lane as they waited for the signal to turn green. There are a few advantages the cyclist enjoys over the motorist. You may not get to where you're going as quickly as the driver of a motorized vehicle, so you best not be in a hurry, and patience is a virtue; you expend a lot of effort to manage even half the speed of city traffic when cars are moving normally, but it's good exercise; and when traffic is backed up, as it was this morning, you can whiz by all the gridlock. 

Which is what I did as I veered to the left of the lane rather than to the right - because I was to make a left turn at the light - and safely proceeded toward the intersection. As I did so, a rough-hewn man in an old white car - Pontiac, perhaps? - made a left turn into the oncoming lane and appeared to stick out his middle finger at me. I mean he definitely stuck out his finger, but …
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LOSING MY RELIGION

Today I visited the the Landmark Theatres, on Pico and Westwood Blvds by the Westside Pavilion. It was the first time in over a year that I had been there. My mom and I used to see movies at the Landmark at least once a month. I haven't been to many movies since she passed away last summer, and this was my first time seeing one there alone. It was nostalgic to say the least, and the movie's title was apropos.

"Mother!" is a strange film and one that I shall not forget any time soon. The movie stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a poet suffering from writers' block and his doting if much younger wife. Their idyllic existence in the woods is threatened by a series of uninvited guests who turn their house inside out, literally. The movie, which was booed off the stage at a film festival and given an F grade from CinemaScore, has polarized audiences and critics into "love it or loathe it" camps. I have yet to meet a member of the former. Its writer/…

A VIEW FROM THE EDGE

I have this pet theory that your purpose in life reveals itself to you around the time you turn thirteen. This is before the oppressive influence of school and society has squelched the playful spirit of imagination. It is at the beginning of one's teens that one comes into one's own and develops the individuality and responsibility which characterize the adult years, but is not yet removed from the dreams and fantasies that make childhood a time of such wonder and enjoyment.

When we are kids, we don’t think much about money or fame. We live in the moment, the focus of which is on having a good time. Fun is a great motivator. We instinctively gravitate to those pursuits which excite us and for which we have a natural proclivity. Some activities attract for a moment, while others engender a deeper longing, a more sustained interest. What constitutes a good time is different for every child. The active, extroverted types may gravitate to sports or performance arts. Those who love…

RISE ABOVE

Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. Derived from Latin solus, meaning "alone," and ipse, meaning "self," solipsism holds that a person cannot be certain of anything outside his own head. The external world and other minds cannot be known and might not even exist independently of your perceiving them.

Whether you consider yourself a solipsist is ultimately irrelevant as it likely has no bearing on your day-to-day behavior. The world you perceive may not exist independently of you, but you cannot escape your perception of it unless by dying. So we really have no choice but to act assuming that the world is independent of our minds. The bed you lie in is there when you fall asleep at night, there when you wake up, and, it's safe to assume, there to support your body for the hours in between. Or else you'd wake up with a worse headache than I had this morning after last night's six-pack. If you commit a murder a…

THE LUNATIC FRINGE

There is the saying, "Show me your friends and I'll show you yourself." 

Most of my friends are degenerates. They are current drug users and former drug users who have dabbled in every sort of powder and pill. If it can be dropped, smoked, snorted or even injected, they've done it in the name of a good time. A light day consists of smoking pharmaceutical-grade weed which if I dare to try gives me acid flashbacks for weeks, and I've never tried LSD - except maybe once or twice, and only with said friends. I know alcoholics who have fallen off the wagon, call me when they are dead drunk and tell me they are stone cold sober, adding dishonesty to inebriety - before they hang up on me. Some of these druggies are no longer my friends. Not because I have disowned them as any sober person might, but only because they have overdosed and died. I have friends who compulsively gamble, friends who sire illegitimate children, who appear in pornography and win awards for it and…

WHAT'S ON A MAN'S MIND

In his novel Notes from Underground, Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky observed: “Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.”

By one estimate, people daydream through nearly half their waking hours. The average person's mind wanders most frequently during personal-grooming activities. It wanders least frequently, or only 10 percent of the time, during sex.

Freud was the genius who postulated that all man's actions are motivated by lust. But it doesn't take a genius to figure out why men don't daydream during sex. I understood this even as a boy of fourteen when I hung Freud's poster above my bed. The adolescent virgin knows better than anyone that men mostl…

DOCTOR SPIN

While surfing old "Skeptic" articles by Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer, I came across a reference to the book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), which is about how people spin-doctor facts to fit preconceived beliefs. This is also known as confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is the tendency tointerpret, favor and recall information in a way that validates one's preexisting notions - even if those notions are false. Confirmation bias is as common as Muscle Milk and Monster drinks are in LA, which is to say it's everywhere. The suspicious husband sees in his wife's every wandering glance and ambiguous phrase convincing evidence that he is being played. The conspiracy theorist views every news story as proof that Armageddon is upon us. Sandra on the street corner, a forty-something single mom with a well-worn drug habit, swears that she is engaged to Justin Bieber. And Brando really believed he "coulda been a contender."
Shermer offers advic…