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Showing posts from 2015

PROFANITY IS THE SHIT, SOMETIMES

Profanity. We all have heard it. And at one time or another, most of us have used it. Some of us more than others. Curse words get used as nouns, verbs, adjectives, interjections. They are inserted in the middle of words, like unfuckingbelievable, and can convey various emotions, from anger to excitement to awe. It seems the occasional fuck, shit, cock or bitch can serve a useful purpose in certain situations.
As Stephanie Hayes reporting for the Atlantic Magazine writes, taboo words convey emotional information more effectively than their tamer equivalents. We can use them to vent anger without getting physical. Swearing can help us endure pain for longer periods than we can when uttering things like yikes or Christ! Although "the Lord's name" doubles as a more modest form of cussing itself. If you can insert the strategic swear word into witty banter, it can create bonding and boost morale, but if you swear too much, it loses its effects, and swearing in formal setting…

HOBBLE ON!

Modern living poses threats to our mental health never before seen in history. The simple act of driving to work is potentially life-threating, should you turn the wheel ever so slightly to your left or right while on the freeway, or should that big rig driver fall asleep at the wheel, etc. And those who are able to manage the effects of stress and moderate their mood enjoy many benefits not seen in their stressed-out peers.

A good mood makes you more likely to experience a positive surgery outcome, while intense anger increases your likelihood of having a heart attack by nearly 1000 percent. Serenity of mind reduces body-wide inflammation, and a positive outlook is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's. Being mindful, or able to stay focused on the present moment without judgement, also makes you less likely to be obese.

The one thing a good mood won't do is prolong your life, since happy-go-lucky individuals do not outlive their grumpy peers, according to a recent st…

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

Recently the TV personality Bill Maher had as a guest on his show the author of a book on the urban drug problem. Which is big. (In case you're interested the book is Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, by Johann Hari). The average big city has a lot of meth addicts and heroin users aimlessly groveling around in its underbelly. But Hari argues that the biggest cause of drug addiction is not so much the chemical properties of the drugs but the environment these poor unfortunates are born into, one which offers little chance of social advancement, which keeps them impoverished and oppressed and consequently encourages, if implicitly, the use of drugs which furnish a means of (temporary) escape from the plight of being human! And then punishes them with protracted prison sentences that further cripple the ability to find a better life.

Case in point, the author said: We have all been told how dangerous heroin can be, how addictive it is. From the opium den…

VANITY FAIR

Vanity Fair (1848) is a classic novel by English author William Makepeace Thackeray, which satirizes British society in the 1800s. The title is borrowed from Bunyon's The Pilgrim's Progress. "Vanity Fair" refers to a stop along the pilgrim's route. It is a never-ending fair erected by the devil in the town of Vanity, which represents man's sinful attachment to worldly things and whose purpose is to detain the individual from the goal of Self-realization. As Bunyon writes, "It beareth the name Vanity Fair because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity; and, also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity. As is the saying of the wise, 'all that cometh is vanity.'"

Now, vanity has two meanings. The more common definition is "excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements." In this sense vanity is a synonym for conceit or narcissism, excessive self-love. A lesser-used mean…

IT'S GETTING HOT IN HERE

I have a scientist friend who has done some research in global warming. She and her colleagues have published the results of their work in the prestigious journal Science. It seems the recent decade-long hiatus in global surface temperatures is not the result of human efforts to decrease carbon emissions, because during that time we really haven't cut down. Rather it is due to shifting patterns in the oceans, which absorb some of the atmospheric heat before moving around and releasing it somewhere else. This phenomenon has been going on for as long as the Earth has been a planet with water. Hardly a sign that the trend in hot weather is abating, the hiatus is actually a predictor of scary things to come, so we can expect global temperatures to get hotter faster in the forthcoming years - despite our efforts to cut carbon emissions. And we are trying. I'm trying. But riding my bike instead of driving and eating plants over the more carbon-costly animal foods is small savings, a…

THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

The Pilgrim's Progress is an allegorical tale written by John Bunyon in 1678 describing the spiritual journey of a pilgrim named Christian. Christian reads a book (the Bible) and his soul becomes burdened (by a knowledge of sin). He seeks to leave the City of Destruction (worldly life) for the fabled Mount Zion (life of the spirit). His family thinks he's crazy so he has no choice but to leave wife and children behind and boldly go it alone, with only his book to give him strength, for "All which you shall forsake is not worth to be compared with a little of that which I am seeking to enjoy." A

Along the way he meets with several travelling companions. Though the journey is arduous, wearisome, painful and perilous, he strives onwards, because the burden upon his back is more terrible than any lion, dragon or darkness he could encounter along the way, even death! He walks the "straight and narrow" path, led by the rule of the Master while others he meets are …

THE NEW FOOD RULES

The family pooch has grown tired of eating the same old boring dried dog food every freakin' day of his little life. This is probably because my mother has taken to mixing in with his kibble a little of her flavored rice, since after all many  dog food brands include this grain, so it's fine right? Such is her logic. And Max is fine by it. He usually just picks out the rice (and the parmesan cheese, which is also thrown in, but only as a garnish, and only sometimes) and leaves the dried stuff scattered on the floor. "I spit on you!" he seems to say. He may or may not get to it later on.

And I wondered: I bet I could turn this dog into a vegetarian. What if I gave him only rice and other human food (grains mostly), and left the kibble to rot in the pantry? He'd probably develop diabetes, since the canine system is not really equipped to deal with so much sugar, and carbohydrates, whether from sweets, grains or potatoes, are just that: sugar. Dogs have been known t…

MOMMY, WHERE DO THOUGHTS COME FROM?

Kids ask such strange questions which, though seemingly so simple, defy pat answers. We've all heard of the "where do zebras get there stripes" query, maybe asked it ourselves. Such promiscuous questioning of the universe and our place in it is pretty much weeded out by our late teens, early twenties at the latest. By then compulsory education has drummed out a lot of our innate creativity, replacing it with a knack for following the rules, and if you don't, you're branded with ADHD you bad boys and girls. Ah, to be a kid today! What fun, right? Our pastimes go from running around and screaming in the playground like so many lunatics to coordinating expensive weddings to prepare us for divorce and padding resumes for that job in tech that gives an extra week of vacation, which we spend getting drunk and fat on pina coladas and buttered lobster. I speak from experience, at least about the time after college graduation that a friend and I went to Mexico and came ba…

THE REBEL

"Is it possible to find a rule of conduct outside the realm of religion and its absolute values?"

This is the question the philosopher Albert Camus poses in his essay The Rebel. The metaphysical rebel, says Camus, protests against the condition in which he finds himself as a human being. Like the atheist who denies a personal God to pray to and be punished by, the rebel overturns conventional religion with its ordinances and Enforcer, instead assigning to himself the responsibility to create the unity he seeks in vain within the human condition, and only by finding such unity can he justify the fall of God.  

And why overthrow God, why deny the human creation we have fashioned into our own likeness, as a Father or Son or Savior or Buddha? Like the atheists, among whom was the fashionable French author the Marquis de Sade, God cannot exist in a world such as ours because, given the injustice and inhumanity that characterizes the times, the existence of a Supreme Ruler would see…

THE FINAL MYSTERY

In 1895 the English playwright and personality Oscar Wilde was charged with homosexual behavior, convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years' hard labor. During his imprisonment the prolific author wrote a short treatise on sorrow entitled De Profundis. The title is a reference to the Bible's Psalm 130, which is often called "De Profundis" from its Latin beginning. It starts with the line "From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord."

The experience in Reading Gaol transformed Wilde from a worldly man of letters to an earnest seeker of truth. "My nature is seeking a fresh mode of self-realization," he writes. "That is all I am concerned with." Rather than follow in the steps with the thinkers of his day and digest volumes of treatises on the subject of truth, he resolved to turn within. "If I may not find its secret within myself, I shall never find it: if I have not got it already, it will never come to me." Th…

MISMATCH DISEASES

The other day my grandmother came over with her wrist wrapped in an Ace Bandage. What's wrong, nana? She told me the doctors had diagnosed her with arthritis, but they didn't tell her which type, and there are many. Rheumatoid. Osteo. Gout. Pseudogout. We settled on gout, which may be due to too much meat, plus her newfound yen for Bailey's Irish Cream. I gave granny some high dose ibuprofen which would alleviate symptoms in 24 hours without addressing the underlying cause (can you tell I studied allopathic medicine; shame on me!) but what I didn't tell granny - basically because she wouldn't care - was that gout is now numbered among a group of conditions known as mismatch diseases.

The new theory making its way around scientific circles to explain the prevalence of many chronic, noninfectious diseases like heart attacks and strokes (and gout) is that these and other diseases are caused by evolutionary mismatches. Simply, the human body evolved in response to envir…

BE A STONER

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher of the Enlightenment period who believed that the world of matter is in itself a sin, being separated from spirit, which is divine. Therefore every human activity is sinful, Hegel says. "Only the absence of activity is innocent, the existence of a stone and not even the existence of a child." Personally, I've never met a stone I didn't like, but some children are bratty, so I'm on board.

But how do we reconcile Hegel's rather severe view with the fact of human physiology? A human's muscle mass uses more energy than any other part of the body. Your muscles consume 40% of your daily energy, equivalent to 800 calories in a 2000-calorie diet. Contrast this with the brain's 20%, which is equal to the gut's 20%. Unlike the muscles, which burn more energy the more active you are, the brain's caloric requirement is constant for deep thinkers and numbskulls alike. Interesting. From this we can infer…

BREAKING BAD (HABITS)

In grammar school the nuns used to tell us that it takes about a month to make or break a habit. Which is convenient for practicing Christians, whom Lent affords the opportunity to rid themselves of vices they may have accrued the year before. And it was common to give up chocolate, or pizza, or peanut butter for the 40 days of Lent, dedicate the action to God, and emerge a better person, and possibly a few pounds lighter - which nowadays even the average kid could stand to lose. But in my adult life I'd come to find that when it comes to kicking some bad habits, a lot less time is required.

Not long ago I subjected myself to a three day water fast. Not so much because I didn't want to eat, nor because I wanted to lose weight; but because I was bedridden after surgery and couldn't get out of bed to use the toilet so didn't wish to tempt Mother Nature with food. Nothing in means nothing out, which was fine for me. But after the three days, when I could once again move ab…

THE WARRIOR

The movie "Creed" is about Adonis Creed who is the son of Rocky's old rival and best friend, now deceased. Adonis makes his way up the ranks of boxing with the former champion of the world himself in his corner. While training the up-and-comer, Rocky stands him in front of the mirror and pointing to the young man's reflection says, "See this guy here? That's the toughest opponent you're ever gonna have to face. I believe that is true in the ring and I think that's true in life." Meaning we are all in it (the game, the fight, the party of life) either for or against ourselves.

The movie borrows this ancient wisdom from various sources, including philosophers and holy personages. Albert Camus, writing in the middle of the 20th century about what it means to be a victor states: "Conquerors sometimes talk of vanquishing and overcoming. But it is always 'overcoming oneself' that they mean."

Before Camus there was the Buddha, who 2500 …

GOLDEN DAYS

The athlete formerly known as Bruce has been on my mind a lot lately. It's probably because Caitlyn Jenner has been all over the news since her sex change was completed in June, making her "the world's most famous transgender woman," according to Time. But the man who was famous for winning the 1976 Olympic decathlon, earning him the title "world's greatest athlete," who then became famous for being the step-father of the Kardashians in their 2000s reality TV heyday - prompting one of his step-daughter's friends to utter in disbelief that "your dad used to be a sports star?!" and is now famous for being a woman, says he is still interested in dating women, although he himself looks like Cindy Crawford the morning after a bender.



Meaning Jenner is not gay, although even if he did dig dudes, as the woman he now is, he'd still be straight, and as the man he once was, preferring women makes him...straight again. Having his cake and eating …

THE NEW FACE OF EVIL

So the new face of evil is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Have you heard of him? He's the head of ISIS. Have you heard of it? The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Worth tens of millions, he is allegedly behind the recent wave of terrorist attacks hitting France and Russia and Libya and Tunis and closer to home in San Bernadino, CA. He's a "magnetic extremist," a "master opportunist," according to this week's Time magazine, which is clear to point out however that he did not create the Middle Eastern anarchy, he's only using it, and using the Internet, for his purposes.
One must ask, who created al-Baghdadi, nee al-Badri? Other than his parents, of course. And Allah, lest we forget. What made him the madman he has become? He was a shy child exceptional at nothing but reciting the Quran, which scores you a lot of points in the Islamic world. He is highly educated, earning a master's degree (on the Quran) and later a PhD in Islamic studies. So is he a produ…