Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breakfast with Buddha, by Robert Merullo or New Age Buffoonery 2008

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”.
Siddhartha Gautama, (otherwise known as the Buddha).
I was lucky I found this quote from the Buddha as it is the perfect description of this authors ego centric world view. As I continue on my path to achieve the coveted Hermit status, I realized I must already be far removed from the dregs of society.  Being a curmudgeon has been extremely successful as it has kept me at arm’s length from people such as the author of this book. I didn't realize this delusional thinking was still around until I looked at the date of publication, 2008. It happened to coincide with the current resurgence of New Age Buffoonery on the national stage. I should have been suspicious but was not. I should be more careful next time. Since the beginning of recorded history, defining the “good” has been a central tenant of all religion and philosophy. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are the most famous in the development of western philosophy and the Buddha in eastern thought. Socrates was concerned about wisdom and knowledge, Plato metaphysical worlds and reality and for Aristotle how to be a good citizen. The Buddha was more introspective unconcerned with politics, physical realities, logic and reason, and developed a complex system to explain our earthy existence. Karma and reincarnation are the best known but his philosophy was governed by the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Middle way on the path to enlightenment.
I'm a fan of Eastern religion and when I saw the title Breakfast with Buddha I thought it could be interesting. I hope my thinking improves. The author writes a third person autobiography summarizing his religious and spiritual experiences and studies. He does this by encapsulating his religious philosophy in a holy man named Rinpoche. Based on my reading of this book, the author considered himself this holy man. Using this Indian Swami as voice, the author explains the correct Path to the knuckle dragging reader. Unfortunately, the author is not a philosopher capable of stretching or challenging the readers mind.  He apparently has crafted a lifestyle, an amalgam of convenient beliefs the sum of which are not the least bit unique or enlightening. It mostly consists of a total rejection of all “traditional” belief systems, (Christianity especially) and he wants us to believe this is the path to Nirvana (the enlightened state not the band).   By page 25 he declares his bona fides as a multi-culturalist but spends most of his book remarkably intolerant of all others as I will point out.

.”I am the furthest thing from a homogenist.  I love my life but I'm not foolish enough to believe that everyone else should love it. I should pause here for a moment and say this: I enjoy the variety of humanity. I am not one of these people who wants everyone to live the way I live. What causes more trouble on our troubled earth than people like that. The homogenists I call them. Look at me they say. I'm happy, I'm law-abiding, productive and pleasing to God. ”…. Pp25-26.   
You and I might have considered a happy law-abiding productive citizen, living in a way pleasing in the site of God a very hearty endorsement. Mr. Merullo, considers “these people”‘the devil themselves. Except that he doesn't believe in the devil. What clap trap. I couldn’t help but wonder what the editor thought when he read that but then it dawned on me; the editor thinks the same way.
He then just as quickly establishes his secular humanist bona fides.
” I'm a good dad, good husband and I try to treat people decently. But I have to tell you that I am a Christian-not in the judgmental, hateful sense in which that word has lately been thrown about, but an old-fashioned Christian. I don't go to church often, those rituals don't do much for me.” P61.
 Continuing on page 117 he continues his notions of being “very good" defined as a user of free-trade coffee, free range chicken, and recycling. In the spiritual quest of the book, these ideas represent moral dilemmas.
He also oozes white guilt and on page 107 blames success on social inequality and this inequality is the motivation for natural wealth. “I've always been ill at ease with the vast distance between my life and the lives of other Americans”. In context, he mostly means black Americans. Redistribution bona fides established.
He has a vigorous antipathy towards Christians and if I quoted even a small percentage of his anti-Christian ranting it would go on for I guess the entire 320 pages of the book. I should include one more example of his disdain for Christian beliefs. Referring to talk radio,
“when I listen a bit longer to the so-called Christians, it sounds to me as if their cure for what ails us is more and stricter rules, more narrow-mindedness, more hatred, more sectioning off of the society, and it has always seemed to me, if Christ’s message could be distilled into one line, that line would have to do with kindness and inclusiveness not rules and divisiveness.” p 153.
Traditional secular humanists have difficulty with the concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, and especially sin. Sin must not exist as its primary function is to control human behavior. A good secular humanist is offended by the notion of sin. The author must be a grand secular humanist. I was surprised, at first, at his intolerance for all other beliefs but intolerance is the basis of most liberals’ worldview. Anyone who fails to believe as good liberals  do is either stupid, uninformed, ignorant, or a worshiper mysterious beings talking out of a burning plant.  Let me include one last little line. Listening to this talk radio he is offended and writes;
”someone else said that all our troubles could be traced to immorality-drugs and drink, abortion, homosexuality (how they love to talk about homosexuality, these people) high school students coupling without benefit of the blessing of the church or their elders.”
Don't you feel like his arms are open and he wants to embrace and welcome all of us”? I'm kidding of course. I only mention this because the ostensive point of the book, quite remarkably if not ironically, was the inclusive nature of a derivative Buddhist life. His thesis was supposed to convince us to accept everyone as long as they have tattoos, piercings, non-traditional belief systems, and alternative worldviews on possessions, reject traditional views on working, dress unusually and act strangely, and or course copulate and procreate randomly. Regular folks need not apply.
God help us and protect us, I pray, from books and people like Robert Merullo.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pizza, bombast, ADHD and Broke.

Broke, Glenn Beck. The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure. 2010,  406pp

When did pizza become pie? As in “One large PIE, one topping, $4.99”. Pizza pie makes pizza an adjective when it is really a noun. As is “let’s get Pizza” or “one slice of Combo” and “How old is that pizza in the fridge?” Pie is a confectionery delight; not meat-cheese and sometimes vegetables, (and please never pineapple and ham, another abomination, a blasphemy and a sin against nature for which the perpetrators will have to answer in a higher sphere), meant to be enjoyed after dinner and often for breakfast. Pie for breakfast is especially marvelous if it is a tart, fresh apple pie, cold and firm.  When you think of pie what comes to mind?  In my mind, it’s Marie Callenders not Tonys New York Pizza. Although it must be stipulated, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pizza for breakfast, especially if it was left out to age on the counter all night. The ability and desire to eat either pie and or pizza, or both for breakfast does not allow the amalgamation of the two things into this almost oxymoron, Pizza Pie. It is this confused thinking and misuse of the language that has allowed “like” to become the most incorrectly used and  repeated word in adolescent universe. (Hopefully, Megan will outgrow it soon). 

I wonder why Glen Beck is either disliked (despised) or loved. I think it is the same confused thinking that confuses a greasy cheese – meat combination on toast with a sugary fruity treat in a basket of dough. I am convinced, those that rail against him the most, have heard him talk the least. In his most recent book BROKE, Beck decided to educate and persuade. I was disappointed at first. Missing was bombast, hyperbole and table pounding ranting. I love table pounding ranting. I wish I had more such opportunities. At first, finding reason and gentle discourse guiding the writing, I wondered if a ghost writer was responsible. As I read it however, too many of Becks aphorisms appeared for it to be truly ghosted. If you listen to his radio show, you would also hear him talking a lot in the book. The book was sort of a beginner’s introduction to history and economics. Factually, I could find no errors. It is full of references and quotes from famous people mostly inserted to illustrate his points.It was very well documented, annotated and referenced.
Let me give some examples from the book. I know this is a long post. Do not go ADHD and quit early. Finish reading!!!

Beck is not a fan of Woodrow Wilson, the first true progressive (communist) elected president. I will include 2 quotes Beck gives from Wilson and you will see why Beck (and I dislike Wilson).It is interesting to hear the progressive language of over 100 years ago. I hear the echoes every day in the current political debate. I think Mr. Beck is correct when he compares the current situation to the philosophy of Woodrow Wilson.
” The people of the United States do not wish to curtail the activities of this government; they wish, rather, to enlarge them; and with every enlargement, with the mere growth, indeed, of the country itself there must come, of course, the inevitable increase of expense it is not expenditure but extravagance that we should fear being criticized for.”
"While we are followers of Jefferson, there is one principle of Jefferson’s which no longer can obtain in the practical politics of America. You know that it was Jefferson who said that the best government is that which does as little governing as possible but that time is past. America is not now and cannot in the future be a place for on restricted individual enterprise.”
 Beck writes: “Wilson believed that all that was needed to usher in the radical social engineering he envisioned to create his utopia was for Americans to abandon their blind devotion to the Constitution. If he could convince the public to do that, all manners of hell could be unleashed. But first he had to champion the idea that the people behind the Constitution, our founders, were shortsighted. Sure they may have been brilliant for their time but things are different now: p73

Beck writes about legacy myths

;“ let's get the part out of the way that everyone already seems to know: the Congressional budget office (CBO) reports that Bill Clinton ran surpluses from 1998 through 2001. They were the first surpluses in 28 years. But there's one teeny-weeny fly in the ointment that you won't hear a lot of Clinton supporters point out: our national debt rose every single year that Clinton was in office. It started at 6.2 trillion,(in 2009 dollars) when he took office in 1992 and ended at about 7 trillion dollars 8 years later. Compared to other administrations, a 13% increase in the national debt over two terms is something to be celebrated as nearly historic. But in the real world, $800 billion is still a lot of money.
So how did it happen? How could Clinton claim to be running surpluses while our national debt was still climbing rapidly? The answer lies in how the government calculates its numbers…..and how politicians spin them. But first, a big disclaimer: while I am about to illustrate how Clinton was able to claim surpluses even though our debt was rising, the truth is that every single president starting with Reagan has used the same tactics. The only reason Clinton gets singled out, perhaps unfairly, is that he actually reduced spending more than the others and was therefore into “surplus” territory. That makes them a bigger target, but the truth is you can't criticize Clinton for this without being equally critical of Pres. Reagan and both of the bushes.”p108 (don't you miss the ranting about irresponsible Democrats?)
As the story builds Beck explains:“While fingers can be pointed at any number of people or parties, there's really only one group that bears ultimate responsibility: us. The American people have been, for the most part, willing to sit idly by as our leaders spent away our future. Sure we didn't sign the checks or make the backroom deals, but we didn't hold people accountable either. Decade after decade we express outrage and shock over our financial condition, yet we continue to elect the same people again and again and expect different results. It truly is, as Einstein once said, the very definition of insanity. P146
Beck is correctly critical of our Supreme Court. He explains how progressives using the courts have evolved the definition of individual rights, freedoms and were able to create new rights called entitlements.

He writes :”At the time of its (the Constitution) drafting, most of the founders did not want to include a Bill of Rights. Why? Because to them it was obvious that the government should not infringe on individual rights, since the Constitution did not grant that power to them. Including a Bill of Rights, they believed, would actually give more weight to the view that any rights not specifically listed would be fair game for infringement. That was obviously not their intent. As  Ayn Rand wrote:”the government was set to protect man from criminals-and the Constitution was written to protect man from the government. The Bill of Rights was not directed against private citizens, but against the government-has an explicit declaration that individual rights supersede any public or social power”…. How do you introduce new rights such as entitlements? The answer, it turned out was revolve the meaning of the Constitution… In 1985, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr, expressed this view when he said, ”for the genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it might have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and grenades. Another Supreme Court justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, went even further by doubting the fundamental belief that man was ever even endowed with unalienable rights. “All my life”, he wrote, “I have sneered at the natural rights of man” p222
Beck spends a section discussing entitlements.”Freedom from want doesn't mean happiness and contentment, which is what most people think of; it means exactly the opposite. When your wants (which are impossible to eliminate unless you're dead) are provided by others, then you are, by default, reliant upon those others. If the government gives you free food every month then you inevitably become dependent upon it for that food. That's not freedom at all: it serfdom. Samuel Adams saw this very early as a potential danger.”The utopian schemes of leveling [redistribution of wealth] and the community goods[state ownership of property],”he wrote,” are as visionary and impractical as those which best all property in the crown.[These ideas] are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional. Now what property can the colonists be conceived  to have, if their money may be granted away to others, without their consent?”. It's a great question-is something you own can be taken away without your consent, do you really own anything at all?p227
After clearly identifying and defining the problems. He does offer solutions. He believes we should return to faith, God, governance by legislation and not by unelected judges. Of course he supports the concept of private property and  the danger governments pose to ownership of such property. Social Security is a perfect example. Why can’t individuals own their Social Security contributions?  He also believes in a balanced budget. He wants to do away with class envy and establish equality and fairness in taxation.. He recommends the flat tax,( who could disagree with that) believing the so-called progressive tax code is a disaster.
In spite of striking absence of screaming, table pounding and name calling I really liked the book. I think those who have passed judgment on Beck without a fair trial, should read this book, critically, but with an open mind. For those who freely reject facts, data, ideas backed up with documentation which are contrary to their beliefs, (liberals mostly) and who in spite of all evidence to the contrary cling fiercely to their emotionally based beliefs and good intentions will waste their time here. For those same individuals (liberals mostly) , no evidence, no fact and no amount of reasoned argument will overcome their prejudices. And they call Sarah Pallin dumb. Addressing that of course, that would be the another entry.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Born Standing Up, Steve Martin, 2007

“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naiveté that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.” Steve Martin. P 54
In ‘76 or ‘77, I am not sure which Linda and I went to a concert in the Marriot Center. $10 a ticket. I am not sure who the headliner was, certainly it was a “safe” group, maybe the 5th Dimension, or someone like that. (Linda remembers it being the Carpenters).  I remember very clearly not wanting to go, certainly not with the tickets priced so high. I was making $400 a month at the time, $100 a month rent including utilities. The other $300 for all the rest including food, insurance, books and tuition. Tuition was either $600 a year or $600 a semester my memory fails me at the moment. I have no recollection of the musical performance but I do remember the front act. It was a guy in a white suit, an arrow though his head and a banjo. He was a surprisingly good banjo player. Steve Martin was hilarious but not quite famous. I got my $10 worth with just his front act. He was not well received by the crowd however and at one point pleaded with us for laughs. He stopped and asked some people in the front row what they paid for a ticket. He repeated the amount and then said, “10 cents, 10 cents is what I get. Certainly I am worth 10 cents”. He did magic tricks, silly balloons, and played bluegrass on the banjo. This was prior to outrageous fame and the more famous “King Tut”.
The book was more whimsy than autobiography. Given his claim to fame is fame itself not as a historically significant figure, whimsy sounds just right. Mostly he reminisced about his jobs, loves and rise to fame and fortune. Though out the book Martin claims to own and to be the vanguard of “new and modern” comedy. As far as he is concerned his antics were the only fresh and original comedy of the 70’s and maybe even now. He claims to have taken his comedy quite seriously. He wants to be believed. He approaches self importance all the while pretending to straight arm narcissism and keeping himself pure.

Still if you are a fan, the book offers some insights. He claims to have worked extremely hard to get where he is and provides the necessary documentation by describing what seems to be every job he ever had. He mentions working for four months perfecting the ability to perfectly shuffle a deck of cards. (The faro shuffle). He also lists his sexual conquests, nothing graphic, and includes pictures of the ladies after describing the extent of the liaison. I found that kind of weird. If you are looking for modesty and thank you America, look somewhere else. He believes his hard work, creative genius and perseverance brought him his fortune. Which fortune he mentions several times...Let me quote the book:
 “there was a problem. At the age of eighteen, I had absolutely no gifts, I could not sing or dance, and the only acting I did was really just shouting. Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent” and “through the years I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration".
  He drops a lot of names including Jack Benny and Elvis. Proof of this vision of his self importance, several years ago, he hired an archivist to catalog and research his life in anticipation of writing his “memoirs”. He felt his life needed documentation like a US President or other famous dictator. Read the book only if you are a fan or saw him live before he was rich and famous.  

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Billy Boyle, A World War II Mystery.

Here you go: a man trap. Mystery and WWII. I love both, every man does. Together WWII and mystery must be like peanut butter and chocolate. Wait a minute, I don’t like peanut butter and chocolate. It has been determined through a careful examination of the facts; I am the only human alive who does not like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. As far as I can tell, the peanut butter cups only utility is trading for much better candy from unsuspecting children and adults. That opportunity is short-lived and only occurs in October. If while freight hopping, traveling across the country,  I was trapped in a railway car for longer than 24 hours and there were Reese’s Peanut Buttercups in boxes in the car with me, I would in fact open the boxes and eat some; Starvation being the only other alternative. Beets are another story. I can never imagine a scenario in which I might be placed which would force their consumption. With a car load of Reese’s, I would suffer for a while and relent. Of course if it were beets in those boxes, in any form, starvation would be the only alternative.
There is a “competition  of the first line”, http://creativecompetitor.com/competitions/first-line-competition which  occurs every year. In this competition writers compete to see who can write the best first line of the novel.  There is a commonly held notion amongst writers which argues the first line is the hardest thing to write and sets the tone for the entire book.
A better competition is held at San Jose State every year. Here is the Wikipedia reference:
“The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) is a tongue-in-cheek contest that takes place annually and is sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Entrants are invited "to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels" – that is, deliberately bad. According to the official rules, the prize for winning the contest is "a pittance",[1] or $250.[2]
The contest was started in 1982 by Professor Scott E. Rice of the English Department at San Jose State University and is named for English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the much-quoted first line "It was a dark and stormy night". This opening, from the 1830 novel Paul Clifford, continues floridly:
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
The first year of the competition attracted just three entries, but it went public the next year, received media attention, and attracted 10,000 entries.[3] There are now several subcategories, such as detective fiction, romance novels, Western novels, and purple prose. Sentences that are notable but not quite bad enough to merit the Grand Prize or a category prize are awarded Dishonorable Mentions.”

I think James R. Benn should have entered. I quote; ” I wanted to die. No actually I didn't want to die. Or live”. Technically that was three lines. I'm sure you get the point. I forged ahead anyway. The books basic premise revolved around a Boston detective, recruited in the Army, in World War II. He was sent to London because Dwight D Eisenhower was his uncle. Apparently they anticipated trouble. Sure enough within five pages, the Swedish ambassador was murdered. Detective Lt. Billy, makes a few friends and was sent into the countryside to investigate. Spoiler alert, although he didn't realize it at the time, he later found out he was chosen for the job because no one believed he would be able to solve any crimes. They hoped he would wander around aimlessly and give the appearance of trying while subterfuge persisted. In fact, that's how it turned out. As he solved the crime, he almost ruined the high commands plot to sabotage the Nazis. It was lucky he was so bad at detecting. He was surprised to learn the truth of the story.  In an unusual twist, the main heroine (spoiler alert) was brutally murdered and this gave him another murder to investigate. Of course it was the same perpetrator. The clues were all too easy. I had it figured out almost 20 pages before he did. As the entire book took place in England, there was not much of a war story. The mystery was not that mysterious: I figured out the most of it ahead of the story. There was a real twist at the end which was interesting but….I think you may want to pass on this one.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story, Jerry Weissman

MEGO. Is this a commonly known acronym? The first time I saw it was in this book. How do you get things into the daily lexicon? “Don’t tase me bro” came and went. Shock and Awe didn’t last long. Moore’s Law of transistors is said to run its course by 2010. Does MEGO have a few hours in the sun?
I have not stopped reading, even though you could not tell looking at the paucity of recent blog entries. Megan reminded me of my dilatory attention to the exploration and discovery of truth. Thanks for being interested.   As the author explains, “ the inevitable reaction of an audience to a Data Dump is not persuasion but rather the dreadful effect known as MEGO.” One of the few nuggets found in this stream. MEGO means Mine Eyes Glaze Over. Don't stop reading, this will be a short one.
I stopped writing because, after reading 5 books, none of which were particularly inspiring, I did not have the burning desire to wax poetic. Dreary may be the best descriptor of the recent attempt at expanding the mind. Much as with Lorentz’s “The Einstein Theory of Relativity”, ( see http://mrwcurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2010/11/einstein-theory-of-relativity-ha.html)  where I hoped to finally understand travel at velocities near the speed of light,  I plowed into Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story, by  Jerry Weissman, hoping to give a better PowerPoint presentation. I had recently given a presentation which I perceived to not be well received. I was looking for a new direction. 288 pages later, I gleaned a few tips which I will share.

I cannot now sit through a PowerPoint without being very critical of others; seeing them commit the “Five Cardinal Sins” listed here:  1- NO Clear Point. 2- NO Audience Benefit (you don’t want the audience to ask” so what”)3- NO Clear flow.4- TOO Detailed (the most common and I think greatest mistake made.) 5- TOO Long. (Usually a direct result of #4) There must be a million people writing mediocre books like this one. One hears tell, it is impossible to get a publisher to look at your manuscript. (or screen play if we use a Hollywood analogy).  Weissman not only got it read, also published. The writing was uninspiring, predictable and rather obvious. The editing was poor; Way to many word contractions and if you think I am wordy or like the run on sentence, Weissman could be my mentor. Here are the rest of the nuggets.  
“The art of persuasion must be balanced by Audience Advocacy: convincing your audience that what you want will serve their interests, too.” ...“It’s never enough to present the Features of what you’re selling; every Feature must always be translated into a Benefit” ...“Every communication has as its goal to take the audience from where they are at the start of your presentation, which is Point A, and move them to you objective, which is point B”“This crucial concept of starting with the goal in mind hasn’t penetrated our thing about presentations. …What’s the point” . “In business, when the point is not crystal clear, and when the benefit to the audience is not vividly evident, the investment is declined, the sale is not made, the approval is not granted; the presentation fails.”  “The overwhelming majority of business presentations merely serve to convey data, not to persuade.”
288 pages.  Other key concepts, less is more, you are the presentation not the slides. (unless you are pitching your graphical slide making capability)

All good points. Not enough to inspire serious navel gazing or contemplations of the universe and my place in it.I did think I could do a better job of un-cluttering data on slides and focusing more on me (as the story teller) of the presentation rather than the slides.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gumpy Old Men

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Henry David Thoreau
Quiet desperation?  Recently, I have been confronted with a number of stress inducing events,(I do not include the family visiting for the Christmas holidays in the stressful category) and yet I remain optimistic. It is really irrational. Linda is not as sanguine.
Let me review: My "career" was interrupted at it's peak.(resulting in a "significant", if not staggering, income reduction) I have been unable to find useful work for over two years of trying. I "had" four jobs only to have the offers withdrawn; in one case one week before the scheduled training. I am still in an expensive legal quagmire with my former partners unable to extricate myself.  Our house is for sale and not one showing in three months. My 90 year old mother in law is in the hospital stressing my lovely wife to the point of distraction. I recently spent two months wearing a plastic boot, cutting off my ability to wade the stream. I was in the Emergency Room with my son last night until 2:30 am. (Mostly waiting in line for the CT scanner. Nothing serious it turns out). My aging brain has suppressed the memories of everything else. Which suppression  may be a partial explanation of why I am not so grumpy or angry.

I could go on all day and yet some how I am looking forward to tomorrow. I also think I am so unique, so special and different but maybe I am like a lot of other aging men.

As I was expanding my mind with reading, I came across an interesting article on why grumpy old men are not so grumpy.
  I include an excerpt from one Christopher Orlet, a "writer" who explained my state of relative bliss.

STILL, THE NOTION that old people are grouches is hard to shake. The study explains this misconception too. Supposedly, it takes more to ruffle gray feathers because oldsters have finally made peace with how pathetic and disappointing --  err, I mean ordinary --  their lives have turned out. They have accepted the fact that they aren't going to write the great American novel, or even a memorable Tweet, that they will never have that summer cottage on Cape Cod, and that their daughters all married knuckleheads. And that's okay.
Also, old people are happier because they no longer care about the nonsense younger people care about: i.e., ambition, popularity, looks, material goods, pleasing supposedly important people. In fact, they don't care about much of anything. I already don't care about those things, so I'm off to a good start.

None of this means old folks are not thoroughly disgusted with today's youth. Other research shows that old fogies get a boost of self-esteem reading negative articles about young people, because, basically, everything in popular culture and TV is aimed at them, except Matlock, and they had to go and cancel that.
Entire article here: http://spectator.org/archives/2011/01/06/happy-whiny-people/

Should I add disclaimers? I never liked Matlock.

Friday, December 17, 2010

On the Decay of the Art of Lying, Mark Twain

"Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain—adults and wise persons never speak it."
This was a short story; each paragraph dripping with cynicism, irony, and humor. I chuckled throughout, approaching LOL a few times. As our grandchildren attain verbosity, this truth telling shines like a new chrome bumper. Young children not only tell the truth but their perspective on the facts is enlightening. How do they know what the truth is? They see it and they say it. How then, are we sometimes embarrassed by the light and understanding now exposed? I should like to hear more truth. Twain in his story believes it does not exist. I quote:
"None of us could live with an habitual truth-teller; but thank goodness none of us has to. An habitual truth-teller is simply an impossible creature; he does not exist; he never has existed. Of course there are people who think they never lie, but it is not so."
"Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying has suffered any decay or interruption—no, for the Lie , as a Virtue, A Principle, is eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man’s best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this club remains. My complaint is simply concerns the decay of the art of lying."
Twains seems to castigate those who tolerate the dishonest through insightful humorous sarcasm:
"The man who tells a lie to help a poor devil out of trouble, is one of whom the angels doubtless say, “Lo, here is an heroic soul who casts his own welfare in jeopardy to succor his neighbor’s, let us exalt this magnanimous liar.”
If Mark Twain was an author of “adolescent literature”, writings such as these make him a philosopher and commentator on society. I should like to include the entire text with the hope everyone would read it but at least, let me finish with Twains summation on the decay of Lying.
"Lying is universal- we all do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object and not an evil one; to lie for others advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling."