The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Hollywood’


My first experience as an “animal rights activist,” although there was no such term at the time, came several weeks into my sophomore year in high school.  It was biology class and Mr. Donovan told us that the following week we were going to do a frog dissection.  I remember hearing that announcement and feeling that I was going to vomit.  The thought of dissecting a frog or anything else did not sit well with me.

I had spent many summers in Shandaken, NY with my grandmother.  Most of that time was consumed by playing in the Esopus River.  And a fair amount of that time was trying to catch bull frogs who were more elusive than I would have thought and watching their tadpole offspring swim near the shore.  Although I caught any number of frogs I never brought them back to our cabin.  After all, to my way of thinking, they had their tadpole kids to take care of.

After Mr. Donovan dropped this bomb in class, I debated what to do.  I knew that what I was not going to do was the dissection.  But before I did anything, I wanted to discuss this matter with my folks.  That was the subject of that evening’s dinner.  My parents advised me to speak with Mr. Donovan and explain my feelings, which I did.

Mr. Donovan was an MIT grad and a wonderful teacher.  He was an extremely heavyset man who was able to perspire on the coldest winter day but that never impeded his sense of humor or his attitude that making his subject “fun” would enable his students to become more interested in it.  And he was kind enough to listen to me and to excuse me from this exercise with the proviso that he would assign me as a “lab partner” to one of the other students and I would have to observe their dissection.  That seemed a reasonable compromise and I accepted his offer with gratitude.

When I finished college, one day an envelope was in my mailbox from an organization called, NAVS – the National Anti-Vivisection Society.  I read with a mixture of interest and horror about the experiments that were routinely conducted on laboratory animals.  Typically mice, rats and rabbits were the subjects of a variety of experiments, all of which were justified in the name of science and improving the lives of humans by developing new drugs which could combat human disease.  After reading the NAVS letter, I decided to become a Life Member but had to set the letter aside long enough for me to save up the hundred dollars to join at that level.

One of the tests which was routinely used was known as the LD-50.  “LD” stood for Lethal Dose – and the 50 referred to the concentration of a specific drug which, when administered to the animal subjects, resulted in only fifty percent of the subjects dying from the dosage.  That impressed me as barbarism at its fundamental level – irrespective of the purported good which these experiments were supposedly going to bring to humanity.

Other tests, primarily conducted on rabbits, involved putting drops in their eyes which typically would cause blindness.  There was no greater reason for the administration of these drugs than the development of cosmetics.  Somehow, blinding hundreds of thousands of bunnies so that we could develop new eye liners or blush was construed by those in the vanity business of cosmetics as sufficient justification for these acts of torture.  Thinking about this made me nauseous.

One of the basic premises of animal experimentation by researchers is that there is a trans-special relevance to the results that are obtained.  In other words, if there is “X” effect in rabbits there will be “X” effect in humans.  One of the drugs that was deemed safe was Thalidomide – manufactured by a West German pharmaceutical company.  It was extensively tested on rabbits and since it was virtually impossible to obtain the LD-50 level, it was deemed safe for humans.  Typically, it was prescribed for pregnant women to reduce the effects of morning sickness and as a mild sedative.

Thalidomide has since been described as “the worst disaster in pharmaceutical research.”  More than 10,000 children worldwide were born with serious birth defects including missing limbs as a result of their mothers’ taking this “safe” drug.  That was back in the late ‘50’s and early 60’s.  Subsequently, the FDA pulled its approval of the drug for use by pregnant women.

Thanks to high schools and medical schools there is a market for animal specimens.  For a mere $140 you can buy a preserved dog from Carolina Biological Supply Company (shipping included).  Presumably this will benefit those who go into veterinary medicine.  Notwithstanding, the photo below from the company’s list of products is disturbing to me.  In fact it makes my high school experience with frog dissection pale in comparison.


That there is a huge market for animal subjects for research is an undeniable fact.  And with the recent exposure of two separate Planned Parenthood’s doctors discussing how much it would cost for human fetal organs – well, should we be surprised?  But what should amaze is that when Hollywooders like Brad Pitt come out opposing the horrible conditions under which factory farm laying hens are kept they haven’t said a peep about PPF’s sale of human tissue.  And the silence is similarly deafening by those on the left who have no use whatever for business executives who make beaucoup bucks, hundreds or thousands of times the amount that the average Jane makes working for the same operation.

Enter Cecile Richards, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood.  Up until a few days ago you might not have heard of her.  But she has made the news by responding to the two videos of the undercover interviews with two of her staff doctors.  In essence, Ms. Richards claimed in response to the first video, that the fees for human body parts which Dr. Deborah Nucatola was discussing were merely “reimbursements” for the cost of shipping those specimens.  The second video suggests that narrative may lack some credibility.

What has yet to be brought up is that Ms. Richards received compensation for Planned Parenthood’s fiscal year ending June, 2013 in the amount of $523,616 according to IRS Form 990 which this “Not For Profit” organization filed.  So much for the glass ceiling to which American women are subjected.  And the year before, Ms. Richards earned $583,323.  Why the pay reduction?  That’s because Ms. Richards took time off from her duties at PP to campaign for President Obama’s re-election.

During the latter fiscal year, Planned Parenthood performed 333,369 reported abortions as part of their service to their female clients.  That represents nearly thirty percent  of all abortions performed in the United States.  Or to put it another way, each abortion performed by Planned Parenthood resulted in $1.57 per head (yes, I used that term purposely) in the way of compensation to Ms. Richards.

When I was a kid I often heard that if you were to take a fully grown human and reduce that person’s body to the base elements and chemicals of which it was composed, the value of those would amount to $.98.  So I guess that if you take an unborn 18 or 20 week old baby and slice and dice it up for a couple of hundred dollars – well I guess we’ll just attribute that to inflation – and lack of conscience.


While I hate to reveal my own ignorance I figure that if you’ve been following along for awhile it’s already abundantly clear to you.  As you know, I seldom go to see a movie in a theatre designed for cinematic display and selling junk food.  And because my interest in the latest tripe that comes out of Hollywood is nil, I don’t keep up with who’s who or who’s doing what in that liberal paradise.

It just happened that I saw a news story yesterday about a law suit that is proceeding that involves one Bryan Singer.  I didn’t recall even vaguely ever hearing that name so I had no idea who he was or what he did.  I read the story.

I learned from the story, Mr. Singer is a movie director.  Without going into the somewhat sordid details of the lawsuit, suffice it to say that Mr. Singer has allegedly apparently been employing a version of  the casting couch but has transformed it into an after-parties venue where friends and associates apparently recruit young gay men who want to mingle with the rich and famous director.

Okay, this isn’t a post about morality.  But I was curious if Mr. Singer had ever directed a movie that I had seen.  As it turned out, while he has many credits in his portfolio which I have not viewed, one of his efforts, “The Usual Suspects” was a movie that I saw several years after its release when it appeared on cable.  I rather liked it but remember it as being a little strange.

But it occurred to me that as unfamiliar with Hollywood directors as I am, I would do a little investigation into who directs the movies which cause hearts to flutter every Friday when something new is released.  And I was very surprised.

In the entire history of the Academy, there have only been four women nominated for the Best Director Oscar.  And of those, only two – Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow – were Americans.  None of the four won the coveted award.

So here we are, in the absolute epicenter of liberalism and is there a more discriminatory, anti-feminist environment in which a woman could find herself?  Let me be blunt.  In Hollywood, women are getting screwed right and left (and yes I did intend that pun).

I’m really hoping that the Huffington Post (which I’ve affectionately renamed the Huff and Puff Post) will carry a story soon in which the Democrats create a stink over the “War on Women.”  I plan on using some version of this post when it appears.

Of course I will have to do a bit of editing – first to get it by the censors and then to conform to their comment limit of 250 words.  But inspired by Hollywood, I will be able to pare this down to size, leaving the excess on the cutting room floor where it will keep company with the hearts and hopes of Hollywood’s female directors who are ignored and overlooked while their male counterparts talk about how life has been so unfair to them and others of their gender.


Jerry Seinfeld is a comedic genius.  The weekly sitcom bearing his name had a successful run for nine seasons – topping the Nielsen ratings in two of those.  From 1989 to 1998 Americans rushed home to catch their weekly dose of the comedy and catch up on the most current phrases of Seinlanguage that the show invented.  Rumor is afoot that there is going to be a reunion of some of the cast for a one time reprise of the show to be forthcoming soon.

The cast over those nine seasons was so large that Cecil B. DeMille would have been envious.  Many of those who were engaged for the show played only in one episode.  But I wanted to look at those actors and actresses who were featured in two or more episodes.  There were a total of 212 of them.

Now as late as the end of the show in 1998, being “out” as a gay man or lesbian woman was not much in vogue, although Ellen DeGeneres might have broken the ice in 1997.  But that openly gay people worked in the entertainment industry and that industry had no problems employing them because of their sexual orientation had most likely been going on since Hollywood rolled the cameras for the first time.

Estimates of the number of our population who are members of the LGBT community suggest that as many as ten percent of our population may be sexually oriented this way.  Although my feeling is that it’s neither of interest to me nor is it any of my business what a person’s sexual preference is, it seems that there are many gay people, now including at least one pro basketball player and one college football player, who feel that they need to announce their orientation to the world.  That is, of course, their choice.

For years the straight population made certain assumptions about gay men –deciding that  because of an effeminate demeanor a particular man was gay.  In many cases these assumptions proved to be correct.  Add to that certain professions in which these men engaged such as florist, interior designer or hairdresser and without further need for additional evidence, some people would quip, “Fritz is as queer as a three dollar bill,” or, “He’s a little light in the loafers.”   Perhaps the one industry that could have cared less was the arts.  That would include the movies, television, theatre, opera, ballet, and the symphony.

Returning to our cast of 212 multiple episode actors and actresses who played on “Seinfeld,” you can imagine my surprise that only two of those have “come out” and are openly gay or lesbian.  Considering the fact that the industry often attracts gay men and lesbian women if for no reason other than its acceptance of their lifestyle, this truly surprised me.  Naturally, in an age where any and everybody seeks out a niche where they can view themselves as a minority and thus are persecuted and demand justice, I did not expect that result from my research.  This, of course, lends itself to the question, “Was there anti-gay prejudice employed in the casting of the ‘Seinfeld’ show?”

There is an element of intolerance written into the sitcom.  Who can possibly forget “The Soup Nazi” who refused service to anyone whom he didn’t like?  I’m frankly surprised that the FCC hasn’t already looked into this – considering their recent decision (subsequently deferred) to investigate whether our news programs are “properly serving the public” in the eight categories of news that they believe are sufficiently important to be part of those stations’ agendas and regular broadcasts.

Governor Jan Brewer (R – AZ) currently has on her desk a bill that would allow the owners of a business to deny service to people with whom its owners chooses not to do business.  Proponents say that it merely defines an owner’s rights in the same way that, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” does.  Gay activists make the claim that it is an open invitation for businesses to deny them access simply because they are gay.  I haven’t read the bill, but from the discussion that I have heard, both interpretations are possible.  So here’s a thought.

If I were an Arizona business owner I would simply disregard the fact that my clients are male or female, black, white, Hispanic or Asian, straight or gay and pretend that they were all – let me think – okay, they are all vampires.  Several television programs and a number of recent movies have been devoted to members of that group – and no one seems offended by them.  And I have yet to hear of a vampire filing a class action suit against anyone for discrimination.

I’m going to be sure to catch the Seinfeld reunion special when it airs.  I just hope it’s broadcast after the sun goes down.


When the last installment of Marcel Proust’s “magnum opus” was published in 1927, it was the culmination of a writing effort that spanned a fifteen year period.  The work was translated into English as, “A Remembrance of Things Past”.

Those who long for the halcyon days of a kinder, gentler, smaller, more rational government already realize that problems which have been created over long periods of time cannot be remedied with short-term and short-sighted solutions.  Attempting to repair society by applying Band-Aids to deep, festering sores may staunch the flow of blood for the moment but this approach will not remove the cancer from the body politic.

It is essential that those who recognize the deadliness of the path on which America has set its footing (and by implication much of the Western civilized world as we know it) are not merely passing through time and history.  We are the ones who have the opportunity to take action and write history through the steps we take today to make ours a better country and a better world.

History provides us with a great deal of nurturing guidance.  And one of its most important lessons is that it takes time to unfold.  From Plymouth Rock to The Declaration of Independence, 156 years of history had to pass.  If we embark on a path of real change today, many of us who start this process will not live to see its fulfillment.  But we will leave, as did the Founding Fathers, a legacy which those who come after us will enjoy.

Those of us who are educated, rational and pragmatic have spent far too much of our time and resources in an effort to convince those of a different opinion that we offered a better way than the one to which they subscribed.  Underlying our arguments was the assumption that these people were also educated, rational and pragmatic.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Governor Romney made his famous “47%” remark he was immediately attacked and lambasted for telling it like it was.  His statement was, of course, correct – but the emphasis should have been that meant that there were 53% of the populace who still had the dignity, desire and self-esteem to work toward changing things for all of America’s population for the better.  We’re still here today, despite our war injuries.

So how do we regroup, rearm and begin?  The first thing must be to define our goals and to keep them in mind as our frame of reference.  If we don’t know our destination, it’s difficult to determine a travel plan.  And too many of us are buying into our opponents’ strategy of distraction, holding up minor issues as talking points so that we ignore the real, fundamental and root causes of society’s malaise.

We also have many talking points.  But if we waste our efforts critiquing the opposition on Benghazi, the economy, the general level of unemployment, or a myriad of other subjects we only serve to weaken ourselves and thus give aid and succor to our opponents.

While those criticisms might be valid and well-documented, they mean nothing to an uneducated or under-educated mob whose only concern is surviving today and hopefully tomorrow.  And they mean nothing to those who, through intention, have helped to formulate this permanent under-class so that they may continue their own agenda which is to rule and dominate.

Perhaps the simplest way to define the goals of our war is to say that most of us who are reading this believe that a return to limited, Constitutional government wherein the individual has personal freedom based on a moral code would be a desirable goal.  Implicit in that is our ability to elect people to office who share that view.  And this leads us to a practical way to approach our ongoing battles.

It’s many years since presidential candidates rolled into town on a train, gave a speech and took off for their next destination.  Campaigns were financed with a few dollars here and a few dollars there.  Today, getting elected is a function of how much money can be raised for advertising and whose content slams the opponent the harder.  “Media is the message,” to misquote Marshall McLuhan.

It should be obvious that if those who contribute vast sums of money to get our opponents elected were to have their incomes reduced, they would have less ability to fund them in the next election cycle.  This is nothing more than the boycott strategy which worked so successfully in the 1960’s and 1970’s for the migrant farmworkers under the leadership of César Chavez.

There is a reason that I do not insure through GEICO or Progressive Insurance, or buy See’s Candy or eat at Dairy Queen.  By choosing to spend my money with them, I am supporting those who have helped foster our present policies and contributing to those who want to advance them further.  Why would any person who shares my view, rationally and willingly support those who would make us target practice?

Obviously, this is hardly an inclusive list of companies or services which I avoid.  But it should give you the basic idea.  The fact is that there are alternatives, often better alternatives to these companies’ products and I would rather spend my money with those who share my philosophy.

One person boycotting a company’s products is a personal statement.  But hundreds of thousands doing so will have an impact.  And if that number escalates to the millions, even the most hardcore liberal businessman will take notice and re-consider his thinking.

One of the most consistently generous groups in their views and their financial support for the liberal agenda comes to us from Hollywood.  Arguably, their products are also contributors to the violence which has become so commonplace on the American landscape.

Setting aside the fact that from an artistic standpoint, Hollywood offers little in the way of output that appeals to me, this is an issue which every conscientious conservative thinker should examine for himself.  Do I want to support an institution that actively seeks both to erode my personal freedoms and expose myself and my children to prurient violence and standards of morality which do not meet my personal expectations and example?

Again, one person boycotting the movies is a personal statement.  But millions, committed to a boycott would not only have a financial impact but just might cause those screenwriters to create material that is actually worth viewing.

History is not merely something that has happened before.  Its pages are being inscribed even as I type this post.  But the question is will it be written by those people of conscience who believe in the freedom of the individual or by those who believe in the power of the state?

The answer to that will be determined by what each of us does because, at least for the moment, the power is still in the hands of the people.


Perhaps the Devil made me do it but I couldn’t help myself.  As I thought about the  goings-on in Washington I went to my film library to find something appropriate for the occasion – and I did.  It was a classic film and one which I suspect I shall be watching more frequently over the next four years.  Released in 1956 it stars Danny Kaye, Glynnis Johns, Angela Lansbury and Basil Rathbone.  The movie is “The Court Jester.”

Kaye, always the master of physical comedy, passed away in 1987.  He plays the court jester who saves the English kingdom from the impostor who sits on the throne and secures the rightful heir his title.  Obviously, Kaye’s death means that he is too late to help us in our present situation.

Surprisingly, this film has not been banned.  A significant part of the cast is an ensemble of midgets who assist the jester in accomplishing his mission.  The last I heard is that people who have their condition are either on an “endangered species” list or are receiving SSI disability payments and thus are unavailable for work.

As I viewed this film which I had not watched for several years, my convoluted thinking led me to yet another artistic work.  In this case, the piece was produced by a former Harvard University math professor, Tom Lehrer.  Mr. Lehrer’s musical cynicism was in great vogue in the late ‘50’s and ‘60’s.  He recorded upwards of forty songs dealing with social issues, mores and values and political matters which were at that time in the limelight of a then much more involved and thinking public.

One of those, presented below for your enjoyment, is a song simply entitled by the name of its subject matter, the then newly elected Senator from California, George Murphy.  The year was 1964 and Murphy had defeated Pierre Sallinger who had been President Kennedy’s press secretary.

Mr. Murphy’s career in Hollywood centered about his primary skills – as a song and dance man.  And now we have a newly inaugurated president in the White House who believes he has those same sort of abilities.  The nice thing about art is that, at least for the moment, everyone is entitled to her or his opinion.  But I couldn’t help think of the then newly elected Senator from California and the newly elected community organizer from Illinois when he took his seat in the august chamber of the Upper House of Congress.

Keeping that in mind, allow me to share with you what I think might be the most appropriate song which could have been played at the Inauguration festivities.

Let me close by reminding you that tomorrow, January 21, 2013 we celebrate the life of a man who was a true American, a visionary, a patriot and a man of conscience, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Keeping his life and legacy in my thoughts may help me make it through the next four years.


As I write this it’s early morning PST on the winter solstice, December 21, 2012.  From a personal standpoint I view this as Gracie’s sixth birthday rather than the Mayan Apocalypse.

Of course, I guess whatever the Mayans had in mind – if they indeed had anything in mind – still has the rest of the day to play out and we won’t really be safe until it’s turned December 22nd everywhere on the globe.  That is assuming that the predicted date was computed correctly.

Did those making the calculations adjust from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, as one example where we might have gone wrong?  Did we start our computation using the correct day – there’s another possibility.  But I know with certainty, that there is something definite about December 21st.  In the western Church’s calendar, it is the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Whether or not you’re religious, you probably have heard of him through the phrase, “Doubting Thomas.”  He was the disciple who, when told of Christ’s Resurrection didn’t believe it was true.

“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”    John 20:25 (KJV)

Thomas was one of those whom we might describe as an empiricist.  He lacked faith and needed to see for himself – and I guess in a certain sense, I have to join with his philosophical view as it comes in our rush to craft yet another law which will further control our lives.

A week after the tragedy in Newtown, CT we are busily working in Washington to fix our problem of violence by restricting gun ownership and the type of weapons that Americans may own.  As a non-owner of weaponry, this is a theoretical event for me – nonetheless I think it is an important one for all of us, because it speaks to our allowing emotion rather than reason to drive our actions.  And I have said repeatedly in these posts that when emotion prevails it is often closely followed by chaos.

If we could pass a law which would eliminate murder in our society I would be the first in line to support it.  Oh, wait, we already have one.  “Thou shall not kill.”  We as a species have been consistently ignoring that since God handed it to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  We have simply found better, faster and more lethal ways to disregard it. 

We have celebrated a culture of violence, exposing our children to all that is vulgar and brutal in our video games and in our movie theaters and on our televisions – and we wonder why children and young adults commit the types of atrocities that Adam Lanza perpetrated on the citizens of a small town in Connecticut.

We have abandoned the two parent family with a spiraling birth rate among unwed mothers and justify that because some of our Hollywood celebrities and sports heroes don’t bother with that staid old institution called marriage.  If it’s good enough for them whom we idolize, why shouldn’t it be just as good for us?

When those of us who object to their behavior as being unprincipled go to watch a movie in which they star or a professional sports game in which they play, we have sullied ourselves and undermined our own right to criticize all that is wrong in our society.  Because we have endorsed the problem and not acted to implement the solution.  And that solution is really quite simple. 

Like Caesar’s wife, each of us needs to accept accountability for her or his actions and try, as best we can, to be mindful that we should always be “above reproach.”  At the very least, we should be thinking about our actions, both as to how they effect our own lives as well as the lives of others with whom we share a place in society. There’s been a lot of “doing” in our society but not a whole lot of thinking.

We have geared our lives to revolve around which pop-culture activities will provide the greatest immediate sensual gratification and we run with that one.  No further value need be inherent in it other than “it pleasures me now.” 

Perhaps that was what ran through Adam Lanza’s mind when he murdered those children, his mother and the other adults in Newtown, CT.  “If it feels good, just do it.”

The cries of outrage are being heard all around the country and all around the globe over Newtown.  And those cries should be heard because they are the sound of pain and anguish.  Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. 

But passing another law regulating guns will not silence the rifles or the assault weapons or the pistols.  Those weapons do not fire themselves.  It takes us to pick them up and use them.

If we continue to ignore the narrow path of decency and morality and stay on our present course, in some small but very real way, each of us was that deranged person in Newtown, CT.  And each of us helped pulled the trigger.


It’s nine days after the murders and injuries occurred in Aurora, CO.  Several of the victims have been buried.  We await the arraignment of the suspect tomorrow.  And business goes on as usual in Hollywood, with the exception that instead of reporting the amount of money, “The Dark Knight Rises” earned on it’s opening weekend immediately, those figures were withheld until now, “out of respect for the victims.”

On January 18, 2012 thousands of bloggers and businesses “went dark” for twelve hours to protest what we believe was an attempt by the Congress to try to restrict freedom of access to the internet.  You might have thought that sort of protest was something that would be orchestrated in China – but it happened here in the United States of America.  I am proud to say I participated in that protest.

The bills passing through Congress were largely supported by the Hollywood infrastructure.  Their reasoning was that these bills were designed to protect their proprietary intellectual property from theft.  I support that principle because it is just and fair, but unfortunately the bills went further and could be interpreted far more broadly than it appeared from a superficial reading.

“Out of respect for the victims” I would have been impressed if Hollywood had done something truly dramatic – like simultaneously cancel one showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at all theaters throughout the world.  It would have cost them nothing and might have actually drawn more viewers who, like me, felt this was a display of true soul and compassion by the creators of this picture.

Perhaps there is a reason this did not happen – a good reason.

Since the shootings the mainstream media have been filled with discussions about weapons and restricting access to them.  It sells tabloids and rivets us to our nightly news shows.  Comparatively little has been said about the culture of violence in our society which might drive a person to commit the atrocity of which James Holmes is accused.

I remember, as a child, hearing that old Chinese expression, “Monkey see, Monkey do.”  I understood it’s meaning as a six year old and nothing has changed in the intervening years to change that but merely reinforce it.

It is hard for anyone but the most zealous stalwart supporter to argue against the fact that the movies that are released have become more and more violent with each incarnation.  And while this may not be the only cause for the increased violence and hostility in our society, it is hard to believe that it doesn’t bear at least some of the responsibility.

A person could make the argument that if consumers didn’t readily agree to buy what Hollywood has to sell, they would have to change their product line.  That is an extremely valid point.  But it is also one that could be made about a person who sells heroin or crack cocaine.

I in no way want to imply that I am looking to impose yet more regulation and censorship than already exists other than responsible self-regulation.  To do so would be fruitless anyway as Hollywood is too snugly in bed with this administration.

But I would ask those producers and directors and screen writers to look back to a golden age in their history when they made quality, non-violent and just plain fun movies to which we could bring the kids without fear of what they would see or hear.  That really happened, once upon a time in America.


“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

There is no question that at different points of our lives and even at different times of the day we allow our minds to operate on settings of either “small” or “average”.  We spend a fair amount of time there.

“Good morning, Mrs. Smith,” we say to our neighbor.  “How are you doing after your surgical procedure?”  Here’s an example of our discussing both a person and an event.  It’s a normal part of our conversation with our friends and acquaintances.  But we could elevate this to that third level by saying, “I am going grocery shopping this afternoon.  Would you like to go with me – or is there anything I can get for you so you don’t have to exert yourself and can rest up?”

Now I will admit that extending an offer of courtesy to an ailing neighbor is not an earth shattering “idea”.  It will not change the course of human civilization or speed us towards a better world – other than for the person whom we are trying to assist.  But as unimportant a thought as offering to get a neighbor’s groceries might be in the scheme of world events – why is that so many of us never think to make the gesture?

I believe there is a simple explanation for why we allow our minds to operate at each level – and I would like to attempt to describe that in reverse order.


When I think of peoples’ conversation as it concerns other people – most of it can be described as gossip and character assassination.  Who enjoys this sort of conversation?  Generally I have found that people who are insecure in their own self-worth spend most of their time engaged in discussing other people.  Somehow they believe that by discrediting and demeaning others they elevate their own stature.  Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Even as a child I realized that most of us unfortunately gravitate to this low level state of mind from time to time.  Today we have the internet to titillate us over the latest celebrity indiscretion – but back then we had Hollywood gossip columnists and magazines devoted to the subject.  There is a baser part of each of us that seems content to delve into this low level of mental operation – at least from time to time.  The trick is to pull ourselves out of the mire and move upward.

If I were to describe this state of mind in today’s terms I guess I would call it the “Social Media Syndrome.”


Thank goodness for sports, tsunamis, other forms of natural disasters and homicides.  Where would our friends with “average minds” turn for topics of discussion without them?  And the fact that we now have virtually instantaneous knowledge of these events provides them with an unlimited source of conversational material.

The other day I was at the dog park.  I went over to say hello to several of the regulars and heard two of the men having a conversation about a baseball game they had seen the day before.  The conversation rapidly turned from a discussion of specific spectacular plays that occurred during the game to one where they went back in time to talk about similar plays which had been made in games ten, twenty and more years ago.  I was astounded they could actually remember those events.  More to the point, I wondered how and why did they remember them?

As I was in a whimsical mood I decided to have a little fun with these two fellows.  So I said, “You guys have such an extensive knowledge of sports and history.  I can’t tell you how impressed I am with that.  Now I’m working on a paper about Italy in the 15th century.  The day that Columbus first landed in the New World happened to be the day of the finals in the all-Italy bocce ball tournament pitting Florence against Venice.  Does either of you remember the final score?”

Apparently bocce ball wasn’t within their area of expertise and after a few seconds of mumbling they resumed their baseball conversation.  I’m sure that my point was lost on them.  But I had a little fun with it anyway.  Every so often I allow my impish side to exert itself and take control of my mouth.

If I were to describe this state of mind I would call it “The Living Vicariously Through Others Syndrome.”


Seldom does humanity produce someone with the abilities of a Leonardo da Vinci or an Isaac Newton.  We call these people geniuses.  But the truth is that even they used just a very small portion of their brains.  Perhaps what differentiates them from the rest of us is that most of us use even less – and they must have exerted some serious effort to utilize as much as they did.  In other words, they tried to improve themselves.

That should give all of us some reason for hope.  While most of us will never operate at their level of brilliance, we can be more “thoughtful” people tomorrow than we are today.  We can aspire to do things that we never imagined yesterday if we only make the effort.

Although the brain is an organ, not a muscle, I am convinced that if it goes unused and unchallenged, just like our biceps it is doomed to languish and atrophy.  If we content ourselves with allowing it to operate in either first or second gear it is bound to do just that.

Why are so many of us afraid to dream dreams and think thoughts that might not only positively improve our own lives but which might change the world?  The only answer is fear – fear of the criticism which might come from those with small and average minds.  Fear of humiliation and ridicule by those whose tools in trade are limited to those instruments of destruction.

I remember a piece of wisdom that my father imparted to me as a child.  I had come home from school the first day I wore glasses.  Several of the kids called me “Four eyes.”  The children making the statement were only acquaintances, but I felt the wound left by their remark.  None of my friends made any comment other than one who said, “Those look good on you.”  When I explained what happened dad said, “Consider the source.”

If I were to describe this state of mind I guess I would call it “The Daring To Be Better Syndrome.”

Each of us has control of how we think and how we live.  If you’ve read this far you have enough curiosity and hopefully sufficient courage to work toward a higher level of thought.  For me that is a personal goal on which I work daily.

It will be a good day indeed when each of us utters the most powerful sentence in the language –  the four words, “I have an idea.”


When Gunther came to America he intended to make a living as he had in his native land.  He was a tailor and specialized in alterations.  He met his wife Hattie here and they were married.

Gunther and Hattie were not blessed with children but they had the deep bond of love between them.  For them that was enough.  After thirty-five years of marriage, Hattie was out doing the grocery shopping one day when a driver lost control of his car and the vehicle ran over the sidewalk killing her instantly.

Without the support of the love of his life, Gunther was a changed man.  He was no longer his former cheerful self and began drinking.  His work in the tailor shop became sloppy and long-time customers found other tailors to alter their garments.  He finally decided to sell the shop and a competitor by the name of Hans purchased the business.  Gunther disappeared from New York City.

Several years later, Hans happened to be in Nebraska visiting some of his relatives.  The kids said that Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey was in town and asked if Uncle Hans would take them.  Hans hadn’t been to the circus for a great many years and thought this would be a fun family outing.  So off they went to the Big Top.

As the children were standing in line to purchase some cotton candy with the money Uncle Hans had given them, Hans was startled to see Gunther walking across the circus campus.  So Hans told the children to wait by the cotton candy booth and said he would be right back.  He rushed off to say hello to his old associate.

When he caught up with Gunther he asked him what he had been doing for the past several years and was surprised to learn that Gunther was now employed by the circus.

“What exactly do you do,?” asked Hans.

Gunther said, “Come on – I’ll show you.”

So Hans followed Gunther to one of the tents and when they went in he saw five elephants lined up in a row.  Over each elephant there was a large pail and coming from the pail was a rubber hose.

Gunther explained, “I give enemas to the elephants before they perform.  That way we don’t have any surprises under the Big Top.  You can just imagine how disgusting it would be in front of the moms and dads and kids if one of the elephants had to relieve herself while she was doing her act.”

Gunther proceeded to demonstrate his work.

Well Hans was dumbfounded.  But when Gunther had given the last of the elephants her enema he looked at his old acquaintance and said, ‘You know, Gunther since you’ve been gone I’ve done quite well.  In fact I now own four tailor shops – and I have an opening for an experienced tailor in one of them.  Please come back to New York and make a fresh start.”

Gunther responded, “So you mean for a lousy schlemiel job in a tailor shop, you think that I’m going to give up show business?”

A couple of days ago a neighbor called and asked if I would accompany her as her guest to the movies.  (Her normal companion for these weekly excursions was on a two week vacation out of town).  I thanked her for her offer but politely declined.  But she did her best at trying to get me to go.  Apparently, she loved the movies but would only go if she was with someone.  And if I refused to go with her it would break her record of having gone to a movie a week for over 850 weeks.

I think it was that statistic that caused me to cave in.  I couldn’t think of 850 movies which Hollywood produced in the last seventeen years or so that would have been worth seeing.  I couldn’t think of fifty.  So in a moment of weakness I agreed to go with her.

I would tell you the name of the movie, but I’ve already forgotten it.  It really doesn’t matter other than to say it was a “chick flick” – by that I mean a movie crafted in such a way as to appeal to a pullet rather than a person.  With all the clucking that emanated from the moviegoers it had apparently reached its appropriate audience.

I decided to make the most of it so about ten minutes into the movie I involuntarily began a little siesta.  Sadly, my friend roused me from my slumber by giving me a sharp jab in the ribs.  That scene was repeated twice more during the term of my nearly two hour ordeal.  Sadly because of her vigilance in keeping me awake, I had to watch most of the film.

As I recall the “plot” it went something along the line of:

Boy meets girl.

Mindless twitter dialogue.

Boy and girl get naked.

Mindless twitter dialogue.

Boy and girl go to bed and presumably have sex.

Mindless twitter dialogue – and, “Was it good for you?”

Boy and girl get dressed.

Mindless twitter dialogue.

Boy and girl try to decide if they like each other so they ask their friends’ opinions.

Mindless twitter dialogue.

Their friends have different opinions.

Multiple participants in mindless twitter dialogue.

Boy and girl go to bed and presumably have sex.

Mindless twitter dialogue – and, “Was it god for you?”

I think that was the end of it – but there might have been more of the same.  You get the picture (in fact you can keep it).

I asked my neighbor if she liked the movie.  She said, “It was okay.  I’ve seen worse.”  The thought of that shocked me into a near state of panic.  I thought to myself, “Worse?  There’s worse?”  But she’s the moviegoer and I’m sure she knows.

So I asked her, “Did you expect it to be better than it was?”

She said, “No, not really.”

“Then you’ll forgive me for asking,” I said.  “Why did you want to go see it?”

She said, “You know, it’s something to do.”

I thought to myself, so is committing hara kiri and if you do it right you never have to be bothered with it again.

Well, I guess whether it’s the circus or the movies that old abbreviated phrase still applies.



My godmother who was part of New York’s elite “upper crust” introduced me to many things.  One of those was opera, another Broadway shows and the third was how people in “polite society” referred to each other.

She explained that if Mr. Simpson-Bowles were married, his wife was introduced as Mrs. Simpson-Bowles.  If, however, that relationship had not worked out and he remarried, this wife was introduced as “the second Mrs. Simpson-Bowles.”  Alas, that relationship did not last and for a third time he married.  This wife was introduced as “the current Mrs. Simpson-Bowles.”

In the 1950’s and 1960’s in America divorce happened – but at a much less frequent pace than is the case today.  For the ordinary individual being married multiple times was the exception rather than the rule – except for those stars in Hollywood who seemed to exchange spouses with the frequency that they changed their wardrobes for the next scene in a movie.

Of course, with marriage frequently comes the side-benefit of children.  And when two people divorce there is an impact and implication not only for how they will continue their lives but for their offspring as well.  I know because when I was eight years old my parents were divorced.

I am pleased to say that the cause of their separation was not due to something that would then have been scandalous and lurid such as either of them having a sexual relationship outside their marriage.  They simply had differences and disagreements which they couldn’t resolve.

Although they tried to shield me from hearing these arguments, that was difficult considering the small size of our apartment.  I knew something was wrong and I wanted it to stop.  I wanted us to return to the happy, loving and supportive little family that I knew and with which I felt secure.  But it didn’t.

One day mom explained that she was going to take a small trip – to Mexico.  The purpose was to obtain a divorce from dad.  I didn’t quite understand what that word meant – but on her return home it became clear what it was.  It meant that dad wasn’t going to live with us anymore and that I would only get to spend time with him every other weekend.  I didn’t like that idea – but I had no say in the matter.

Obviously this decision had an effect on the way that my parents continued their lives.  But the greatest impact fell on me.  I rapidly went from being at the head of the class and nosedived academically until I was near the bottom.  My teacher, Mrs. Snell expressed her concern in several conferences and a number of written notes.  She could see that I was languishing and depressed.

Fortunately, my parents both cared enough about me to discuss my situation with each other.  This resulted in their going out to dinner on many occasions – but the big breakthrough came when dad was invited for supper one night.  After a year apart, they decided that they were going to try again.  And on June 14th, mom, dad, grandma, my aunt, her two children and I attended a service at The Church of the Transfiguration (better known in New York as “The Little Church Around the Corner”) where they again took their vows.  They remained married until dad passed away.

Perhaps it is co-incidence, but after my parents got back together and we were again the family unit that I had known, my schoolwork improved almost immediately and I again held my place at the head of the class.  I’ll let you be the judge for why I made that academic transformation.  My entire attitude changed as I went from a state of depression to again feeling good about life and the world.

I realize that in today’s world the idea of constancy and commitment are considered old-fashioned.  I know that when my parents decided on getting divorced, they both felt that somehow they had failed themselves and each other.  They had a rather old-fashioned way of looking at things and were disappointed that they had compromised their personal values.  But it is probably the fact that they knew what the “right thing to do” was that enabled them to try to heal the wounds they both had incurred – together with their love and concern for me.

My parents were people who had rock solid values and, because they were humans, failed for a period of time to live up to them.  But they worked hard to overcome their personal frailties and see the more important and bigger picture.  I guess, if you think about it, it’s only people who have a value system who can be failures.  Those of us for whom “anything goes” will always be able to say that we followed our moral precepts – as non-existent as those may be.

I cannot say with certainty how different my life might have been had my parents not made their decision to come back together.  In that one short year that they were apart, I was already on the path to academic mediocrity.  Perhaps I might not have finished high school or gone on to college.  Perhaps I might have become what we referred to at the time as a “JD” – a juvenile delinquent.  Actually, I am certain that I would not be the person I am today.

Today, divorce occurs only slightly less frequently than marriage.  Single parent homes are no longer an exception.  Our educational drop out rate is staggering.  The number of teen unwed mothers – or for that matter – unwed mothers of any age is soaring.  We clearly have abandoned the “old-fashioned” way of doing things – and that change has had a profound influence at every level of society.

Those old-fashioned values were good enough to allow America to become the single most important economic dynamo on earth.  They were good enough to cause millions of immigrants to come to a land of opportunity and to make a better life for themselves and their children.  They were good enough for us to assume a place of moral leadership and to give new meaning to the word freedom for all throughout the world to see and to admire.  They were good enough then – so why aren’t they good enough now?

If we want to address the question of America and her problems – perhaps one of the places we should start is by examining the implications of divorce on our children.

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