Sunday, August 30, 2020

No Wonder So Few Are Happy

“(A) good day is not necessarily compatible with a happy life,” wrote Jennifer Michael Hecht in her book The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right is Wrong. “TV and beer is fun now, but good grades are bigger joy, and they require some resistance to TV and beer.

“The big desires have always been food, wine, sex, revenge, riches, products and fame. The danger — beyond fat, stupidity, syphilis, narcissism, taxes, clutter and gout — is meaninglessness. These desires and the hunt to fulfill them feel meaningless because they are only intrasubjectively sensible: while you are in a fit of wanting, planning and satisfying a desire — for revenge, say — it all makes sense. However, the moment after the gun goes off, or the moment after someone snaps you out of your thrall, you can see that the whole thing is a small, dark, crazy mess, like a tangle of seaweed on the beautiful beach of a majestic continent.”

The four central virtues for the Stoics were intelligence, bravery, justice and self-control, a list that always brings me the rather rueful reminder that Christianity simply ignores the first, and doesn't pay too much attention to the other three, either.

But despite the fact that our narcissistic, consumption-crazed culture actively discourages self-control, it remains a necessary precondition of our happiness. No wonder so few are happy.

Friday, August 28, 2020

American Police State Notches Up More Kills

You know what’s truly stomach-turning? To watch people contorting themselves like strippers on a greasy pole to make lame excuses for police criminality in Wisconsin.

Even as the rule of law collapses right in front of them, they’re willing to do anything but face the truth.

See, the Kenosha police chief says we’re ignoring the all-important CONTEXT that makes shooting an unarmed man seven times in the back okay.

That sure must be one hell of an interesting CONTEXT. Either that, or the Kenosha police chief is one brazenly lying sack of shit.

When I was 17 years old, I was working as a radio announcer and excited that I would soon be attending a university. I was not planning to get an assault rifle and cross state lines to hunt and murder some human beings. And if I had been, I’d still be in prison. Where I would belong.

Kenosha’s Killer Kops can ambush protesters by jumping out of unmarked cars, but they let a murderer like Kyle Rittenhouse walk away right past them, cross state lines and curl up in his cozy bed, his precious assault rifle still warm.

“This helps us understand what happened in Wisconsin as not a bug in the code of American policing, but a feature,” wrote Zack Beauchamp

“There’s a reason anti-police violence protesters have been met with crackdowns, while armed anti-lockdown protesters could menace the Michigan Capitol without incident.

“Police — who are heavily white, heavily male, and overwhelmingly conservative politically — see guns as a scourge when they’re in the wrong hands. But the ‘wrong hands’ tend to be black and brown ones. When respectable-seeming white people arm themselves, police welcome their intervention — even, or perhaps especially, in a tense situation where the potential for escalation to violence is really high.”

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Beyond Your Focusing Illusion

“People tend to regard certain things in life as necessary for happiness, when if fact they aren’t. The term ‘focusing illusion’ comes from the idea that you can be focused on a particular aspect of life, so much so that you can believe your whole happiness depends on it. Some have the focusing illusion on, say, marriage as a prerequisite condition for happiness. In that case, they will feel unhappy as long as they remain single. Some will complain that they cannot be happy because they don’t have enough money, while others will be convinced they are unhappy because they don’t have a proper job.

“In having a focusing illusion, you create your own reason for feeling unhappy. If unhappiness is a vacuum in which the required element is absent, that vacuum is created by the biased imagination of the subject.”

Ken Mogi, Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and purpose Every Day


This pandemic has taught me that several things I might have casually considered necessary for my happiness in fact have no bearing on it.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Dick Van Dyke: Man Without a Plan

Dick Van Dyke in 2010, rehearsing for a one-man show.

“Here is the truth: your teens and twenties are your plan A. At fifty, you’re assessing whether plan B or plan C or any of the other plans you hatched actually worked. Your sixties and seventies are an improvisation. There is no blueprint, and quite honestly you spend a lot of time feeling grateful you’re still here. Call it fate, luck or whatever. If you make it past then, as I have, you discover a truth and joy that you wish you had known earlier: there is no plan.

“As you get older, you figure this out. You relax. You exhale. You quit worrying. You shake your head with an accepting disbelief as family members and friends disappear like photos in a yearbook, leaving empty spaces where there used to be familiar faces, and occasionally you wonder when it will be your turn and what that will be like. You go for a walk — not to get from point A to point B but just because you want to feel the warm sun on your skin and enjoy fresh air.”

— Dick Van Dyke in his book Keep Moving and Other Tips About Aging. At 65, he started a new TV series, Diagnosis: Murder, which he continued for 10 years.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Ikigai: The Reward Beyond Recognition

“Once you achieve a state of blissful concentration, an audience is not necessary. You enjoy the here and now, and simply go on.

“In life, we sometimes misplace priorities and significance. Too often, we do something for the sake of rewards. If the rewards are not forthcoming, we are disappointed, and lose interest and zeal in the work. That is simply the wrong approach. In general, there are delays between actions and rewards. Even if you finish a good work, rewards are not necessarily forthcoming.

“Reception and recognition occur in a stochastic way, depending on many parameters our of your control. If you can make the process of making an effort your primary source of happiness, then you have succeeded in the most important challenge of your life.”

— Ken Mogi, Awakening Your Ikigai — How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Bang! Bang! Your Country's Dead


People did not wander around the streets with guns when I was growing up in the Midwest, nor did they feel deprived of any rights. This gun madness is the result of a relentless, 40-year fascist propaganda campaign, and it can be curtailed with the sensible gun safety laws we once had. Remember, Wyatt Earp enforced a law against carrying guns on the streets of Tombstone. There's no excuse for our being any less sane than the inhabitants of the wild, wild West.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Many Minds in Mine

“Buddhist thought and modern psychology converge on this point: in human life as it is ordinarily lived, there is no one self, no conscious CEO, that runs the show; rather there seem to be a series of selves that takes turns running the show — and, in a sense, seizing control of the show. In the way they seize controls is through feelings, it stands to reason that one way to change the show is to change the role that feelings play in everyday life. I’m not aware of a better way to do that than mindfulness meditation.”

“…to see that your mind is wandering is to see part of what the Buddha meant when he challenged conventional conceptions of the self; if a CEO-self existed, then presumably the mind would obey its commands and focus on the breath when told to. Now we’re in a position to go further and see that observing your mind in this unruly stage — trying to watch it as the default mode network rages on — can do more than suggest that the conscious ‘you’ isn’t running the show; it can shed light on what is running the show, revealing a picture of the mind strikingly consistent with the modular model.”

— Robert Wright, Why Buddhism Is True

Saturday, August 8, 2020

America, Land of the Selfish

Americans have been taught to be selfish by many decades of capitalistic propaganda, reinforced by TV shows like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," "Keeping Up with the Kardiashians" and "Survivor."

Friday, August 7, 2020

Meet the Republican Rat Lickers

Interesting to observe how the GOP has been aiming at abject stupidity all along. Their moment really arrived with Trumpolini. Abject stupidity is necessary if your political goal is to cut the throats of the people voting for you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

That Dear Beast Ian Fleming

Ian Flmeing and Nole Coward

“Dear Beastie —

“This is just to inform you that I have read ‘Dr. No’ from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. But as the gentleman in ‘Oklahoma!’ sings about Kansas City: ‘You’ve gone about as fur as you ken go.’

“I am willing to accept the centipede, the tarantulas, the land crabs, the giant squid. I am even willing to forgive your reckless use of invented verbs — I inch, Thou inch, He snakes, I snake, We palp, They palp, etc. But what I will neither accept nor forgive is the highly inaccurate statement that when it is 11 a.m. in Jamaica, it is 6 a.m. in dear old England.

“This, dear boy, not to put too fine a point on it, is a fucking lie. When it is 11 a.m. in Jamaica, it is 4 p.m. in dear old England and it is carelessness of this kind that makes my eyes steel slits of blue. I was also slightly shocked by the lascivious announcement that Honeychile’s bottom was like a boy’s! I know that we are all becoming progressively more broadminded nowadays, but really old chap, what could you have been thinking of?

“I am snaking off to New York on Thursday where I shall be for two weeks, and then I inch to Cannes.”

— That was a 1958 letter from author and performer Noel Coward to his friend and Jamaican neighbor Ian Fleming.

Ian Fleming and Noel Coward had an odd but strong friendship. Coward once extricated Fleming from a particularly awkward sexual entanglement, demanding and getting Fleming’s new camera and tripod as payment. Coward scolded Fleming over the bedroom farce, saying, “You, my dear, are just on old cunt teaser.”

The actor and director Roy Marsden, who starred as a British spy in TV’s ‘The Sandbaggers,’ observed, “Coward, of course, fancied Fleming like mad. Coward himself never admitted to being homosexual — he always said there were still one or two widows left in Worthing who didn’t know.”

Biographer Peter Quennell said Coward “…treated Ian as he might have treated a difficult social beauty or a wayward prima donna, and often criticized the extremely unfeeling use to which he put his great attractions.”

The Artistic License Renewed website not that Coward “…was famously offered the part of Dr. No in the eponymous film and remarked, ‘No, no, no!’ Nevertheless, he still enjoyed being around production, naturally taking a shine to Sean Connery.”

For his part, Fleming was one of the few people permitted to talk back to Coward, and at one point told him, “Don’t be a silly old bugger.”

Coward replied, “We don’t talk shop here, dear boy.”

Sean Connery and Noel Coward