Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hurt feelings and miracle sugar

Livy (my 5 year old daughter) and I were having a tea party today with, Kayla (one of Livy's best friends) and Kayla's mom, Julie (one of my best friends), at Tea Leaves & Thyme in Woodstock, GA. Livy and Kayla were in paradise, donning floral and chic hats and dresses. At one point, Livy paused to sip her hot chocolate milk (which had been sitting for the half-hour of them trying on outfits). It was, she said, too hot, so she added a cube of sugar and stirred. At which point, she pronounced, "It's not hot anymore. Sugar makes things not hot." Julie and I did our darnedest to acknowledge the remark with an appropriately serious mien.

Livy is at that exciting time of life where virtually every experience seems to necessitate some generalization about reality. It is truly fascinating to watch. Much of the time her generalizations are spot on, and other times, if necessary, I give gentle advice on other possible cause and effects closer to the truth, which we eventually agree on. Yesterday, she and I found many worms under a stone in the yard. The worms began running (well, crawling) for cover upon seeing light. Livy announced, "They're going to find something to eat. Probably flies." I said, "You think they can catch flies?" Long pause. "No, probably not. They're going to eat some other bugs." I said I didn't know what worms ate, so we decided it was time to look it up on the Internet.

Some nice things about the worm story are that she quickly reformed her theory, and she understood what it means for daddy to honestly not know something and that facts can be discovered objectively when curiosity is strong enough. Her original remark showed that she was applying her generalization about the fact that animals usually go in search of food to survive and that many bugs and animals eat flies. She may have learned that you can't leap to generalizations too quickly. Maybe that will come later.

Once she gets that one down, she'll be a step ahead of the predominance of humanity.

All of the above was fun, but yesterday one of her best friends said flatly, "Livy isn't my friend." Ethan and Livy and I were in the car heading to an xmas-tree farm to cut down a small tree along with Ethan's family in another car. Ethan and Livy had played for 8 straight hours the day before and are constant companions many days each week. We were talking about friends and Livy said Ethan was her friend. That's when he said she wasn't. He wasn't being mean. He said that his little guy friend, Jason, played with robots with him, but Livy didn't. Livy started crying and said, "That makes me sad." My heart broke and I began to tear up in the front seat.

I didn't know whether to say anything, but I finally asked Ethan if Livy might be his friend because they swung on swings together, played with cars together, played house together, ran together, rode bikes together, watched cartoons together, played music together, shot nerf guns at each other and more. I thought the list of fun stuff would sway him. It did not. He said with equal verve, "Livy isn't my friend."

Livy was even more devastated, and I was more so because I thought surely Ethan would change his mind and that my ploy ended up causing Livy even more distress. Luckily, she seemed to understand and popped out of her misery fairly quickly after we all had a discussion about what friends are and after I told her that she was my friend.

But her mind was still on Ethan today. While she and I were decorating the xmas tree and putting lights around the house, she spontaneously said, "Ethan sometimes cries a lot."

She didn't mention the friend thing, but her mind was on her friend.

And my mind was on my sweet, lovely daughter, her kindness and our friendship.

Shoes, whiskey, panties, dictionaries and sperm

Journalists could learn a lot from the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush the other day: When a politician is speaking, throw something and don't grovel. Make a stand. Be somebody. Get creative. Have fun. Get some gonads. Treat the Oval Office with the (dis)respect it deserves in modern America. Give prime-time ratings a boost. Think "Reality TV."

That said, the whole projectile strategy should be taken a step further. It should be metaphorical. The Iraqi should have thrown a dictionary at the man who has mutilated (along with his father) the English language. With that in mind, here are some recommendations of projectiles that should have been thrown at presidents going back to Kennedy during their press conferences (which would have made watching required).

1) John Kennedy (who stole the election and was a womanizer) -- wadded-up ballot forms and soiled panties.
2) Lyndon Johnson (who stole his Senate seat and escalated in Vietnam) -- wadded-up ballot forms and human guts.
3) Richard Nixon (who enacted minimum wage rules and killed off the gold standard) -- blue-collar midgets (who must be tossed, not thrown) and fake gold nuggets.
4) Jimmy Carter (peanut farmer cum laude who had lust in his heart) -- boiled peanuts and sticky copies of Hustler Magazine.
5) Ronald Reagan -- exempt from Projectile Rule for making fun of Walter Mondale and making the media look like the mindless dolts they are and for being the best president of the 20th century.
6) George H.W. Bush (whose eloquence rivaled that of a non-English-speaking retard during his entire presidency and especially when the Soviet bloc collapsed) -- unexpurgated Oxford English Dictionaries and giant pieces of the Berlin Wall.
7) Bill Clinton (who wedded "sperm" and "presidency" in news accounts and bent his forefinger when talking down to the American people) -- giant, stiff dildoes lathering in, well, you know what.
8) George W. Bush (former clueless party boy cum clueless president and rabid Christian) -- King James bibles with carved-out centers containing tiny bottles of whiskey.

Of course, the one projectile good for all presidential speaking occasions is the pinocchio nose. That should be standard fair upon the opening remarks, and will come in especially handy when Barack Obama begins his four-year farce. Of course, the nose will need to be color appropriate, which can be accomplished by mixing feces and some of Bill Clinton's -- well, you get the idea.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Extraordinary talent

Here are four extraordinary videos:

12-year-old Brit girl

Car-phone warehouse worker sings Nessun Dorma

The divine Freddie Mercury

Little astounding Mozart six-year-old girl composer and pianist

Freedom's, uh, a good thing, a-yuck, a-yuck

If President Bush bails out the Big Three automakers, that act will finally make him one of the worst presidents of the last 100 years -- and seal his "legacy" as one of the most clueless simpletons who ever occupied the Oval Office and compromised freedom.

Since taking office in 2001, he has shown himself no friend of free markets or liberty with the following: 1) the “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2002; 2) the Medicare Act of 2003 on prescription drugs (called “the greatest expansion in America’s welfare state in 40 years”); 3) failure to partially privatize Social Security when he had the chance in 2004; 4) failure to relieve massive regulation on oil drilling; 5) veto of fundamental stem cell research in July 2006; 6) building a monstrous wall between the U.S. and our friends in Mexico; 7) enhancement of the abysmal “drug war”; 8) beginning of a trillion-dollar war in Iraq instead of strategically annihilating the military-industrial complex of terrorist nations such as Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan; 9) approval of tens of billions in aid to foreign countries; 10) failure to protect U.S. company assets that were confiscated in Venezuela and elsewhere; 11) approval of a giant, reprehensible bailout of Wall Street.

President Bush’s equivocation on freedom belies a muddled intellect, whose expression wrought its finest (lowest) hour on Sept. 14, 2001, when he referred to the 9-11 murderers as “the people who knocked these buildings down.” What! Did he think they were bad boys playing with Tinker Toys? Any true lover of freedom winced at the hokey inanity and wistfully wished for a Ronald Reagan eloquence at such a perilous moment – perhaps something along the lines of “these demented assassins who destroyed two towering beacons of free America and murdered thousands of hard-working citizens.” Bush isn't a cowboy; he's a boy-cow.

If the president revives the Big Three from their much-deserved death rattle, then he will have sealed his fate as one of this country’s most ineloquent and preposterously befuddled leaders. That won't prevent him from doing yuck-yuck speaking tours at $50,000 a pop after he rides his ass into the sunset. But at least the smirking dimwit will no longer be that guy who is knocking this freedom-thing down.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No schooling means lots of learning

"I have gone through a lot in my life. I have the stability but not the worry. I found that all the skills necessary for me to live a life and learn things did not come from the formal school. If I wanted to do something, I could learn it and do it myself. So, I believe humans have a great potential in learning, but the school system is destroying such potential. If we instead allow the children to grow naturally, they would not have any fear and will learn to be confident and respectful of themselves."

Those are the words of a Thai man who unschooled himself (no formal education) and his son. The man is not completely objective about all things, but he understands that children need their volition honored, and that a formal schooling system does not do that. To read the rest of the article in which the above quote came, read this.

I have written about unschooling on Objectivist lists and forums for quite some time (including a long letter in The Objective Standard earlier this year), but most Objectivists still maintain that formal schooling is a sine qua non of the good life. That is unfortunate -- especially for their children, but also for others looking at Objectivism and seeing that some of its adherents violate the laws of volition and values when it comes to children.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Outback or the Outhouse?

If you want a taste of the Outback, may I suggest you make a run to the restaurant or catch an Imax documentary?

But don't see the new "epic" Australia at the theater.

Yes, there are the wonderful images (that you could see at the Imax). Yes there's the aboriginal viewpoint (with horrid voice-over, which is almost always a good indicator of bad movie-making). Yes, there is Hugh Jackman, a silly, stewing, over-the-top cowherd called, of course, "Drover." Yes, there is Nicole Kidman, mugging it up and mucking up her cliched lines.

To be fair, I can only attest to half the epic. I walked out midway through the awful tale -- run off finally when the aboriginal boy somehow stops a herd of cows stampeding toward him at a cliff's precipice after the boy stares at them with ghostly mien and points mystical fingers while his ancestral grandfather witch-doctor watches proudly from atop nearby mountain with fire blazing. "I'm outta here!" The mysticism pervades the movie, which couldn't even muster sympathy from me for its two main stick figures (see above).

The filmmaker, Baz Luhrmann, uses mysticism for sympathetic effect and deus ex machina. Cheap and insulting. He exaggerates the image of the country's unique animals (In one scene, he's got a group of kangaroos jumping in formation next to a moving vehicle.) and then plays farce by having one of the aborginees shoot the lead animal, causing me and my fellow moviegoers to gasp and then laugh. (Great for comedic farce, not for epics.) At another point, he has a female friend of Drover run at a humanly impossible speed next to Drover's clunky pick-up to have a casual conversation with the blithe Drover, much to the feigned horror of the Kidman character. Such meaningless farce seemed an attempt to show Australians' reputation for being laid back in the Outback. There are other, more sincere and even funny ways to achieve character description.

Luhrmann has had the audacity to say that he's learned from the masters: David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, Bridge on the River Kwai) and the directors of Gone With the Wind, Ben-Hur, Giant, Braveheart, Lonesome Dove and The Searchers. No, he hasn't. If you want to test his "learning," try to sit through Australia and then rent Lawrence of Arabia, and bask in bigger-than-life characters, magnificent acting, real drama and tremendous cinematography in what may be the best movie in the history of filmmaking (except for the ending). A true epic.

Usually in reviewing a movie that disappoints me, I like to poke a lot of fun. But after reading reviews of Australia, I had my hopes up for seeing another good rendition of my favorite movie format: the epic.

Instead, after the little boy stopped the cows, all I could think of was getting some relief in the bathroom. If there'd been an outhouse nearby, I would've found that a more appropriate place for a purge.

Goodbye, Uncle Tom

One happy side-effect of the election of our new, fascist, mixed-race commander-in-chief is that it seems to have virtually ended diatribes about how America is allegedly racist. Even the terrible toad Jesse Jackson has morphed into an exultant Grim Weeper. I've noticed an extra hop in the step of black friends, acquaintances and workers. A warmer smile. A little better service, even. I don't think it's my imagination.

Even better than a possible death knell of imaginary racism is an ostensive contempt for Uncle Tom-ism. So-called black leaders are pronouncing with greater confidence the need to move up and be proud of moving up, doing business and being proud of doing business, dressing for success instead of parading in underwear. To give the wonderful Bill Cosby credit, he was doing this before it became cool in the last month, but the chorus has followed. Newspaper columnists are no longer tight-lipped about their agreement with Mr. Cosby. One of the high officials at Morehouse College in Atlanta (historically black college) publicly announced yesterday that he wants students to get "in the zone": no cursing, no sagging pants, no use of the word "niggas." He wants a "Renaissance man" who is "well-read, well-traveled, well-spoken, well-dressed and well-balanced."

Renaissance man!! Imagine hearing such a wonderful and noble phrase from the leader of a black college just one year ago, ante-Obama. Imagine a brave man having said it one year ago and the backlash of contempt that would've followed, as if black men and women needed to be allegedly like their white counterparts.

No. Not anymore. If I'm not being too optimistic, we seem to finally be past our past in this country. Not completely, of course, but pretty damned close. Obversely, perhaps the whites who have lived under "white guilt" will move along as well. The gates are open. All bets are off. Let the tide roll in and remain high.

As we Objectivists know, career is the life-blood of self-esteem. Work is one's connection to the world, the thing that provides tangible, palpable reality to one's self, to one's values, to one's identity, to one's self-esteem. Now, blacks can have that identity without qualms, without worrying that they will be maligned with the sobrequet of "Uncle Tom." What a liberation! They can feel the full pride of their chosen profession and walk proudly in the knowledge that what they do is what they are. Those of us who are of races that have not lived under such psychological oppression will benefit from the concomitant good will of our fellow humans with black skin.

I loathe Mr. Obama's politics, and so I may generalize and say that I loathe his ethics, his morality -- him. I wish his obvious "stature" were well-placed in liberty. It is not. But I thank him for finally giving eulogy to Harriet Beecher Stowe's obsequious slave and what he has ironically come to represent.

I so I say, "Goodbye, Uncle Tom." May you rest in history.

Poor health equals poor self-esteem

Between the ages of 25 and 41, I jogged at least 20 miles a week. Health was a major value for me. But I wasn't completely healthy, and I evaded the fact. I was too thin and looked older than my age. I saw this in the mirror, and I felt it in my bowels. I had diarrhea after every long run. I had perennial gas problems. I had poor digestion and constant issues on the toilet. I had convinced myself that my exercise made me healthy automatically, and that I could eat anything I wanted, as long as I got enough protein. I even convinced myself that my diarrhea was a regular "cleansing" -- something my sympathetic ex-wife, Kelly, used to laugh at (rightly so, I came to find out).

I thought I had pretty high self-esteem. I was right -- and the accent was on "pretty." I didn't have full self-esteem. I wasn't completely objective about my life and my values. I hadn't dealt with my own dissatisfaction with my journalistic job and my own desire to do work that was much more satisfying. That evasion and earlier evasions about other aspects of my life got me used to evasions in general. If you allow one evasion, then that irrationality will breed it to construct ever-more clever subconscious evasions. It lives like a tape-worm in your subconscious until you consciously go in search of it and kill it.

I had started working on my evasions and being completely rational at the age of 31, when I discovered Objectivism. I worked through perhaps 90% of my irrationality but had not done the mental work necessary to complete the task of living a totally rational life and killing the tape-worm. At 41, I'd gotten to where I was virtually totally conscious of and in control of all my thoughts (a final step in working through one's issues and being totally honest) and had begun to wonder at my digestive and health issues. I finally felt like I was worthy to have a body that reflected the new me, the new full-bodied self-esteem.

That was when Kelly approached me about her discoveries on the importance of a healthy diet (see my previous post on that). The facts were incontrovertible. I could not (would not) evade them. I began to eat right. Within months, I was looking healthier and my digestion actually started working properly. The toilet was no longer a quarter-hour foe. My digestion hadn't been that good since I was 15. By the time I was 44, I looked younger than I did at 36. In fact, Kelly and I would see a photo of me in my mid-30s and were blown away at how bad I looked.

At 41, I also quit my journalism job and got a job that was more fulfilling for my personality. And I did my writing on the side, with the thought that I would one day do it much more when my financial situation allowed it.

I have now fine-tuned what Kelly taught me and have a diet that is simply amazing and has me feeling like I did in my early 20s. When I reflect on the days of evasion, I realize that what caused me to evade all those years in front of the mirror and on the toilet was a poor self-esteem, caused by evasion of values. My poor self-esteem was reflected in my body. I simply didn't WANT to change anything because I didn't DESERVE to change anything. I didn't deserve to be healthy. It's an insidious thing, really. And when I see or hear of the same scenario in friends or family now, I realize the same thing is happening with them. And it pains me, especially when they won't listen to me.

I try to be diplomatic about it, but inside I'm wanting to scream, "Friend, focus on the values. Get your self-esteem back. Get your health back. Live life to its fullest. Live long. Get off the toilet. Have fun looking in the mirror."

I want my friends to feel as happy about their health as I now do mine. I want to share in the exuberance of a life well-lived and well felt. Perhaps, if they read this, they will see themselves in me and what I was, and decide, as I finally did, that NOW is the time to change their diet and change their life.

Godspeed, if you do, my friends!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

99 & 44/100s percent pure love -- er, health

I’m no expert on diet, though I’ve been doing regular research for 5 years now. What I’ve found through my own experimentation and through reading is that supplements (including vitamins) are unnecessary as a general rule, and that they are needed only in special circumstances.
Here’s what I’ve found:

1) Eat fruits and legumes and nuts and vegetables (mostly uncooked, except for those few that release their nutrients more easily cooked, like broccoli and tomatoes).
2) Eat meat (high in loads of necessary vitamins, like B-12, Iron, etc.)
3) Get at least 1.5 hours of direct sunlight each week (may need Vitamin D supplement or get more dairy, if you don’t)
4) Consume VERY small amounts (or none at all) of sugar, refined flour, preservative-laced foods, sodas, artificial sweeteners.
5) Do vigorous exercise at least 3 times a week, and stretch after each exercise for 15 minutes.

I think the above 5 apply to every human on the planet, but there are exceptions to “kind” and quantity. People with allergies obviously have to be careful about which foods from the above categories to choose from since some are allergic to shellfish, peanuts, gluten, etc. Also, people can be going through a particular experience that requires an “additive,” such as possibly a need for more folic acid during pregnancy. I’ve come to believe that a vegan diet is detrimental to good health, requiring large amounts of “additives” to attain nearly normal health.
Also, as we age, our bodies may become a little less efficient at processing (though I’m not sure about this, if one keeps a good diet and exercise program). It may be necessary to get supplements of good bacteria.

The main thing I’d been struggling with five years ago is what is the perfect (or near-perfect) measure of good health. What I’ve found is the following: good bowel movements; good quality sleep; erect posture; muscle and tendon elasticity; strong bones and teeth; good gums; clear skin; fluid mental activity; no achy joints; almost no sickness; quick healing. If one of these areas is compromised, then I think a person should look closely at their diet and exercise programs with an objective eye and do good research and then commit to trial and error to make sure they get it fixed properly. This can take time and dedication. I’ve found that just one pigging out on pizza or Ramen noodles or burritos affects my sleep, my mood, my energy, my digestion, my bowel movements. That isn’t a coincidence.

I’ve come to believe that diet and exercise are directly linked to virtually every physical and mental health problem in humankind, including ADD, Alzheimer’s, strokes, cancer, arthritis, type-2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, etc. I do believe some of us may be more prone genetically to certain health problems, but I think that diet and exercise can offset that tendency to some degree or completely.

For myself, I don’t feel like I get quite enough enzymes because I cook some of my food, so I supplement with Green Vibrance (acidophilus, “green” food). I also take Omega 3 fish oil in liquid form. And I take pure amino acid pills (called MAP from occasionally if I’m planning a very hard workout (they are good at rebuilding worked muscles). I take these few supplements because I don’t eat enough fish and cook some of my food, thereby compromising my body to a small degree and forcing me to replenish.