Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Complexities of the English Language

With the undaunted and continuous reporting on every aspect of our world – both political and personal – as a result of the “twenty-four-hour-news cycle,” certain phrases appear again and again in our Media ad nauseum.   It isn’t just the “talking heads” who commit the sin of “pundit drivel.” It’s the supposed “experts” of all fields whom the pundits interview.  We are being proselytized on a daily basis to thinking in terms of the clichéd cliché.

Here are few that have come to make me cringe:  

“. . .having said that...”

“. . .that being said. . .”

“. . .at the end of the day. . .”

“. . .we’ll get to that on the other side. . .” (of the commercial break).

“. . .he allegedly. . .” (did something like cross the street).  

“. . .what were (are) your feelings. . .?” (asked of someone who can hardly speak because of being choked up with tears after a tragedy in their lives).

". . .sorry for your loss  . . ."

". . .what was going through your mind . . .? (when the gunman shoved the gun in your face). 

“. . . let’s DO this. . .”

“. . . be that as it may. . .”

“. . . so . . . “  (a word currently used to preface the answer to a question – Mike Morell should know better!)

“. . . like . . . “  (Oh, please, let’s get rid of this word used to begin a sentence or to fill a pause.  Like, I'd be over-joyed!)  

“. . . I know what the optics are. . .” The White House Staff uses “optics” a lot.  How about something like, “. . . I know how this appears. . .”

Appearances do matter and so do words.

My latest peeve, however, is the use of “complex” when the speaker means “complicated.”  Yes, the dictionary makes it sound like they are interchangeable.  However, there is a subtle difference in the connotation of the words.  In the case of the word “complex” the connotation is and has always been one of the following: containing multiple interconnected parts; a composite; multi-faceted; a complex system of something.  "Complicated, on the other hand, is not that complicated -- it connotes difficult to understand, analyze, explain or follow.

Am I the only one who gets rankled with the sloppy use of I and me, he and him as well as she and her?  One should give it to "me;" therefore, one should also give it to "him and me" or "her and me."  Please don't let one give it to her and I, since one would never give it to "I," would they?   I guess it's just me!  

Next up:  my rant on Pharmaceutical commercials.  I’ll bet you can’t wait! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Listen to Doctor Spock but Follow Captain Kirk

The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment: How the Left-brain Plays Unending Games of Self-improvement (Kindle Edition) - my review of this book on Amazon in June of this year.
This book is about many things and was, at first, difficult for me to find a single cohesive theme. My liberal arts background was primed for a beginning, middle and end, but in dealing with this material, there is no way to deliver information in a neatly wrapped package. Professor Chris Niebauer states at one point in the book, "Perhaps the lack of consistency is something you noticed while reading this. What is the book about? Psychology? Science? Spirituality?"

It was, in fact, about all of those, with quite a bit of "the new consciousness movement" mixed in.

Niebauer, a college professor of Neuropsychology, presents what ultimately turns out to be a stimulating examination dealing with left- brain, right brain responses. I learned that we are a product of an evolutionary left-brain "interpreter" which has (probably) saved us from extinction by providing a modicum of paranoia, caution and dare I say - good sense early in our evolution, so that instead of running towards our early predators, we ran from them, thus avoiding being eaten.

This isn't meant to be facetious, though it is, perhaps, a bit satirical, as the cover of the book boasts a Buddha with a sardonically lifted left eyebrow which turns out to be a feisty clue to the tone of the book.

A significant portion of the book discusses the work of Michael Gazzaniga, whose research. along with Roger Sperry, on the "split-brain" and free will is frequently cited. "Free will is an illusion," says Gazzaniga. This is augmented, according to Niebauer, by the teachings of Eckhardt Tolle and Alan Watts. I was not familiar with Watts, but I've read Tolle who is not a scientist, but a popular spokesman for the "new consciousness," professing that the "illusory sense of self" or the "egoic self" interferes with our desire to reach consciousness. This is also part of the Buddhist tradition, however, Buddhism, as I recall, attempts to go beyond the personal "self" in order to reach a "higher" self.

I enjoyed the author's lively style of writing including an abundance of references to his children and their innate right-brain tendencies to answer a question with a non-interpretive "verb" answer (also termed the "how") as opposed to our adult, more cautious approach to stimuli called the "noun" or the "what" response. (I interpreted this to be relevant because verbs are action-oriented; nouns are static). Children have not fully developed their "pattern perceivers" and therefore can speak "Zenfully;" ie, without placing things in categories (a left-brain trait).

It was the Zen-fullness that I missed most about the book - a more in depth discussion of the relationship of Eastern philosophies to the ever so subtle change in the scientific community discussed by the author, which allows for the possibility that who we are is not contained in the (physical) brain that dies, but in our consciousness (which might not die at all).

My question, then, is, what is consciousness? Is it that deep sense of awareness encountered by Edgar Mitchell as he rode back to earth from outer space having experienced the utter "connectedness" of the universe? Is consciousness a part of the brain? Or simply that quiet place we all seek through meditation? Is consciousness the "mind?" The "soul?" Is it a void waiting to be filled? According to Niebauer, matter makes up only 5% of .000000000000000000042% in the universe. Then, of what is the rest of the universe made?

Professor Neibauer was able to suggest to me, at least, a conclusion: what I gleaned from the book was that the right brain may ultimately lead us to a state of consciousness to which, I, as a Yoga practitioner and meditation enthusiast, am eager to find. The right-brain (person) is intrepid, a risk taker, a doer; he is action-oriented: he/she is Captain Kirk, while the left-brain may be Dr. Spock, a logical voice of caution; This is the perfect metaphor for me, as the most memorable and revealing moments in my life have been those unthinking explorations into the unknown--a voyage to an undisclosed destination, to "boldly go" where I have never gone before.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering JFK

Each year during the past forty-nine,  there has been less and less said about JFK's assassination. It appalled  me, but I understood that most of us living today weren't even born in 1963.

Today I feel vindicated as the channels are full of his family, his funeral and his exploits,  though as usual, the media doesn't know when enough is enough.  It's okay, though, because our younger citizens need to know. Even though we will be inundated over the weekend,  allow me one more personal remembrance of JFK:

I was kind of in love with Kennedy. I admired his family and followed his administration; I was young and idealistic and when I read of his heroic exploits in the South Pacific during WWII, I became a devotee. Until today, however, his legacy has been laced with a kind of blandness as though aside from his youth, his wit and charisma, his attractive young family, he really accomplished very little. This is blatantly false.

There are a number of things to admire about his presidency other than his weekly banter with the White House Press Corp and his awe inspiring speeches. True, he allowed Khrushchev to get the upper hand (at first). Also true, that the Berlin Wall went up during his tenure. Indeed, he resided over the Bay of Pigs fiasco and we're all aware of his "indiscretions." But I believe today, that had that young president lived, he might have been one of our greatest leaders. Remember, he had only a thousand days in which to accomplish his agenda.

The thing I remember about the Kennedy administration was the sense of idealism and public service it inspired in us, more than I have seen since, even though President Obama came close in 2008. We wanted to serve back then; patriotism was not just a word being thrown back in our faces when we disagreed with government policies, it was a conviction. We believed passionately and reacted fervently.

As for his accomplishments, take note: the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress, Civil Rights legislation, the Space Program and the introduction of the Green Berets. His major accomplishment, however, was a tight and tense little psychological drama between the USA and the USSR known as The Cuban Missile Crisis, which, without the facile maneuvering of the Kennedys, might have left the world in a state of nuclear disaster.

I guess his potential greatness will never be known which is what happens when someone takes you out before your time. But I think when all is said and done, his star will ultimately shine as one of the brightest. And though there are abundant tributes to you this day, Mr. President, I would like to say that I remember.  And I am grateful to have learned my political abc's under your leadership. You never blamed others for your mistakes -- you took your lumps with calm and grace. How refreshing it would be if our leaders today would learn to do the same.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What now?

I haven't written a post since January -- that's over six months ago.  The reason is that my husband and I moved house and home and I got a fast paced, fairly stressful job, having to commute 104.3 miles a day.  And then, just to add a little flavor to the mix, I broke a small bone in my foot -- which is bearable, but a nuissance.

I quit the job after 5 and a half months and we are now temporarily ensconsed with my son until August 30 or so.  I hobble around the house wondering what to do with myself for another six weeks at which time we will move to a little house on the Oregon Coast for a year.   It sounds like we're busy, doesn't it? 

Still, I'm not doing anything right now.  I'm not writing, I'm not working; I lay around, nursing my foot so I can walk up and down the streets of Manhattan for a week without a crutch. 

I look forward to this trip as I have not been there since I was seventeen and had a huge bite out of the Big Apple for which I was at a perfectly ripe age:  theatre, the Met, Times Square, LaPuma Opera, sitting at Russell's Coffee Shop until the 3 a.m. Workers' Mass at (I think) St. Gregory's.  Wonderful memories, all.

Still,  what now? 

I have a full month and a half to do something meaningful.  A new novel is what I should be writing, as my husband says, nudging  me every morning to "get started."  One so completely different from my first one, that it will blow people away he says. 

"Not away," I suggest,  "blow their minds, maybe."

Let us hope.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Many Layers of Knowing

Many Layers of Knowing
This review is from: When the Eagle Flies with the Condor: A Novel of the Sixties (Paperback)
"When the Eagle Flies with the Condor," is not a simple or undemanding book. Most good works require something from the reader and this book asks for your attention. You will be immensely rewarded if you can read it through as I did, cover to cover, in a weekend.

The story covers a period I'm familiar with - the rambunctious sixties: the rebelliousness, the quirkiness, the easy love, the drugs, and of course the war. These are all background attributes, but as the characters move smoothly among them, they create their own personal history which becomes a rich and colorful fabric with them in the foreground.

Bernie is an unlikely heroine, bold and sometimes obnoxious with her bossiness, yet tender and giving to a fault. Her life epitomizes the loose world--a dynamism that lasts a decade. Though she dabbles in the major events of the time, including anti-war protests that rock the nation, she chooses instead to care for and live among the natives of Bolivia, thus providing the novel with tension and an intriguing sub-plot involving Che Guevara. Her brother, Nick, is the love of her life, who, becomes disenchanted with his at an early age and opts to enlist and deploy to Vietnam. Here, he meets the third leg of this literary threesome, Spirit Deer, a native American Pawnee.

Nick and Deer are brothers in spirit and Deer gradually becomes enamored with Bernie through her letters to Nick. He and Nick share their fears and longings through the long Vietnamese nights and Deer gives Nick the support he seems to need, facing death, and the shams of the modern world.

The book has many layers of knowing - historical, romantic, an exotic land, religious, native shamanistic ritual, and the spiritual and all-consuming love of mother earth known by the natives as Pachamama.

Don't miss "When the Eagle Flies with the Condor, a novel of the Sixties." You won't regret it. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chuck Hagel for Defense

I am very confused and more disappointed in our Congress than ever when I hear reasonably intelligent senators like Lindsay Graham say that Chuck Hagel would be “very antagonistic toward the state of Israel” if he becomes Secretary of Defense.  How does he come to this point of view? 
Well, it seems, that in a 2006 interview, Mr. Hagel made the comment that the "political reality" in Washington was that "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here," presumably a statement that reeks of anti-Semitism.  Jewish lobby is a politically incorrect statement to the conservative right, as no one wants to admit that the current bellicose Netanyahu government controls a lot of what does go on in Washington.  So perhaps Israeli lobby would have been a more appropriate term. But the Netanyahu goverment is loved neither by all Israelis, nor all Jews and is farther right in the conservative sense than most of the tea party in our own House of Representatives.  They worked furiously with the help of Sheldon Adelson’s billions and other wealthy Americans to elect Mitt Romney for president in November.  If this is not lobbying, what is? 
We have hundreds of lobbies and lobbyists in Washington; why is Jewish lobby such a controversial term anyway?  In a recent article by Richard Cohen in The Washington Post, he discusses Anita Shapira’s new book, “Israel:  a History” in which she freely uses the term, Jewish lobby. “Shapira is professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University,” writes Cohen. 
 I had believed Lindsay Graham to be less partisan than he’s shown himself to be.  But then, look what happened to McCain whose petulant attitude towards all things Obama, began to take shape after the election in 2008. As I think about it, perhaps that is why Graham is so virulent in his opposition to Hagel:  he (Graham) is and has always been a McCain supporter and Hagel (a Republican) supported Obama instead of McCain in 2008.  In my opinion this is even more evidence that his view of the world would be less partisan and more thoughtful. 
Aside from the issue of anti-semitism which some claim disqualifies Mr Hagel,  he is a fully qualified candidate, not only by virtue of his senate career, but by virtue of his combat experience as a grunt during the war in Vietnam during which he earned not one, but two Purple Hearts. He has the experience and understanding of the enlisted man and will  not only be unwilling to send them in to battle unnecessarily but support them when they return home.  
He will counsel diplomacy – another dirty word to some – and will attempt to bring sanity to the manic leader in the Middle East, who is twitching to drop a bomb on Iran and then wait for the U.S. military to clean up his mess.  Additionally, he urges talks with Hamas, the despised Palestinians, and others in that Middle Eastern caldron of hate.   
That Mr. Hagel will not be a puppet to Benjamin Netanyahu is evident in a statement he made in 2008: “I am not an Israeli senator; I am a United States senator.”  This is not a statement made by an anti-Semitic, dear readers, this is a statement made by a true patriot whose own country is his primary concern. And if Mr. Graham truly believes that former Senator Hagel as Secretary of Defense will be antagonistic towards the state of Israel because he believes there is an Israeli Lobby in Washington, he should wake up.  It exists -- now, during the campaign and will continue to exist after Netanyahu gains another term as Prime Minister (as is expected) on the 22nd of this month.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Voices of Vituperation.

Enough Already!

I am really, really tired of all the hate-mongering and vile language out there about President Obama. 

The election is over.  Live with it!