Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quote of the Day--'24's' Degradation of the Presidency

"Whether Jack Bauer lives, dies, or falls off the grid is ultimately of little consequence, but how people view their president has a colossal effect on how we feel about our country and our place in it. If viewers found themselves relating to 24's final notes for its portrayal of a government bent on destruction, it's a disappointing, sullying end for one of television's most innovative shows."
--Joshua Alston

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quote of the Day--America's Spare Tire

"America used its spare tire to prevent a collapse of the banking system and to stimulate the economy after the subprime market crash. The European Union used its spare tire on its own economic stimulus and then to prevent a run on European banks triggered by the meltdown in Greece. This all better work, because we’re not only living in a world without any more spares but also in a world without distance. Nations are more tightly integrated than ever before. We’re driving bumper to bumper with every other major economy today, so misbehavior or mistakes anywhere can cause a global pileup."
--Thomas L. Friedman

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quote of the Day--The Purpose of Life

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”
--Robin Sharma from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Monday, May 03, 2010


I used to make fun of the idea that heaven is angels circling God saying "Hallelujah" for all eternity. "How boring!" I would exclaim and think that hell could scarcely be worse.

But if heaven were angels singing "Hallelujah" like K.D. Lang in this stupendously stunning version of the great Leonard Cohen song that she performed during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics this year in Toronto, heaven might be pretty blissful indeed.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

My Friend's Final Months

My former girlfriend recently learned that she has terminal liver cancer. First she was told that she probably had six months to live. But after more tests were run, her oncologist told her yesterday that it's closer to two months. She's 54 years young.

She said to me, "Why me? I'm a good person. I don't deserve this."

Of course she doesn't. Nobody "deserves" to die such a miserable death. Yes, someone could argue that she did things over the course of her life that likely helped bring this on. Yet, this doesn't mean she "deserves" to die so relatively young of such an awful disease.

But who cares, besides the handful of us who do? Does nature care? Does "God," by whatever name or formless form, care? I don't see how.

I don't know what to say to her at a time like this. Any comforting words that I contemplate offering her over the phone seem too shallowly if not insultingly platitudinous to utter. So, I mostly just listen with as much empathy and compassion as I can muster.

But how can one who's not in her position REALLY empathize with her? I know intellectually that I'm going to die someday, but I haven't had a doctor look me squarely in the eye and tell me I've got only two more months to live. Only if that were to happen, as perhaps it will someday, will I TRULY know what she's going through today. And by then it's likely to be of no benefit to her.

And without much empathy, there's not as much compassion as I'd like to feel and express. Because if the truth be told--and what else is this blog for if not to "nakedly" reveal the unvarnished truth within and without?--I almost envy her. For I've asked myself how I would feel if I were in her place, and the first word that came to mind was "relieved." After all, she's been living on borrowed time for eight or so years tethered to an oxygen machine and unable to do much of anything but lie in bed watching TV and sleeping. That must be awfully old by now. Soon, she'll be released from her gasping debility and suffering into pure nothingness.

But as soon as I post this, I'll call her and be as present for her as I can. And if her dying wish is granted and she's able to escape the loveless place that now imprisons her and come back to California to live out her last days with a longtime friend, I'll go see her and sit with her, and maybe, as I look into her eyes, hold her hand, and see and feel the life ebb from her body, something more will stir in me and radiate from me than I can feel or express now.

Maybe, when I witness, "up close and personal," the inescapable and implacable tragedy of her dying, I'll glow with more life and be able to meet my own eventual death or help others to meet theirs with fewer regrets than my friend undoubtedly feels over decades of wasted opportunities.

Like Wow, Man!

The longer I live and the more disillusioned I become with the so-called "meaningful" and "important" pursuits of life, the more I come to think that the quest to ride the "perfect wave" or engage in some joyfully meaningless equivalent is about the best we can hope for in this pointless life. So why not do it with all the gusto, if perhaps with a little less stereotypical mental and verbal incoherence, of the surfer dude below?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Quote of the Day--Noam Chomsky on Higher Education in America

"I had a startling experience a few weeks ago. I travelled to Mexico City for talks at the National University, an enormous and very impressive institution with high standards of achievement and scholarship. Entrance is selective, but the university is virtually free. I then visited an even more remarkable institution, the college in Mexico City established by former mayor Lopez Obrador. Again, the facilities and standards are quite impressive. It is not only free, but has open admissions, though sometimes that requires some delay and sometimes assistance for students lacking adequate preparation. Shortly after I went to San Francisco for talks, and learned more about the California institutions of higher education. They have been at the very peak of the international higher education system. By now tuitions are quite high, even for in-state students, and cutbacks are affecting teaching, research, and staff. It would be no great surprise if the two major state universities, UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles, will soon be privatized while the remainder of the state system is reduced considerably in scale and level. Needless to say, Mexico is a poor country with a struggling economy, and California should be one of the richest places in the world, with incomparable advantages. I mention these recent experiences only to emphasize that the recent cut-backs in higher education seen in much of the world cannot simply be traced to economic problems. Rather, they reflect fundamental choices about the nature of the society in which we will live. If it is to be designed for the wealthy and privileged, mostly engaged in management and finance while production is transferred abroad and most of the population is left to fend somehow for themselves at the fringes of decent and creative life, then these are good choices. If we have different aspirations for the world of our children and grandchildren, the choices are shameful and ruinous."
--Noam Chomsky