“Virginia Is For. . .”

I imagine about 75% or more of you could finish that slogan. “Virginia Is For Lovers” is that state’s motto and it has adorned their license plates for years.

However, at the present time it seems kind of out of step with the contemporary political  Zeitgeist. How about instead, “Virginia is for. . . Hypocrites” or “Blackface” or “Racists” or just plain “Pro-infanticide Democrats.”

That state’s Governor Ralph Northam has kind of become the post-Schneiderman poster-boy for the contemporary Democrat party — hypocritical, unforgiving, anti-Life and obsessed with race and the politics of victimhood. He’s the gift that keeps on giving to the GOP

Northam is a medical doctor. He says Virginia needs a doctor to heal its racial wounds or some double-talk to that effect. This man is a pediatric neurologist and yet he believes in killing infants up to and even after birth. That would seem to be a violation of the Hippocratic Oath. However, in his dogged, prideful refusal to resign he’s got the doctor/god-thing down in spades.

Also, in an interview with an African-American CBS TV host he referred to the first slaves coming to Virginia in 1619, as “indentured servants.”  His remark about the 400th anniversary of slavery being introduced to Virginia was almost celebratory. Gayle King quickly corrected him and he dropped the euphemism — but talk about gaffe upon gaffe.

There have been plenty of howls for his resignation, but the loudest come from his own party. The delicious thing for the GOP, however, is that both his lieutenant governor and the state’s attorney general have compromised pasts with allegations of sexual assault and more blackface. They are both Democrats and second and third in line should he resign.

Ah, the schadenfreude. 

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Worry: It’s Job One

“If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate.” ~ Rick Warren 

Unfortunately, my first semi-conscious morning thoughts are often about situations over which I have little control — life’s big what-ifs.  Worrying, obsessing, ruminating is how I reflexively spend or waste much of my cognitive/emotional capital.  Worry is of course a form of anxiety— sometimes the prelude to a full-blown panic attack. Worry would also seem to be rather pointless, as it in itself it does not change reality one iota.

However, I usually tell my anxious clients that obsessively worrying is a type of problem solving gone awry. Like a hound with an old soup-bone obsessive folks gnaw and gnaw on the facts of a situation without ever coming to a new solution.

Behavioral scientist have given us a good explanation for the pervasiveness of worry. The act of worrying is reinforced by the good outcome — the fact that 90-some percent of what we worry about never comes to pass. Thus in one’s unconscious magical thinking it was the worry that caused the favorable outcome. And not only that the longer and harder we worry the more likely it is that we will NOT end up bankrupt and homeless, die of cancer or from the tsunami caused by an asteroid crashing into the ocean.

Life’s worries and anxieties bubble up spontaneously from our unconscious. It is a process over which we have little or no control. Worries will come to mind whether we like it or not. However, once they’re in our conscious mind we have the power to decide whether we will think on them (ruminate, obsess) or change our focus.

I tell clients that obsessively worry there’s a saying: “You cant stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest.”

There are various cognitive-behavioral (CBT) strategies to deal with obsessive worrying. However, I think the Christian alternative is the best option. Prayer and meditation can sometimes lead to a solution, and the Bible has plenty of scriptures about fear and anxiety that one can memorize.  However, Paul provides us with the best suggestion in Philippians 4:8. He writes that we should “think on these things”– the true, the just, the lovely, the honest, the pure and the virtuous. I write about this strategy and others in my book The Unwelcome Blessing. 

One cannot “think” something out of their thoughts. As soon as you’re told not to think about something it comes to the front of the queue. So the answer is to replace your obsessive worries with positive thoughts — the true, the lovely and the virtuous.  Like Nature, our mind abhors a vacuum. Consider the parable of the house swept clean that Jesus told and that Luke recorded (11:24-26).  A demon is driven out of a man and unable to find rest he returns to the house swept clean — and he brings seven more demons with him. And the man’s state of mind becomes even worse than it had been. Worries do not go away, they just generalize and multiply. Better to fill the mind swept clean with the lovely, the true and the virtuous — scripture, good literature and uplifting music.  An unswerving focus on thoughts such as these will eventually lead to having little or no room for worry.

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Connectivity Derangement Syndrome

Planet Fitness: People texting between sets, texting in the locker room, texting as they walk. Whole lotta texting goin’ on, and every third person is wearing ear buds. Ear buds are almost as prevalent as tattoos amongst the under-45 crowd. Presumably they’re listening to music — but maybe not.

Mindfulness has become a hot topic in the past few years but I’m here to tell you about mindlessness. If mindfulness is being aware and alive in the moment, then mindlessness is being focused on electronic media a degree or two removed from the immanent, tangible now.

Planet Fitness has a sign that says folks should only talk on their phones in the lobby. Good rule — but the Planet folks are apparently not brave enough to add texting. I don’t get it; I leave my phone in the car at the gym. I leave my phone in the car when I’m in church and when I’m going to a movie. I can do without connectivity for a couple hours without going into withdrawal.

Sitting at a traffic light folks are texting and miss a quick light change. I don’t get it. The under-45 world has lost its collective mind. The millennials especially can’t be without their electronic fix — codependent on connectivity.

Funny meme: “I saw a guy today at Starbucks. He had no smartphone, no tablet, no laptop. He just sat there drinking his coffee. Like a psychopath.”

Now old people who are not dependent on cell phones or computers are suspect and young people should be wary of them — like psychopaths. But I’m not immune. I make fun of people my age who still use flip phones and cant access the internet from their phone.

I’ve written extensively on TDS: Trump Derangement Syndrome. Now we can add Connectivity Derangement Syndrome (CDS) to the diagnostic lexicon.

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Alfred Turns 100

Tis true!                                                                                                                                                     the proof, you see, was in the rock.                                                                                                            Stratas of a century past. . .                                                                                                            The voice that woke us and we drowned. . . and                                                                                            Twas nothing that could be done                                                                                                   as everything that could be done or said was done                                                                          or blown to bits or to the slaughtatorium sent. . . Finito !

Escalator Up backwards arms outstretched                                                                                          the Ascension I became                                                                                                                        Escalator Down arms open wide the Incarnation.                                                                       Up and Down. . .Down and up. . .and repeat . . .                                                                                      Rapt confused. 

But I thank you C.S. and T.S. with hearts aflame                                                                            and Herr Rofkar who many a time and oft in the Rialto                                                                  strained the quality of mercy in his petty place                                                                               to the last syllable of recorded time which was sixth period I Think                                                     and I thank you Dr. Edgar Garrett and Paul G. Moore and even Orville W                                  who taught me about the cinema and the Odessa Steps. . .                                                              but not the Twelfth Step or the Two Step or the Rumba.

Gagged by a fuzzy peach I dared not eat — but I loved the Blade Peach Section with its cheesecake and all the measured coffee cups of mornings past & lost                                                   and yellow raisin bread with scrambled eggs and the smells                                                 wafting up to the chapel from the kitchen at Nazareth Hall                                                               rosary in hand, True Cross sliver on the silver altar reliquary.  

A century past, time dropped in decay, the candle burnt out                                                          But I thank You again for the Eroica, for Rachmaninoff, Swan Lake,                                            Carmen and all things melodic and numinous — and I dared not ask                                                what is it? and yet I went and made my visit.                                                                                      And I thank You for the talented Mrs. Bunskin from whom                                                        I learned so much but mostly about being me and a man — not                                                    mutually exclusive — and for ’93: shingles and Linda and Dr. Joel

and all blessings welcome and unwelcome and the wherewithal to write                                    it all and at all and for word-processors and for mentors and teachers and leaders and friends and for Your holy Word which spoke it all into existence

things of beauty and Joys forever. . .







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Angelo: RIP

In the parlance of Star Wars: there’s a disturbance in The Force. A great man passed from the earthly scene into eternal life.  He was 99.

He also happened to live in my neighborhood. I met him a decade ago during a morning walk, a few weeks before his 90th birthday, and over the years I’ve blogged about him several times. Talking with Angelo was like listening to a living history of the 20th Century.

His birth date was in the first week of October, 1919.  He graduated on Christmas night, 2018.  I last spoke with him during the summer. He stopped his morning walks around the neighborhood a few years ago. He’d fallen and scraped his arm up badly and his daughter-in-law forbid him taking his walks. His comment was priceless. “I flew 22 missions in a B-24 during WWII and got hurt worse walking in the neighborhood.”

Then in lieu of walks, Angelo would sit in a white plastic chair out by the chain-link fence around his son’s property. Folks, including myself, would stop by and chat. A couple years back he started using a walker, but at 96 or 97 he remained as sharp as a man fifty years younger. However, in the past year I could see him cognitively beginning to fade a bit.

A couple months ago I noticed that his white plastic chair disappeared. He used to set it ready for use just around the corner from the gate. I thought the chair disappearing was ominous, and I thought the next time I’d see his son I’ll have to ask how Angelo was doing. I thought perhaps he’d gone into the hospital, or a senior care facility, or that maybe was staying in Daytona with his daughter for a spell.

Yesterday morning I noticed the chair was out front again and an American flag was propped up in it and on the seat was a scarlet blossomed Christmas cactus. I feared the worst and when I saw his son later in the day he confirmed Angelo’s passing.

Not everybody can tell you what it was like to see Babe Ruth in person with the rest of the 1927 Yankees. He grew up in the Bronx a few blocks from Yankee Stadium, and Ruth would flip the neighborhood kids dimes on his way into the stadium. And not everybody could tell you what it was like to walk guard duty around Diamond Head a few months before Pear Harbor — or what it was like to be a ball-turret gunner flying three missions on D-Day over the Normandy beaches. He knew I’d visited the UK several times and when I asked if he’d like to see RAF Halesworth again where the 489th Bomb Group flew from, he quickly replied, “No, too many bad memories.”  Angelo was a sensitive, gentle soul and he had some harrowing, traumatic memories about crewmates shot to pieces and the screams of men being burned alive. And also not many men are left who could tell you about training on the new B-29s when the Japs surrendered, and then knowing you were going to survive and not be deployed to the Pacific.

And not everybody’s dad sang on stage at the Met with Enrico Caruso. And just being the last survivor of eleven children was an event in itself. That’s the terrible fact about living to 99 — there are no siblings or peers left to share memories with — and so you gab with 70-year-old youngsters and others who wander around the neighborhood in the cool morning air.

Angelo wore a big wooden cross around his neck suspended on a rawhide shoestring — and in an casual off-the-cuff way witnessed about his faith. He knew his final destination, and so I’m happy for him in a way. . . but he will be missed.

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“Mortal Engines” ~ A Review

The reviews for the new sci-fi flick Mortal Engines were intriguing but mixed at best. It’s been generally panned as a big budget holiday season spectacular that fails to deliver both at the box office and as cinema. Consequently, I was somewhat ambivalent about seeing this movie.

Needing an escape into something fanciful and upbeat I had intended to see the new Mary Poppins sequel, but I was delayed getting to the theater — and so picked sci-fi instead. It was a late afternoon matinee and there were three other people in the theater besides myself.  Mortal Engines had been out one week and so the lack of viewers validated the grim predictions about it being a box office disaster.  However, there were quite a few cars in the parking lot of the 12-screen multiplex and so I would gather that most of the customers were at the latest moronic super-hero cartoon about a fish-man or a car transformer.

For me, the greatest currency of a particular movie’s value is the degree to which I’m transported out of myself and into another reality — the extent to which I escape the tedium of being me for couple of hours. With that criteria, Mortal Engines succeeds brilliantly. Even it’s harshest critics praised it’s cinematography and it’s creation of an exceptionally imaginative and vivid dystopian reality of Earth in the distant future. It’s steampunk tech at its best — better than Star Wars and with more than a nod to Mad Max.  It’s a New Zealand/Australian production with the formidable Peter Jackson of the Lord of the Rings films as one of its producer’s. The primary players are an amalgamation of attractive nobodies unfamiliar to most in US audiences.

Our planet’s landscape is quite barren and traversed by gigantic predator cities. The biggest and baddest is London. The protagonist is a young girl whose own small mobile town is engulfed by London. By and by she proceeds to wound London’s up and coming dictator and then escapes into the wilderness with a young man interested in becoming her paramour.

I was okay with the plot. It’s straightforward and it drives the action in a linear direction. The movie is hampered somewhat by rather uninspired dialogue and characters not fleshed out.  It’s not King Lear — but it doesn’t need to be. What it is, is well done action sequences and spectacular sets. A definite plus for me personally is there being no F-bombs, profanity or graphic sex.  It also has a great musical score.

I found it fascinating and I suspect many others will as well — perhaps enough to merit a cult following and even an eventual sequel. I think the tepid response may be the result of poor advertising. I go to a lot of movie and I don’t recall seeing its previews. Also, a few recognizable stars would help. Make the prime couple Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and the villain Russell Crowe and you’d turn a box office disaster into a winner.

I give it 4 stars out of 5.


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Cheating, Lying and Winning in Losing

“Win if you can; lose if you must, but cheat always!” ~ Gorgeous George

Back in the late 1940s a 215-lb, five foot-nine inch professional wrestler of modest talents smashed the paradigms governing professional sports and entertainment forever. In 1947, he probably accounted for more sales of the new contraption “television” than all of the celebrity entertainers, ball-players and politicians combined.

George Wagner, AKA Gorgeous George, dyed his thick wavy hair platinum blonde, donned sequined robes and was preceded into the ring by a valet who sprayed perfume and disinfectant ahead of the One and Only.  His in-the-ring persona was a foppish, likely queer man, who would almost certainly rather cheat than win. He was professional wrasslins’ first and ultimate heel. He was the guy working folks paid their hard earned money to hate. He rendered the time-honored notion of “fair play” passe. 

Also, no doubt, the popularity of his flamboyant persona was not lost on a generation of entertainers and athletes — celebs such as Little Richard, Elvis, Muhammed Ali and Ric Flair got it.  And might The Donald be another?

Years ago I recall some psychiatrist saying that Gorgeous George played a valuable role in our nation’s mental health. He said something to the effect that folks could vent their pent up feelings of murderous rage by hating and yelling at the gorgeous one instead of acting it out with real people in their daily lives. Gorgeous George became the ultimate object of the defense mechanism of displacement. The public’s angry, unacceptable feelings were harmlessly discharged at George on the 14-in black and white screens in their living rooms.

Fast forward seven decades: Okay, today, who is the contemporary equivalent of Gorgeous George for the American public, the mainstream media and for that matter, the whole wide world?

Well, that was too easy.  The Donald of the bleached blonde ducktail has supplanted cheating in the ring with confabulation, lying and mean spirited tweeting — and in the process he’s become the man millions love to hate. The bottom line is that it’s his version of reality that matters the most.  And that fact drives his enemies completely craaaazy. He has probably legitimately earned 60 or 70% negative stories in the news media. But 92% is ridiculous. Even so called journalists buy into his shtick. They take what he says and what he tweets seriously. They are late-comers to the game. The joke is on them and they still don’t really get it. But what they do dimly grasp is that he is the story — and they are not.

And is who he is as Chief Executive of the Free World not just an extension of his Apprentice show persona?  I did not spend more than a few minutes channel hopping on viewing The Apprentice but I gather that crushing the dreams of some little guy the audience had come to identify with was part of the show’s appeal — waiting for, or perhaps dreading, the words, “You’re fired!”

With a ridiculous unqiue pompadour wave even before his hair had thinned, The Donald had branding down to a science decades ago. He was a celebrity even before he became a billionaire or a presidential contender. He had a knack for garnering headlines and talk show interviews. He made big deals and he talked even bigger. He became the Gorgeous George of real estate development and big business. He became THE show and along the way acquired plenty of enemies and more than a few admirers.

So in the interests of both science and mental health we must ask if the Gorgeous Donald of 2018 has the same functional role in our nation’s psyche as George in 1947?

Probably not: The late-1940s were a time too proximate to the real life horrors of WWII to allow the willy-nilly sale of assault weapons to assorted cranks who had mental health issues and a grudge against humanity. However, it was a time when most homes had a shotgun or hunting rifle to help put food on the table. It was an era before social media and 24/7 infotainment could spread hate like the plague and allow a garden variety nutcase their 15-min of fame. In 1947, folks could hate and boo and throw stuff at their villains — harmless stuff. Today they have the will and the means to massacre them.

Lying is not really lying when you believe what you’re saying is true — especially so in this era of fake news. I will see your fake news and up it with my own fake story. And losing isn’t really losing when the visibility of your branding goes up.  I also think The Donald’s popularity/loathing continuum has become sort of a barometer of our nation’s collective mental health/cognitive dysfunction. I have blogged several times about Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). It is real; it’s not going away– and in fact it seems to be spreading.

Unfortunately, Trump has inspired the Antifa goons and other assorted left-wing organizations to destructive, violent acts. They march, smash windows, dress in black, wear masks and publicly harass their perceived enemies — behavior eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s fascist Brown Shirts and SS. And they feel quite self-righteous in the process of  spreading their anarchy and hate. Reality becomes particularly dissonant when the extreme left accuse conservatives and Republicans of being the real fascists.

As for me, I’m kind of over the hyperbolic madness of 2018. I long for a time when our villains were harmless caricatures like Gorgeous George, our real foes were the Commies, newspapers employed journalists and were the primary source of news and TV was an innocuous form of entertainment. I long for life writ small and black and white like the television of seven decades ago.


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