Trump Think: Global Warming

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While Democrats and others of their ilk are doubling up on their Lexapro prescriptions and checking out Priceline for one way flights to Puerta Vallarta, I still want to understand how Trump people think. In other words I’m interested in finding out what is in the head of the average Trump supporter so that I may better comprehend his/her peculiar worldview. I know this is a complex riddle that goes beyond anything I might learn by going to Walmart and kidnapping, killing and harvesting the brain of an obese middle-aged white guy wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. Not only would that be illegal but many organic diseases and forms of advanced dementia don’t show up on standard autopsies or brain scans. It would take a much “deeper probe” to plumb the depths of this cognitive conundrum. So instead I shall proceed by looking at one major issue at a time.

Global Warming:  I’m not an environmental lunatic. I don’t even recycle most of the time. I typically only do that when I eat at Whole Foods or when neighbors ask where I put my empty plastic bottles and styrofoam take-out containers. However, I do believe in science, especially when there is overwhelming scientific evidence at hand. Even tho there are plenty examples of shoddy scientific research on everything from penguin penises to Prozac, there is no doubt that global warming is an actual occurring phenomenon. There is also pretty good data and agreement among climatologists and biologists forecasting the effects global warming is having (and will continue to have) on our environment, the air we breath, and on human health and mortality. In saying that, I’m not even taking into consideration the emaciated polar bears, beach stranded porpoises, prairie dogs with attention deficit disorder or endangered arctic foxes that Greenpeace and other activist groups are so worried about. I may be an animal lover and lifelong student of ethology (animal behavior) but in any given “ultimate survival” scenario all the non-bipedal species will have to get in line behind me. I’m not frickin’ Noah. I guess the rub in the Global Warming argument comes in definitively determining what the direct effects of human associated pollution, deforestation, and environmental damage have in adding to or speeding up global warming.

What I don’t understand and really need to find out from a die-hard “Global warming is a damn hoax” type person is why does it matter whether our human contribution is minimal or catastrophic? Are Trumpettes saying global warming is NOT bad in the long run? Are they saying that it’s “natural” to go through historical cycles in which the polar ice sheets melt, desalinization occurs in the worlds major oceans and which will NOT significantly affect ocean temperatures, sea levels, commercial fishing and coral reef production? Do Trumps chumps think it’s NOT a big deal if weather patterns shift dramatically as a result and certain highly populated islands and coastal cities around the world suffer significant physical, environmental and economic loss as a result of beach and coastline erosion, tidal flooding and storm surges? What I’m saying is we have science saying it’s happening and getting worse. I don’t see how this is a political issue. What am I missing? Finally, are Trump voters missing pre-frontal lobes or lacking connectivity to parts of the brain necessary for critical thinking? I would be glad to check for anyone interested in participating in my study who is willing to sign a very comprehensive waiver/release form.  Just last year I received a lovely set of serrated knives for Hannukah from my cousin Donna made of surgical steel so just bring yourself and your Trump hat. Naturally, I’ve also got a good bottle of Chianti and fava beans….

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Borderline Personality Disorder with Sociopathic Features

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Unlike animals in the wild that prey upon weaker game like rattlesnakes, poisonous spiders and Great White Sharks, there is to my knowledge only one psychological syndrome or personality disorder among humans that includes the ability to hide ones basic predatory nature by initially presenting oneself as a friendly, socially adept, sexy adult or possibly abused and previously neglected compliant child. Only later does this insidious and beguiling individual inject her hypnogogic “venom” into her clueless rescuer-victims. Once accomplished, this human chameleon with scorpion tail will wait until its prey is sapped of it’s psychological and emotional energy, general vitality, masculine or feminine self-image and overall will to resist. Even the dreaded black widow spider cant do all that. When the black widow does devour her sex partner/hubby (which is not very often) it’s done out of sheer hunger and not because she actually enjoys the combined Olympic sport of sex and cannibalism.

The psychiatric condition I am referring to is called Borderline Personality Disorder with Sociopathic features. Fortunately, most borderline patients (usually female) do not suffer from this particularly treacherous character pathology. Fearful of abandonment and crippled by insecurity and self-loathing, the majority of individuals with BPD either “act-in” or “act-out”. Acting-in borderlines are prone to suicidal ideation, depression, cutting and self-mutilation. They more often see themselves as unnecessary burdens on their friends, life-partners and families. In contrast, acting out borderlines are more overtly emotionally labile and unstable with recurrent episodes of seemingly unprovoked anger, rage and occasional violence. Intimate relationships are very often volatile and difficult. Such extraordinary hyperreactivity is often associated with impulsiveness, reckless spending, eating disorders and substance abuse issues. Usually triggered by deep-seated fears of failure, sensitivity to rejection and especially abandonment by loved ones the borderline personality travels a rocky road in life until a diagnosis and treatment is received.

However, it is the extra addition of the sociopathic or antisocial dimension that makes for a “hybrid” borderline personality. They not only act out their emotional issues in intensely emotional, defensive, aggressive or passive-aggressive ways but also do not feel much guilt or remorse about it. While still emotionally unstable, they seem also able to turn certain feelings and behaviors on and off depending on what best serves their immediate needs and longterm purpose. The psychopathic borderline type is likely to conceal their basic insecurity, unstable identity and psychological deficits under a facade of self-confidence, physical or social attractiveness and superficial “charm”. They are also more likely to exaggerate their achievements, sexual conquests, diverse resume of professional employment, their creative and intellectual accomplishments, and wide array of acquired “skill sets”. At the same time these individuals downplay details about past relationships and the specific reasons for their having left a job, whether they were fired, quit or were sent packing for unethical, criminal, immoral or inappropriate behavior.  Dont be surprised if the actual reason turns out to be  inappropriate or excessive sexual behavior that was used to feed their near inexhaustible need for attention, adoration, validation or to set up an ingenious trap (human spider web) to obtain financial, physical or social support from vulnerable and gullible family members, friends, coworkers, and especially  “able-bodied” men. Obtaining a clear, consistent and credible life history from such a person is unusually difficult. They are the worlds greatest liars.

This type of woman likes other women but usually only as temporary comrades-in-arms and opportunistic “wing buddies”, but fundamentally prefers the way that men “taste” if you know what I mean. They also wont care if a man is married, single, older, or in a serious relationship as they seem to enjoy the challenge of taking what is not theirs from someone else, even someone they may know quite well. In this respect they could be considered professional home-wreckers and wholesale privateers who consider “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too”. Like the honey badger, when it comes to insuring their own survival and feeding their bellies psychologically, financially, emotionally, sexually or professionally, they just “don’t care” and have little ability to empathize. Of course all syndromes and clinical diagnoses lie on a continuum of severity and care must be taken to consider the possibility of other co-existing disorders particularly bipolar, ADHD, substance abuse and impulse control disorders that have either an organic or genetic basis. Finally, if the clinical diagnosis becomes confusing  keep in mind that repeated manipulation, deception, and deceit are more prominent in BPD with sociopathic features while mood instability, emotional vulnerability and recurrent bouts of self-hatred are more characteristic of BPD proper. Either way, men or women who choose to hook-up, live with or marry such an exciting and quite often attractive creature are forewarned of the wild adventure ahead. My suggestion is that one proceed cautiously at their own risk and remember to bring a sharp sword, body armor and really good bug spray. We’re talking Jurassic Park kind of fantasy/dream turned toxic nightmare here. Worse yet, once you are on the island with these highly intelligent, clever and carnivorous creatures there may be no getting off.

Shelob from Lord of the Rings: https://youtu.be/ZKeEZWbCRVE

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The Myth of Fixing People

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With Apologies to Humpty Dumpty: The Myth of Fixing People
 
It takes an extra long time for a psychologist/social worker/psychotherapist or “savior”  type person (code for codependent) to realize that you can’t really “fix” anybody. You can help them and you can be compassionate but whatever psychological, emotional or spiritual illness or drug/alcohol problem they suffer from….that change process has to start and finish with them. In fact, trying to fix them and using too much of ones energy, time, emotions, resources or money in an effort to “force” healthy thinking and behavior on somebody is a different kind of disease and one likely to end in rebellion, misery, frustration, exhaustion, and resentment.
 
Unless you are Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, which I am not, such a savior scenario (quite often on a unconscious or subconscious level) typically results in not just utter failure but a very counterproductive rugby match of resentment in which both sides push and pull against one another while thinking they are just representing their own “truth” or higher power (true self). The obvious implication is that there also exists a “lower self” (psychological shadow) and while the nice or virtuous parts of ones personality attempt to communicate, broker peace, understanding and progress in a relationship, the shadow parts (like the smiling Japanese diplomats in Washington DC  during the surprise Pearl Harbor attack) are often plotting rebellion and pandemonium. Just why this is so is open to debate but is at least partially explained by physics (Newton’s Third Law about action and reaction), human nature, ingrained defense mechanisms and individual reflexes like “don’t tell me what to do…even if it’s good for me”.  People get used to what they are most familiar with even if it might seem obviously self-destructive or counter-productive to everyone else. Changing or “doing better” certainly has its rewards but can also feel very uncomfortable. The anxiety of uncertainty and the pressure to succeed and improve (among a lifetime of previous losses, disappointments, failures and poor decision making) can lead people to return to jail, return to drugs, and even return to pathological, abusive or toxic relationships. Finally, some psychiatric problems like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, complex PTSD, depression, and character pathology like Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorder are tumultuous and destabilizing by their very nature and can be extremely challenging to live with both for the sufferer and for their often frustrated or shell shocked loved ones.
 
Bottomline: There is an important difference between attempting to fix broken people and broken pottery. People who are psychologically vulnerable or struggle with mental disorders or addictions (just like the people who have a strong need to help “fix” them) have complex egos and personal expectations that can end up getting in the way. Broken pottery normally does not resist ones efforts to fix, be fixed or made whole. Perhaps even more important, broken pottery does not carry within it a strong and wholly legitimate human desire to be loved and accepted just as one is, cracks and all. Therein lies the rub….for some of us compulsive people fixers.

 

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How Trump Beat Clinton in Game of Thrones Politics

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With apologies to Game of Thrones aficionados (I personally don’t imbibe), success in   politics has historically relied upon barbarian despotic leader attributes like bribery intimidation, assassination, corruption, and big time power-wielding as reflected in ones ability to use special access, influence, connections, and leverage among others who hold substantial power and authority.  LBJ is a good example of an “old school” politician…and that may even include the assassination part.  My  son tells me one of his favorite TV shows, Game of Thrones (GOT) similarly gets “down and dirty” as far as backstabbing, collusion, and the proverbial “heads will roll” approach to becoming a tribal “top dog”.

For many reasons this formula has changed to one that depends more on the use of ones personal charisma, likability, and connection (ie.,reciprocal projection) with the largest base of voters possible. This would now probably include voters with “grassroots” as well as “power broker” ties. While personal ambition and extraordinary drive have always been positive factors, winning a presidential election today requires someone with endless ambition, energy and a mental manufacturing plant of unabashed ego operating  24/7 and 365 days a year. Based on the above, Donald Trump had all the “right stuff”. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, while well suited to the actual on-the-job requirements for POTUS, stumbled badly by choosing to not see or acknowledge bad omens early on and refusing to listen to specific warnings given by her consort hubby Bill ( a pretty sharp and charismatic political player himself). As a result, she was outplayed on the last major presidential campaign battlefield. I suggest that Donald Trump has Julius Caesar like attributes that Hillary lacks.  In Game of Thrones vernacular, you don’t need a Valyrian steel sword if you’ve got Julius Caesar’s  “tiger blood” DNA. Sad but true.

Read below two separate psychobiographical summaries of the unlikely Emperor Julius Caesar and note the specific ways (like it or not) that Donald Trump holds a much closer resemblance than wonky Hillary Clinton. Even the Republican establishment didn’t see THAT coming.

Analysis #1:     Traits/Qualities Julius Caesar Possessed that Led to His Remarkable Success

Intelligent and Self-Confident
First and foremost, Julius Caesar, the Roman general and statesman who upended the Republic and it’s laws, was a smarty pants unto himself, especially in military strategy. His supreme self-confidence, bordering on delusional narcissism was an important reasons why he was so successful. Caesar was a compelling speaker when he needed to be. When he was addressing the Senate or the public, Romans hung on his every word. His critical mind was especially beneficial during his military career. He specifically planned and strategized to outmaneuver his opponents. Essentially, like Trump he didn’t care about the “poll numbers”.

Julius Caesar: Energetic
In addition to being clever, Caesar was incredibly energetic. As the governor of Gaul, Caesar was able to fight wars for seven years while also writing a series of books recounting his many escapades. During his life, Caesar traveled non-stop. Whether he was fighting a war or simply visiting a Roman province, he was constantly on the move and seemed to need little sleep.

Caesar’s energy was also evidenced in his romantic exploits. Over the course of his life, he had three wives and multiple mistresses. Imagine taking over a country, fighting multiple wars, AND juggling several girlfriends at the same time. The man never tired!

Julius Caesar: Cunning Yet Generous
Immense military intelligence and energy were not the only qualities that made Caesar a formidable leader. He was also exceptionally driven, power-hungry, and cunning. Caesar came from a noble but relatively poor family. What Caesar lacked in funds he made up for with an insatiable thirst for power. Every action was calculated for personal gain; nothing he did was without purpose personally.

For example, when one of his greatest political opponents died, Caesar went out of his way to memorialize the man. Later Caesar acknowledged this was done not because he liked him or thought he was a great guy but because Caesar knew that speaking well about his fallen adversary would help neutralize his opponents posthumous influence.

Aside from being cunning, Caesar was also exceedingly generous, bestowing lavish gifts on the people closest to him. He gave his mistress, Cleopatra, her own palace in Rome. Additionally, he showed unusual mercy to the people he conquered and spared many of the political opponents he defeated. Sound familiar?

Analysis#2:       Julius Caesar: Personality Type Analysis
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Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman aristocrat, politician, military leader, Dictator, and author, active in the last decades of the Roman Republic, in the first century BC. His impact on western history is enormous: he was chiefly responsible for incorporating Gaul (i.e. modern France) into the Mediterranean world i.e. the Roman Empire, as well as indirectly for the same with regards to Britain. The modern calendar, based on a year of 365 days with a leap year every 4 years, and 12 months, is essentially the same one as introduced under his instructions. The month ‘July’ was named so in his honour, after his clan name ‘Julius’, immediately after his death. His family name, ‘Caesar’, eventually became a synonym for ’emperor’, surviving into the 20th century as ‘Kaiser’ and ‘Tsar’. He is also generally regarded as one of history’s greatest military leaders, his battles serving as case studies to this day.

Although by ancestry belonging to the high nobility – Caesar’s family was (relatively) impoverished by the time he was born in 100 BC. In the ultra-competitive, expensive, high-stakes world of Roman politics of his time, that meant that Caesar, not withstanding his titled family background had to adopt unconventional means of advancing his political career from an early age.

Especially considering his circumstances and powerful opponents, Caesar’s political career was extraordinarily successful, with him advancing faster, and to much greater heights than any of his contemporaries, even those far wealthier and better connected.

Simplistically put, Caesar’s whole career progressed on the basis of all-or-nothing extreme risk-taking. In electoral politics, that meant spending money far beyond his means, getting into debt to the point of criminal liability – but always rescued later by electoral or military success. Failure at any point could have meant bankruptcy, disgrace, and exile: famously, at the age of 37, he bet it all in winning the election to Pontifex Maximus, telling his mother that day that either he’d win or have to go into exile. Sound a little familiar?

Likewise, as a military leader, his style was to get himself and his men into very difficult situations (numerical inferiority, poor logistics, unknown and hostile territory, etc.) and then use tactical brilliance and in-the-moment improvisation to find a way out – always with supreme self-confidence in his own abilities and, as he himself put it, “Caesar’s luck”. In so doing, he re-invented ancient warfare as he went along, even in situations where he had no previous experience, as in siege warfare (Alesia) or urban warfare (Alexandria) or in more conventional battles (Pharsalus). This meant that more conventional or cautious commanders such as Pompey were outmaneuvered by Caesar even when they held in numerical and tactical advantage.

Caesar obviously trusted his in-the-moment tactical improvisation and often neglected the accumulation of available military intelligence, as in his first expedition to Britain. That almost led to disaster as he simply did not realize that the Channel tides were far more intense than those of the Mediterranean. Trump much?

Caesar’s never-ending, sometimes even reckless pursuit of political power, as well as his natural ability to lead (along with his confidence in his own assessment of the likely outcome on the battlefield) demonstrate a “fearlessness” that few possess. This is also confirmed by his apparent lack of physical fear even in very disadvantageous situations, such as when he was kept prisoner by pirates (he mocked them and said he’d crucify them as soon as he was set free…which he did).

As a leader of men, Caesar was notorious for not caring about imposing discipline on his men in the way of protocol and accepted rules: what he cared about was their loyalty, obedience, competence. and trust (i.e. willingness to follow him into seemingly hopeless situations). His leadership was based not mainly on the fact that he was their hierarchical and social superior, but that he was “trusted” to be better than they were at being the principal leader and therefore deserved to be followed. Alexander the Great may be his only historical peer in this respect.

Caesar’s extreme confidence can be seen in his own memoirs of his conquest of Gaul, when he repeatedly boasts of his personal relationship to the Gallic chieftains (and complains of those who couldn’t be trusted). It can also be seen in his approach to political enemies: Caesar was so confident in his ability to gain the trust of those he had defeated that he preferred to pardon them and receive them as friends once they were vanquished.   Now it’s getting almost scary as far as Trump comparisons are concerned!

Caesar’s pursuit of personal political power and wealth, besides based on extreme risk-taking, was also based on ignoring accepted societal conventions and rules, even laws. His approach was to achieve his goals, regardless of their difficulty and worry less about such “details”. The problem with that is that his continuous illegalities led to him being liable to prosecution by his many political enemies. Like his near-disastrous self-imposed military traps, that was a longer-term personal trap that he allowed himself into (arguably without realizing it) leaving him no way out except through his ultimate extreme gambles i.e. illegally invading Italy proper with his legions, characteristically saying “let the dice fly” as he did so.

Having achieved (illegal) control of Rome and Italy through sheer military power, Caesar was concerned about legalizing it but he did so in a seemingly ad hoc manner, becoming at first Dictator for just a few days, then consul, then later Dictator again in different ways – as with military campaigns, all done in a ‘making it up as you go along manner’ and apparently having less concern with legal precedent or consistency.

Although chiefly concerned with completing his victory over his political enemies, during his period as Dictator, Caesar engaged into a series of isolated reforms: a settlement of the debts of over-indebted individuals, urban reform in Rome, reform of the then-chaotic calendar (introducing the modern calendar), reform of the supply of subsidized grain, etc. All of those were implemented with enormous energy in a very brief period of time, but rather as a series of isolated measures aimed at fixing specific economic problems pragmatically, not as part of any ‘restructuring’ of Roman society or constitution. Indeed, despite his own position having become essentially extra-constitutional, Caesar showed no apparent interest (or idea) of how to adjust the Roman constitution accordingly, and at the time of his death his plan was to start another huge military campaign, against Parthia (Persia). This shows where his true priorities lay.

Conclusion: Julius Caesar was a man most focused and able, and an ultra confident individual, particularly in matters of career climbing, military exploits and eventual conquest (winning). Almost always he succeeded in an unorthodox way where extreme (and sometimes almost disastrous) risk-taking was the pattern, and with little sign of longterm strategy or overarching vision. In fact, in most matters he appeared to lack any visible ‘ideology’ (except that of his own rising to the top).

Finally, besides being supremely confident in his ability to get the respect and trust of  key individuals, by all accounts he was the “perfect politician” in terms of knowing the value of self propaganda and in exercising enormous personal charm, especially when he wanted to and/or needed to.   

I would say regardless of what Russia was trying to do…….the die was probably already cast on this one….and that’s a big time sore loser and lifelong liberal having to admit it.

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The Dump

Notwithstanding my love of the run on sentence, My Facebook friend Wendy has challenged me to write a 300 word max essay utilizing the following words she randomly pulled out of her ass: distended, lugubrious, flaccid, notwithstanding.

The Dump

I wade into the fray with clearly more disciplined and professional writers. My stock and trade is the perverse, what others consider the dark side of the naked city. I write about dicks, pricks and assholes. Sure Donald Trump is all three but besides his swollen bobblehead I prefer to author twisted but anatomically correct diatribes about penises, sexual behavior and bowel movements. I do this for my own exhibitionistic pleasure, for lack of regularity within my own sluggish and distended intestines and because even tho it’s Stargate 2016, the average Millennial in skinny jeans is an idiot savant who can’t locate Afghanistan or his own anus without a GPS, a specialized phone app or a text to his helicopter mommy. God forbid they might actually get their hands wet by reaching into the toilet bowl of life and learning how the world really works. I’m sure the White House is metaphorically no different. The real shit goes on in the musty smelling, dark cobwebby basement where CIA operatives, Morlocks, and Cheney clones with wrenches scuttle around fixing furnaces, turning dials and planning the takeover of foreign governments.

 

Sometimes I fear we’re raising a new race of flaccid spawn with beehive minds. They are the Eloi in the original Time Machine movie. Sure they have books but they’ve never read any. Intelligent ideas or independent thought that includes debate and challenging discourse is as rare today as a single succinct sentence in my legendary pirate blog. Call me cantankerous. Call me lugubrious. I call it as I see it which apparently is a lot better than most umpires in professional baseball or football. Did you see that missed pass interference call in the Atlanta Falcons game recently?  Now imagine Trump and his minions at the wheel of our nation. I’d call that demolition derby-type game “Narcissism Nascar” and that’s one sport I’d rather sit out and patiently wait for a cathartic dump of biblical proportions.

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Human Error: What 12 Monkeys, Donald Trump and the Seven Hens Schnitzel House Have In Common

 

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
― Isaac Asimov

“If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”
― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

I’ve written a few previous blogs about “human error” and how when things go wrong, i.e., ships collide, planes crash, monkey viruses go rogue, or people freeze to death on Mt Everest,  it’s usually due to many different reasons with human factors often occupying the primary explanation. It’s difficult to overcome ones cognitive biases, unbridled ego and limited perspective. Most of the time we proceed in life believing that we are “right”. However, personal blinders when combined with a refusal to solicit adequate objective feedback/input from others leave us vulnerable to making false assumptions, inaccurate conclusions and expensive mistakes. Luckily, not every error we make is of the size, cost or consequence of a Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. For that matter, the majority of our human “boo-boos” pale in comparison to monster mistakes like the sinking of the Titanic or George Bush’s decision to get us embroiled in a trillion dollar war on the basis of non-existent WMDs. In light of this topic and introduction I’d like to illustrate the concept of “human folly” by sharing a very small but pertinent example I just read about in the Atlanta Jewish Times.

I heard that both restaurant locations (Sandy Springs and Decatur) of Seven Hens the Chicken schnitzel eatery are closing. Honestly, I was surprised they lasted more than a year given that I counted only three paying customers there in over 2 years and their festive theme was  “Come Enjoy Chicken Schnitzel around the World”, not exactly a culinary concept I’d pay an ad agency a lot of dough to think up. However, given Seven Hens longevity  I began to wonder if the place was really a front for the Ukrainian Mafia who were selling kilos of cocaine and young girls out the back door. I developed this theory partially because the one guy I did see there more than once (besides the cook) was a tall gentleman who looked a lot like Liam Neeson in the “Taken” movie series. However, I was wrong. Apparently so was the Israeli owner/founder Michael Gurevich who according to the AJT article “lacked restaurant experience” but fervently hoped that the South would “embrace schnitzel and enable me to franchise it”. Riiiight…. He would have been better off franchising sweet tea and Nascar decals. Let this be a lesson to all of us. Even Israelis, the supreme innovators and entrepreneurs on planet Earth are capable of being misled by their own cultural blinders and flawed logic. The good news is that the Decatur location will be replaced by a Korean street food emporium and the Sandy Springs space has already become the Poke Bar, a Los Angeles “casual seafood/raw fish concept”. I look forward to trying them both out before they close as well. As for Donald Trump, I feel semi-confident his “goose is cooked” and like his licensed brand of “commercial quality” steaks which no longer exist, he should probably pack up his presidential snake oil products and declare bankruptcy , which is the same as saying he “lost” but is far easier on his forked tongue.

Post Election Addendum:  It seems I was wrong about that one too. My bad….

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My Mini-High School Reunion

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I just got back from a mini-high school reunion in Highland Park, Illinois. It’s been 45 long years since I left that cushy upscale suburban enclave near Chicago to seek fame and fortune elsewhere. I returned at age 62 (soon to be 63) not as the prodigal son, but as a wiser and definitely more arthritic version of my former self. My long hair is now long gone. The hippie-esque bell bottom jeans and puka shell necklace have been replaced by clothes meant to produce a subtle “slimming” effect”. My wise-ass attitude, rapid fire sarcastic speech and sometime condescending voice tone have given way to a sincere interest in hearing about my high school peers and learning about their lives. It seems we’ve all been on some epic journey and like Odysseus have returned home bruised and battle weary but with quite a Homeric tale to tell. The fearlessness and You Only Live Once (YOLO) type thinking endemic to youth is now tempered by a host of health concerns common to aging Baby Boomers including free floating anxiety, i.e.,”Gee, I wonder if I remembered to feed the dog before I left?” or “hey is that lump under my armpit?” and even worse by the realization that some high school classmates have passed away or are currently suffering from illnesses which they may or may not recover from.

How can this be? I thought we were immortal like the Greek Gods we studied in freshman English class. I thought life was going to be a relatively predictable affair, a linear trajectory like climbing a ladder or taking a long hike on a reasonably well marked trail in one of the many forest preserves in or around Highland Park. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I figured I was well prepared not just by my excellent education at Highland Park High School but also by my mastery of “life-like” board games including Risk, Monopoly, Stratego and Life. How much tougher could the adult world be then all those plastic cone obstacles, confusing road signs and simulator tests we’d already faced and overcome in Coach Wisniewski’s Drivers Ed class? Maybe I should have noticed other more subtle “signs” like how in the board game “Life” with it’s twists and turns and plastic cars full of acquired family members certain peg people would fail to stay in their designated peg holes and repeatedly fell out onto the increasingly cluttered game board. Were those Parker Brother type premonitions about some future divorce, death in the family or need to send an unruly kid to residential care or rehab someday?

Regardless of the many games I played, at age eighteen I still believed life was going to be a predictable algorithm not too different from any of the card or board games we played back in the day: deal the cards, play the odds, buy up property, stocks, utilities, and other important material “stuff “, or just assemble a vast army and proceed to “take over the world” (win). Now that I say that aloud it sounds silly but also suggests that certain individuals (like Donald Trump) are likely still stuck in their immature teenage head… seeking to “win” at all cost while munching on pretzel sticks, sugar cookies, Hostess Twinkies and playing some megalomaniacal Parkers Brothers game in a friend’s dark dreary wood paneled basement. Unfortunately, at age 62, I’ve also learned it’s not quite that easy to “win” like that in the real world and many of us don’t have the time, energy, bank account or endless reservoir of narcissistic supply necessary to lose a billion dollars like Trump in one year…or even eighteen billion. Furthermore, to then consider that experience as somehow “brilliant” is a delusional despot bridge too far for most of us. In the end, however, accepting the various ups and downs of a meaningful life still rather early in the fourth and final quarter of the “game” (of real life) is quite acceptable to me. Frankly, at this point I’d rather be hanging out with my close high school friends talking, eating Chinese takeout or deli food, and swapping funny stories than be a Pol Pot or POTUS. That said, maybe I did learn a few good tricks and pertinent life strategies playing ‘Risk” at Billy Terman’s house with Mark Scher, Joel Pathman,Todd Logan, Mike Lembeck, and Harlan Bass while Bill’s highly oversexed schnauzer Skipper tried to hump our legs ….but that’s a whole ‘nother story or at least another CaptCliff blog.

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How to Be a Real Manly Man

Submitted for publication to:  The Good Men Project  9/29/16

How To Be A Real Manly Man by Cliff Mazer, Ph.D.
 
I am a certified sex therapist who purposely de-emphasizes sexual behavior and sexual performance in my clinical practice. Instead I prefer to explore issues of sexual identity and self-esteem with my male clients as well as how their behavior interfaces with basic evolutionary principles (see Evolutionary Principle at end of article). In a previous Manly Man blog (captaincliff.wordpress.com) I discuss the downsides of living in a phallocentric society. Phallocentric is just a big word referring to those cultures that oversubscribe to stereotypical masculine principles. Simply put I mean societies that for various reason(s) worship male genitalia otherwise known colloquially as the “dick”. In the same blog I cite Ancient Rome as a good example of a phallocentric society, one which was technologically advanced yet strangely obsessed with it’s own sexual vigor and political fortune. The Roman Empire wanted both  qualities to last forever and even coined the latin term “Imperium sine fine” which roughly translates to “Power without end”. Paradoxically, their fear of losing power or control may have also helped create a hidden or “shadow” aspect within their collective psyche characterized by considerable insecurity and rampant superstition. i.e., penis sculptures and phallic amulets strewn about everywhere for good luck or to ward off the “evil eye”.
 
Our modern world and the United States in particular also emphasizes the male genitals and it’s numerous symbolic and sociological meanings, i.e.. power, authority, masculinity, virility, strength, etc. White men currently carry both the privilege and the lion share of the burden of being the dominant stakeholders in our competitive patriarchy and capitalistic society. Well, what’s so burdensome about occupying such an elite niche and governing socioeconomic status you might ask? It’s more about the concomitant psychological weight it brings with it in the form of an ever-present “performance anxiety” and pressure for men to succeed, to be the biggest and best, and then to flaunt their success, superiority and sometimes even their actual shlongs like angror insecure alpha male chimpanzees. If such a crude or vulgar description sounds exaggerated or hyperbolic think for a moment about Anthony Weiner or Donald Trump and consider ……if the Bruno Maglia size 12 shoe fits then you must NOT acquit. Word.
 
It’s not surprising that in times of stress and emotional turmoil human beings need to feel good about themselves and carry with them a supporting belief that they’ve been relatively fortunate in life, or what in Vegas they might call skillfully lucky. When I use colloquial terms like fortunate or lucky I mean to say that men need to feel that as a result of their actions and agency they’ve been able to survive, adapt, and adequately surf lifes’ many challenges as opposed to drowning or fighting a constant riptide of failure (think poor Prometheus). Similarly men want to maintain a positive self-concept and see themselves as successful actors and heroic figures rather than insignificant specks floating in a vast swirling ocean of bad situations, lousy relationships and repeated misfortune. Put another way, like Ossysseus of Homeric fame we want to feel that the Gods are smiling down upon us or at the very least that they’re NOT in cahoots against us. What could be worse than becoming convinced that one’s chosen deity or gaggle of God and Goddess beings as in the Roman or Greek pantheon are either sitting around on Mt. Olympus gossiping about you or actively conspiring to bring about your demise or death? I don’t know about you but to me that would be extremely anxiety provoking and very likely lead to any of a dozen different mental disorders.
 
Furthermore, even when the seas are calm and things are going smoothly in life (which is almost nevermen want and need to experience the hardwired warrior-hunter-gatherer adrenaline rush of ACCOMPLISHMENT. Sure, sex in it’s multiple masculine forms feels real good but it’s not quite the same thing as breaking in a wild mustang (either the horse or the snazzy sports car) or reeling in a humongous world record sized tuna like in “Old Man and the Sea”. Human males not only are programmed to mate and procreate but also have an irresistible need to at least occasionally belt a home run, bowl an big noisy strike, or at least parallel park the family station wagon or minivan like a champ. In the case of more “gatherer” type men (such as myself) the instinctual drive is to collect every known Ron Popeil Seen On TV “set it and forget it” invention, collectible Chia Pet at CVS, baseball card, Original Star Trek episode on VCR and super rare coin or postage stamp in the stamp and coin universe. Hunting and gathering not only makes men feel better but I would speculate it reconfirms our primal sense of masculinity on some very deep unconscious level. When it goes too far, of course, it’s just called hoarding. Trust me….I know.
 
Neuroscience suggests that the brain seeks continual stimulation in the form of crucial neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins. The opposite state to a high functioning fully engaged man is a static sedentary depressed male or one who is crippled by anxiety and caught in a self-created web of unhealthy behavior and unproductive compulsions. Although clearly pathological, snorting mounds of cocaine or crystal meth are in some strange ways also understandable yet misguided attempts to  reignite or reinvigorate ones core masculinity or inner caveman, particularly when the brain’s intrinsic pilot light/ignition switch (like a man’s outdoor barbecue grill) has stopped working. I say pathological because all that highly addictive drugs or dopaminergic stimulants like crack cocaine or methamphetamines end up doing is turning the hapless user into a pimple faced and toothless drug addict who needs to rob your house and steal your big flat screen TV so that he/she can buy more drugs. Richard Pryor the stand-up comedian spoke directly about his own misguided notions of masculinity, depression, self-esteem, and hubris when he LITERALLY lit himself on fire while smoking crack cocaine. The central point about toxic masculinity and its drain on the male psyche doesn’t get much more graphic than that.
 
 
The quintessential healthy “manly man” feeling I am referring to above is one more closely associated with what a person experiences when achieving a tangible personal goal intrinsic reward or self defined reinforcement resulting from having done what’s often called a “job well done”. In the process of reconnecting to our ancient hunter-gatherer heritage we become increasingly motivated, confident, focused, and energetic. It’s a bit like taking the ADHD medication Adderall but sourced more in some forgotten primal desire to hunt, capture, consume and then “savor” something extra delicious (like Andrew Zimmern does on his show Bizarre Foods). Such a deep multi-sensory experience of satisfaction rather than say the momentary excitement that one gets from getting an A on a high school Geometry exam goes far to stoke the “fire in the belly” of the contemporary caveman….altho acing the math test is still a pretty good thing too. Due to evolution, our genetic make-up and our current status as the biggest baddest apex predator on the planet, Homo Erectus (us) may very well have a built-in biological based need/imperative to win, “score”, succeed, make a touchdown, or at least conquer something or someone every so often. I’m pretty sure the testosterone thing also plays a big role. Overall, women enjoy achieving success just as much but appear to have much lesser need to sink a sharp spear or musket ball into an opponents chest to ratify their existence, re-confirm their gender identity or increase their overall self worth.
 
Thus, every time Cro-Magnon man actually did manage to kill “two birds with one stone” or hook a really really big fish something went off in his bushy haired head like the sound of a slot machine hitting payola in Vegas. Even in the Old Testament it appears God (Yahweh) enjoyed having the proto-patriarchal Israelites cheer, woop it up and exult big time after beating the crap out of their Holy Land competitors. All that “smiting and smoting” not only gave proof of their divinely inspired success, fealty and faith, but it also probably just felt damn good kicking Philistine ass and “winning” a hard fought biblical battle. So why do guys need to succeed at all cost or “win” so very badly? Who knows. What IS clear, however, is that it totally and completely sucks to lose as any gambler would admit and every elementary school kid knows from playing dodgeball, kickball or baseball in P.E. class. Getting the “I participated” ribbon every year on Field Day just doesn’t cut it for many males and is basically the equivalent to receiving the “Biggest Loser” or “Slowest Runner” award. Let me repeat. In general, guys want to be warrior heroes somewhere/somehow in their personal lives and they also want to see themselves as successfully providing safety, security, and sustenance (like a gold medal hunter gatherer) for themselves and their loved ones. In fact, they live in fear of being “losers”, “cucks”, “goats”, or poor providers. Proof positive: ladies, ask your mate or best male friend what day your birthday or anniversary is and he will probably hesitate because he has to try pretty hard to remember. Then ask him for a specific example of when he was bullied by a bigger kid in public, struck out with the bases loaded or completely missed the slow rolling rubber ball for a called strike in kickball as a little kid and he will remember it like it was yesterday. Along with Pearl Harbor THESE are the actual days and dates that “live in infamy” in his masculine mind.
 
Much like a guy claiming final victory in the popular board game Risk, akin to taking over the world like Alexander the Great or Attila the Hun or putting out the last sore loser in Monopoly, gaining a sense of mastery and control (which often involves succeeding over others) triggers some selective pleasure center in our lizard man brain. Whether it is purchasing a 1.3 billion dollar winning lottery ticket or getting the free bagel with every dozen bought at the local delicatessen, men seek out and “hunt” for feel good manly moments, personal successes, and fortunate circumstances that he can then claim for his own….and later post to his unrestricted Facebook page or maybe that’s just me. In other words it’s not all that abnormal for a man to want to climb Mt. Everest or something else big, tall or treacherous and then firmly plant a flag at the top even if it almost kills him or causes him to have his fingers hacked off surgically due to gangrene.  This may again have something to do with the feel good endorphins in the brain, some “risky gene” in our DNA or a bio-behavioral adaptation passed down from our brutish but extremely plucky caveman ancestors. All things equal and cultural norms notwithstanding, men care more about their personal achievements in life including specific acts of courage undertaken (or endured) than they do about having sex. This is even more true if they associate their heroism rightly or wrongly with somehow having bettered the lives of his loved ones. Obsessing about one’s penis size and spending money on worthless and scientifically unproven products in an vain attempt to grow a bigger penis is a sad example of how core masculine values can become skewed, objectified and diminished in a sex and genital focused culture. I say better to stick to the Chia Pets…at least they are cool and really do grow.
 
So like it or not men are a competitive lot and a carnivorous species that enjoys winning. Without a big win or a few timely successes many men become despairing, depressed, bitter, lethargic and all around miserable human beings. Look at the average Chicago Cubs fan (until this year) or Atlanta Braves season ticket holders. Something important is missing in a losing sports fan’s life that can only be cured with a pennant win. Over time masculine vitality, free testosterone and essential manly man lifeforce has drained from his increasingly sedentary, diabetic and morbidly obese body. At this point, screaming obscenities, personally insulting players and eating a shit ton of junk food at the game is the very best he can do. This particular kind of ill-tempered Bleacher Bum whether they realize it or not really wants to bring down a charging buffalo or crack the skull of a nosey Neanderthal attempting to make it with his daughter or hot looking cave dwelling wife but all he can do is sit by and idly watch the opposing team round the bases over and over and then “cuck dance” in the dugout. No wonder many disgruntled sports fans settle for getting plastered on warm beer and fighting other angry drunks and losing team depressed guys. They, like other seemingly more successful men like Donald Trump and Anthony Weiner are essentiallstuck in psychological adolescence comparing their hands, their feet, their Monopoly properties and of course their penis size. They haven’t learned to expand their fundamental definition of masculinity and have failed to embrace the deeper and far more mature  meaning of the expression, “Buddy, It’s not the meat, it’s the motion”.
 
November 3, 2016 Addendum:  Last night the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. It’s as if the entire city of Chicago has taken Viagra. They finally got their manly man MOJO back.
 
Tony Soprano’s Penis Dream: https://youtu.be/apkoUIBj91w
 
Maria Muldour: It Aint the Meat, It’s the Motion
 
The Evolutionary Principle is a largely psychological doctrine formulated by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss which roughly states that when a species is removed from the habitat in which it evolved or that habitat changes significantly within a brief period (evolutionarily speaking), the species will develop maladaptive or outright pathological behavior.
 
Cliff Mazer, Ph.D.  is a sex therapist and Clinical Psychologist living in Atlanta, Georgia. He has three grown manly man sons and loves everything Pirate. Contact:  404-932-7193

 

 

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I am Spartacus! A case for Mature Masculinity

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Introduction: Lately there’s been a lot of talk about toxic masculinity and male privilege. Old school narcissists with tiny hands like Donald Trump are as bad an example of mature masculinity as Anthony Weiner who cant seem to keep his Gen X pecker in his pants and  fingers away from his cell phone camera. Both of them protesteth too much as far as promoting themselves as “manly men” who carry a “big stick”. Me thinketh they both suffer from male-patterned insecurity cultivated in an unusually competitive capitalistic society and cutthroat sociopolitical state.

Historically, patriarchal cultures and patrilinear societies like the Roman Empire tend to be insecure about their political fate and sexual potency. Historians remark how obsessed ancient Rome was with “the penis motif” (otherwise known as the “dick”) and wonder why such an advanced civilization felt the need to install phallic symbols everywhere for protection, good fortune, and/or as conveniently shaped street signs. In contrast, my approach to men and masculinity applies broader and less “genital-centered” principles to address sex-related problems. Focusing too much on the penis either in therapy or in life can only lead to a bad case of performance anxiety, genital warts or penis envy a la Siggy Freud. As an older clinical psychologist and sex therapist of the male persuasion (62 years old) I hope to have gained (in addition to the proverbial extra 20 lbs “spare tire”) a few distinct advantages as a result of my longitudinal life experience. This includes but is not limited to such things as “hindsight” and a “big picture” perspective. It also means I’ve gotten my cocky male narcissistic butt kicked around enough times to know what humble pie tastes like. It’s rather tart in fact. Trying too hard to be the biggest and best at everything including sex can end up having the exact opposite effect on ones ego and externalized sex organ. In other words, it’s not just the grass that appears greener and possibly grander when you look too close at what others possess in the locker room or the Imperial gladiator ring. Personally, I say “thank the Gods” that there are other human attributes to focus on as we age besides ones penis length to offset the enlarged prostate, progressive baldness, hearing loss, and my total invisibility to any woman under the age of 50 at Starbucks.

Developing the psychological maturity necessary to experience and express emotional vulnerability, profound love, loyalty, compassion, receptivity, and empathy are not booby prizes in the sexual revolution or so-called battle between the now somewhat indeterminate sexes. Such qualities help to define our humanity and may represent the golden keys to freedom from an insidious form of male genital-centered slavery and oppression, something that has hindered both men and women alike for thousands of years. Hey, I am Spartacus!!

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Human Error and Why Shit Happens: Part 2


PompeiiPompeii People

Everest Dead

The Shining

“Shit happens” is a common colloquial expression that many people intuitively understand and can relate to. However, far fewer people go on to inquire, “well, why did that particular shit happen?” Bear with me on this question because I suspect this will not be real easy to explain. To some extent, bad shit like major disasters, catastrophes, and fatal accidents continue to remain shrouded in mystery and myth for many people. Especially in the past (but sometimes even today) God, superstition, rumor and outright confabulation somehow become part and parcel of the disaster narrative and end up confusing the scientific analysis and rational explanations.  In other words, what we think we know is usually not completely true and we often continue to assume its truth/veracity based on ignorance, cognitive rigidity and consensual agreement with other misinformed souls.

For example, I happened to recently watch a documentary about Pompeii on TV and realized for the very first time that the perfectly preserved remains of the townspeople caught in the violent volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius were actually (for the most part) not “bodies” or complete skeletal remains but reinforced casts (like a plaster mold) made by a certain individual in the late 1800s. So much for my childhood fascination with 2000 year old dead Romans buried alive in volcanic ash and frozen in their contorted death agony for all eternity… Somewhat related is the longstanding and relatively common assumption that when REALLY BAD SHIT happens like a biblical flood or giant plague of locusts, etc., it likely involves supernatural causes that are basically inconceivable and unknowable. To “know” or understand such cosmic or divine proportion events is usually reduced to believing what the BIG BOOK (or Pat Robertson) tells us…otherwise we too might get turned into a pillar of salt. While such interpretations of why shit happens often fall under the basket category of, “God did it so dont ask for a repeat performance” they also may inspire a kind of scientific laziness, learned helplessness and general surrender to the “mysteries of the universe”.

 Second, it is a fact that when shit happens it often involves complex reasons and multiple interacting variables that are difficult to assess. Large airplanes are known to disappear off radar screens never to be seen or heard again….right? Nevertheless, human beings very often need and want simple answers in their pursuit of what they erroneously perceive as “closure”. Let’s face it. Hitler alone did not cause (or carry out) the Holocaust. As a result, those desperately in need of answers are sometimes willing to entertain highly unusual or unlikely simplistic explanations… like UFO’s, the Bermuda Triangle, and various other creative or nefarious conspiracy theories.  I call this the “Alien Meets Big Foot Syndrome”. It’s more difficult to acknowledge that many answers to unexplained or catastrophic events are not easily obtained due to the difficulty and expense involved. Identifying reasonable primary determining factors and teasing out spurious or confusing interaction effects, hidden or confounding secondary variables is arduous and challenging at best. The additional presence of changing/dynamic conditions that alter statistical equations, prediction models or forecasts make scientific investigation even more difficult to conduct, calculate and control. That’s one reason why pharmaceutical companies can get away with a lot of their rather weak clinical data “proving” their drugs effectiveness even tho the placebo effect is often almost as good. Things tend to change and replication studies are rare.

Recently, I was able to come to a better personal understanding of this “why shit happens” topic after watching the movie “Everest” on cable television and then reading a journal article about this same event.  Somehow it helped me (both practically and metaphorically) to first view a dramatic recreation of this literal shit storm involving two professional climbing expeditions that met disaster on Mt Everest in May of 1996. Through watching the dramatic story along with the unfolding sequence of related events I was better able to grasp the unique context involved as well as the interplay of multiple determining factors, both human and otherwise. In any catastrophe or major disaster, whether it is the sinking of the Titanic, the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, or the more recent mass shooting of innocents in a gay nightclub in Orlando there is an unseen “flamenco dance” of contributing factors, mathematical probabilities, dumb luck (or lack of) and Final Destination-like fate/destiny playing out in real time and space. In other words there apparently is such a thing as being in a really bad place at the very wrong time. Such a high stakes poker game, vibrating quantum wave and probabilistic “roll of the dice” (for or against life, death, and survival) is not unlike that which Albert Einstein referred to in his famous (but often totally misinterpreted) quote, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe…” Einstein might have fallen a bit short on the quantum mechanics and spiritual aspects involved in why good and bad things happen but at least he got gravity right. However, messing up with gravity and the need to maintain stability at high altitude/steep descent circumstances can get yourself killed …as was shown on Mt. Everest and more recently demonstrated in the “freak” water slide accident in Kansas City.

The journal article I read (see below) about the Mt. Everest disaster, while somewhat dry and wholly lacking in the aforementioned cinematic suspense, was really the best available scientific analysis of why and how “shit happens” in certain high risk situations. I’ve always been obsessed with survival and “fate” and tried to look at such complex issues from multiple perspectives using various human lenses that include wearing my spiritual and gut intuition glasses as well as my rational and scientific spectacles.Of course it’s important to not get ones viewpoint mixed up.  As an example, my ex-wife Rona’s fateful dream several months before she died from Stage4 lung cancer (the one about a wild cat that approached her and needing to make it to “Gate 30” at the airport on time) represented a prophetic and symbolic story line and one that lent itself better to a personal and/or spiritual rather than scientific interpretation. Still, as dreams go it was pretty amazing….

As stated, “shit happens” in life not just for a single reason but for a host of interrelated reasons and explanatory factors. What we call “good luck” or “bad luck” is often just the compounding of many positive and/or negative factors that people are either previously unaware of, somewhat aware of, or completely blind, deaf, and dumb towards. It’s not just that human beings (unlike computers) cant compute or fathom the multivariate nature of complex mathematical probability models, predictive analytics or practical risk factors. It’s also that computers are lousy at utilizing spiritual or intuitive information and tend to filter out what is perceived to be “extraneous” or superfluous data. God (the Universe) on the other hand is apparently capable of factoring in everything and nothing is seen as total garbage. Our limited human minds and egos, somewhat like computers, also have built-in filtering mechanisms (like psychological defense mechanisms, cognitive schemas, fuzzy logic, self-serving report biases and errors in judgement and attribution). Because we are human beings with strong emotional processing systems (rather than purely objective computer systems based on binary coding) there is a general tendency to “drift” toward non-objective thinking, again often in service to our fundamentally hard-wired emotional needs, fantasies, wishes, etc.  That’s probably at least one aspect that Sigmund Freud got right abut human learning and behavior (clearly NOT counting the whole penis envy/castration complex thing) . 

It’s worth mentioning that it’s probably true that many people live their lives too often in a kind of sub-clinical “flight or fight” mode and somewhat understandably cant seem to stay sufficiently balanced between the need/requirement to initiate change, move, adapt, and take calculated risks with the simultaneous need to stay safe, hunker down, and remain cautious. Essentially we either under or overreact as a result of anxiety and perceived risk (overcorrect) or we fall asleep at the wheel and fail to take adequate precaution, so to speak. On top of all this, as mentioned, the many variables that determine and explain bad accidents and disasters are a moving target of predictable and seemingly unpredictable factors like fast moving ice storms on Mt. Everest or in the case of the kind of “weird news” I report on in my web blog, some totally wacked out crazy person randomly deciding to slit a strangers throat in a grocery store for no apparent reason ( I know, “WTF?”). Talk about bad luck. Either way, such unforeseen events would throw off the careful, all-inclusive multivariate regression and subconscious risk factor analysis going on in our head that is normally programmed towards insuring personal survival. You just dont expect some nut job to kill you while you are testing the avocados for ripeness in the produce aisle.

In the end, more often than not (as amply demonstrated in one of my favorite TV shows “Air Disasters”……(FYI: NOT a great program to watch right before flying somewhere on vacation) it is usually human (pilot) error, mental/emotional factors or excessive stress/fatigue that triggers the subsequent “cascade” of faulty decisions and even mechanical failures that directly lead to bad shit happening like airplane crashes or freezing to death on Mt. Everest. My guess is that Stephen Hawking’s recently publicized  “down grade” of humanity’s probable chance for long term survival as a species is at least partially based on his realistic calculation of human error related global extinction events occurring sometime in the near future like climate change, Trump being elected as POTUS or ISIS getting their fanatical hands on tactical nuclear weapons. Black holes arent the only things in spacetime that contain within their basic structure a certain end point that represents the statistical point of no return or “event horizon” as far as survival is concerned.

Bottomline: “Survival” is an interesting “board game” and something we all “play” on a daily basis whether we realize it or not.  In an earlier web blog I wrote about my near obsession as a small boy playing with plastic army men. I didnt just play “War” in my backyard or basement like I imagine most kids do or did (altho i really liked blowing stuff up and lighting them on fire) but I would set up “fateful” life or death situations and scenarios with blocks, Lincoln logs, etc. I would carefully place all these little plastic warriors in the various structures and then bomb the living shit out of them with heavy objects. That’s right. I was the Angel of Death, Mt. Vesuvius, Godzilla, the Luftwaffe, Gorgo, the Enola Gay Hiroshima bomber, Robert Oppenheimer, Hurricane Inez, Dr. Mengele, and the deadly Passover Plagues all combined.  It sounds morbid, maybe even somewhat disturbed, but I just wanted to see who survived, who didn’t and why.  It certainly wasn’t that I wanted to really kill people or someday become an insurance claims adjuster, corporate risk manager or crash-test scientist or dummy.  I just wanted to see how placement, preparation, dumb luck, happenstance, probability and various other factors interacted to determine survival and continued life rather than death.  Death, I realized even then, was a somewhat unfathomable mystery but survival seemed to be more of a probabilistic enterprise that could be analyzed and understood. Being a big hypochondriac, I should also admit, I even noted and evaluated the little plastic army guys (or Cowboys and Indians or whatever) who were merely “wounded” by virtue of their semi-prone yet still semi-standing positions after my incessant air attacks and ruthless bombing runs. Even as I type this I am watching a military history program on TV about a certain Canadian fighter pilot who for very identifiable reasons became a distinguished flying “ace” in WWII by shooting down over 30 Nazi planes over Malta and surviving it all…only to die a mere three years later in a freak unexplained midair explosion. Apparently in his post-war boredom and brief retirement from military aviation he signed on to help deliver an airplane to Israel during its War of Independence. In my mind such ironic events deserve a formal military salute with an associated rolling of the eyes, shaking of the head and ponderous gaze toward the heavens above while thinking aloud to myself, “Seriously? God, You gotta be fucking kidding me?!!”

pure.au.dk/portal-asb-student/files/…/Lessons_from_Everest.pdf
 

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