The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Personal Reflections ... Politics ...

To follow up on my last post about voices and politics, let me comment on what I think about the voices of our two main Presidential candidates — in sum, I think that they are both horrible. Well, I always found Trump’s voice just as annoying as everything that he says. Actually, it might be the way that he uses his voice to say what’s on his mind — his inflections and tonal modulations just scream out “BIG BLOWHARD WHO DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT”.

As to Hillary Clinton, her speech-voice is like fingernails on blackboards, amplified 1000 times. I know that a lot of other men don’t enjoy her angry, screechy tones, and that a lot of women and progressive men have written articles calling us sexists for our vocal preferences. Well, that may be true; but it still doesn’t make Hillary’s speeches any easier to listen to. The ironic thing is that I’m old enough to remember hearing Hillary speak (on TV or radio, I never saw her in person — I didn’t work for any of those big financial firms who paid her to talk), back when she was First Lady or Senator from New York. She seemed a lot easier to take back then. Even her 2008 primary campaign voice didn’t seem especially offensive.

I believe that Ms. Clinton has recently tried to keep up vocally with Bernie Sanders, who was trying to sell the notion of revolution in his campaign. And to be honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy the “take to the streets” implications of Bernie’s voice. But I’m sorry — Hillary Clinton just can’t do Bolshevik revolutionary as well as Bernie can. You’d think that she could now calm down on the podium and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:50 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

Here’s a link to an interesting article on some recent research on what people think about their own voices. It turns out that many people “cringe” when listening to their own voices played back from a recording.

And I thought that I was the only one !!

Albeit — another study found that when people were asked to rate their impressions regarding the attractiveness of another by listening to their voice, on average they rated themselves most attractive (i.e., they were asked to rate 3 or 4 different voice samples, and unbeknownst to the listener, one of the voices was their own). So perhaps many of us don’t like the sound of our own voices, but we still like the image of the person behind the voice. Ah, we humans are such complex creatures.

Well, that’s all from me for tonight. Despite all the Democratic Convention hubbub, I don’t find anything too interesting going on in politics right at the moment. But here are two “other shoes” waiting to drop. First — regarding Hillary — good old Julian Assange and Wikileaks got the convention off to a rough start with the DNC leaks about Bernie Sanders. And then there was the Russian angle . . . were those e-mails given to Wikileaks by  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:26 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, July 25, 2016
Politics ... Society ...

Just before Donald Trump’s dark and gloomy acceptance speech at the Cleveland GOP Convention last Thursday evening, President Obama gave a much more optimistic review of the current state of the world. At the White House Summit on Global Development on Wednesday, Obama opined that despite international terrorism and the economic distress that many experience from globalization, we are living in the most peaceful, prosperous and promising era in human history. To nail his point home, he asked that we take the view of a young person just entering the world.

when I’m talking to young interns at the White House who are still immunizing themselves from the cynicism that’s so chronic in this town–I remind them, if you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were going to be, you’d choose now. Because the world has never been less violent, healthier, better educated, more tolerant, with more opportunity for more people, and more connected than it is today.

As to Trump — I loved the way that NY Times “soft-conservative” columnist David Brooks related Trump’s convention message to a “coming attractions” clip for an upcoming superhero blockbuster. Brooks asks you to “read this paragraph in your super-scary movie trailer voice”. Yes indeed, watching candidate Trump is just like sitting in a modern wide-screen theater  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:46 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Personal Reflections ... Zen ...

I haven’t had much blogging inspiration of late. But I just wrote a note to a “Zen buddy” of mine who is spending the summer in France. Given that he is a 72 year old idealist who still carries the torch for Bernie Sanders, I congratulated him for not giving in to “comfortable numbness” (yes, I’m thinking of the Pink Floyd song). Since we are both Zen students and loyal participants at the local zendo, and yet we both retain something of a healthy skepticism regarding all “bodies of received wisdom” including Buddhism and Zen, I made the point to my friend that Zen practice is not necessarily an antidote to the eviscerating comfort of modern suburban life that Roger Waters sang of. Then I followed up with something of a Zen thought, or maybe more appropriately, an anti-Zen thought. I.e., that Zen is often just another form of “existential novocaine”.

And yes, this thought was also inspired by Pink Floyd — recall the line that goes “just a little pin-prick, they’ll no more AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH . . . but you may feel a little sick.”

So I did a Google on the phrase “existential novocaine”, and I only found two other places where the phrase was used. SO, it’s an “almost original”. And no one has yet tied it to Zen or Buddhism. So, I stake my claim !!

Well, I usually like to write long essays, but for tonight, I’ll go the Zen route and keep it short. Zen and Buddhism as existential novocaine — take it or leave it. An Anti-Zen Thought . . . but then again, Zen is sort of like the elementary particle known as the neutrino. One of the interesting characteristics of the ghost-like (almost Zen-like) neutrino is that it probably serves as its own “anti-particle” (as with gluons and Higgs bosons). Perhaps so too with Zen . . . when you criticize Zen, you are actually doing Zen. Perhaps all the more so!!

PS, here’s an interesting post I found regarding “Cultural Novocaine”. I’m not sure exactly what the author (a Mr. Steppling) is trying to sell, but I love his line about “the strip mining of consciousness”. YES!!! That’s another good way to describe Zen. Anti-Zen as Zen!! Love it!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:02 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Current Affairs ... Food / Drink ... Photo ...

Before I get to my culinary experience with shallots, let me acknowledge that the past week was an extremely important and tumultuous one for our nation. FBI Director James Comey recommended that charges NOT be filed against former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because of her exclusive business use of external e-mail servers while serving as Secretary, despite the fact (according to the FBI) that classified information had been received and sent through those servers in a manner that would have easily allowed it to be “hacked” by foreign interests. And then came the very questionable shootings and killings of African-American men by while and Hispanic police officers in Baton Rouge, LA and St. Anthony, MN — followed by the equally shocking assignation of 5 white police officers in Dallas by an African-American gunman intent upon revenge. Various other violence was intentionally done upon police officers throughout the nation in response to these shootings.

I wish that I had some wise words to offer about all of this. Well, as to Ms. Clinton, that’s not all that hard. Comey cited the notion of “prosecutorial discretion” in abstaining from any further action by the FBI and US Dept. of Justice against Ms. Clinton, and I believe this was a legitimate decision. I am somewhat familiar with the workings of a local prosecutor’s office, and the idea that you can’t go after everyone whom you possess potential evidence of guilt against is very real. Justice in America is not completely blind, and never was. The enforcers of our laws only have so much money and so many people available. In the FBI’s case, they would have tied up a big chunk of their resources and US DOJ’s resources for many months and probably years in trying to convict Ms. Clinton for her mis-handling of sensitive national information.

However, even though the legal standard of “gross negligence” was clearly violated by the former Secretary (Comey used the term “extremely careless” to describe Ms. Clinton’s e-mail behavior, which is logically the same as gross negligence), there was no evidence  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:41 pm       Read Comments (4) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Current Affairs ... Foreign Relations/World Affairs ... History ...

I was listening to the Sunday political shows as usual, and many of the GOP politicians and pro-Republican commentators continued their standing criticism of the Obama administration for not using the phrase “radical Islam” (or “radical Islamic terrorism“). Recently, President Obama shot back at his critics, making his case for not publicly associating Islam with the violence and killing that ISIL and other terrorists who claim Islamic inspiration are doing.

In a nutshell, the President is trying to say that the terrorists are wrong in that they are not a legitimate part of the Islamic tradition. I sympathize with what Obama is trying to do through his cautious phrasing; but then again, Obama himself is not a Muslim (despite the efforts of many right-wing nuts to paint him as one), nor is he an Islamic scholar. I agree that it is good for the President to communicate to the vast majority of peaceful and patriotic Muslims in our nation and throughout the world that “we know you are better than that”. However, in choosing one’s words so as to make that implication, aren’t you also acknowledging those who believe that there IS a problem inherent to Islam as it presently exists, and that it is responsible for the rising levels of jihadist-inspired violence?

There are other thoughtful commentators who take the position that although the great majority of Muslims do not support and generally oppose jihadist violence, perhaps they are not doing enough to discourage and stop those who become radicalized. Instead of having US government officials say in effect that terrorism is not a legitimate religious practice for those of the Islamic faith, perhaps we need  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:20 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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