Sigh. I entitled this blog what I did because I am having a difficult time of it at the moment. My dad did die this year. And Trump did ascend to power this year. But $hit has really been hitting the fan, as they say. Today, Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor have been caught in the thorny bramble of bad behavior. I was also a bit shocked by Louis C. K., Senator Al Franken, and Representative John Conyers. I look around and institutions seem to be tarnishing, crumbling, under attack, and failing. It feels like we are more divided and that there are more dangers than I am comfortable with. In this blog, I will try to make sense of my angst, and use reliable, positive values as a consolation.Read More
November 10th, 2020
April 26th, 2020
My father was a brilliant surgery resident at the famed Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA when he was oh, probably, 27 years old. He ended up specializing in and completing another residency in family practice (long story!) by the time he was 31, or thereabouts. Coming from relative poverty, a loveless and sometimes-physically-abusive home, and facing anti-Semitism growing up in the 1950s, I remember him telling me “I went off to college at age 18 with only a suit.” As in, no money, no furniture, no books, no nothing. My father busted his butt and was an admired and even loved physician in the rough part of L.A. when I was growing up. He was asked to be the head of four Kaiser Permanente when he was, oh, about 40. Instead, he opted to remain at Kaiser-Montebello and be the Physician-in-Charge at that clinic. Mort Merchey spoke Spanish with probably 50 percent of his patients—who always remembered him generously during the Christmas holidays. As if that weren’t enough, he also was a Captain in the Reserve Corps of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, a huge organization. My pop knew how to shoot his Magnum .357 as well as any uniformed deputy could. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he did pretty darned well, considering where he came from. He makes me look like a slacker in comparison, that’s for sure! He was smart, good-looking, funny, amiable, and competent. Driven to school in his true-blue Mercedes convertible in the mornings, needless to say, I had the greatest respect for my dad’s professional and educational achievement.
This story does not, however, have a happy ending, exactly. My dad suffered greatly in retirement. This happens with many people, perhaps especially those who are like him.
April 24th, 2020
Famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s obituary featured the President of the National Academy of Sciences, Bruce Alberts extolling him thusly: “Carl Sagan, more than any contemporary scientist I can think of, knew what it takes to stir passion within the public when it comes to the wonder and importance of science.” The television program Cosmos (now in its third season) has been a reliable, interesting, educational experience for me and for millions of others; it’s like Sesame Street for this millennium. If you want to learn more about science by that, I mean astrophysics, astronomy, geology, and even the history of science, this is the show for you. Now that the third season is out, I have collected some quotes by those involved with the show, those who are practitioners of applied science, and so on. Especially in a time when every single day folks are hearing public health officials, physicians, and biomedical researchers speak on television (the pandemic), there is both a desire for diversion, and there is an “attunedness” to applied science. If Trump and others are turning out to be the buffoons and the charlatans in this crisis, scientists, doctors, nurses, paramedics, nursing home staff — even meat packers and workers at Amazon.com — are the bright lights in the dark.Read More
March 29th, 2020
I took a much-needed break from the media, politicians, and the disease COVID-19 last week. It felt pretty good! Perhaps because I’m lucky, because I chose not to have children, because I work from home, and because of the house my wife and I occupy, I can pull off “unplugging” from the Internet, phone, and cable news (mostly) for four or five straight days. I told my wife, “If we get a shelter-in-place order, hopefully you find out, because I won’t!” I was listening to the radio, watching movies and inane TV, reading, going to the gym (when it was still open), volunteering for Meals on Wheels, and so on. Gone was the “the sky is falling!” feeling that results from watching my wealth manager, whom I pay 1% of my stock assets to every year, having chose stocks that lost 30% in value in twenty days, hearing Donald Trump speak, and thinking of what the virus is doing to Italy and Spain. Now that I’m back, I feel like I’m back up on the cross, not only enduring raw facts about the disease, but all manner of bullshit from the land that invented steel-cage wrestling matches, Cheese-Puffs, and The Apprentice. Here are ten examples on my mind today:Read More
June 7th, 2019
Rush is one of the best bands out there not only for instrumentation, virtuosity, and precision, but also lyrics. Amazingly, the lyrics below are a song written by Neil Peart. It’s a haunting piece about aging, success, confidence, sadness, desperation, and suicide. It’s absolutely remarkable. In the end, I have a link to watch it being performed live. For anyone who tries to reach the pinnacle of performance and the zenith of success, you will no doubt resonate with this melancholy song. Alas, death comes for us all, and as soon as we are born we start dying. For some it reaches the point of absurdity and extreme existential angst. I will add a few quotations for your consideration about life, pain, aging, illness, overcoming, meaning, existentailism, hope, and optimism in the end.Read More
July 2nd, 2018
The question I want to explore in this blog is whether life is worthy of hope and optimism. Conversely, perhaps you tend to feel that humankind’s existence is more fraught with difficulty, absurdity, despair, and deserves a skeptical and doubtful attitude. One can marshal quotations about hope and quotes about doubt to cast a favorable light on one’s predetermined conclusions. I urge you to suspend your judgment and view the following quotations about hope and skepticism with an open mind. I am of the opinion that the philosophical question of what the nature of life is is a bit hard to definitively determine. Well, here we go – a look at some very unique quotations about hope and an equal measure of apt doubt, skepticism, and pessimism quotes.Read More
June 17th, 2018
I sometimes get a bit of pushback or disapproval from a friend who finds me to be too critical, perfectionistic, negative, and judgmental about politics, economics, and America in general. He tells me to relax, and de-focus, because a) life sucks when you are in a dark place, and b) America is and always has been mostly good. In other words, he is saying that yes, we have our problems here, but why dwell on those; there are so many positive and just and progressive and hopeful things about this country that could just as easily be considered. That’s fair enough, as far as it goes. This blog is about social criticism and the spirit of American political liberalism/progressivism. From the Vietnam War era “love it or leave it!” to culture warrior Ann Coulter’s belief that liberals are cowardly foolish traitors to America, the question is whether America is above reproach, or rightfully deserves a cold, hard look (as always, for the purposes of making this country better). My belief is not simply that “We are the best country in the world!” but rather We have more potential than any nation in history, so why are we so unimpressively selfish, ignorant, reckless, warlike, materialistic, distractible, misled, and tribal?Read More
January 29th, 2018
Such a huge conglomeration of lies, deceptions, broken promises, subterfuge, and chicanery has resulted from one year of a Donald Trump presidency (I can’t say I am surprised), that there is plenty of grist for the mill if someone wishes to criticize the man. It’s just been abysmal. A panoply of ostentatious dissembling, propaganda, and class warfare. Conservatives bemoan the power and size of government, and when George W. Bush was in office and now this guy, I see what they’re talking about! For us political progressives, this is a gruesome spectacle to witness, but all hope is not lost. The following is what Bernie Sanders has say to those of us who are worried, dispirited, appalled, or anxious about Donald Trump (the day before the State of the Union Address, 2018). It’s good enough to reprint here:Read More
December 30th, 2017
This 2003 poem about anxiety regarding a love interest shows my ambivalent feelings, fear, and lust:
Amy represents to me solace and intrigue.
I return again and again for more of her light.
Bent on success, I ought not to stop now,
But winning her heart is daily an emotional fight.
December 24th, 2017
An ode to emotion, vision, gratitude, fulfillment, joy, and contentment. Much of what makes life really worth living:
To write a thoughtful poem;
To give help when sorely needed;
To seek and find elusive faith;
To have really succeeded.