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MISCmedia MAIL for 7/5/16: NOT-QUITE-AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN
Jul 4th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Now that the last amateur drinking day’s over, we return to news-digestin’ with attempts to save the sockeye; an unsung city park’s anniversary; a troubled trove of regional history; a church offering drug-assisted enlightenment; and great news for all Thucking-Funder haters!

PSYCHOLOGY IN REAL LIFE, IN THREE PARTS
May 9th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

  • Exhibit A: Web cartoonist Allie Brosh offers a poignant, funny, unflinching, harrowing account of her bout with severe depression.
  • Exhibit B: Psychology Today’s got a cover story called “Confessions of a Sociopath.” She’s cool-headed, icy-blooded, and immune to others’ emotions. Of course, she’s a former trial lawyer. (And a Mormon.)
  • Exhibit C: Harvard historian Naill Ferguson recently gay-bashed the late UK economist John Maynard Keynes. Ferguson alleged that Keynes, as a childless hedonist (he’d actually been married to a woman who couldn’t conceive), didn’t give a darn about society’s long-term future. Ferguson essentially compared Keynes’s advocacy of government stimulus programs instead of “austerity economics” to a fiddling grasshopper sneering at hard-working ants. As Canadian cultural historian Jeet Heer explains at the American Prospect, this dichotomy has been at the heart of both economic and moralistic arguments since the days of the Greeks.
THE WOMAN I’M LOOKING FOR
Feb 14th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

Last June, I wrote a piece entitled “Notes to a Potential Girlfriend.

That piece was all about me.

This time, I’m fantasizing/riffing about who I would like that potential girlfriend to be.

She would be, more or less, as follows:

  • Any adult age; though if you’re much younger, be aware that I don’t stay up ’til 2 as often as I used to.
  • Any ethnicity, skin color, or hair color.
  • Won’t try to convert me into becoming a Christian, a vegan, a stoner, or a Libertarian.
  • Will let me keep my “room of one’s own;” will let me keep it messy.
  • Will let me hold, more or less, to my odd (but never deliberately so) tastes in food, music, apparel, and entertainment. Will let me continue to own and use a television.
  • Believes in gender equality, in BOTH directions.
  • Allows my needed daily work-at-home time.
  • More into soul-melding, intimate lovemaking than porn-style fucking.
  • Progressive populist, not alt-culture elitist. (i.e., not a square-basher.)
  • Not a female me, which couldn’t exist anyway. A complement rather than a clone.
  • Notices things I don’t notice. Knows things I don’t know (which covers, I admit, a LOT of ground).
  • Has an open and voracious mind.
  • Cares about people and the future and stuff.
  • Sees the heart and humanity in other people, no matter what their niche or lifestyle.
  • Has eyes that light up the night, and lips to melt into.
  • Equally at home in social and private situations.
  • A “city mouse.” (I’m not moving to Bainbridge.)
  • Preferably not currently married. Preferably.
  • NS/LD.
  • Preferably without preteen kids (but that’s not a requirement).
  • Preferably without implants (but that’s not a requirement).
  • Isn’t looking for a guy with money (goes w/o saying).
  • Isn’t looking for an “enabler.”
  • Doesn’t need to conform to others’ standards of “nonconformity” (ideology-wise or fashion-wise).
  • Tells me what she wants; doesn’t just expect me to already know.
  • Relatively free of psychotic episodes.
  • Centered, self confident, and comfortable in her self.
  • Believes love is more important than self righteousness.
  • Believes in herself, in others, and in me.
TROO LUVV DEPT.
Sep 14th, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

Some research study claims “love inspires creativity, but thoughts of sex stimulate analytical thinking.” The reasoning: “Love… is dreamy, and dreams are linked to creativity. Sex, on the other hand, is about achieving an immediate goal.”

GOODBYE, DALAI!
Apr 25th, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

It’s been a few weeks now since the big Seeds of Compassion mega-conference.

What have we learned?

In terms of left-brain rational learning, not a whole lot that hasn’t been said repeatedly in three decades of new-age philosophy. You’re a child of the universe. Be honest. Be conscientious. Be empathetic. Be kind to people. Take care of one another, especially kids. Spread love and joy. People are more important than power or profits. War is horrible, but so is repression. Vengeance only begets more vengeance.

But from there, the lessons got more subtle.

I’ll just mention one lesson invoked several speakers in the cablecast events—the lesson that empathy is deeper and more personal than mere sympathy.

Tim Harris’s blog, Apesa’s Lament (apesmaslament.blogspot.com), has been an outspoken critic of the city’s current homelessness policy. Harris believes Mayor Nickels is doing too little to find homes for people, while doing too much to harass the homeless into invisibility.

Harris recently noted that, earlier this year, official city documents called Nickels’s policy “consistent and compassionate.” But more recent documents, issued after the Seeds of Compassion conference, bill the city’s homeless policy as “consistent and humane.”

As Harris comments, “The word ‘compassion’ implies a certain amount of connectedness and having something at stake.” Conversely, he describes the adjective “humane” as “more associated with children, animals, and other somewhat helpless creatures.”

This distinction goes beyond the homeless and beyond our own town.

Do we treat other people (even the others we want to help or love) as The capital-O Other, as some exotic-but-lesser life form? Or do we acknowledge that we ARE they, they ARE we?

Taking this approach further, we belong to the same human family with all the group-types we Seattle liberals love to bash. Wal-Mart shoppers. Red-staters. Suburbanites. Churchgoers. Condo owners. People who eat meat. People who watch television. People who don’t smoke pot.

Yes, even white straight males.

NOTES FROM AN ODD WEEKEND
Apr 14th, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

Saturday just happened to be the first warm day of the year; a perfect setting for the already much-documented Dalai Lama show in the pro football stadium, where he talked about compassion and coexistence for all people.

(No, I see absolutely no cynical irony in that. American football is a game of confrontation, but it’s also a game of cooperation.)

His message, and the other messages at the Seeds of Compassion confab, have been both simple and deep. I’ll probably have more to say about them later this week.

Later that evening, I found myself at the Georgetown Art Attack gallery crawl. Saw some lovely informal paintings at Georgetown Tile curated by my ol’ pal Anne Grgich; then caught some great buys at the Fantagraphics bookstore’s scratch-and-dent sale.

Sunday brought us the last day of the last bowling alley north of the Ship Canal, Ballard’s totally beloved Sunset Lanes.

It was also the day of what just might have been the last pro basketball game in Seattle. Maybe. If we don’t do something about it.

Even after a deliberately thrown season, the finale was sold out. Fans booed the home team’s owner Clay Bennett, and cheered the opposing team’s owner (Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, who opposes Bennett’s desired team move to Oklahoma City). You saw little to none of this on Fox Sports Net; under terms of its contract with the team, FSN’s announcers said almost nothing about Bennett’s threats or the real importance of Sunday’s game.

Also Sunday evening, and this takes the whole entry full circle, CNN held what it called a “Compassion Forum,” in which Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (appearing separately) discussed their religious and/or spiritual foundations. Of course, because they are rival applicants for a really big job, some pundits just had to compare and contrast who’s really the most faith-based.

DISPATCHES FROM THE WHITE LODGE
Sep 11th, 2007 by Clark Humphrey

book coverOn one level, David Lynch’s brief memoir/manifesto Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity is, like most of Lynch’s body of work, bewildering.

On another level, like most of Lynch’s body of work, it makes perfect sense by its own individualistic sense of logic.

The bewildering part is when Lynch frequently segues into endorsement spots for Transcendental Meditation. He’s practiced it for almost as long as he’s practiced filmmaking, and now has his own “David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.”

I’m sure Lynch has sincerely benefitted from his TM practice. It’s a minor shame he takes the movement’s PR lines at face value. For some reason I’d expected more healthy skepticism from him. But instead he waxes enthusiastic about the “unified field” and a thousand meditators in one town miraculously reducing the crime rate.

I’m sure Lynch’s daily meditation habit helps to ground his mind, refresh his creative juices, and enable him to withstand the massive stresses that face any Hollywood player.

I’m not convinced the TM system is, by itself, any more effective than any other meditative regime. However, any human discipline can be more effectively executed with instruction and guidance, such as that provided by the TM organization’s professional trainers.

Catching the Big Fish is beautifully designed, and beautifully written. Just as in his screenplays, which seldom let dialogue get in the way of imagery, his prose is short and sweet and directly propels the narrative line.

Lynch talks only a little about his films, explaining at one point that he doesn’t want his comments to overshadow the works themselves. (This is in a piece about why he doesn’t like DVD commentary tracks.)

When he does talk about his films, it’s in the form of little vignettes. Befitting his early training as a painter, his stories in the book are all about stringing together a succesison momentary images.

He does talk about his new digital-video feature, Inland Empire, and why he’s turned permanently to shooting on video. Previously famous for painstakingly crafting the perfect shot, now Lynch is a total convert to digital video’s flexibility, its versatility, its economy, and its capability for unlimited retakes and experimentation.

And, as you might expect, he discusses the apparent contradiction between his TM-fueled drive for “bliss” and the dark, often violent content in his works:

“There are many, many dark things flowing around in this world now, and omst films reflect the world in which we live. They’re stories. Stories are always going to have conflict. They’re going to have highs and lows, and good and bad….It’s good for the artist to understand conflict and stress. Those things can give you ideas. But I guarantee you, if you have enough stress, you won’t be able to create. And if you have enough conflict, it will just get in the way of your creativity. You can understand conflict, but you don’t have to live in it.”

And, I LOVE what Lynch says about “world peace” as something we should work for, not dismissively joke about.

On this day, which has predictably and tragically become an annual call to fear, that’s as good a message as any:

“May everyone be happy. May everyone be free of disease.May auspiciousness be seen everywhere. May suffering belong to no one.

Peace.”

LONGTIME READERS WILL RECALL…
May 23rd, 2007 by Clark Humphrey

…the only prior time I’ve mentioned Paris Hilton. It was a brief aside, pondering whether Hilton would have grown up to be a classier person if Elizabeth Taylor had remained part of the family.

Now, it turns out, Hilton and I have read the same book! (Or at least we’ve both been seen in public with the same book.)

In a papparazi shot earlier this week, a pre-jail Hilton was photographed carrying (1) a Bible and (2) the self-help tome The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

Tolle, 59, was born in Germany under the name Ulrich Tolle, and now lives in Vancouver. He apparently changed his first name in honor of 13th-century German mystic Johannes “Meister” Echkhart.

Tolle has written four books and released dozens of audio books and lectures, all of which are narrated in a very calming, softly accented voice. He borrows ideas from a lot of Eastern and Western sources, but his central thesis is a simple one.

Many modern humans, Tolle asserts, are crippled by their own “mental noise,” or obsessive-compulsive thoughts. Regrets about the past, worries about the future, self-condemnations about one’s physical appearance or social status–they’re all symptoms of the mental noise. The noise, in turn, is tied into the “pain body,” a mental state in which all someone can feel is pain (physical, mental, emotional), and all someone wants to do is to spread that pain to others.

Tolle’s prescription: Become aware of the true self behind the false identity of your thinking mind. Become more acutely aware of your body and of the world surrounding you. Accept the present moment. Learn to live in the stillness. Develop an awareness that goes beyond the “egoic mind.”

Some of you are already scoffing that you never perceived Paris Hilton as much of a left-brain thinker.

But a mental-noise victim doesn’t have to be a tech nerd, a video-game geek, or even a language nut such as myself.

Let’s armchair-analyze our poor little rich girl here.

If she’s like some ultra-fashion-conscious women, she’d be prone to constant fretting about every minute aspect of the way she looks.

If she’s like some professional “celebrities,” she’d be constantly calculating how best to keep her name and image in the public eye, even if it’s in the form of a self-deprecating “dumb blonde” role on a staged reality show.

And if she’s like some Hollywood types, she’d search for an apparently simple short cut to spiritual growth, preferably one that didn’t expect her to renounce her material wealth.

But Tolle’s path isn’t as easy as he initially makes it out to be. It requires one to give up things more valuable to a celebrity than money. It requires one to give up one’s ego, one’s fully-constructed but false sense of self.

It’s giving up everything that makes someone a professional “celebrity.” And if Hilton’s ready to do that, more power to her.

STRANGE WORLD DEPT.
Mar 2nd, 2006 by Clark Humphrey

David Lynch is now evangelizing for Transcendental Meditation.

CURRENTLY WATCHING…
Jan 31st, 2005 by Clark Humphrey

John Bradshaw on the Family on the Wisdom channel. Bradshaw’s lecture series, originally made for PBS in 1985, discusses family dysfunction as a pivot point for just about everything that goes wrong with individuals and societies: “Any time you’re not your true self, you can be taken.”

Among his points: If you know how people from non-nurturing families come to think, you can manipulate them very brutally. He cited a couple of authors, including Alice Miller, who’d seen the horrors of Hitlerism in ol’ Adolf’s own ultra-authoritarian childhood family, and in the more general hierarchical, patriarchal, and anti-freedom nature of typical German family structures.

Now I finally know why the most anti-life, anti-freedom, anti-environmental, anti-equality, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-children, anti-sex, and pro-violence forces in the US use “The Family” as their ideological excuse and stick the name “Family” in the names of their propaganda groups.

DELTON MURPHY IMPLORES US…
Oct 29th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…to settle ourselves, find our strength, and stay positive:

“We are part of a huge movement right now and that in and of itself is quite incredible. Breathe… Relax… Feel the energy in the air because there really is a feeling of unity floating around.”

YA GOTTA HAVE FAITH
Oct 19th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

Jeff Sharlet interprets Bush’s religion not as orthodox Evangelicism, but more like one of those PoMo spiritual melanges, made up of a little Jesus and a little New Age magic. Sharlet particularly notes the extent to which Bush and his team are absolutely certain they can achieve anything they want just by believing hard enough that it can and should be done:

“Bush believers long for absolutes, but they don’t care about empirical definitions. They’re not literalists, in the sense that they don’t cling to language. In fact, they don’t trust language, which is why they read clunky, soulless translations of scripture, when they read it at all. The Community Bible Study approach to biblical education through which Bush found his faith is not based on intense reading, but on personal meditations built around a sentence or two. Bush himself doesn’t study the Bible; he samples phrases and invokes them like spells….When he speaks of ‘wonderworking power’ (a reference to the gospel standard “Power in the Blood”), as he did in his now infamous ‘mission accomplished’ speech, he is drawing that power into being, to make his desires into reality. Politics, strategy, books, the Bible — everything falls away in the realm of magical realism.”

Suddenly, a lot of aspects of these past four years begin to make sense.

For I’ve been studying New Age thought factions on an amateur, part-time basis for the past almost-year. I’ve listened to, read, and in a couple of cases interviewed people who promote versions of the positive-thinking mantra. Some versions are more spiritual than others. Some versions are more individualistic and materialistic than others.

The British seminar leader and hypnotherapist Paul McKenna, loves to rhetorically ask his audiences, “What would you do if you absolutely KNEW you couldn’t fail?” Meanwhile, local ex-ad copywriter Rebecca Fine promotes “The Science of Getting Rich,” a “Certain Way” towards personal wealth, based on the teachings of 1900s pamphleteer Wallace Wattles. (To Fine, “certain” means both specificity and doubtlessness.) Follow the program, Fine says, and the dough will flow your way.

There are a few catches in Wattles’s plan. He didn’t like charity, antitrust actions, or organized labor; instead of forming schemes to redistribute wealth, he wrote that concerned citizens should help the poor learn to generate their own wealth. And you have to really believe you’re channelling the flow of material energy your way. As Fine writes: “Wattles says that instead of questioning how these principles work, you’ll need simply to accept them and begin to practice them.”

This ties in well with Bush’s famous refusals to admit ever having made a mistake. Christianity is big on self-doubt and self-denial; “not my will but thine be done.” But in the positive-thinking realm, doubting yourself’s about the worst sin you can make.

So: Bush isn’t really a Bible thumper; though he’ll gladly seek Bible-thumpers’ votes. He’s really one of the globalization-era spiritual fusionists. He’s part of the target market for Wayne Dyer pledge-drive books and Successories motivational posters. He could be a leader of “no money down” seminars. The Force is with him (albeit, in my opinion, it’s the Dark Side).

I imagine some voters have interpreted this insistant attitude, which scoffers such as myself have derided as “hubris,” as just the sort of can-do mindset they want in a leader. Top-heavy tax cuts WILL stimulate the economy! Iraq and Afghanistan WILL become stable democracies! Abstinance-only education WILL eliminate unwanted pregnancies! Privatization WILL make Social Security more solvent! Why? Because WE SAY SO, that’s why!

But I, for one, still belong to the skeptics (or, as a Bush aide quoted in the NY Times derided us, “the reality-based community”). I believe an acid-tripper, no matter how devoutly he believes he can fly, should be led away from the temptation of an open fifth-floor window. I believe the most assertive, positive-thinking management wasn’t enough to keep certain dot-com ventures alive.

And I believe corporate cronyism is neither good for government nor for business.

I believe no one country should, or even can, unilaterally impose military conquest and shock-therapy economics across the globe.

I believe marriage is not profaned but enhanced by being expanded to more possibilities.

I believe one-sided “news” coverage is not “fair and balanced.”

I believe freedom is not slavery. I believe war is not peace. I believe ignorance is not strength.

And I firmly, positively, believe we can do better.

YR. OB'D'N'T WEB-SCRIBE…
Aug 4th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…has been felled the past 24 hours or so by a brief but nasty stomach bug. You don’t want to hear any more details; trust me. But I will say I tried to heal myself this afternoon by listening to an audio book by Vancouver new-age guru Eckhart Tolle about overcoming “the Pain-Body.” It didn’t work.

WHAT ALSO DIDN’T WORK: The traditional “bounce” in the opinion polls for a Presidential candidate after his nominating convention. Some polls showed little increase in John Kerry’s standing; others even showed him dropping a bit against Bush.

Why? For one thing, the convention’s TV coverage was divvied up into three dosages. The un-spun, uninterrupted coverage on PBS and C-SPAN was probably viewed mainly by political wonks such as myself. More apathetic viewers might have stuck with the measly three hours on the traditional Big Three networks, which contained only the big-name speeches and a lot of pundit-blather. In between these extremes, the three main cable “news” channels gave all-day coverage to their own (mostly Republican-leaning) commentators bashing what the Democrats were saying, with only brief cutaways to what the Democrats actually had said.

I must admit, though, that the Dems’ convention was a tuff thing to slog through in undiluted form. It was produced by a producer of TV awards shows, and felt just as long, dull, and self-serving as some of those shows are.

And, in keeping with a topic I’ve been researching of late, it relentlessly expressed a “positive” attitude. Very little speech-time was spent dissing what I believe is the worst US President since Harding; a sniveling suckup to looters and polluters who’s made this country less free and the world less safe. Instead, speaker after speaker (including, in short spots well out of prime time, our own Gov. Gary Locke and Rep. Adam Smith) recited the DNC-approved buzzwords about hope, help, strength, and respect. The effort throughout was to plug John Kerry as someone to vote for; not simply, as The Daily Show said in a fake campaign commercial, “Not George W. Bush.”

The problem with this strategy is it fits right in with the Bushies’ strategy—to make Kerry’s unproven qualities, not Bush’s proven failings, the chief topic of the proverbial horse race.

But there’s another front in this particular battle. The “527s,” independent progressive groups funded by the likes of George Soros and various Hollywood/Silicon Valley moguls, have gone where the timid Dem leadership won’t. Because these groups officially don’t work for any campaign, they can raise all the money they can to spread their messages. And because they’re not controlled by party bosses, they can tell the harsh truths in their ads. The big 527s (named for the tax-code line that defines them) include the famous Move On, Americans Coming Together, Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, and even Punk Voter.

Besides these fairly well-funded efforts, there are more thoroughly grassroots anti-Bush outfits as well, such as Seattle’s own “No Vote Left Behind.”

Then there’s the semi-satirical F___ the Vote, which asks “sexy liberals,” especially in the undecided “swinger states” (including Washington), to seduce and convert conservatives. Its home page claims, “Everyone knows liberals are hotter than conservatives—we look hotter, we dress hotter, our ideas are hotter, and we are infinitely hotter in the sack. We must use our sexual appeal to our advantage, as one more weapon in our already diverse arsenal.”

At last—a campaign tactic I can fully support. Sign me up today. I’ll show any Bellevue divorcee or Wenatchee church matron the road to a better tomorrow, metaphorically paved with multiple orgasms.

IN OTHER COMING-TOGETHER NEWS, a Seattle judge has ruled in favor of same-sex marriages. The case immediately goes to the State Supreme Court; there’ll be no official gay/lesbian nuptials ’til that court decides.

AND BY THE WAY, I’m feeling much better now. Sitting down to write always helps my energy level. So did the Hi-NRG music mix I’ve got on my iTunes right now—Serge Gainsbourg, game-show themes, Nina Simone, Petula Clark, Blondie, and more. I’m a word guy, but sometimes music can do much more for me than words.

THE DANGERS OF POSITIVE THINKING
Jun 21st, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

An NY Times Sunday-magazine piece claims “the happier your mood, the more liable you are to make bigoted judgments.”

BRIT ECONOMIST RICHARD LAYARD…
May 3rd, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…suggests that, just maybe, wealth and happiness don’t necessarily mesh together.

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