This video by Andrew Klavan is a brilliant, concise explanation of American and global journalism’s intellectual dishonesty. When fake journalist Mika Brzezinski mocked the size of genitalia of the duly elected President of the United States of America, equipment she has NEVER seen, the INTERNATIONAL, GLOBAL STORY was not about what a stupid, disrespectful bitch this vain, fake blond with brown eyebrows is, but about that the POTUS smacked her right back, calling her vain and old. Two real truths, since she is a FIFTY YEARS OLD WOMAN parading as a twenty-nine year old Marilyn Monroe clone. At least Trump’s tweet was truthful.
Not long ago I was talking to a Millennial friend of mine who was bemoaning his inability to get to work on time.
“I need to get you a copy of Poor Richard’s Almanack,” I laughed. All I got was a puzzled look from my friend.
“You, know, ‘Early to bed and early to rise…?” I asked, hopefully.
“Huh?” he replied.
He shook his head.
“Electricity? Spectacles? The pot-bellied stove? Ben Franklin? The guy on the one hundred-dollar bill.”
“Oh yeah, he is the only non-president, right?”
“That’s the guy,” I said, “He wrote Poor Richard’s Almanack. It had lots of useful information and sayings, like ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,’ You should have learned about it in grade school.”
My friend shook his head. He did not know anything about the life and times of Ben Franklin.
There were several other Millennials in our group. Young adults educated in schools all around America. None of them had heard of Poor Richard’s Almanack, and Franklin was just the face on the $100. Why he was there, they knew not. I groaned and said something about the sad state of education in America.
When I was a kid, we learned fun facts about Ben Franklin the writer, inventor and scientist in class. When I was in high school we learned about his political life and how he was an integral part of American Revolution and the early survival of our nation. My teachers had survived the Great Depression, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. An elderly Auschwitz survivor came to my school and showed us her tattooed serial number. My teachers made sure, as poor a student as I was, that I knew my origins. Not so much, today.
Today, we live with an educational system where it is no longer politically correct to teach that our Founding Fathers were great men who wrote, and fought and died for, the Constitution of the United States of America, the greatest document of its kind ever to exist. Now that Common Core is the rule of the land, our children are no longer being taught to read and write cursive, so it is only a matter of time before Americans cannot even read the Constitution in its original form. Today’s teachers, made up primarily of Baby Boomers and GenXers, have absolutely failed to teach the Millennial generation what they need to know to survive, starting with the wisdom found in Poor Richard’s Almanack. For that, we owe them an apology.
“Sell not virtue to purchase wealth nor liberty to purchase power.”
“Meanness is the parent of insolence.”
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.”
“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that.”
“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
“Have something to do tomorrow? Do it today.”
“There are no gains without pains.”
If I were to develop a game, a form of purposeless, recreational entertainment, with the sole purpose of having a bit of fun at the expense of others, I would start by convincing the game’s players to download an app that turned their smart-phone into a virtual beagle. Beagles are some the best hunting dogs around. They go a-sniffing and a-howling and can scare up just about any sort of quarry, dragging you along in just about any direction. Then I would encourage the players to take their virtual beagle for a walk, so it could sniff out thousands of little, invisible digital cartoons. I would tell the players the little cartoon drawings were TERRIFYING DIGITAL MONSTERS capable of doing battle to make them feel better about themselves, but they would still be nothing more than poorly drawn cartoon characters. Each virtual beagle would then drag their owner around a virtual map overlaying the real world, as they sought out the exact locations of all the little, invisible, digital cartoon characters. Once the beagle found its quarry, the smart-phone would suck the invisible cartoon out of the air and display it for everyone to see. It would be an endless digital treasure hunt. Call it a form of instant-gratification geo-caching for the lazy.
I would then hide my invisible cartoon characters all over the world in all sorts of unexpected, humorous and dangerous locations. I would put them on private property to make sure the players broke the law and trespassed. I would put them in the middle of busy intersections, homeless camps, abandoned warehouses, mines and wells. I would put them in the middle of swamps and lakes, off the edges of cliffs, near dead bodies, in government buildings and restricted areas of airports. The players would become my own personal zombie army, blindly following their virtual beagle in search of brains… oops, I mean TERRIFYING DIGITAL MONSTERS!!! I would then send my newly created young, urban zombie army into the midst of Black Lives Matter protests as well as to the Democratic National Convention where they would be rewarded with the ultimate fighting edition of a cartoon Bernie Sanders with kung-fu grip. I would make other little cartoons available at only certain times of the day, certain days of the week, as well as seasonal special characters, making sure players who played 24/7 were well rewarded. Every city and every country would have their own special character, encouraging the players to spend money traveling all over in search of rare and TERRIFYING DIGITAL MONSTERS.
I would then give players the ability to gather in groups, say at transit centers, shopping malls and public parks, so their smart phones could take the little cartoon characters and do battle with other smart phones’ characters. It would be like taking the virtual beagle to the virtual dog park for virtual play. It would be a great twist on live action role-playing, or LARPing. We could call it Virtual LARP or V-LARP. The players would simply mill around fiddling with their phones in awkward groups while passers-by wondered what the hell they were doing. If some gutsy onlooker were bold enough to actually ask what all the weirdness was about, sum yung guy could condescendingly say, “We are V-LARPing. There is an epic battle of TERRIFYING DIGITAL MONSTERS going on as we speak. You have heard of V-LARPing, haven’t you?” and then giggle maniacally.
But the joke, the real joke, the super double-secret inside joke, would actually be on the players themselves. I would be watching them and keeping a scrapbook of all the stupid things they do and all the trouble they get into while questing for invisible cartoon characters, and laughing until my sides split open. The trip to the hospital would be oh-so-worth it! I would be sending out camera crews to monster hotspots and secretly film everything. Then I would get a good writer and film a prequel to the great American satire, Idiocracy, called Pokie Man’s Zombie Horde. If I were to develop that game.
Twitch, snort, LOL. Planet Earth is home to 7,251,940 ,000 people and counting. Of the nearly 7.3 billion global citizens, the intellectual juggernaut that is Time Magazine, just claimed that a hip-hop rap artist and a woman whose multi-million dollar job is to do nothing useful are among the globe’s 100 most influential people. Time had over seven billion people to choose from, and this is the best they could do.
West is definitely the more productive member of the marriage. Like Billy Mays, he is a master of marketing and self-promotion. I am no fan of rap music, but I am willing to withhold my judgment that West is not a musician of the caliber of B.B. King, Paul McCartney or Gordon Lightfoot. If he can pick up a 12-string guitar and sing Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” without auto-tuning and not sound like an amorous feline, I will give him credit for talent. Otherwise, in my mind, regardless of his awards he remains a 2nd class musician. West is a great entertainer for his fans, for sure, and a tremendous force of ego, but not a great musician.
West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, has turned being wealthy, beautiful and popular into a career. She has little education and few skills, yet earns millions every year by merely existing. I applaud her success, as well as her husband’s. Well done, Kanye and Kim. You have turned ego and vanity into extraordinary wealth and success.
What I do not understand is how they positioned themselves to be the most influential married couple on Earth. According to Time Magazine, they are more influential than Bill and Hillary Clinton, and could hold their own against the combined forces of Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin. They have the power of the Titans of old, with great strength, intellect and importance. Billions of people hang on their every word and are subject to their wisdom. Whether loved or despised, their great power is always respected. According to Time Magazine.
This means that world leaders and entertainment moguls are lining up to hear Kim Kardashian’s sage thoughts, while bluegrass, country and folk musicians are begging Kanye West for ideas. Really? Dear Time Magazine, are you sure? While Vladimir Putin and Hillary Clinton have significant influence on my life as well as the lives of billions of people, I do not know anyone who gives a rip what Kanye West and Kim Kardashian think, say or do. No one at all. To the vast majority of people on Earth, Kanye and Kim are the punch-line of the Fish-stick joke. They make most folk roll their eyes and snort with a mixture of laughter and disgust. Kanye West is simply a spoiled little boy who throws temper tantrums when he does not get what he wants. Not even the 9th Circuit Court would dare equate West to influential. As for Kim Kardashian, there isn’t anyone who can even explain why she is famous in the first place, let alone name anything productive she brings to the table.
What if Time Magazine is right? What if Kanye and Kim really do sway the masses? That is a good question, and it’s answer lies the movie Idiocracy. That is the only world where these two are really important.
Growing up Catholic, I could not help but understand many religious factoids with all the worldliness of an eight-year-old kid. For the most part, the rules about murder, stealing and lying were easy to grasp, but the stuff about bopping my friend’s mom or loving the neighborhood bully were a bit baffling. When the Nuns told me that sins put black marks on my soul, I immediately conjured a mental image of smoker’s lungs. I had to grow up before I figured that stuff out. The last rule I figured out, pretty late in the game considering the simplicity of it all, was the Second Commandment, the one about taking the Lord’s name in vain.
I have a suspicion that most folks out there still see the Second Commandment through the eyes of their Sunday school classes, and believe it is pretty much limited to dropping a GD or a JC as an explicative when they get excited. You can divide those folks into two rough groups, the atheists and the monotheists. I have to say that both groups sound equally ridiculous when they drop God’s name on a whim, like he is their drinking buddy or something.
Atheists sound positively stupid. Let me get this straight. You are not convinced that God exists and you are certain that, if Jesus existed at all, he was just a religious zealot who got lucky and founded the dominant religion on planet Earth. Yet you constantly demand that a God you have no faith in damn all sorts of petty stuff, and you beg a dead rabbi to witness all the incredulous crap that occurs in your life. That’s clever.
Religious folks are even worse, though. We actually believe in God, and most of us believe that Jesus is God become man. When we drop a GD, we are actually calling on what we believe is the most powerful being in the universe to bring his full weight and fury down on whatever is irritating us. Can you imagine if God actually paid the least bit of attention to all our blather and cursed every little thing we asked him to? That would make global thermonuclear warfare look like a crisp walk on a pleasant autumn morning. Please! And to have the vanity to believe that JC actually wants to listen to all our petty criticisms of the world around us is pure idiocy. We are like a global cloud of mosquitoes swirling around God’s ear whining “GD this,” and “JC that.” We are lucky he largely tunes us out.
Still, that is only the Second Commandment for beginners. I believe that the Bible directs the real truth of the Second Commandment at those people who use God’s bully pulpit to violate God’s law. People who don the authority of God and then commit evil in the name of God. The Bible is replete with warning about these false prophets and false teachers. These are the people who use their position of religious authority to rape and abuse children, to enrich themselves, to start wars, to commit murder, terrorist acts, genocide, and the like. From Jim Jones to David Koresh to Bernard Law to Jimmy Swaggart, these sort of folks take the Lord’s name in vain with extreme gusto. The Lord will not hold any of these people guiltless. It is better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck than to harm a child. Call it the Ratzinger Conundrum. No cloak of faith or title will protect a single person. No Imam, rabbi, priest, pastor, nun or witch will be exempt. One and all, their best hope is that the atheists are right and all religion is make-believe.
NBC’s Brian Williams is a liar. Plain and simple. He did not make a mistake. He did not misremember. He lied. When you lie, you are, by definition, a liar. If you do not like that title, don’t lie. I do not know whether he did it for ratings or if he has all the insecurities of an adolescent girl, and I really do not care. That is not the story here. The real story is how other journalists respond to Williams lie. You see, journalists have a moral obligation to tell the whole painful truth, even if they do not like it. Too many of them, like the LA Times’ Stephen Battaglio, too easily abandon that mandate. They pull punches. They let things slide. They promote their personal political agendas instead of reporting the truth. Battaglio cannot bring himself to use the one most accurate word to describe Williams in his article. Battaglio says Brian Williams made a mistake. He says Williams issued a false statement, told a tale, a version of a story, a conflation, an erroneous version, and strayed from the facts, but he refuses to call Williams a liar. That is bad journalism, folks, and it makes me wonder why Battaglio abandons his journalistic integrity and pulls that punch.
My friend Tom Koslowski died Monday, January 12th 2015 from complications secondary to cancer. He died in his tiny, one bedroom apartment, a man alone, forgotten by most of the world. There was no hospice or visiting nurse at his side. His elderly mother found his body on Thursday. She called me on Friday. You will not see his obituary in the newspaper, nor will there be a memorial service, because Tom was a member of America’s invisible population of mentally ill citizens. He did not have two nickels to rub together, few friends, and no family besides his mother. He was sixty-one years old.
Tom was a paranoid schizophrenic who bore a marked resemblance to Tolkien’s character, Gollum. People instinctively recoiled from him, as though he were a ghoul. I will tell you right now, he was one of the kindest, most honest souls I have ever met, and as much as the ill-mannered stares and rude whispers from “normal” people hurt him, he never held a grudge or wished anyone ill.
In a life where he very heavily relied on government agencies, caseworkers, and healthcare providers, Tom came to hate being a burden to other people. He did not drive, was terrified of public transportation, and did not have the stamina to walk any sort of distance. Going to the store or doctor or pharmacy always required the reluctant help of someone else. Sometimes it was a government-funded taxi or the TriMet Lift, and sometimes it was a friend or neighbor. Regardless, Tom always had to work the phones and beg for the transportation that you and I take for granted. It embarrassed him and he hated it. Sometimes, if he were in a bind, I would stop by his apartment and drop off his prescriptions on my way home. I would always stay for an hour or so to talk and, most importantly, to listen.
When Tom was as a little boy he wanted to grow up to be a doctor. He wanted to help people. His symptoms emerged when he was nine years old and, instead of being the doctor, he became the patient. He suffered a lifetime of cruel tricks at the hands of the voices in his head, not to mention those wounds inflicted by the world around him. While Tom was often reluctant to talk about his adventures in life – most of our conversations revolved around his medical needs – once in a while, if he was in the mood, he would tell me a tale or two from his past. Sometimes the stories were painful, but sometimes they were downright funny. The pragmatic, self-effacing humor he spun into his recollections made Tom a good storyteller. His tales were good enough that I offered to write his biography. It would have been a best seller, and I am confident it would have been an honest accounting of his life. Tom declined the offer for fear of the pain of dredging up a continuous history, much to my regret but with my understanding. While he considered himself a worthless human being, his story would have been more interesting than 99% of the biographies ever written. He was a good man and he survived a life in a world we little understand and greatly fear. He was anything but worthless.
In deference to Tom’s wishes, I am not going to commit those stories he gave me to writing. There is but one story of his that I feel a need to tell and that is his last one. Last autumn, Tom had to make a decision to fight his cancer or let nature take its course. He was physically quite frail, and odds of him surviving the procedures and treatments were not in his favor. His oncologist and GP were pushing him towards treatment, so he came to me for advice. Medically, oncology is far out of the scope of my practice, so I left the clinical question alone. Instead, I asked Tom, “If you go through the treatments and survive, then what?” Tom knew what I was asking. We all die. Life is the leading cause of death. Did he want to be comfortable for six months? Or did he want to be miserable for eighteen months? At his age with his health, no matter what, death was relatively imminent and inescapable.
Tom took this final decision very seriously. He made it with a clearer mind and a braver heart than most of my sane patients. In the eight years I had known him, he had spent every minute of every day managing his health. Despite his mental illness and other health problems, Tom had learned to enjoy life and did not want to die in the least bit. If he had any fight left in his body, he would have fought. He simply didn’t, and he knew it. He opted to let the disease take its course.
As much as he could be, Tom was a good son and very much loved his mother. This is why he protected her as long as he could from news of his cancer, not wanting her to worry over him. Besides him, she had little in the world, and he knew there was time enough for her to have sleepless nights. The gift of ignorance was the only gift he had the ability to give, and he did it out of love. She found out a matter of weeks before he passed. She was likely a bit angry with Tom for keeping the secret as long as he did. I hope she understands it was an act of love on his part. He carried her part of his burden as long as he could.
Tom Kozlowski was more than my patient. Over the years we had become friends. Friendship is an odd thing, and is often found in the most unsuspecting places. I am a richer man for having known him, and that is no small thing. I hope that now, free of disease and pain, Tom’s soul can look down from Heaven and see how he touched my life. The little boy who wanted to grow up to be a doctor is finally free. As long as I live, I will not forget him.