Thursday, August 31, 2006

Prozac, Demon Spawn and History

Favorite line in this morning’s newspaper:
“Listen, you demon spawn of Benedict Arnold and Martha Stewart, NO GIFT BAG!”
--from "Get Fuzzy" by Darby Conley

“For a while I tried Prozac, a miraculous drug, helpful as a raincoat on a rainy day, except you can’t take the raincoat off when it’s sunny, and you have to wear it to bed.”
--Sy Safransky, in the August "Sun"

More from cultural historian Jacques Barzun:
“The belief that contemporaries are aware of what history records as significant is not well-founded.”
--"From Dawn to Decadence"

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Jacques Barzun, in his cultural history "From Dawn to Decadence," defines “Mannerism” as the downward curve of artistic intensity in which perfection increases as inspiration decreases. Thus, “perfection is not a necessary characteristic of the greatest art.”

Perfection is not a necessary characteristic of the greatest Powerpoint presentation either. But, as in every creative endeavor, a perceived intensity born out of inspiration is what ultimately separates the good from the bad.

Powerpoint’s supremely reductive nature makes it very difficult to use effectively. To me, the goal of a tool like this should be to organize information in a way that is compelling, clear and substantial. Instead, what I most often see is platitudinous regurgitation in the form of colored shapes, arrows and lists. It may be that we can do better, but I think this tool is simply overused, or is used as a replacement for creativity rather than as a vehicle for it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"World Trade Center"

In two weeks will be the fifth anniversary of September 11. We will see again all the various video images, and we’ll hear dozens of reports on various angles of “Five Years Later”--what happened, what we have learned, how we are different, where we are going from here, and on and on.

I think the best remembrance may be to see Oliver Stone’s movie “World Trade Center.” It’s a bit “Hollywoody” in its singular focus on the heroism of the moment. But it succeeds in bringing back the emotions of that day without bludgeoning with familiar images, over-the-top patriotism and hackneyed music.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Truth, Maturity and Art

"Like many of the people I had read about, I set out on a long journey to find truth and beauty. As usual, the road led straight back to the beginning: home, country roads, the sun setting through the woods."
--Joyce Sutphen, poet

“Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before.”
--Edith Wharton, writer

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Grace Happens

“Grace strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. Grace strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.”
--Paul Tillich, theologian

The great contemporary cliche that applies here is “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” We may daily work toward perfection--clean house (or perfectly unclean house, demonstrating the perfection of our lack of concern for such ordinariness), career advancement, kitchen remodel, blissful love life, perfect fame, perfect fortune or perfect family.

Our efforts may give us satisfaction. When we realize finally the satisfaction doesn’t last, and we drift into distraction, indifference, weakness and hostility, grace happens.

Friday, August 25, 2006

We Are Always Less Biased Than Others


"Inherent human bias is reflected in studies that show the average person believes they are less biased and more ethical than others (in addition to being smarter and thinner). That is, we tend to see ourselves as ethical and unbiased, but believe that not so much to be the case for others."

--Marc Lampe, professor of business law and social responsibility at the University of San Diego

"The brain cannot see itself fooling itself."

--David Gilbert, Harvard psychologist

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Addiction and Delusion

Observation: Our addiction to distraction makes it very difficult to tap into the inherent goodness of our humanity.

Quote: "The need for near-perfect certainty is a deeply entrenched delusion." 
--former State Department aide Charles Hill

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Two Qualities

1. In 2003, Americans had 1.46 billion credit cards, or five per person (Robert J. Samuelson, "Newsweek")

2. In a recent Pew Research Poll, Americans said news organizations hurt the nation by exposing the federal government’s bank monitoring program, by a margin of 50 to 34 percent. In the same poll, 65 percent of Americans said the stories were worth knowing about.

Is living with this ambiguity part of American life? If so, how do we deal with it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Strongest Muscle

Science item: The strongest muscle, ounce for ounce, is the tongue. (thanks to Scott Lafee)

Quote: "One needs to understand that of all species, only humans are prone to habitually self-destructive behavior."
--John Rosemond

Monday, August 21, 2006

Craig Dorval

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