Archive for the Culture Category

Camile Paglia: Woman of the Year

Posted in Big Government, conservatism, Culture, Enemies, First Things, freedom, General Discussion, Philosophy, Politics, Progressivism on January 4, 2014 by McKinley Pitts

Re. Camile Paglia: Woman of the Year

When you experience some sort of medical symptom such as a rash, you might choose to go to a doctor. Typically, you ask that doctor to render an opinion as to what might be the matter. The doctor will use a combination of medical signs, i.e., measurable things like blood pressure or bacteria in the urine, observing the rash, taking a biopsy the rash, et al and medical symptoms, i.e., asking the patient what it feels like or what they have been experiencing. In turn, opinion is rendered, treatment prescribed, behavior proscribed, etc., to ameliorate the problem.

If what you want is hard, irrefutable evidence that Western Civilization is experiencing collapse, which collapse might be defined as radical, rapid change (it can be relatively slow) that clearly harms the prospects of its inhabitants and that many might view as bad, then we will probably have to wait for its collapse. Immediately prior to the old Roman Empire’s collapse, the majority of Romans could not foresee that the Visigoths at the gate would ever bring down the Empire. The barbarians were no big deal and nothing had changed as the water in the pot reached boiling. But wasn’t that the point of the 1960s freak movement? A call that civilization was indeed in a bad way and things needed to change.

Point is that one may easily parrot the de jour talking points of the left that either all is just fine or all is going to hell if we don’t get a lot more government control a la MSNBC, CNN, and on ad infinitum. Demanding so-called absolute, unalloyed facts/truth before we dare to adjust our fair republic’s current trajectory seems to be madness, especially since so many of our brightest diagnosticians seem to believe that said trajectory apparently will quickly intersect with an immovable reality.

Me? I don’t want to wait until we hit the fan. I want to hear from those diagnosticians and make a judgement call as to whether we jink the car left or right. Seems left is causing a lot of damage. We need to jink right a bit. Who’s crazy or not? Rather than listening to the screeching vapors on the left that we need more government control of every aspect of our commerce and medical care to the likes of scolds like Kathleen Sebelius and Ezekiel Emanuel, to give unfettered war making powers to a nit-wit in the White House and his crazed enablers at the State Department, its much easier right now for me to listen to the likes of Camile Paglia, David Mamet, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Hitchens, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Heather MacDonald, Thomas Sowell, Peggy Noonan, Victor Davis Hanson, Jonah Goldberg, Ross Douthat, Roger Kimball, and a host of other public intellectuals that posit that perhaps all is not quite right in Paradise.

Should we pray to Mother-Father God, Benevolent Being? The Chili Cornbread Eucharist:

Posted in Christianity, Culture, Faith, First Things, Religion with tags on August 15, 2013 by McKinley Pitts

Mother-Father God, Benevolent Being

via The American Spectator : Ex-Evangelicals & Chili Cornbread Eucharist.

Why Aren’t Religious People More Creative? | The American Conservative

Posted in Art, Christianity, creativity, Culture, Faith, First Things on August 10, 2013 by McKinley Pitts

Rod Dreher over at TAC asks this wonderful question and I can’t help but think, Yea! Not mentioned very loudly, however, the culture, media, and academe have all been hijacked by people that hate the religious (especially the Christian variety) and make no bones about mocking them/us on a moment-by-moment basis. This happened to me in college as my writing instructors regularly graded me down for expressing conservative views. I learned quickly to keep it all to myself.

Why Aren’t Religious People More Creative? | The American Conservative.

Lies and Liberalism

Posted in Abortion, Big Government, Big Green, Big Labor, conservatism, Culture, First Things, Liberalism, Politics with tags , , on August 6, 2013 by McKinley Pitts

From The American Spectator’s Ron Ross. I hate to say it but this is accurate. The death of modern American liberalism is all but complete.

The American Spectator : Lies and Liberalism.

Darwinism, Christianity and the West

Posted in Culture, Faith, First Things, General Discussion, Science with tags , , , , on October 23, 2012 by McKinley Pitts

Regarding the Gallup poll that indicated that 46% of all Americans are supposedly Creationists.

On balance, coming as I do from a scientific background, extensive survey experience, and more than just a grasp of Christian Theology, I’d point out that the survey questions forced you to pick from a very limited number of theological positions. Either you believe in theistic evolution, non-theistic evolution, or a strict creationist 10,000 year window. You probably could pick, “I don’t know.” Problem here is most Christians would be forced to pick the Creationist view just so they could get their vote in. There was no discussion of Spinozan notions of a mechanistic creator God or of one that could have used something other than the 10,000 year window to make things happen.

That said, most westerners are completely unaware that the scientific method only tells the how of something, never the why. The ‘How’ is useful but it tells us nothing about the ‘Why’. That ‘Why’, rather, falls to philosophy, art, theology, and literature, those old worthless humanities. Further, most in the west seemingly lack the knowledge that western culture with its peculiar foundation of faith rooted in Judeo-Christian notions of a reasonable Creator creating a reasonable universe that can be understood by reason was in fact the crucible of true science. It did not arise with such fury anywhere else and with fury gave rise to notions that man was not necessarily at the mercy of a capricious God or His creation but that man possessed, well, free moral agency and existed in a real covenantal relationship with God and His Creation. A lot should be inserted here (like all of Western Civilization from ancient Greece to the Renaissance) but in the interest of brevity: thus, the appearance of the Enlightenment and the emergence of Modernism. Man suddenly had choices and could understand a little about the universe around him, seeing pathways to an amazing future where such things like disease could be conquered. Without the west and without Christianity, there would be no modern world. We’d still be horrified by eclipses, sacrificing our children to Moloch (Wait a second!?), and wondering how the hell plants worked.

While I am neither a fundamentalist nor a evangelical, keep in mind that the evangelical left (you probably don’t even know they exist) are firmly in Obama’s camp. It is fatuous to assume that any Christian group is monolithically left or right but the most monolithic is probably what we call the mainline denominations in the US: Episcopal, Presbyterian Church US, Methodists, etc. Shrinking, yet they have huge numbers that start slobbering whenever they hear the beautiful name of Obama. Further, to assume that somehow the educational system was dumbed down by these more fundamentalist or evangelical groups is patently untrue. Public education along with “higher” ed at all levels was abandoned to the secular left wholesale. Compare the kids coming out of secular public and higher-ed schools with those coming out of religious private primary, secondary, and university and the difference is plain. The latter student easily outperform their public-secular counterparts almost without fail. Who’s really dumbed down what?

That said, and given my brain having steeped in the scientific method, I still have no qualms about holding to a somewhat Creationist position. God did indeed create the universe and everything in it? Can anyone prove it scientifically? Well, using the pure scientific method the answer’s, “No.” That method excludes the metaphysical a priori. Can I approach something like certainty (and where but in the West has anyone ever even become concerned with a quest for certainty?) using science, art, philosophy, literature, and…, yes, theology? Well, absolutely.

But what type of creationism do I hold, clearly being one of those mouth-breathing, stump-toothed yokels from down hyar in Mule-Shit Tennessee? Could there be room in the universe of possibilities a creationist that holds to a view that is consistent with what we do know about the universe? (By the way, Darwinism is not “settled” science. There’s no such thing as “settled” science. Cf. the Hegelian Dialectic. All scientific questions remain open and as early as the 1970’s Science magazine was calling for a re-thinking of Darwinism precisely because it lacked robustness in explaining the vast underlying complexities of a particular variety of giant solitary wasp known as the cicada killer.) But it is precisely the new inquisitors and secular “theologians” in academia that are now forcing anyone that doesn’t hold to the party line into the dock. Why do they so vigorously hate anyone that disagrees with their limited points of view?  A: Because they lose power at every turn. Very human.

But I hold to a notions of a Creator God that produced what we see around us and produced it in such a fashion that evolution or something like it could be that mechanism, at the least short-term species variation. It’s just that old high-Church Anglicans like me are not concerned with “proving” God exists. We know he exists. And we know that others can’t be made to gain faith unless they receive it as a gift of God anyway. We also know science is subservient to faith in the Thomistic sense and in the Newtonian sense (credo ut intelligam–“I believe in order to know”) where faith informs our lives, and our science, with the notion, again, that a reasonable Creator created a reasonable universe that can be understood by reason. Thus the birth of free inquiry, the modern, a weltanschauung, a worldview, that when taken in its entirety can help us to understand, know, and learn to love with our crooked little hearts both our God and our crooked fellow man. Why else would we pursue antibiotics?

All of this is off the top of my head and done without the usual intellectual rigor. All I am saying is that science and Christianity are not at odds except in the minds of less informed fundies and the worst of the hide-bound academic secularists. It’s not a left or right thing (well, maybe a little) or a Republican or Democrat thing. They all hold a plethora of beliefs. But as for me, penguins are so sensitive and I love everybody.

What’s Up With This Election?

Posted in Big Government, conservatism, Culture, Enemies, General Discussion, Obama, Politics, Progressivism, public policy with tags , , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by McKinley Pitts

Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. But then that was written long before the invention of socialism. Same difference but the socialists are even more efficient when it comes to modern death culture that has become much of the left. But I digress.

The JokerDennis Prager recently summarized the 2012 election as the values of the American Revolution versus the values of the French Revolution. The values of the American Revolution may be articulated thusly: Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum. Conversely, Prager pointed out, “The Democratic party seeks to replace liberty with equality. Not equality before the law — that we all believe in. Not the equality of human worth — all Americans believe that all men are created equal. But the Democratic party and this president believe in material and social equality — and for them this equality is a greater value than liberty. That is why they seek to control more and more of Americans’ lives — in other words, take away more and more of our liberty — for the sake of some Utopian ideal of equality.”

A dear nephew of mine suggested that I see conservative Republicans as a persecuted minority. I don’t. I don’t think of the Republican Party — or the Democrats, for that matter — as a “persecuted minority”. That moniker makes no sense as those of any real persecuted minority are not typically in the position of being part of the ruling elite. The cognitive dissonance many feel when attempting to reconcile the two parties philosophically no doubt arise from the implicit notion that there is some form of moral equivalency between the competing philosophies, between the competing philosophies of the Republicans and Democrats. But while the Democrats are united in their disdain for those traditional values articulated above, those us from my sector have to force the Republicans to espouse a few of our values. That is the fundamental difference between the actual two groups: those in power and those outside demanding accountability from the ruling elites we suffer.

Given the current administration, the establishment mindset in Democrat Washington, DC, the current ruling party and their lapdog press, and moderate Republicans, the persecuted minorities stand out as Traditional Christians, Taxpayers, Small Business People, and the like. All done while Barry’s minions foment violence against conservatives and play race cards left and right. Viva Class Warfare!

The left on occasion tries to engage in honest debate but very rarely. They would like to more effectively respond, I am sure. But to do so means they have to own up to a number of things that the left are horrified by. The whole debate revolves around redistribution. The left will not debate that fact. They merely attack anyone questioning them as de facto evil and will excoriate rather than accommodate even when the least of us dares to exercise our simple fundamental First Amendment rights. The left ever attempts to squelch free speech and dissenting ideas. Today it is haughty disdain. Tomorrow it will be denouncing one’s own family during a show trial culminating in a mandatory guilty verdict and then a “tenner” a decade strapped to plow at a re-education camp located in California’s Central Valley, harangued by loud speakers blaring Obama speeches and other propaganda 24/7. Can’t happen here?

Occupy Wall Street

Progressivism is presented as a sanitized term for Marxism and has taken the Democrat party, the national media, the academy, the arts, and the courts by storm. It has succeeded precisely because the people in fly-over America are too polite and willing to accommodate different points of view because that’s what we do. American’s do not quake in the face of dissenting opinions. The left is always horrified by dissent from their default politically correct positions. Compare the horror the lick-spittle Obama press expresses anytime a conservative dares to say almost anything to, say, Joe Biden’s insane ravings on any given day of the week. Candidate Aikin is a monster versus Joe Biden’s just a little silly sometimes, that’s all, when he suggest Republicans want to put all black Americans back into chains. And this slander from the party of slavery directed at the party Lincoln, the party of slavery’s abolition.

A simple litmus test is appropriate at this point. Merely ask the average leftist hack their opinion of the wonderful and sweet Che Guevara and then ask them what they think of Armando Valladares, one of Che’s inmates in his Cuban gulag. If they don’t tell you how great Che was regardless of how many people he personally murdered and in turn how evil Valladares was, who’s courage led Amnesty International to name him a prisoner of conscience; who, following his release in 1982, wrote a book detailing his torture at the hands of the Cuban government and its chief jailer; and who was appointed by Ronald Reagan to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, then they are lying. American’s accommodate dissenters; the left kills them and is proud of the fact–they believe it shows courage to shoot someone in the back of the head while their hands are tied behind their backs. The only answer for those who carry the water for murderers like Che is mockery and scorn. Che supporters might just as well be fans of Himmler. Same role, same sentiments, same system.

The core belief of Amerikkka’s left is that America, the United States, that is, is intractably evil and is a terrible influence on the world. We must be stopped. We must be attenuated. We must be taxed into oblivion. Our borders must be opened so that any and all can come here, except for well educated Christians or any studious Asians, unless, of course, they are the welcome agents of the Communist regime in Mainland China. Our military must be weakened. Our children need to be exposed to contraception and sex ed in kindergarten. Sex of any perversion must be legalized. Traditional marriage needs to be laughed at. We will only be good when we become a dependency lapping welfare population along the European welfare state model. We need to have rampant inflation and rampant unemployment because that weakens the foundation of this evil nation, one of the few nations on earth that regularly goes off to war to fight for the freedom of others, to sacrifice massive blood and treasure, to go home when the job’s done, and that has the audacity to dare ask for a little land to bury our dead. We need race baiting, class warfare, and hate. Chris Matthews, Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Wright, Al Shaprton gooooood! Mark Levin, Rush Linbaugh, Sean Hannity baaaaaaad!

Administration Moonshine

The all powerful moonshine god, Eaac (Equality At All Costs), describes the explicit but veiled opinion of the American left’s ruling elites, including the inner circle of the current administration. To deny it and the true motivations behind these beliefs is duplicity of the highest order. Their positions are simply un-American, traitorous, and evil. To suggest otherwise is folly. That is not to say the vast majority of their adherents believe they are doing evil for its own sake; they believe they are doing good. What tyrant ever believed their intentions to be anything but of the purest kind?

Self Esteem, Back In Vogue Again

Posted in Culture, Essay, Humor, self help, Writing with tags , , , on June 1, 2012 by McKinley Pitts

Innocent Nashvillian travels to Foreign Lands (an essay derived from a few emails I wrote back in the ’90s)

To one and all, have a Merry Summer and a Happy and Prosperous Fourth of July.

Monday

In times past I have mused about that happy-go-lucky personal mental fitness guru and ex-ectomorph, Tony Robbins, author of self-help books, motivational tapes, and fraternity pranks involving burning charcoal. Given my own sorry state of affairs (I have to work for a living), his nutty approach to life has got me to thinking about self-esteem, confidence, life, success, and how to whip it (life, that is) good. Needless to say, this is something I am sure we all have heard a lot about lately (for those who are tired of Donald Trump, Obamamama, and that wacky Bush thang). And figuring that I’ve got the inside track on this particular aspect of psychotic life approaches, I am going to pass along a bit of wisdom to those folks in the under classes.

Oprah Firewalking with Tony Robbins

Oprah Firewalking with Tony Robbins

This all came about when my boss, Dr. Mengele (a multiple personality disorder sufferer, with a tape worm, and a one-armed sadist) had me in his mahogany lined office the other day to discuss his perception of my performance.

“Greetings, Slug,” Big Joe shouted over the noise made by his huge air conditioner set into the wall of that dark, windowless room that was his sanctum sanctorum. “Vat kind of scum ist you brinkink into my place of business yourself?”

“I,…I,…I,…don’t know what you mean, I’m sure,” I replied, drawing on my typical snappy repartee.

“Listen,” Herr Doktor, sneered, as he flailed his arms wildly in an attempt to un-snag the hook that he uses to hide the fact that he has no left arm from the lining of his suit. “I am goink to give you thirty seconds to make ust profitable or its der dental drill for you.”

“But sir, there is so little time for me to do anything about our profitability, and besides, you’ve never told me that it was my responsibility to cover this profitability thing. Also, I know precious little about gas chambers anyway, there just isn’t much demand for the things anyway, and I only empty the trash here for $4.11 an hour anyway. What could I do anyway?” I hung my head in shame and noticed that several small bunnies had been inexplicably flattened against the floor.

“You are slime, you malodorous pile of dead fish flesh. Are you suckgestink, that I, a Hillary Clinton supporter, know nothink of how to motivate people und develop self-eshteem in my clod employees?”

“No, no,” I replied, “I think you’re one of the greatest, most caring, loving, and understanding bosses I’ve ever had (I’m not kidding here, kids).” I then fell to my knees, a work requirement, I’m told, information I got from a hunch-backed, scar-faced, Martin Sheen look-alike named Slash who works down in Human Resources when I asked him why the Boss would have pistol-whipped me one day for no apparent reason–I hadn’t dropped to my knees when he passed me on the way out of church last Sunday.

“Thank you for your obeisance, Ratchethead,” the good Doktor screamed as he tipped me over and rolled me like a cigar out of his personal cocoon into the work area. He slammed his door loudly to the high-pitched squeal of rusted hinges, and I heard the tumblers on his deadbolt slam home. I lay quietly for a few minutes and then rolled over towards the door to get up. A single, malice-yellowed eye peered at me from the crack between the threshold and the bottom of the door.

I stood up shivering and heard the Boss hiss behind the door, referring to me as a “seven-fold son of sophistry” who would do well to learn to keep his helpful suggestions to himself. At any rate, I was pleased to find myself back in the safe confines of the work area with very few bruises to show for my latest experience with the Lee Iacocca of the gas chamber industry.

My work-place is a lovely area reminiscent of downtown Chernobyl the night of the melt-down–a large dark building with Big Joe’s office set dead in the middle of what appeared at first glance to be the holding pen for trouble-makers at Dachau. I could just make out through the darkness and smoke that two old women responsible for picking up cigarette butts around the Boss’s door were heating a couple of tiny new potatoes stuck on the end of a rusty coat hanger. Hovering over their small fire made of very short pencils, toothpicks, stray pieces of dirty cardboard, and wadded up pieces of toilet tissue, they pulled their old burlap shawls low over their eyes. As I walked away, I heard one of them remark loudly to the other that I would never amount to anything in this company since I tended to walk up-right on two legs.

This really got my goat, ducks, and pigs. I slunk around the corner meaning to leave the area, but I was suddenly overcome with an extreme feeling of resentment since it occurred to me that the two old women are paid much more than I. With murder in my heart, I picked up an old Coke bottle and raised it over my head ready to sling it around the corner at the old women. My violent movement scattered a flock of starlings that nest in the rafters, causing me to look up. Dried guano, disturbed from its resting place on the exposed, drooping support members stretching across the width of the building, rained down on me forcing me to drop the bottle and hunch over to protect my eyes.

When I thought it prudent to look up again, my eyes inadvertently fell upon a dirty poster on the wall that had heretofore been covered up by a large picture of our beloved Dr. Mengele. The Boss’s picture had fallen onto the floor face up. You could barely make out the words that framed his face: on the top it said “Big Joe is Watching You” and at the bottom “Get to Work, You.”

Returning my attention to the poster remaining on the wall, I attempted to discern its meaning. It said, “Confidence is the Coal that Fires the Engine of Success.” It sported a picture of a perky blonde in a bikini waving from inside one of our early model chambers. Goofy, but I deemed this a good omen as I retired to the spacious employee lounge to discuss this concept with my fellows.

Conficdence is the Coal that Fires the Engine of Success

Standing on a dirty commode seat and hunched down to make it appear that there was no one in the one empty stall in the single rest room provided the employees, I whispered into the next stall, “Hey, Lyle. What the hell is Confidence?”

Lyle, his feet likewise hidden from view, began to answer, “Confidence is the Coal that…,” but hushed up when we heard the door slammed open against the wall. I could feel the Boss’s eyes sweep the bottom of the stalls, looking for shirkers.

After three minutes of silence, when Big Joe had crept back to his office to continue to entertain himself by scaring gerbils with a length of two inch PVC water pipe, Lyle continued “…Fires the Engine of Success,” exhaling loudly as if he had been holding his breath for a long time.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I hissed. “I know that much. I can read posters. too.”

Lyle, sensing that a simple hackneyed phrase would not satisfy my incisive, determined intellect, responded with another: “To laugh often and much…”

“Lyle.” I cut him off. “You make me so mad I could stomp bunnies.”

“Hey, that’s a neat quote; can I use it?” Lyle asked.

I looked down at a small hole that made our two stalls one and noticed that Lyle was trying to poke me through it with a yard stick. Snapping the end of the ruler off with an exaggerated judo chop, I exited the stall deciding that trying to get information out of Lyle on this particular subject was about as effective as attempting to get Tiffany cuff links from The Cable Guy. I couldn’t wait for this happy night to end. My curiosity was at a high pitch, however, regarding this confidence thing, and I was determined to think it through.

Tuesday

Returning at day-break to my home, I was greeted by my kitties, Frisky and Rosebud. Now here were two up-beat characters that might afford me some insight into this confidence thing. I started to scratch Frisky under the neck and felt something hard and pointed. Pulling her fur back, I noticed that she had on a necklace made of Robin’s beaks. Dropping her in disgust, I turned my affections to Rosebud only to notice that she had a squirrel’s skull impaled on a small pike which she held up for my approval.

Recoiling in horror, I realized that the kitties were more attuned to Dr. Joe’s point of view. But they seemed happy. In fact, they seemed to exude what I thought confidence was all about.

“What is confidence? What is self-esteem?” I mused aloud to no one in particular.

Rosebud rolled over and began pawing open her shrew-skin kit bag that I had not noticed before. After a few seconds, she had deftly removed a small, dog-eared manuscript that she pushed in my direction. On the cover sheet a pink 3M Post-it note was attached with a message addressed to Rosebud from Tony Robbins asking her to read the manuscript and get back to him with any suggestions.

Paging through the manuscript, I saw several suggestions written in the margins in Rosebud’s unmistakable scrawl. On the page that describes Tony’s new technology for obtaining success by converting bad habits (i.e., non-money making behaviors) to good habits (i.e., money making behaviors) Rosebud had written in big cat-block letters: “Confidence is the Coal that Fires the Engine of Success.”

Wednesday

On my way to LA, BRKV (Before Rodney King Verdict), via CattleCar Airways, on a mission loosely associated with my compensation package, it rained in LA (sprinkled, really). Consequently, the LAX Airport authorities closed two runways due to damp pavement and I was stuck in Phoenix for four hours waiting for someone to daub up the puddles.

Finally in LA, I took the Santa Monica Freeway to the Hollywood Freeway to the Bat-Out-Of-Hell Freeway. Exiting onto Beechwood Drive, I drove into old Hollywoodland to visit my brother, the one who makes english language television programs on American music for the Japanese. The programs are about the various types of music found in various U.S. cities, and when he finishes one, he ships them off to those sneaky Japs who put Japanese sub-titles on the films and then show them all over Japan between those crazy Japanese TV shows that have two smiling commentators who talk for a while and hold their elbow and their chin to observe young Japanese women walking by in various states of undress.

I could tell that I was in Hollywood because whenever I looked one way or the other, my eyes fell on either a car worth more than $50,000 or a collection of seeming lunatics. Stopped at a light at Hollywood and Vine, I spied a greasy looking guy at a bus stop jumping up and down and bouncing around flailing his arms as if he were fighting shadow ninja in a cheap Chinese Kung Fu film. Two glam punks with fuchsia hair coifed to appear butthole-like and wearing matching black leather motorcycle jackets with chrome chains, studs, rings, and buttons along with electric blue jams were totally ignoring him. I figured to myself that this greasy guy looked like he knew something about self-esteem.

“Hey, Pal. What’s the word on self-esteem?” I hollered out to him.

The greasy guy stopped practicing his Vulcan Death Grip on Casper the Ghost and the really ugly glam punk, the female one, looked up from the screenplay she was working on. Both sang out in unison, “Confidence is the coal that…” I gunned my Avis V-8 Chevy outa-there.

Thursday

I flew up to Frisco the next day and drove down to Palo Alto to visit those nutty people at Stanford University who buy our software product. After a day of talking a lot, we retired to a roof top above the Hoover Pavilion to observe the weather and partake of California wines and Girl Scout cookies to wind down.

Intelligent looking students in athletic shorts and sensible shoes were rushing around everywhere, rushing, not necessarily because they have anything really important to do but rather because everything on campus is so far apart. No two buildings are any closer to each other than a hundred yards; the place is huge, dotted with palm and eucalyptus trees, and much spread out.

Interspersed among these well adjusted students was the occasional sullen rebel, dressed totally in black, hair died black, and sporting a perpetually pissed-off expression on their face. Fortunately for the rest of society, these kids worry for us over acid rain, nuclear power, snail darters, global warming, and ineffectual acne medicine freeing up the rest of us to worry about the really important issues. Watching the glorious California sunshine highlighting the wall of clouds pouring over the Santa Cruz Mountains like some mystical waterfall of the Gods, we discussed the usual heady subjects covered by the highly intelligent: the weather, the declining quality of Girl Scout cookies, the best California wines under four dollars, bad art, and girls (out of earshot of the girls who are talking about boys out of earshot of the boys). Self-esteem, confidence, personal worth, stock options, Hillary Clinton, and cookie recipes were never mentioned.

Clouds rolling over the Santa Cruz Mountains

Clouds rolling over the Santa Cruz Mountains

Friday

Hanging with the Buff Bunnies down at the free weight pit over in Venice, attempting to bench press my weight, I turned my head and asked Buffy and Turquoise through clenched teeth to pull the barbell off of my chest where it had rested for three long minutes. Turquoise, a six-foot tall blond investment banker with a figure that was a cross between a Barbi Doll and a female Arnold, told Buffy to handle it. Buffy, a startlingly beautiful hard-body brunette who was studying space vehicle re-entry physics at CalTech, dropped her ninety-five pound curling bar in the middle of her sixth set of twenty-five reps to rush over and save me. She was dressed in one of those dental floss bikinis and her highly bronzed muscles rippled in the sun as she closed the twenty yard distance between us.

Daintily lifting the two-hundred pound bar off of my chest with her left hand, she remarked in her perky, lilting way that I had grown to love, “Hey! You’re rilly, rilly cute. I’m just wild about somewhat over-weight forty year-olds that smell of minoxidil and Chanel Pour Monsieur; but I rilly get turned on if it’s Old Spice.”

I responded with a hurt look. Turquoise was looking at me smiling. She winked.

“Don’t get the wrong idea,” Buffy said. “I rilly mean it. Guys like you are all the rage these days with me and my friends. We’re sick of those self-absorbed youth of America.”

“Huh?” I responded.

“No, I mean it. Turquoise and I are nuts for guys like you. You’ve got it all: wisdom, objectivity, a passion for life, positive cash-flow, a cute little paunch. What more could a girl ask for? By the way, are you married?”

“Listen, I’m married–happily married for the last twenty years.”

“See,” Buffy gushed.” You guys are great, even in the long-run. What would it take to convince your wife to dump you? How much?”

“You don’t understand. She sees me as a significant asset. My net present value to her is very high.”

“I’ve never understood net present value. I prefer ROI as a measure of potential value. By the way, have you ever calculated the standard deviation of the mean of disposable income for the average man between the ages of thirty-five and…”

“Hey, let’s skip this part. Look, you seem to have a very high level of self-esteem and confidence. How did you get that attitude?”

Buffy cocked her head slightly to the left and looked confused. “Why do you ask?” Buffy queried me. “You look like a guy that knows what’s what.”

“Well, frankly this self-esteem thing has always eluded me. I’ve always felt a little behind everyone else. You and Turquoise, on the other hand, seem to have a supreme level of confidence. How did you get it?”

“The hard way,” she answered. “When I was a kid, I was very shy and unsure of myself. But in the fourth grade, when I was reading Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, I had an epiphany. Adam, waxing eloquent on the subject of Eve, exclaims to the Angel Raphael that ‘Oft-times nothing profits more/ Than self-esteem, grounded on just and right/ Well manag’d.’ Though self-worth was a bit off the subject–Raphael went on to excoriate Adam for a too heavy reliance on Eve’s capabilities rather than depending on his own good judgement–reading what Adam said showed me that in my heart of hearts I had a poor self-image and this point of view was killing my creativity and motivation. Furthermore, a good self image was not the product of self-help tapes or emotionally pumping yourself up by repeating over and over again that ‘You are a great person… You are a great person… Everyone loves you….’ Rather, achievement of self-esteem was a bi-product of honest effort and intelligent choices, preparedness for the job laid out before me, right action from a position of knowledge and responsibility, and a sense of satisfaction in a job well done. In fact, what I finally got a good purchase on was that self-esteem doesn’t guarantee success at all. While it does tend to allow you to build upon it somewhat, self-esteem is really the icing, not the cake. Anyway, are you free tonight?”

Buff Bunny at Venice Beach

Average Buff Bunny at Venice Beach

Slack-jawed, I was very confused at this point. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how a buff bunny could turn out to have so much more depth than my sophisticated self. I felt worse than ever, and so I didn’t pursue the discussion any further. I needed time to mull over what Buffy had told me. It seemed like it had a seed of truth in it.

Heading back to Hollywood via Venice Boulevard, I-10, and the Santa Monica Freeway. I was nearly run off the road by a twenty-something young woman in a beat-up Toyota who was more interested in getting her hash pipe started than keeping an eye on the traffic. Pulling over out of her way, I noticed one of those wondrous LA light signs that tell us what we need to hear like what happened to the guy in LA Story. This big sign hovering over to the right of the freeway was flashing me the message “You are a Worthwhile Person… You are a Worthwhile Person….” Getting out of the car for a closer look, I figured that this god-like creature would tell me what’s what regarding confidence and self-esteem. Standing on the side of the road waiting for my own special message, the sign flashed again, “You are a Worthwhile Person… You are a Worthwhile Person… You are a Worthwhile Person… Buy a Bill Hinkley Ford Taurus Today….”

Saturday

Back in Hollywood on Saturday, I went to Hugo’s for breakfast with my brother Marty and his little genius boy Zach. I bought Zach his first Mad Magazine and told him to keep it hidden under his bed knowing that his parents would not approve. After a delicious plate of blueberry pancakes, we hopped back in my brother’s Volvo to buzz over to UCLA to see my nephew. On the way out of Hugo’s parking lot, I was rubber-necking, as usual, and noticed Terri Garr leaning on an LA Times paper box scratching her ankle. I really didn’t realize who she was at first, but I was acting cool behind my Wayfarers and she noticed me. Her gaze lingered on me a bit too long.

Mad Magazine #311

I turned and asked Marty if I should ask her if she knows anything about this esteem biz only to be berated for the next ten minutes for ever suggesting that I should talk to a star, even one who’s put on a few pounds, has on no makeup, wears a dress that looks like it was bought at K-Mart, undresses middle-aged men with her eyes, and claws at her ankles like she’s got chiggers, bad. It turns out that they have lives, too, and hate being noticed, according to Marty. That’s why they dress like they’re up-scale bag ladies these days–kind of a rebellion against what Dolly Parton has brought to Hollywood, i.e., makeup, x-ray levels of slender, Rodeo Drive haute couture, reduction mamoplasties, regular baths, country music, and wigs. Now Dolly has got this confidence thing under control, but I never could find her to get the real skinny.

Sunday

Flying back on Sunday, I opened CattleCar Airways’ in-flight magazine The Sardine, and started flipping through the pages. My eyes inadvertently fell upon an article written by a business professional other than Harvey MacKay or that other dweeb Tom Peters. Utterly surprised that I wasn’t going to be treated to twelve pages of numbing, utter crap, I quickly devoured the article. I can’t even remember the guy’s name, but he had actually written a self-esteem story that didn’t suggest I jump up and down naked on a dead man’s grave while chanting ancient incantations and swatting myself across the butt with the right-front leg bone of a cow. Indeed, his article was telling me the same sort of things that Buffy told me, only I could understand it.

He said that all that crap about walking on burning coals, chanting motivational mantras, and the like was useless. What really worked was setting realistic goals and achieving them, one step at a time. Success, it seems, is achieved in the doing not in the wishing.

By the end of the article I had slipped into a trance. I began to meditate on man, woman, life, death, leisure, work, love, hate, infinity. I fell half asleep and a few minutes later seemed to awaken.

Looking out of the window of my 737 at thirty-two thousand feet, I had a vision. Looking up into huge and bright cumulonimbus clouds, I saw the dark blue of the sky open up and viewed a long line of cats, bunnies, blacks, whites, indians, poor folks, dogs, glam punks, script writers, lunatics, buff bunnies, and a host of AT&T customer service representatives all marching and singing up a long stairway into the open arms of St. Peter. Each had a look of supreme confidence on their faces, a look of satisfaction, of a job well done.

Escalator to Heaven

I knew immediately that each of them had renounced all efforts to increase self-esteem and confidence via Tony Robbins, fundamentalist positive confession, all of the two thousand motivational self-help books printed between 1987 and 1990, Leo Buscaglia, and the Institute for Self Actualization. They had all instead achieved what they had set out to do by setting out to do something that had intrinsic value to the individual. Many had achieved a specific level of athletic skill, had acquired and mastered a difficult subject material, had caught fifty birds in a week, had set obtainable goals with regard to their business or personal lives, had learned to balance a check book, or had overcome some disability by sheer will power and guts. They had all attained what they had set out for themselves, not by emotional chicanery, but rather by defining what they wanted to achieve and then setting out a path that would take them there one goal at a time. Self-esteem and confidence, for these individuals, were the results of their efforts, not the end. Confidence doesn’t drive success, preparedness does. Confidence is the result not the road.