01.28.19 | Reefer Madness

If there were ever a film to cure any nostalgic pangs for the good old days this would be it. Originally titled "Tell Your Children," this church-financed American propaganda piece made in 1936 revolved around melodramatic events that ensue when high school students are lured by pushers to try marijuana -- hit-and-run accidents, manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, hallucinations, and descent into madness. This would-be morality tale smoldered in the shadow of the 40s and early 50s (at one time panned as one of the worst films ever made) until it was rediscovered and relabeled Reefer Madness to wonderful satirical effect. Watch the trailer . . . . and be thankful you now live in such an enlightened world Reefer Madness ORIGINAL TRAILER - 1936 (Not the full film)…

Read More
Steve SmithComment
01.14.19 | Standardized Testing Revisited

It's the major rite of passage, perhaps second only to one's trip through the birth canal. Most of us sat for the SAT. Break the seal with your No. 2 pencil . . . . and go! The ensuing four hours could determine one's future. A few achieved the holy grail of 1600 (or equivalent) -- name in the local paper, acceptance into the scholastic pinnacle assured. For others, the results could relegate the test-taker to the backwaters of academia, maybe to life itself.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
01.07.19 | All In Our Lifetime

It's probably the best one-line take on the subject of history: History is just one damn thing after another. Yet, as we once discussed (MM 3/20/17), these damn things are said to occur in patterns. Our book subject back then -- The Fourth Turning -- stands for the proposition that history, far from being a collection of random events, moves in predictable cycles. Each grand cycle, a so-called saeculum spanning the length of a long human life of roughly eighty years, contains four generational "turnings" that arrive in a fixed pattern as life phases intersect with events and react to the generation which spawned it. Five hundred years of Anglo-American history demonstrate how history creates generations just as generations create history.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
12.17.18 | Flawed? Us? Me?

Judge not. Seek first to understand. We humans are flawed. What makes us that way is the subject of our focus article (link: The Worst Of Human Nature), a very readable digest of the extensive research into that which makes us . . . . what, exactly?

Three philosophical views have prevailed historically on the subject of man and child development: the Original Sin (children born bad, necessitating societal constraints for proper development); Tabula Rasa (John Locke, children a blank slate); Innate Goodness (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, children born pure and should thus be left alone to grow naturally without societal contamination).

Read More
Steve SmithComment
12.10.18 | Spirit in the Sky

The prospect of death invites a peek into the world of metaphysics. Member Monday (12/10/18) is dedicated to the two Highland community members we recently lost. Actually, it is dedicated to each and every one of us -- to us, simply different cars on the same train. May we endeavor to share our respective views on the nature of the soul, spirit, and the other immeasurables even if in doing so it feels like both an accommodation to the necessity of language and proof of its inadequacy.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
12.03.18 | The Psychology of Money

Smart Steve: 2008 investment portfolio so defensively oriented that it totally avoided that year's market crash; stupid Steve: maintained said portfolio and thereby totally missed the entire three-times equity gain during the ensuing ten years. The story of man and money, and the degree to which intellect intersects with emotion, is the subject of The Psychology of Money. The report describes the twenty flaws, biases, and causes of bad behavior when people deal with money. You will wince or smile knowingly.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
11.26.18 | Capitalism, Meaning of Life

Thought experiment: "What's striking about capitalism is that we're all trying to escape it because it makes us so miserable, mean, and foolish . . . we all want the freedom to live lives with meaning, purpose, and fulfillment -- instead of being crushed with anxiety, bruised by competitiveness, and suffused with fear . . . . so here is the real question, if these are the things we're really after, why don't we just give them to one another?"

Read More
Steve SmithComment
11.19.18 | Intergenerational Embrace

One personal life regret was my failure to pay closer attention at the family holiday dinner table sixty years ago. What I would give today for the opportunity to ask my maternal grandfather -- just one more time (promise, I'll pay attention!) -- about his life, his background, the stories of his Austro-Hungarian birthplace, his Parisian dress designer father, 1901 emigration to America, dealing with all the hardships. And the same goes with other relatives -- all of whom, at the time, seemed to fit into one category i.e. old.

Threshold question: whence comes a generation? Take the so-called Greatest Generation -- born 1910-1924, coming of age amidst the crushing jaws of the Depression, only to emerge from the dust to plant the flag at Iwo Jima -- and one wonders whether such greatness is somehow innate or is forged by circumstances. Imagine that the same gene pool had instead been born in the 1946-1964 era only then to act out in the same overprivileged, Spock-coddled, pretentious, self-important way (as some would have it) of the baby boomer generation.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
11.12.18 | The Truth of the Matter, Media and its’ Source​​

We are honored to have Sue Cross as a guest speaker for our Monday Member lunch. Sue is the Executive Director and CEO of Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), and directs its work to advance non-profit, public service newsrooms that inform communities across the U.S. with fact-based, non-partisan, accountability journalism. You can read more about Sue HERE.

Since Sue was in town for one day only, Steve Smith has graciously agreed to give this Monday’s podium to Sue so we can all learn more about the state of our free press from her.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
11.05.18 | The Immigration Challenge

It's the very picture of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. That Central American caravan, making its way toward the promised land more than a thousand miles to the north, overwhelmed the tiny bridge which served as the border control between Guatemala and Mexico as if it were a mere speed bump.

Now zoom in. That's no caravan. That's more like an exodus -- simply thousands of individual souls just like the Joad family and the other Oakies who swarmed west trying to escape the Great Depression dust-bowl of the 30s. In fact, the Oakies had it relatively easy i.e. at least they weren't the victims of criminal gang activity and the language of their destination was their own. One can only imagine how bad conditions must be such that the hardship, uncertainty, and the misery that powered this irresistible force make the journey look better by comparison.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
10.29.18 | It's About Time

The world did not, in fact, come to an end on December 21, 2012. The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, which tracks various Mayan cycles, simply hit the equivalent of six straight zeros on the odometer and started over. It was largely the westerners' interpretation of all this through the lens of a linear time mindset that drove them into the bunkers.

That's what can happen with seemingly mutually-incomprehensible traditions. Our Member Monday (10/29/18) article (About time: why western philosophy can only teach us so much ) is about one philosopher's quest to better understand the human condition, not through the comfort of his own thirty-year study of western philosophy but through the philosophical renderings of others, most of which originated more or less contemporaneously with his own ancient Greek-based field of study.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
10.22.18 | You're Only Old Once

A farmer got so old that he couldn't work the fields anymore. So he would spend the day just sitting on the porch. His son, still working the farm, would look up from time to time and see his father sitting there. "He's of no use any more," the son thought to himself, "he doesn't do anything!" One day the son got so frustrated by this, that he built a wooden coffin, dragged it over to the porch, and told his father to get in. Without saying anything, the father climbed inside.

After closing the lid, the son dragged the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff. As he approached the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from inside the coffin. He opened it up. Still lying there peacefully, the father looked up at his son. "I know you are going to throw me over the cliff, but before you do, may I suggest something?" "What is it?" replied the son. "Throw me over the cliff, if you like," said the father, "but save this good wooden coffin. Your children might need to use it."

Wooden Coffin (Zen Buddhist story)

One reacts with a mixture of bemusement, disbelief, and righteous indignation upon receiving this missive from the universe via the postal service: your personal 50th birthday invitation to join AARP. Congratulations, you have just graduated from the old age of youth to the youth of old age.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
10.15.18 | The Midlife Unraveling

The Midlife Unraveling | Brené Brown. Whether you smile knowingly or wince, you will relate. In fact, in the unlikely event you are unable to catch a glimpse of what she's talking about in you, your partner, your parents, your children, or a good friend, consider yourself my guest for lunch. Here in her own words:

"To call what happens at mid-life a ‘crisis’ is bullshit. A crisis is an intense, short-lived, acute, easily identifiable and defining event that can be controlled and managed. Mid-life is not a crisis. Mid-life is an unraveling. The mid-life unraveling is a series of painful nudges strung together by low-grade anxiety and depression, quiet desperation, and an insidious loss of control. It’s enough to make you crazy, but seldom enough for people on the outside to validate the struggle or offer you help and respite. It’s the dangerous kind of suffering — the kind that allows you to pretend that everything is OK” 

Read More
Steve SmithComment
10.08.18 | Climate Change Reckoning

Well, here it comes. On September 10, 2015 a group of twenty-five youths filed a landmark climate lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Oregon alleging the federal government has violated the constitutional rights of the youngest generation to life, liberty, and property through its promotion of fossil fuels. Juliana v. U.S. is winding its way through the courts, having survived a number of challenges by the fossil fuel industry and others, with trial scheduled to finally begin later this (October) month. Plaintiffs seek a national plan to address carbon dioxide levels…

Read More
Steve SmithComment
10.01.18 | David Hume

Maybe there's just too much motion these days. We're all getting a little seasick. We could use a timeout. Eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume might just be what we now need (link: Hume is the amiable, modest, generous philosopher we need ... - Aeon). He reminds us of a more solid and real three-dimensional world.  

Hume saw human beings as creatures of flesh and blood and, stripped of philosophical pretensions, guided primarily by custom and habit. Yet, at the same time, he would have enjoyed our Get Over Thyself discussion (MM, 8/27/18) with his view of the "self" as but a collection of perceptions in perpetual flux, the "I" little more than a transitory thought. We're simply animals with a neocortex, plain and simple, not immortal souls temporarily encased in flesh.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
09.24.18 | Mourning In America

A therapist looks at America through the collective lens of all those fifty-minute intimate (monetized) psychodramas and issues his pronouncement about the country: It's unhappy. Profoundly unhappy. He theorizes why we're all so sad. 

America and Its Discontents | Gary Greenberg - The Baffler

We're sad because we're grieving over something. But that's not the real issue. The problem is we don't actually know the something we're grieving over. Were there a recognized grief object --  say the loss of a loved one -- the standard talk-therapy might be of help. The grief becomes pathological when it goes so far that its object can no longer be identified. Honest therapists, he maintains, realize that they are not only incapable of doing much about the suffering they are witnessing but that they are actually part of the problem.

Read More
Steve SmithComment
09.17.18 | Artificial Intelligence / Tyranny of the Drones

Those of a certain age will undoubtedly recall a particular Super Bowl commercial of January 24, 1984. This iconic ad introduced the Macintosh computer by way of an Orwellian scene showing a giant screen depicting Big Brother addressing a mass of seated dead-eye grey proletariat drones in the flat, ominous tones of we-shall-prevail propaganda-talk when in bursts a vision of youth and color, the very embodiment of beautiful feminine energy itself, to execute the perfect hammer-throw that literally shatters the old guard. The tagline: And you shall see why 1984 won't be like "1984". (link: Apple 1984 Super Bowl Commercial Introducing Macintosh Computer ...).The Proles were set free. 

Read More
Steve SmithComment
09.10.18 | Animal Kingdom

What does it mean to be human? That sounds narcissistic. Perhaps the "Get Over Thyself" dictum (MM, 8/27/18) should apply, not just to the individual, but to an entire species. How about what does it mean to be a dolphin? What does it mean to be any animal, for that matter? Is the difference simply one of consciousness? Recent auto-television research techniques have established that self-awareness perception in dolphins begins around the age of one and a half years, just like in humans…

Read More
Steve SmithComment
08.27.18 | Get Over Thyself

A sign over the doorway to the club library entrance features the well-known Socratic dictum: "Know Thyself." Our next Member Monday (8/27) session is dedicated to the proposition: "Get Over Thyself." Maybe a corresponding sign to that effect will someday be posted over the library exit…

Read More
Dustin SimantobComment
08.20.18 | Religion as Philosophy

Talk about your high stakes. In the back corner of the club's music room, propped up by the lamp, is The Divine Comedy, by Dante. Open it to the "Gates of Hell" (p.5, line 4 - "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here" ) and then to ix-x for an index to the Circles of Hell from The Inferno. In order: Unbaptized; Carnal Sinners; Gluttonous; Misers and Prodigals; Wrathful and Sullen. Cross now the River of Styx and you will land in the Sixth Circle, dedicated to The Heretics. This is where you -- you non-believers -- will be sent. Believe it…

Read More
Dustin SimantobComment