Monday, October 31, 2011

Nathan's Hot Dogs

The New York Times

Thank them. Blame them. Curse them. Relish them. George Shea, left, and his brother Rich run the July 4 Nathan’s hot dog eating contest, which first started in 1916 and is now televised by ESPN. Discover how the brothers transformed competitive eating with a showman’s flair:
(Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times)

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The New York Times

In Opinion, Jeremiah Moss searches for Edward Hopper's emblematic diner, Nighthawks, and writes, "the longer you live in New York, the more you love a city that has vanished."

Controlled Fury

The New York Times

The Benefits of Blowing Your Top -- The longing for President Barack Obama to vent some fury at oil executives or bankers may run far deeper than politics.


The New York Times

Is Yemen the Next Afghanistan? -- Al Qaeda may have found the perfect combination of tribal hospitality, political chaos and military opportunity.

The New York Times

To Those With Nothing, Soccer is Everything -- Belgian-born photographer Jessica Hilltout took a seven-month road trip across Africa to document the continent’s love of soccer. Take a look here:
Photo credit: Jessica Hilltout/The Amen Series:

Aug. 15, 1994: Roko Camaj at 2 World Trade Center, seen from the 107th-floor observation deck. "Like" Lens for more photos from "Glass in Front, Clouds Below."

(Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

Ice Cream Sandwich Inventor

Q. Who invented the ice-cream sandwich?
A. A pushcart peddler in the Bowery in 1899, according to publications quoted by Jeri Quinzio in “Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making”

Ice cream vendors on 46th Street in 1964. (Photo: Meyer Liebowitz/The New York Times)

Be in the Moment

"We never know which will come first:
Our next breath or our next life."
--Tibetan proverb

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jim Fallon, Neuroscientist

Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer - YouTube: "


by on Jul 16, 2009 Psychopathic killers are the basis for some must-watch TV, but what really makes them tick? Neuroscientist Jim Fallon talks about brain scans and genetic analysis that may uncover the rotten wiring in the nature (and nurture) of murderers. In a too-strange-for-fiction twist, he shares a fascinating family history that makes his work chillingly personal.

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James Hillman, Therapist in Men’s Movement, Dies at 85

James Hillman, Therapist in Men’s Movement, Dies at 85 -

James Hillman, Therapist in Men’s Movement, Dies at 85

James Hillman, a charismatic therapist and best-selling author whose theories about the psyche helped revive interest in the ideas of Carl Jung, animating the so-called men’s movement in the 1990s and stirring the pop-cultural air, died on Thursday at his home in Thompson, Conn. He was 85.

The cause was complications of bone cancer, his wife, Margot McLean-Hillman, said.

Part scholar, part mystic and part performance artist in his popular lectures, Mr. Hillman began making waves from the day he became the director of studies at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich in 1959.

Mr. Hillman followed his mentor’s lead in taking aim at the assumptions behind standard psychotherapies, including Freudian analysis, arguing that the best clues for understanding the human mind lay in myth and imagination, not in standard psychological or medical concepts.

His 1964 book, “Suicide and the Soul,” challenged therapists to view thoughts of death not as symptoms to be cured but more as philosophical longings to be explored and understood. A later book, “Re-Visioning Psychology,” argued that psychology’s narrow focus on pathology served only to amplify feelings of anxiety and depression.

Feelings like those, he said, are rooted not in how one was treated as a child or in some chemical imbalance but in culture, in social interactions, in human nature and its churning imagination. For Mr. Hillman, a person’s demons really were demons, and the best course was to accept and understand them. To try to banish them, he said, was only to ask for more trouble.

He might advise a parent trying to manage, say, a mentally troubled son to begin by “stop trying to change him.”

By the time he returned to the United States in 1970s, Mr. Hillman had adapted Jungian ideas into a model he called archetypal psychology, rooted in the aesthetic imagination. It was irresistible for many artists, poets, and musicians. The actress Helen Hunt, the composer and performer Meredith Monk, the actor Mark Rylance and John Densmore, the drummer for the Doors, were among his adherents, drawn in part by his force of personality, at once playful and commanding, generous and cunning.

“For all his Saturnine and Martial defense of psyche in our scientifically defined cosmos,” Mr. Rylance wrote in a statement, “he is the most jovial person to sit with.”

In the late 1980s, Mr. Hillman and two friends, the poet Robert Bly and the writer and storyteller Michael J. Meade, began leading conferences exploring male archetypes in myths, fairy tales and poems.

The gatherings struck a chord, particularly with middle-aged men — Mr. Bly’s book “Iron John” became a best-seller — and by the early 1990s there were thousands of such men’s workshops and retreats across the country, many complete with drumming, sweat lodges and shout-outs to the ancient ancestors.

“I don’t know what to say about James,” Mr. Bly said in an e-mail. “You could say, ‘James threw enormous parties for the spirits.’ ”

In 1997, at age 70, Mr. Hillman became a best-selling author himself when “The Soul’s Code” reached the New York Times list. He appeared on “Oprah.”

“He was in the tradition — or maybe the nontradition — of Alan Watts: a psychologist, thinker and lay philosopher who took concepts from a variety of sources and melded them into his own, particular idiosyncratic take,” said Wade E. Pickren, chairman of psychology at Pace University in New York and editor of the journal History of Psychology.

“I think psychology is prone to and also needs people like Hillman who think outside the box,” Professor Pickren said. “Sometimes he’s following his own idiosyncrasies, but sometimes his observations make us all pause and reconsider.”

James Hillman, the third of four children of Julian Hillman, a hotelier, and his wife, Madeleine, was born on April 12, 1926, in a room at one of his father’s properties, the Breakers Hotel in Atlantic City. His mother ran an accessory shop.

After high school, James attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University for two years before joining the Navy’s Hospital Corps in 1944. He studied English literature in Paris at the Sorbonne and graduated with honors from Trinity College in Dublin with a degree in mental and moral science.

But it was when he moved to Zurich and enrolled at the C. G. Jung Institute, in 1953, that his imagination took flight. After 10 years as the director of studies there, he zigzagged between Europe and the United States, writing, giving lectures, editing a Jungian journal and, in 1978, landing at the University of Dallas as graduate dean. There he helped found the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.

He wrote more than 20 books and was a sought-after speaker, often drawing a full house, delivering the Terry lectures at Yale and others at Harvard and Princeton, and appearing regularly in Switzerland, Italy and India, as well as at annual symposiums at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, Calif., which houses his papers.

Once, early in his career, an editor rejected one of his manuscripts, saying it would “set psychology back 300 years,” according to Dick Russell, who is writing a two-volume biography, “The Life and Ideas of James Hillman,” due out next year. “He just loved hearing that,” Mr. Russell said, “because that’s exactly what he wanted to do.”

Mr. Hillman was married three times. Besides his wife, Ms. McLean-Hillman, an artist, he is survived by four children from his first marriage: Julia Hillman of Woodstock, Conn.; Carola Hillman of St. Gallen, Switzerland; Susanne Hillman of Zurich; and Laurence Hillman of St. Louis; as well as two sisters, Sue Becker and Sybil Pike, and a brother, Joel.

“Some people in desperation have turned to witchcraft, magic and occultism, to drugs and madness, anything to rekindle imagination and find a world ensouled,” Mr. Hillman wrote in 1976. “But these reactions are not enough. What is needed is a revisioning, a fundamental shift of perspective out of that soulless predicament we call modern consciousness.”

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Decide What You Want and Go Get It

You need to know what it is you want from life so that you can effectively direct your energies to making that dream a reality. Steven Covey says to begin with the end in mind.

The picture is of an Earthrise seen from the Moon. John Kennedy is famous for coalescing a nation around the Dream of putting a Man on the Moon.

Martin Luther King, jr. gave a famous speech, "I Have a Dream". You might say that 40 years later Barack Obama is a part of that dream.

You need a dream of your ideal way of living your life. The lifestyle is all we have. Habits make the man. So you need to determine who you want to be and go about being that person. Aristotle said,

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."

Therefore, we need to have a Big Picture of our ideal existence to determine our habits and priorities:

The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.
- Bertrand Russell

And believe me this is a sticking point because the pressure starts here.

"The secret of getting started is breaking
your complex, overwhelming tasks into
small manageable tasks, and then
starting on the first one."
- Mark Twain

My experience tells me that Twain is right. In fact, at first we need to take very small steps in the direction of our goals to build momentum, motivation and confidence. Practice makes perfect in converting knowing to doing. Start with one good habit at a time and over a few months you will have patched together an improvement to your way of living.

"One important key to success is
self-confidence. An important key to
self-confidence is preparation."
- Arthur Ashe

Napoleon Hill is a great educator in this area and he repeatedly says about dreams and goals that if you can conceive it, and believe it, you can achieve it. God does not taunt us with dreams we have no hope of achieving.

"Don't be afraid of the space between your
dreams and reality. If you can dream it,
you can make it so."
- Belva Davis

Do not be afraid to dream big and to dream often. He who dreams more, accomplishes more, according to Twain.

Belief in our Dreams is one of the secrets to great achievements:

"The only limit to our realization of
tomorrow will be our doubts of today."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Of course no achievement is without a price and without effort but if your desire is intense you will find a way to achieve your goals.

"What lies behind us, and what lies before
us are small matters compared
to what lies within us."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is important to get started and to learn by doing.

Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all. Norman V. Peale

You can achieve great things and accumulate wealth without harming your fellow man by your greed and deception. Follow the Golden Rule.

Three keys to more abundant living: caring about others, daring for others, sharing with others.

If this sounds like Sunday school, do not let it deter you. Many years of observing men and markets has introduced me to the idea of right work. Warren Buffett is a man of honor and Bernard Madoff is a crook. Warren is among the World's richest men and Bernie is in jail for the next 150 years.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Failure is an outcome, not a conclusion.

Failure is only an outcome, not a conclusion.

“In the lexicon of youth which fate reserves
For a bright manhood, there is no such word
As fail.”

- from the play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy (1839) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873

There is no failure, only outcome of an experiment and is therefore an observation or feedback. This idea is often attributed to Thomas Edison who failed 10,000 finding filament that would not burn before the light bulb worked. He needed to create a vacuum before succeeding. Did he then need to go back a test all 10,000 filaments again?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chuck Berry turns 85

"There would be no rock & roll guitar without Chuck Berry. His signature lick — a staccato, double-string screech descended from Chicago blues with a strong country inflection — is the music's defining twang. He introduced it in his 1955 Chess Records debut, "Maybellene," and used it to dynamic effect in nearly two dozen classic hits in the next ten years."

"Berry was the first giant of rock & roll guitar. 
Nothing else matters."

Source: 100 Greatest Guitarists: Chuck Berry | Rolling Stone:

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Can't we just get along?

Career Choice

This is an interesting discussion which I intend to re-visit hence, keeping it wholesale.  I made a comment myself which is unusual behavior on my part.

Could it be that people who have been assaulted with the credo of the almighty dollar are having second thoughts.  America was on a roll with ever rising house prices and greed dragged most of the population into a sucker's game.  The real estate boom abruptly ended and foreclosures saw the middle class robbed of thier principle asset which was the home they lived in.  The banks who convinced them of the merit of over extending themselves now wanted the loaned money back.  Surprise!

This is enough to make anyone question the values they absorbed around them and want to take some courses in critical thought and to examine all thier assumptions.  In the case of freshmen in colleges, they witnessed the destruction of thier families wealth and have a need to question the American Dream.  Now the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is gaining momentum, maybe these new philosophers will drop out and join the collective protest.  After all, Wall Street and a number of banks and other institutions duped the middle class, taking thier homes, money and pension plans in one fell swoop.  Who wouldn't be angry and searching for answers?

Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?
Edward Tenner | Oct 16, 2011

One of the many small surprises of the recession has been a significant growth in the number of philosophy majors, according the the Philadelphia Inquirer. It has slightly exceeded the growth of enrollments in the last ten years; many other humanities and social science fields have just kept up. At the University of California at Berkeley, despite or because of the state's economic turmoil, the number of majors has increased by 74 percent in the last decade.

What makes philosophy different? It can seem self-absorbed; philosophers themselves joke about Arthur Koestler's definition: "the systematic abuse of a terminology specially invented for that purpose." But it also is a tool (like history and religious studies) for thinking about everything else, and every profession from law and medicine to motorcycle maintenance.

It's also one of the most competitive disciplines. When I was a science editor I sometimes saw readers' reports on colleagues' philosophy manuscripts. There were often pages and pages of challenges to the authors' arguments, concluding with a recommendation to publish anyway. This could be confusing to faculty editorial boards that approved or rejected books. It had to be explained to them that philosophers honor each other by disagreeing with each other. The number of objections could be a sign of the importance of the arguments. From such experiences I learned the difference between the merely wrong, and the valuable wrong.

Thus philosophy is a demanding major. The chairman of the Villanova University department is quoted as counseling students with mediocre grade point averages away from concentration. Philosophy majors also score highest among disciplines in verbal reasoning and analytical writing on the GRE aptitude test.

Philosophy is also institutionalized beyond academia in ways that history and literature are not, for example in bioethics programs in medical schools and organizations. In one survey, working conditions for philosophers outranked some other prestigious fields like aerospace engineering and astronomy.

It is true that philosophy majors' salaries aren't especially high. On the other hand, when they do set out to make money, they often make lots of it, from George Soros and Carl Icahn to Peter Thiel. In fact, the late tycoon Max Palevsky once told a newspaper interviewer:

Many of us early workers in computers were philosophy majors. You can imagine our surprise at being able to make rather comfortable livings.
This doesn't mean we should replace humanities-bashing with humanities chauvinism. But it does suggest looking beyond the stereotypes.

The statistics aren't that strong. A high percentage increase in a department notoriously small doesn't indicate a significant trend.  Philosophy departments are among the smallest major programs in many universities and schools. 

Even so, calling a degree 'practical' when if offers little value for being hired for most jobs is a mistake. A degree in computer science, or a vocational degree in car mechanics, have directly practical value in applying for specific kinds of jobs.  Philosophy as a degree offers nearly as little value towards a specific career as an English degree does. Sure, this is only one kind of practicality, but to omit it at a time when America has near 10% unemployment is an important oversight.

 Lastly, hand picking Soros, Ican and Thiel, and offering their exceptional wealth as being connected, or caused by, their Philosophy degrees is a very weak claim based on an exceptional sample. We could find 3 people of exceptional wealth with any degree, not to mention having no degree at all. 

Here is a comment that I liked:
  I do agree that knowledge of philosophy is important for anyone that wishes to understand and interact successfully with people in the world. But I am not convinced that the best way to achieve that knowledge is in a philosophy department in a University, where its common for most professors to interact with the rest of the world as little as possible, in favor of obsessive study of estoeric details of particular theories.  Elitism is rank in academic philosophy and its a poison pill against the love of wisdom. You can read a great deal of philosophy books, and have rote mastery of who wrote what, and what ideas lead to what other ideas, and still have absolutely no wisdom at all. And sadly, many philosophy departments are staffed by figures like this, and who wish to train students to follow in their footsteps under the banner of 'Philosophy'.  Socrates is surely turning in his grave.

- Scott Berkun (who has a degree in philosophy)

Occupy Wall Street -Something's Happening Here

Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase
~ Martin Luther King Jr

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. 

~Henry David Thoreau

The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.
~ William James 

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!'

Goethe Society of North America provides this great coverage of a couplet attributed to Goethe.  They conclude he never actually said it but was paraphrased liberally.

March 5, 1998

Of the many inquiries about Goethe and Goethe quotations that come to the Goethe Society of North America through the website, the most oft repeated and vexing one has been a passage about boldness, magic, and providence that certainly sounded like Goethe, but eluded our attempts to track it down. You may recall that in our Fall 1996 Newsletter an editor at Celestial Seasonings Teas even offered some tea in exchange for help in identifying it. Most inquiries focused on the closing lines: "What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it! / Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." But some cited a fuller passage:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

Well, it's been found and it is partly by Goethe, in a way. We first heard from Ellen Todd Hanks, a senior information service librarian at the Briscoe Library of the University of Texas Health Science Center. She found a variant of the final two sentences in Stevenson's Home Book of Quotations: "Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin it, and the work will be completed."

The lines are attributed to John Anster in a "very free translation" of Faust from 1835. They are indeed "very free" writes Katja Moser, who solved a larger piece of the mystery this May, and provided a fuller excerpt from Anster's translation, where the lines in question are spoken by the "Manager" in the "Prelude at the Theatre":

Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting over lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."


Katja Moser also identifies the author of the lengthier passage being attributed to Goethe and, in doing so, reveals its connection with John Anster's inventive paraphrase. She writes:

"The quote as you give it in a larger context seems to be from W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951. There the text apparently goes:

'But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money--booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!'

So, did Goethe say it? Not really. Thank you, Katja Moser, for the discovery!

Meredith Lee
University of California, Irvine