Monday, February 14, 2011

Post No. 158a: Re-posting of "There Has to be Something More"

© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

This post was originally published in 2009. Since today is Valentine's Day, we thought that we should re-visit some relationship issues.

Today, we have some Common Sense thoughts about choosing a spouse - the first, and hopefully only, time.

When we sit down at the keyboard, we’ve often just watched a series of movies on TCM, some cartoons, C-Span, and the news.

John Edwards, the Democratic presidential contender who cheated on his wife, is back in the news, due to the recent death of his wife, from cancer. So are the timeless issues of sex, power, and breach of trust.

As we watched the Edwardses, we asked, “What are people thinking when they pair up?”

Some suggest that very little thinking goes on, at least north of the equator, and that’s where the cartoons come in. We’ve long argued that transient, hard-wired blood flow and chemical (whether hormonal or self-administered) factors play far too large a role.

We're not being prudish; we've just been there; and, on far too frequent an occasion.

It’s not difficult to find some element of errant temptation in most Hollywood products. Some even suggest that Tinseltown bears some responsibility.

But history is replete with evidence that hanky-panky predated Hollywood. A recent History Channel program discussed the long trips between American colonial farms where brief “stops” were made (by members of both sexes) to, let’s say, regain one’s energy.

Modern couples are often shocked to find that sex is a reoccurring complicating factor. Last evening, we watched a program on the mythological god Zeus. It was noted that all of the ancient gods, in addition to their immense power, had human frailties.

Zeus’ flaw? An insatiable sexual appetite. (Even without Viagra.)

While we’ve never quite figured out why the male member (or even the female member) of a couple might have an interest in prolonging the event (particularly those otherwise incompatible), we do find the spate of competing commercials entertaining.

The description of the potential side effects is almost as humorous as the cartoons we watch. “Anyone experiencing an erection longer than 4 hours should consult a physician.” Add to that the warning that someone experiencing a decrease in hearing or sight should discontinue using the product, and we’re really confused. Aren’t those parts of the deal?

In an earlier piece, we suggested that people considering, or stumbling toward, infidelity recognize the early warning signs. We proposed nipping the impulse in the bud while they still had some degree of control, before “Nature” took over.

That didn’t go over very well. Many apparently feel that Nature has no role, and it is all about pure selfishness, and a lack of Personal Responsibility. When we tried to clarify our position, we made little progress, even with the assistance of another Institute Fellow.

However, let's face it: the real issue is how one wants to occupy one's time.

We saw the movie Outbreak for the first time last week. In it, members of a divorced couple, both of whom are infectious disease doctors, join forces to fight a deadly virus. Watching them place their personal differences aside, and focus on their mutual goals, prompted us to write this piece.

TCM recently aired a collection of Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney. As Rooney got older, he began to take an interest in members of the opposite sex. In some of his other movies, he was paired with Liz Taylor. In real life, Rooney and Taylor married 8 times each, and to them we dedicate this piece.

From what we’ve seen, young people considering hooking up long-term might look for something else apart from the transient. (Children are obviously not a very strong motivation to stay together these days.)

We’re neither apologizing for, nor condoning cheating. Nor are we suggesting that cheating is a minor issue to be glanced over. We’re just suggesting that marriage might have a better chance of survival, whatever the problems encountered, if there is something else going on apart from physical attraction.

The following appeared in our earlier, controversial piece:

“Probably the best line about love... is..., ‘Love is not two people staring into the eyes of one another, but rather both of them staring in the same direction together at the same time focused on the same goal.’ [I]f a relationship is primarily [physical] attraction... based, the decrease in the stimulation and intensity will occur about as quickly as the increase, if not faster.

“When men and women... realize there are issues in society larger and more significant than themselves, their children, and the physical structures in which they live (and where one places his appendage), then we will have made some progress as a society. When couples feel that their relationship is about to disintegrate, they might consider jointly volunteering their time to the AIDS Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, or a similar organization. That’ll place things into perspective.”

Earlier this week, we saw another couple in the news – the Clintons. The former Prez brought home two detained American journalists who made missteps in North Korea. His previously humiliated wife, now Secretary of State, beamed with pride. Moving on beyond his peccadilloes, they, together, pulled something off which they felt mattered.

For all the criticism their relationship received in the past, perhaps they have figured out the formula to a long-term marriage, or another type of "Stay Pow'R." (It remains to be seen whether the marriages of Gov. Mark Sanford and Sen. John Ensign will survive.)

We strongly suspect that at some point during or following the Lewinsky scandal, at least one of them said, “There’s still work to be done, which best be done by the two of us.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Post No. 158: Does Anyone in America Have a “Real” Job Anymore?

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Maybe we exaggerate, a little.

But as we watched the coverage of the slowly evolving Egyptian Revolution, we found everyone second guessing everyone else.

The President of the U.S. should do this. President Mubarak should do X. The prior administration should have done that. The monolithic student movement is doing Y, and the older citizens - this and that.

Finally, the neighboring Arab countries should do Z, T, U, M and B.

This cacophony prompted us to surf the media outlets to identify a consensus regarding what should be done and what is going to happen.

We had some difficulty.

At last count, we found 7,493 options available to the various factions and interested parties. This gives us some appreciation of the complexity of it all.

However, something else occurred to us, just with respect to the American talking heads.

First of all, with few exceptions, few of us (the Fellows of the Institute included) have even a modicum of understanding of the culture in that part of the world, and yet so many of us have become experts over night.

Second, somehow we think that we can influence the actions of President Mubarak, despite having so much difficulty just getting Osama bin Laden to answer our phone calls.

Third, the situation in Egypt is so fluid that even the great engineering firm of da Vinci, Newton, and Bernoulli would have difficulty keeping track of it.

Just a few minutes ago, we received a breaking news e-mail from the Washington Post claiming that the Obama Administration is on the defensive because of President Mubarak’s defiance, and refusal to take a permanent trip to France.

(BTW, what’s with Baby Doc returning to Haiti? Anyone having visited Grasse, France, will tell you that it is Nirvana, not to mention close to the beaches of Cannes.)

Perhaps it would be helpful for us to realize that we do not know how to solve every problem in the Universe, and that there are some issues beyond our control as a nation.

But something else bothered us last evening. When we examined the 4,678 talking heads expressing the 7,493 different options, we noted that only 3 of them had real jobs, and they weren’t talking.

Well, maybe another exaggeration. But here’s our point.

If we had more things to do (namely, real jobs) in our country, we wouldn’t have as much time to weigh in on the problems of other countries, nor would we have what seems to be a virtual, 24 hour army of talking heads.

As soon as the great prognosticators started talking about our economy transitioning into a service economy from a manufacturing economy, we began to get concerned.

Call us Neanderthals, but in our view, servicing others only lasts as long as the people or entities we service have a desire to purchase our services, and more importantly, money to pay us.

Just take a look at all the free services provided in our economy. Many of the incredibly innovative web sites on the Internet are provided at no cost, while the owners have to beg for advertising revenue.

Our food is increasingly being grown in other countries. The Chinese are no longer leasing natural resource real estate in Third World countries, but buying the property outright. And we don’t need to talk about American manufacturing prowess.

It has gotten to the point when one asks an American what he or she does for work, after they provide their job title, one has to follow up with 27 questions to really figure out what they do – on a part-time basis.

The Logistician, still working on his doctorate at a samba school in Rio, once got in trouble while running the orientation of community college students in the Southeast. He gratuitously noted that too many black folks spend their time performing landscaping and fixing other black folks’ hair.

His point was that the segment of the population needing landscaping and hair care services was not growing, and that too many people entering the field would lead to a glut of workers. He was simply encouraging the potential students to think ahead, about jobs that might be in higher demand, and require more technical expertise.

Needless to say, there was one very vocal young lady in the room who flipped on him. He later discovered that it was her life long goal to be a cosmetologist. He now realizes that he should have encouraged her to become a news commentator on Fox News, or MSNBC.

Because that’s where the opportunities are; at least in America.

Inventing stuff, finding cures for diseases, and making stuff is way too labor intensive.

We’ve somehow figured out that we should outsource that to the Chinese.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Post No. 157: Does an Ass-Whipping Constitute Inspiration?

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

One thing we’ve learned during the past 3 years - when we suggest people are responsible for their own, individual crap, we generally receive no responses, or oblique ones.

In a recent post, we referred to the “malaise speech” made 30 years ago by President Jimmy Carter. In it, he suggested that America was experiencing a crisis in confidence, and needed to get back to basics to renew our enthusiasm.

In our view, this was just another way of saying that we were not living up to our responsibilities as citizens, which translated to our responsibilities as a nation.

One of our followers suggested that the problem with the President’s speech was that he didn’t inspire the citizens at the time. We initially thought that his response fell in the oblique sluice.

What followed was a discussion about whether all leaders should have the ability to inspire others, effectively manage the shop, or perhaps a little of both.

We must admit that we initially dismissed the possible role of inspiration in encouraging people to be responsible. We joked to ourselves that Hollywood Bad Kids, Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, not only need to decide to participate in substance abuse programs, but also be sufficiently “inspired” by someone else to do so, so that Hollywood might be able to place confidence in them again.

It also reminded us of how many Baby Boomers, while kids growing up, had our asses whipped by our parents as part of the development of our sense of responsibility, and how it might have also constituted “inspiration.” [Of course, these “expressions of love” were inflicted prior to kids being able to threaten their parents with child abuse allegations.]

We then realized that, in some instances, motivation and inspiration might be synonymous.

We’ve been wrestling with this inspiration – responsibility tag team all week now.

Over the weekend, we saw a tweet which made us laugh. We e-mailed it to a group of friends, mentioning that it was from the “We Simply Could Not Resist File.” It read:

“What Egypt needs now is a tax break for the rich to stimulate job creation.”

Without addressing whether “inspiration” can be the equivalent of “stimulation,” one recipient responded, “I thought that such a tax break already existed, and that it was called the ‘American Foolish Dependency on Middle East Oil Act.’”

This, and our follower’s comment about inspiration, led us to rethink a few points we raised in comments to our two prior posts, whose theme was, a nation is only as responsible as its most irresponsible citizen.

Is it the responsibility of our leaders to inspire us to eat healthier foods and exercise? Save more of our income? Invent new technologies? Better educate ourselves? Or even reduce our dependence on foreign oil?

We’re going through a period of turbulence right now, and President Obama is the Captain of the Big Ship Lollypop.

Does he provide a sense of comfort amongst the citizens? Should it be a requirement of the position?

In the minds of some, the President needs to allay our current concerns. It is reasonably clear that he has not been able to do that, either domestically or internationally. [Should he be willing to lie to us to accomplish that goal?]

One thing that makes his job difficult is that there are so many people sniping at him, and second guessing his decisions. This is not a matter of whether the criticism is justified or not. It simply is what it is. A significant segment of society dislikes him intensely, which arguably bears on, or reflects, his ability or inability to inspire.

We are reminded that in the military, one can not openly criticize or question a superior officer, and there are good reasons for that. It potentially undermines the authority of the officer to accomplish the mission, and can adversely affect the morale of the troops. Is there an analogy with respect to the President, no matter who is in the office?

This past Sunday on Meet the Press, David Gregory gave us a glimpse into the soon-to-open Reagan Library. His tour guide was Peggy Noonan, one of the primary speech writers to former President Ronald Reagan.

She revealed something which the American public has never seen – the suit which President Reagan wore on the day that John Hinckley shot him, gunshot hole and all.

As the President was being wheeled into the OR, he quipped, “I hope that you all are Republicans,” referring to the surgical team.

The Chief Surgeon, reportedly a staunch Democrat, without hesitation, responded, “Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.”

Maybe, just maybe, we all need to be on the same team as responsible citizens, inspired by our President or not.

Post No. 156b: Walk Naked in America Day

Don't forget to mark your calendars.

As you may already know, it is a sin for a Muslim male to see any woman other than his wife naked and if he does, he must commit suicide. So next Saturday at 1 pm Eastern Time, all American women are asked to walk out of their houses completely naked to help weed out any neighborhood terrorists.

Circling your block for one hour is recommended for this anti-terrorist effort.

All patriotic men are to position themselves in lawn chairs in front of their houses to demonstrate their support for the women and to prove that they are not Muslim terrorist sympathizers. Since Islam also does not approve of alcohol, a cold 6-pack at your side is further proof of your patriotism.

The American government appreciates your efforts to root out terrorists and applauds your participation in this anti-terrorist activity.

God bless America !

P.S. It is your patriotic duty to inform others....

Monday, February 7, 2011

Post No. 156a: The Ridiculousness of It All

Earlier today, a study was released which found that 3/4 of all women living in America, and 2/3 of all men, are either overweight or obese. The study described the current situation as one approaching epidemic proportions. [Evidently, it's not a problem in Hollywood.]

And to think, we are arguing about how to fund the costs of health care in this country, instead of directly addressing one of the most significant reasons for the high cost.

As Dirty Harry said, "A Country Has to Know Its Limitations."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Post No. 156: Great Expectations or Low Expectations - Which Would You Prefer?

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We, here at the Institute for Applied Common Sense, don’t claim to be the sharpest knives in the drawer.

But as the Laughingman often reminds us, “Doing the right thing is not rocket science™,” which is typically followed by, “Common sense ought to be a way of life™.”

In our last post, What the U.S. Deserves, we argued that the individual citizens of any nation might consider taking more personal responsibility for the state of their nation, and place less responsibility and blame on those who they consider to be their “leaders,” elected or not.

Also, in light of the current turmoil in Egypt, we suggested that Egyptians might learn something from America’s experience with that great experiment, still ongoing, called democracy.

Apparently we did a poor job of making our points, since a number of you questioned what we thought the Egyptians might learn from us. Some even felt that it was presumptuous on our part, if not downright condescending, to suggest that a culture of more than 5,000 years could learn anything from one around less than 1/10 of that time.

But in the same way as parents can learn from their children, the current version of this ancient culture, however defined, can still learn something from Michael Jackson and the New Kids on the Block.

There are many, including some prominent historians, who consider Chicago to be the optimal American city. Although not without its warts, it is frequently said that “Chicago gets things done,” and has many things about which to be proud.

Those historians placing the Windy City at the top of their lists claim that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow should be considered one of the great Founding Fathers of this modern city.

By kicking the lantern in his owner’s barn on October 8, 1871, he provided the citizens of Chicago with an opportunity to rebuild, and start afresh. In many instances, the old, the questionable, and the undesirable were instantly destroyed (admittedly not by choice), and in their place the citizens (and many outside of the city) pursued cutting edge, idealistic projects.

These included not only physical structures embodying the latest engineering and architectural thinking, but also grand sociological and artistic experiments in pursuit of Utopian society.

And thus our first point, although poorly stated, was that this presents the Egyptian people with an opportunity to rebuild. And, in the event that the end result of this human revolution is some form of “democracy,” perhaps they can avoid some of the mistakes that America has made during its democratic life.

Democracy comes in many forms, and based on our experience, it can be quite messy. To quote David Letterman, “It is nothing if not constantly evolving.”

Our second point, also admittedly poorly stated, was that perhaps instead of 1,573 leaders emerging from the ashes of this event, the Egyptians might strive to have at least 157,300 of them.

A friend once shared with us that while in high school, he was forced to read two books which would have an impact on his view of the world. The first was Charles DickensGreat Expectations, a novel about growth and personal development, including the themes of class and ambition.

The second, much more modern and much less known, was Jonathan Kozol’s Death at an Early Age. As compelling as some might find the title, the subtitle is even more revealing – The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools.

Death is the story of how low expectations of the black kids, on the part of the teachers and administrators in the school system, became self-fulfilling prophesies.

When one expects little, one generally gets little.

When one expects more, one generally gets more.

It’s just as simple as that. Just plain old common sense.

And that’s not only applicable to what we expect of others, but also to what we expect of ourselves. It’s been said that one of the great problems in the Middle East is that so many of the youth, who constitute such a large percentage of the population, are not only unemployed, but have no sense of the future being better than the present.

We, the inarticulate minions here at the Institute, hope that this cauldron will result in a nation with a much higher percentage of its citizens constituting the Creative Class and taking responsibility for its fate, than has been the case here in America in recent years.

P.S. We’re not through with this subject yet.

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense Should be a Way of Life"™