Anyone would tell you that Deena was certainly nobody’s fool. Deena Jane Ipecac always knew what, and for how long, something was “cool.” She was admirably self-sufficient, persistent in her personal pride and defensive when she detected any threat to her firmly held self-image. For example, when something new came up in conversation, of which she knew nothing, she had the tactical good sense to reply “whatever,” to denote disinterest, or even boredom. It is to be especially noted that she studiously avoided any consideration of “then” and was unrelentingly focused on “now.”

Deena Jane was always reliably “in the know” and constantly alert to the shifts in the wind concerning changes in linguistic or apparel fashion. She prudently kept the latest “smart phone” within easy reach, in which phone was stored, the  latest music, games, celebrity gossip, current telephone numbers and most notably , dozens of posed “selfies, ”taken and painstakingly selected, to reveal the authentic Deena Jane; the latter  always seeming to bear an uncanny resemblance to some  “diva” appearing on her favorite reality television show.

Her texting was always expressed in the very latest patois, “lol,” “omg,” “s’up?” as some examples; and revealed a generous use of the latest lingua franca, such as “like,”” totally,” “awesome.” Ms. Ipecac was literati, performing close and analytical readings of People magazine and most of the supermarket celebrity publications.

To her credit, she was completely flexible; when the need for change was perceived, she changed, except for her tattoo. Her clothes were always au courant, hence, for the present, rips in her jeans, flip flops and a streak of color in her hair (usually blue).

Often, Deena Jane’s friends disappointed her however; she was often willing to endure a contrary opinion, if it was expressed by an attractive person who affected confidence. It was, unfortunately necessary, every so often for Deena Jane to change her “best friend.”

As far as “boys” were concerned, she was faultless at identifying who was considered the “hottest” by her cohort, and then directing her flirtations at him.

Her conversations, such as they are, contain the language of the current patois, “totally,” instead of “yes,” “she goes”, in lieu of “she says” “awesome pizza,” instead of “tasty” pizza.  She qualifies all her statements with the word “like” in order to avoid any possible impression that she has a current emotion or has personal feelings about the subject.

Deena Jane’s eyes are always celebrated in a copious variety and quantity of makeup products, as contained in magazine advertisements which endows her eyes with a striking resemblance to  that of a lemur; she only decorates her lips with lip gloss ( for the moment). There is a simple metal adornment screwed to her left earlobe.

She invariably refers to ( and, thereby, deprecates) aged members of  society by referring to them as “cute,” carefully reserving the word “old” to refer to, “out of fashion,” “passé,” and other “retro” things, words and expressions.

Deena floats high on  life’s  meandering stream,  never knowing the direction of the next “cool” thing, but ever ready to make changes in her appearance, vocabulary and when necessary, friends.

Do not have pity or be sad for Deena Jane, she is especially fortunate to remain forever young (that is, as long as it is in fashion).



Domesticated animals have always been man’s life-long room- mates. Thus, we see ancient cave paintings in every hemisphere depicting animals, their representation on sculpture (religious and secular) on urns and pottery created by human hands, as well as observed from studies of their natural   remains. They are depicted as hunting partners, protectors, even deities. But, it would appear, their salient feature was their provision of comfort and company.

In today’s world, owners of pets usually bestow upon them human names and, by the phenomena of anthropomorphism, coupled with projection, ascribe to them nuanced and individual personality traits.  They are properly and adequately fed, afforded the latest and best medical attention and assigned a prominent and coveted place in the family household.

In exchange for the multiple benefits derived from sharing life with a pet, there is little or no inconvenience involved. Simply filling bowls with pet food and water, general oversight, and  in  the case of dogs, walking them once or twice per day; with regard to  cats  there is even less, since cats regularly service themselves by way of litterboxes [ does this mean  that cats are literate?] .

We are all familiar with, pet clothes, pet raincoats (with or without hoods) pet booties, pet beds, pet grooming equipment, pet carriers, pets in strollers, pet treats and goodies, pet toys and the like, all part of the enjoyable and rewarding diversion derived from the care of Nature’s offspring. At the end of their too- short lives, we have pet caskets, pet cemeteries and funeral urns for their cremated remains.

Many pets perform invaluable services for their fellow humans, including protection, as lifesavers, as guides for the blind, locating survivors of physical disaster, as sleuths for bombs, bed bugs and dope, as therapy animals and as pest and rodent eliminators.

There are many valid objective reasons for the exaltation give to, and the special love we confer on, these little beasties but, p. would confidently venture the hypothesis that by projection and extension, we are, in a very real sense, giving to ourselves the nurturing we always wanted.




The subject of grammar is not a sexy one. However it is vitally important to the success of our interfacing with others of our species. We are fortunate to have such a field manual of the “rules of the road” for our usage of language.  If ignored or violated, the result can be blurry messaging and predictable misunderstandings.

The grammatical code   contains in effect, directional traffic signs created to successfully lead the compliant speaker or writer to his important and desired destination, the intended meaning. Misinterpretation, occasioned by carelessly constructed statements, inevitably leads  to complications and problems; ask any experienced business person or lawyer.

The sentence, the juxtaposition of (hopefully, carefully selected) words to express an idea, sentiment or information, should always be thoughtfully constructed, with the other person in mind, so as to insure understanding; it must not vague or equivocal. The strictures concerning double negatives, the avoidance of parallelism, appropriate plural or singular nouns with plural or singular verbs,  and the many important other rules need be faithfully  observed for successful  results.

Sadly and alarmingly, there appears to have developed, a casual or dismissive approach to these grammatical rules of the road, a downplaying of their necessity too numerous and varied to delineate here. Nevertheless, one instance of this unfortunate trend has been selected because of the simplicity of its demonstration and because it is representative of this all- pervasive trend. The selected example is the lazy and irresponsible conflation of noun and verb. Such conversion of nouns to bogus verbs, it should be noted, however, is far from the most egregious violation of the mandated rules.t

Despite the common understanding that a noun expresses an object, e.g., a person, a sentiment, an object, and by comparison, a verb denotes action, e.g., run, swim write, the proper function of the two has been bypassed, and the two have been carelessly and irresponsibly conflated. Three such examples are:

Noun                                                   Bogus Verb

Impact                                                Impacting, impacted

Party                                                    Partied, Let’s party

Microwave                                         Microwaved

Are there not enough words in our vocabulary?

In order for a society to exist and prosper there must be interaction between its members; such interaction should be useful and without confusion of message.   We need only follow the rules.





A reading of the history of any period will reveal the age’s reverence for wisdom and erudition; those who excelled in these gifts were highly prized and their contributions are remembered with pride in the record of that society.  Mankind’s potential for reason and discovery is traditionally been celebrated as evidence of its superiority over the beasts.

Yet, surprisingly and unhappily, society, of late, has demonstrated a downgrading and deprecation of these vital and beneficial attributes.

The first time p. heard the newly created word, “Brainiac” as a spoken reference to a knowledgeable person, he was shocked and outraged. The newly created noun was intended as an epithet. This new label has been used it appears, by low information people in a collective and defensive attempt to make a norm of ignorance and a pathology of knowledge. Such current slang is but one example of (to borrow the words of the late and learned Senator Moynihan) the “dumbing down” of society.

Among too many it now seems to be within the acceptable mainstream of society, and even stylish (“cool”), to deprecate the intellectual and offer praise to the self-limited person (especially if the latter is good looking). What is now in vogue is smart phone and cool dude, or cool  gal; ” selfies” instead of self- examination, electronics in lieu of conversation-the search for style instead of the pursuit of truth.

This trend is nothing short of alarming and is an effective roadblock to potentiation and self- realization on the part of the individual as well as the quality of a democracy; it makes of  the magnificent gift of life, a surface phenomenon; life and the world is left  unexamined and  potential growth stunted. The result is (in addition to the disinterest in nature, the world and its events) a low interest in life itself and a constant search for short-term stimulation.

The “Brainiac” ( p. is revolted by that word) is the most commendable member of society and predictably lives a fuller and more fulfilling life with the potential of real understanding and enduring joy. But we seem to be dealing with a species that is contracting and has become endangered.

Fortunately, albeit limited in number, we still have certain institutions of learning which maintain a “core” curriculum mandating the study of the liberal arts and sciences.  Exposure to such studies is broadening and enlightening; it counsels meaning and purpose. The preparation for a job or calling which should follow will also be enabled by such studies. Higher education should exemplify the goal of the enrichment of the individual and not be limited to the purpose of job   preparation.

The individual and the nation cannot achieve the highest potential where people sacrifice self-examination in favor of “selfies.” Maybe everyone should strive to be a brainiac.




The current expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression like all aphorisms, (See blog #11) is of little value and may moreover be rather misleading. Its basic premise is that one is in control of someone else’s perception. The truth is that a first impression is solely within the psyche of the other person over which you have very little control. That perception can either relatively objective or unfortunately as more often is the case, founded on accumulated stereotypes, projection or even, neurosis. It would, in any event, appear that the avowed ability to properly evaluate another person for any purpose, at the first contact is an egotistical and presumptuous fantasy.

One is entitled to be evaluated, or judged, on at least a modicum of interactive experience, in a rational manner and not be prejudged.

Reliance upon recollected characteristics of others, with whom one has had past experience, is a   thoughtless and lazy criterion for evaluation for any purpose, professional or social.  It is only too often the practice to assign a populist label to the other person (often without fair basis) and thereafter, lacking any knowledge, and without rational inquiry, deduce wide-sweeping conclusions concerning him. Reflexive judgment would seem to trump rational and fair inquiry; labeling or tagging is easier.

It may be interesting that, while this pernicious practice is not new, such labels (used to unfairly and reductively judge others) have themselves evolved, Darwin style to suit the changing contexts in which society found itself. (See blog#22).

For example in the 19th Century the labels, “liberal” and “conservative,” had meanings which were the polar opposite of today’s use.  In the days of Adam Smith, “liberal” meant free of the influence of the King, the Church and Government in general. The liberal believed that commerce was to be governed by the natural law of the market; self -reliance of the individual was paramount {Classical Liberalism}. During the same period in history, the label or tag “conservative” was applied to those who believed in the authority of the King, State and Church viz., rule by a central, hierarchical authority.

In today’s parlance, the “liberal” is understood to believe that the Government has a legitimate role in regulating commerce and an obligation to assist the needy (some of which are casualties of market forces). The current label, “conservative” is assigned to one who like the Classical Liberalism of Adam Smith, wants a “hands off” policy on the part of Government and with regard to social assistance to the poor. {A modern-day example of a Classical Liberal is the novelist Ayn Rand}.

Putting the evolution of specific labels aside, regardless of era, the evaluation or judgment of individuals based upon convenient labels is not only unjust, inaccurate and reductive, but makes for a fractious and contentious society where the well-intentioned exchange of varying ideas, so necessary to a democratic society, in the solution of problems is thwarted. {See blog#21,” Civic Amity, A Requiem”}

In ancient Hebrew the word, “Shibboleth” (meaning corn, also flood) was utilized by one warring State to identify the enemy since the citizens of the enemy could not pronounce the “sh” sound in the word (shades of Gulliver’s Travels). In more modern times, the slang word,” lollapalooza” was used to identify Japanese spies who could not pronounce it. Happily there are no present day “shibboleth” tests we do however still have tags, unfounded assumptions and ignorant and lazy labeling. The myopia, ignorance which typify baseless and divisive labels and the resulting judgments based upon stereotypes, is unfair, irrational and, by the way very, un-American.

In a just society, superficial “first impressions” should not be determinative and should be followed up and supplemented by real data.



The question whether the progenitors of our native- American citizens, who walked across the Aleutian Islands and entered North America (without documentation), may correctly be termed, “immigrants” is difficult of resolution; they did emigrate from foreign lands, bearing their own distinctive culture.

Over the ensuing centuries, the many diverse peoples who arrived here, at various times and under various circumstances, can without question be referred to as immigrants. As the ages progressed and the process continued, an unfortunate phenomenon reared its ugly head, to be consistently repeated at the arrival of each new nationality. The population which had previously come to America and had already settled in found reasons (largely fictional) to oppose the admission of others of different national or ethnic origin, forgetting their own family’s past history.  How soon they forget!

Despite our national motto,” E Pluribus Unum” many have evinced fear and hatred of the” other” (See Blog #3). Where some people properly and generously see others yearning for the “American Dream”, others see invasion and want to build preventative fences.

Blog#17,”The Isis Crises” suggests a policy of liberal admission of Syrian refugees (with vetting as necessary) risking their family’s lives to escape Isis and Shari Law; it would give the lie to Isis’ claim that it is creating a paradise; but equally because we have the national  tradition of providing a safe haven for refugees.

P. remembers the disgraceful depiction and caricaturing of the Japanese people in the 40s’ (not to mention the internment camps), the McCarren Act, which initially barred all Chinese immigration, then was liberalized to permit their entry only as laundry operators .Later experience revealed the beauty art and elegance of the Japanese, the industry and intellectual gifts of the Chinese. Who does not know an Indian Computer Scientist? An Iranian Physician? An Italian orchestra conductor?

An accredited food historian, in a television lecture, presented the case that American-English cuisine had been tasteless and uninteresting until the entry of the Mediterranean immigrants who introduced olive oil, cheeses, seasonings, and other delicious ingredients We all eat very happily at ethnic  restaurants, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, French and so many others. Immigration has many great advantages, but p’s favorite is the cuisine. No one is bigoted when it comes to great dining.

This indeed posits a new and useful immigration policy. All otherwise acceptable applications for entry to the U.S. should be granted, provided each applicant brings his ethnic menu or a grandmother who is willing to tell all.



The admonition, “Don’t compare apples with oranges,” familiarly used when contradictory data is presented, often references such  metaphor to express the point  that dissimilar subject matter is not to be postulated in the discussion of principle.  While useful in debate, these two items are, in fact, compatible, when placed in a glass bowl.

Two items that cannot, incontrovertibly, be seen as comparable or compatible, are steel and oatmeal.  Steel has historically been used in the production of weapons and instruments of warfare and death. Oatmeal, on the other hand, is nourishing and life sustaining. Yet it is constructively necessary to include both for our purpose despite their obvious and myriad differences.

It would not take much of a stretch to postulate the principle that the greatest drive of man and beast is survival,   Want and famine ineluctably lead to fear, hopelessness and life-threatening insecurity. This condition, historically, has made it ripe ground for messianic demagoguery and consequential  war. Causes of warfare also include xenophobia, desire for aggrandizement, as well as clashes of culture and religious belief (see Blog #3). While the causes are many and disparate, the solution here proposed would serve as a universal deterrent.

P. has the memory of being driven along the Hudson (or was it the East River) when he was very young, and observing the very large number of retired World War 11 naval ships, rusting and falling into further disrepair  There are, surely,   a great many more throughout the country. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to engage in the wholesale manufacture of nourishing oatmeal, on a vast and continuous basis, and deliver it by ship, or otherwise, throughout the world, wherever needed, free of charge and without conditions. It may be envisioned that there would be no refusals. Whether those served had previously liked or hated us would be irrelevant.  People need food to survive. Once it were  universally credible, and regularly conducted, the causes of war would be ameliorated and predictably, more people would live in a situation of world peace.

For those who would be somewhat inclined to remark that  this solution is reductive and the product of a naïve mind ,they could be reminded that, historically,  diplomacy, copious treaties, ententes- cordiale, World Organizations, alliances, the  balancing of national  power, international conferences and other complex efforts at peace have had dismal results .One  hesitates to reference the adage “a dog does not bite the hand that feeds it”  because we are here dealing with no less than human beings,  many of whom live in dire straits. The recommendation also calls  for a  commendable act of true, brotherly empathy.

Oatmeal is friendlier and much cheaper than napalm.


Blog #25 Disfluency Gap Fillers and Style

It is entirely possible that as p. gets older, he is becoming more critical.  Be that as it may, the misuse of many words {he almost said “bugs (but a bug is a small insect or a telephone tap}, “bothers” him. Most people have the ability to select, from the copious inventory that constitutes the English lexicon, words to satisfy their need to effectively communicate. There nevertheless are many, whether by reason of disfluency, or perceived style who fill in gaps in their conversation with code or ersatz words. A small, but representative sample is set forth below:

The word: “so” (style). A particular, quirky, use of this word demonstrates a mistake in style of a simple word, rather than a gap filler. The utility of this word is seen, properly, as a statement of consequence, or extent, as to a previously expressed statement. Thus, the day was cold, so we needed a warm coat, he looked pale so I asked him how he was feeling, or, I was very tired so I stopped working.  Also, I was so hungry.

Why many people especially those most celebrated and knowledgeable, (especially on television) precede their answer to a question with the word, “So,” boggles the mind. Perhaps it is a direction to pay attention, a chance to think of an answer or the quick dispersal of mind fog…

(1st Filler) “Totally”:  This word, when used as intended, is useful in expressing quantity or extent:  The jar was totally full or, he is totally blind.

It is often misused as a one word, emphatic response to signify agreement. “Are you planning on going to the dance? “ Totally” Do you think he is good-looking? “Totally” What happened to words?

(2nd Filler) “Awesome”: This word when appropriately used means majestic, fear inspiring,” mind-blowing.”  For believers, the power of the Deity is awesome. The movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates can be seen as awesome; maybe, just maybe, Victoria Falls qualifies as awesome.

The word has been so frequently misused and diluted as to render it essentially meaningless. The taste of pizza can never attain the heights of “awesome” nor does an exceptionally good performance of a singer or professional athlete. Surely, there is whole panoply of words to describe the feeling.

(3rd Filler) “Whatever”:  A useful word to express the word, anything, no matter what, or the remainder of a quantity. The misuse of this word is no less than truly obnoxious.

It has been used, insensitively, to indicate a lack of interest on the part of the listener, most dismissively when uttered twice.  A patient, in long time   treatment for a diagnosed bad back, tells his doctor that he has received a second opinion to the effect that the problem, in fact, is with his kidneys. Should the doctor reply “whatever,” the patient is well advised to go elsewhere, at full speed ahead.

4th Filler (“Like”): This word is properly be used to express affection or as a comparative, or simile. Its misuse seems to also qualify under “style” (see above).

Instead, it is generously sprinkled throughout the user’s conversation like powdered sugar, as a substitute for words (filler), to avoid expressing words upon the occasion. It is truly viral and chronic, taking such aesthetic form as, “Greta, like, why don’t you come over?” Greta, like, my mother goes to me like, and I have to clean my room.” “Like” gives Greta the sense that she has fully responded yet has kept things  “cool” {see below} by thus providing a hedge against the revelation of her feelings.  {This malady may be incurable}

5th Filler (“Hot”): Simply put, this usually a reference to temperature (heat). For example, the feeling when we are sun bathing. It can also be used to refer to food of a spicy or peppery nature, to enthusiasm, to dedication or to anger.

As currently misused, it is the expression of a personal opinion to the effect that someone has sex appeal; is sexy. ”He is hot,” or, I have the hots for her.” Talk about fillers! This is a truly sad and inadequate substitute for poetry or love ballads.

6th Filler (“Dude”): This word, historically, was used as a reference to an especially well- dressed gentleman, or,” fop”.  It is also acceptably used to describe a city dweller, inexperienced with the milieu of a farm or a ranch.

The word, however, has been used as a single word declaration, usually from one male to another, of criticism or as a warning. This failure to use any available vocabulary words, in this instance is especially emblematic of the concept of the word, “filler” and the subject point.

Prehistoric man used signals and grunts; we can do better.





Blog #3 observed that, despite the incontrovertible fact that are religion and belief systems are acquired merely by the accident of birth, differences of belief have historically resulted in war and strife.

Contention has also arisen over the years concerning the existence of a Deity at all, by reason of the lack of probative evidence; yet those who would deny such an assertion lack sufficient equipment for such denial. They would, for their part, exclude the creation of our planet and its evolving flora and fauna, as proofs; yet still others would see necessary language in the sacred books as undeniable proof of God’s existence.

“Religious belief”, as a phrase, has always borne a close, undeniable relationship with the word “faith.” But the word “faith” is distinguishable from the word “knowledge.” The context of the word Faith, properly understood, clearly expresses the concept of choice; the choice to believe “has faith”; compare with” has no faith” Clearly, faith is distinguishable from “knowledge.”  Knowledge is factual and empirical viz., water is wet, most dogs have four legs, giraffes have very long necks. “Believers” are apt confidently, to proffer as proof, sacred books and ancient religious commentary. It cannot be denied,   however, that such sacred books including the Bible, were written by humans who confidently believed that the sun travels around the earth.

The Founding Fathers, significantly and deliberately, chose to omit any reference to a deity in the Constitution. Historical research reveals that such omission was intended to avoid the possibility that religious fundamentalists would seek to erode liberty of thought; they had plenty of supporting evidence from the histories of England and continental Europe

The” Scopes” trial in Tennessee, where a schoolteacher was tried for the crime of teaching evolutionary theory to his high school students, demonstrates the continuance of fundamentalist ignorance and literalism. It was, in fact the growing development of free thought that enabled Darwinian Theory. Currently, most educational districts permit the inclusion of evolutionary theory; some, regrettably, continue to shun evolutionary theory in favor of Genesis.

An egotism may be perceived among certain “believers”who state that “too much education is dangerous” and who reject scientific insight.

P would confidently (and if possible, diplomatically) state that blind religious faith and literalism impedes human thought and creativity. In reality, like it or not, we are all agnostics whether or not we like the label. The unsupported belief, or non-belief, proves nothing to anyone. It does matter, whichever fork in the road we choose presented by the option of “faith,” that we all live in harmony and love.


Blog #23 Measuring Stimulus (Redux)

The subject of the attempt to react appropriately to events (stimuli) has been treated in earlier blogs (9, 19) as described to one’s perception of reality.  As we get older a relatively balanced and accepting perception of the self evolves (Blog #6) including, ideally, a measured response to events as they occur.  However, this subject is of such great import that the present addendum may be useful.

Events have a way of occurring, things happen bringing change (Blog #15). Yet events or happenings only matter, to the extent of our corresponding emotional response to them.

Since perception is not the identical twin of objective reality, the conclusion, that responses to various events are varied, appears to be reasonable.  The response may be almost instantaneous, depending upon previous self- conditioning.

This is contrasted with our autonomic responses (reflexes) such as the patellar reaction, blinking at bright lights   and startling at unexpected loud noises. Excluding such automatic, reflexive responses which occur without conscious thought, other responses to stimuli exist over which we have some power of choice; further, the selection of an appropriate response may be a very significant ingredient in the living of a satisfying life.

Aesthetic and other positive reactions to beautiful music,   sunsets, art and the like may vary, yet are always salutary and have a positive impact upon our health and lives.  It would appear to be more useful to deal with the stimulus-response ratio in matters universally understood and perceived to be unfortunate or even tragic.

It would appear to be useful, since the phenomenon of perception varies and is malleable (unlike the reflexive responses set forth above) to discuss the quantum and quality of individual response to events. Our reaction   to a troublesome or negative happening may be shutter-click instantaneous, however the reaction may be quickly photo -shopped.

Again, the extent to which we assault our bodies and minds with terror and negative perspective, may have a deleterious effect upon our health; it certainly has an impact on our joy and satisfaction with life.

  1. suggests a useful mode of dealing with perception of unfavorable events, would if employed, might result in better perspective and balance. It requires a bit of (mental) woodworking, but is worth it.

One might construct an imaginary set of wooden shelves, perhaps ten (10) shelves high. Immediately after completion (varnish not required) the shelves are to be strictly and permanently allocated  as to  events so that the top (10th) shelf is for the most major tragedies such as death of a loved one, diagnosis of inoperable, terminal, cancer and matters of like consequence.   Perhaps the lowest shelf could be allocated to such minor stimuli as, the appearance of a “zit”, shaving nicks, broken off fingernails and such other matters of like import.

A progressive allocation should be made in accordance with the   ascending empirical and objective materiality of likely occurring events (this is why it is crucial that the woodworking and allocation be done in advance).

Thereafter, it is only necessary to assign or relegate the importance or depth of troublesome situations as they occur, to the proper shelf to avoid over-reacting, and uncalled for stress.

{with a wink}  p