Presidential Debates Are Shaping Up to Be Ridiculous

In the last 10 presidential cycles, there have never been two so disliked candidates from the two major parties (fivethirtyeight.com) and yet only those two will be on stage for the crucial televised national debates. This is patently rigged and ridiculous.

See my petition HERE to do something about it.

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There’s so many things I hate about Paris. Chief among them is that it’s so goddamn beautiful

I hate that every store you might want to go to shuts down by 5.

I hate that nothing’s convenient. For instance, there are no convenience stores.

I hate that there’s no screens on the windows. But there are mosquitoes.

I hate that there’s no air conditioning.

I hate that the cars are so small.

I hate the indifference of waiters along the Champs Élysées.

I hate the McDonalds on the Champs Élysées.

I love the end of the Tour de France along the Champs Élysées.

I hate that everyone walks and parks anywhere they want.

I hate the lack of ATMs.

I love that the post office has ATMs. Although that’s weird.

I hate that in July (and June and August and even May) everywhere you go, you hear American voices.

I love the sound of French conversation at a sidewalk cafe. And of a good argument in French (between the doorman and a delivery guy, just now.)

I hate the labor laws, the 35 hour workweek, the practical inability to fire anyone.

I hate the taxis. Full stop.

I hate that the taxi drivers burn Uber cars, and that the Paris Criminal Court fined Uber and questioned its executives about “illegal activity”.

I love that there seems to be no sense of racism against blacks.

I hate that there seems to be a strong sense of racism against Muslims.

I love that in Paris you can see so many of the greatest works of art in the world.

I hate that many of those works were stolen from other great societies such as Italy and Egypt. (In which, France is not alone…ahem…Britain…)

I hate that everywhere, people seem to be smoking.

In some weird way, I love that everyone seems to be smoking.

I love the architecture.

After a while, I hate that all the architecture is so…French.

I HATE the four hour, interminable dinners.

I LOVE the chocolate croissants.

I hate the snooty Bordeauxs.

I love the white Burgundy’s (Chardonnay for you Americans)

I love the Arc de Triomphe. (Come on…have you seen it?)

I hate that the Arc de Triomphe glorifies war (specifically, Napoleon’s) and that the Nazis marched underneath it on June 14th, 1940. Does war beget war?

I love the soaring grace and testament to human engineering achievement that Gustave Eiffel gave to the world in 1889. Only to be outdone, in pure competitive spirit, by the Ferris Wheel, in 1893.

I love the fact that the Impressionists broke the rules of the Paris art scene at the all-important salon of 1863, and daring to be different, invoked the “Salon of the Refused” thus bringing to life some of the most sublime painting the world has ever seen. (If you do nothing else with yourself, go to the Musée d’Orsay)

I hate that these young rebels, upon becoming the old guard, disagreed about the direction of the movement and rejected its younger members, just as they had been rejected by their older academic peers, thus ushering in, by 1906, Post-Impressionism. (That’s not really true. I love the creative destruction of the old. See Taxis and Uber, above.)

A decade ago, I reunited with a French physician from Paris whom I considered a friend. Breaking the ice, I said, “So, how’s Paris?” Stupid question, I know, but I was trying to break the ice you see. Coldly, he responded, “Paris, will always be Paris.” That was the end of the conversation. Paris will always be coldly calculating, and beautifully warm. Light, and dark. Somehow, inevitably, it embraces its contradictions.

Why can’t I just get a nice microbrew IPA instead of this 1664 shit?

Death

I have been thinking about death for a long time now. Well, for several years at least. That seems like a long time to me. Not in any morbid, fearful, or obsessive way. Just looking at it. Turning it over in my mind. Getting close to it, just to feel what that’s like. Knowing for certain that I will get to experience it one day (or at least have it happen, if by definition there’s no real experience), it makes sense to me to take a look now in order to see if it’s possible to get comfortable with it ahead of time. So far I’d say it’s going well. I do feel that I’m getting ever slightly more comfortable with the idea. Rather than have a strange and possibly scary visitor knock on the door one day, why not choose to have that visitor be a friend, if we could make such a choice?

Maybe one day I will find something significant to write about from this pursuit of making a new friend, but meanwhile, I was immediately attracted to this article when I saw it online. “This is right up my alley. I’ve been thinking about this too,” I thought when I saw the title. Turns out it’s just beautifully written. The content, yes, but also simply the words. I think this author has a wonderful talent for words. If you like, you may form your own opinion by reading the piece here.

Here’s a good podcast on the subject including consequences of knowing exactly when you would die.

There’s a fascinating TED talk from an ambulance driver who has faced many people in their last moments, and what he said to them.

The Fable of Earth and Jupiter

Once upon a time, there was a proud, hard working, and just a little bit self-important guy named Earth. He was really good at what he did. He was a beautiful blue and green, and had many, many little creatures that he took care of. There were small and large creatures, smart and silly creatures, fast and slow ones, but whether on his land or in his water, he cared for them and saw that they had what they needed to thrive. And thrive they did, and he was very proud of his work in that regard. Around him, and bound to his orbit was a beautiful, silver haired woman named Moon. They worked really well together, cooperated on everything, and in a way, each enhanced the other. Earth was larger, with his blues and greens shining out toward Moon. Moon was smaller, but her beautiful, bright silver illuminated the nighttime on Earth and brought a certain wonder and mystery to Earth’s creatures that he nurtured and took care of. Earth was in charge of this happy family, and he took a lot of pride in that.

The whole family spent their days in the orbit of a much, much larger father-figure, Sun. Sun was warm and gracious and friendly, and provided the essence of life to Earth’s family, and Earth was thankful. Sun was so much bigger, and his yellow shone out so much brighter, that Earth never presumed to try to be Sun, or take Sun’s place. Earth was blue and green. He could never be such a bright yellow.

There were other parts of Sun’s family that orbited him like Earth did. There was a dry, angry little red-headed man named Mars that just sat and brooded a lot. There was a bright, hot-headed, gassy woman named Venus who just talked all the time and would never shut up. There was little Mercury. In a weird way, it was closest to Sun and they had a funny, tight relationship, but no one really understood why, what they talked about, or even quite what Mercury really was. But it didn’t matter, no one really cared all that much. And then there were the Asteroids. They were a crazy, messy group of workers way out on the edge of the Inner Area that were all very small, not very pretty, didn’t have much personality, but there were a lot of them, and they just worked every day and didn’t complain, so it wasn’t hard to have them around. Earth knew these other folks in Sun’s family, but didn’t talk to them too much. It wasn’t that he didn’t like them, it was just that he wasn’t in charge of them—they were Sun’s problem—and he was busy focusing on taking care of his own family. Sun, for his part, had plenty of time for Earth, warming him and his family with a nice yellow glow, coaching and encouraging Earth’s creatures to grow and do their best. And Earth was proud. And also just a little bit protective of and dependent on this time with Sun. It meant a lot to him. But Sun was always generous enough, and so Earth was happy.

Until one day when Earth was feeling particularly comfortable and competent and started staring off in space looking at the Outer Areas. It was then that he noticed a really large guy out there. Way out in an area he didn’t even really know was Sun’s territory. The guy was named Jupiter. Jupiter was confusing to Earth. He was huge, first of all, about one tenth the size of Sun, which seemed impossibly large. And he was made entirely of gas, like Sun, but didn’t glow the same way. Instead he was complex, indiscernible, with all kinds of swirling colors rotating around in his atmosphere, including one giant red spot which sometimes was tame, and sometimes seemed to erupt with intensity, defining Jupiter like no other feature. More and more, Sun seemed to really like Jupiter. They were fundamentally the same: both were large balls of gas; Jupiter could one day be a Sun, a father figure himself if only he got bigger, glowing yellow and nurturing a family of his own, and he probably would be some day, Earth thought. Sun and Jupiter spent their time talking and laughing and seemed to be really close. Earth received just as much warmth and light from Sun as usual, but it seemed like now something was missing. Sun looked past Earth when he was talking to Jupiter. They were so different: one rocky and wet and blue-green, and one huge and gassy and multi-colored, a giant, much more like Sun than like Earth. And Jupiter was way out there, in the Outer Areas, travelling exotic places, learning unknown things. Plus he had a large following: four big orbiting friends and many other smaller ones. Compared to Earth’s small creatures and one, delicate, silver-haired partner, Jupiter seemed like a King. There was an even more exotic, more distant guy out there too, a little beyond Jupiter. With crazy rings, and thousands of icy orbiters, he was smaller than Jupiter yet also a big ball of gas, way bigger than Earth, and he had certain style and panache that was indescribably cooler and sleeker than even Jupiter’s. Together with Sun they made an exciting trio, one Earth felt he could never compete with, let alone be a part of.

One day when Sun, Jupiter and Saturn (as the good looking, stylish guy with all the rings was called) were off on one of their trips, way off in some foreign place, talking and cavorting and having a grand time together, Earth’s blue color was feeling particularly blue. But through this melancholy cloud he had gotten himself into, Earth noticed something—something small on his surface. Some of his creatures were waking up for the morning. They were cute and happy and contented. He’d miss them if he had to go off on some exotic foreign voyage in the Outer Areas. His beautiful Moon was shining brightly in her dark, luxurious orbit around him. She was so lovely some mornings; he couldn’t believe his luck in having her around. The soft waves of her presence washed over his seas and the happy creatures in them, and slowly that morning, he started to not feel so blue. Sun hadn’t left him; he was still around. He just had other friends. And Earth liked his little Inner Area, albeit with angry Mars and crazy Venus and mysterious Mercury hanging around. He wouldn’t want to live in the Outer Areas anyway. How cold and distant it must be! He was good at what he did here. He had creatures and Moon around him who loved him. He didn’t need Sun’s company as much as he thought he did, just like Sun didn’t really rely on him either, after all. He realized he was happy to receive the yellow rays that he did get from Sun, and all was right with his world right here. And Earth’s green contentment glowed a little brighter that morning, and he felt a lot less blue.

***

Way, way out, beyond the Outer Areas, beyond Sun’s closest peer and friend, Mr. Centauri, way beyond thousands of other men and women like Sun, beyond even Sun’s ability to see what was further out there, a benevolent face looked down. In some mythologies, it was called Milky, but no one really knew for sure. It looked down on the little tiny family that Sun had assembled, and the little tiny problems that Sun’s family sometimes had, and chuckled quietly to itself, smiling just a little.

***

Be good at what you do, thankful for what you have, don’t be jealous of others—you wouldn’t want to be them anyway—and always know, no matter what position you’re in, there’s always someone or something higher than you.