What Happened to Miss Simone?

At our great library, I just picked up a great new DVD release, “WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE”. 2 disks, one a CD with 15 of Nina Simone recordings. I still have, and often still listen to her first, which included “Little Girl Blue” , “I Loves you, Porgy”, “Don’t Smoke in Bed”, “Black is the Color”, “My Baby Just Cares For Me”.  This one includes those as well as some other knock-out renditions, like “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, “Night Song”,  and “Ne Me Quitte Pas” sung in French, in the country she died in.

The NETFLIX Movie itself, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary, and won other rewards. While interesting,  I found it too depressing to watch last night, but intend to try again later this week. I knew she was not a very cheerful person, but was unaware of how serious her bipolarity was. I wanted to baste in my happy moments of discovering her around 1958, while living a bachelor’s life in DC, after my discharge, getting my degree from American U., and having a decent job in the new and quickly growing field of computers.

I was driving home about 11PM after some social event, listening to WMAL, when the disk jockey played a couple of Nina’s songs, and announced that she was now performing at the Charles Hotel in Washington. He even gave its address, and I realized I was very close. It was only after I parked and entered the basement bar of the hotel that I realized it was a negro hotel, and I was the only white person there except for one other man, sitting at the bar, who turned out to be the disk jockey I had been listening to. The performance was outstanding on many counts, not the least of which was Nina’s performance on the piano as well. On the “Little Girl Blue” number, she starts by playing the Xmas music for “Good King Wenceslas”, and then, while continuing to play that melody, she sings the lyrics of “Little Girl Blue”.  At various times while playing piano, she just made guttural noises, playing with her vocal chords as if they were another musical instrument. And another thing she did that I’ve never seen done by another cabaret singer. When she heard any voice in the room while she was singing, she just stopped her performance sitting quietly until the only thing people were able to hear was a suddenly embarrassed inebriated audience member.

About ten years later, after Martin Luther King's assassination, this section of the
District of Columbia was the site of a 6 day riot. Many of the buildings around that
area were damaged.


Shepherd’s Center Beachside Winter 2017

Today was 1st day of 8 week Shepherd’s Center courses. I’m taking :9AM “Everyday Engineering” with Herrick Jeffers ; 10AM “The Science of Energy” with Tom Sanders and Herrick Jeffers; and 11 AM “Practicing Mindfulness – Introduction to Meditation” with Leslie Johansen.Tomorrow it’s 10AM ” What in the World is Going On” with Wener ‘Jack’ Marx; 11AM “Mind-Mood & Memory — Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior” with Miriam Champness. All the classes except “What in the World’ use DVD’s from “The Great Courses” with profs from well-known universities.  I own the CD’s of same lectures for  “Practicing Mindfulness”, and have listened to them often, but still find it helpful to attend classes. In particular, it’s useful for me to have the slight discipline of Miriam leading us, and assigning the task of practicing 10 minutes a day.

In fact, I’m going to cut this blog writing session short, in order to get my 10 minute mindfulness practice before going to bed tonight.


Pulling Water from the Air

Emptying my dehumidifier 4 or 5 times a day into my toilet, got my creative juices going. At 1st thought of building toilet tank into a dehumidifier. Then, about filtering the water for drinking water. Then checked areas of the world with water shortage, and the average humidity for those areas. Turns out many had average humidity of 70. Why not pull water out of the air, rather than pipes from dams? Also use solar power for them. Further searching turned up directions for building one for oneself. But I wonder about doing it for entire communities. More details about this tomorrow, but I’d appreciate feed-back.



Good or Bad? – Thinking Makes It So!

“there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” –Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’

I’m not a Pollyanna person who can look at another person suffering, and then just smile at how wonderful life is.  I just acknowledge the truth of what is, and if it’s something I don’t like, I try to maintain enough awareness to think creatively about what I can do to help alleviate that person’s suffering. What’s good about the situation? I feel good about the opportunity to help a fellow human. I try not to waste a lot of time making up stories about who’s to blame. Perhaps, later I might spend do some creative thinking to assess how such situations might be prevented. But, for the moment, my full awareness is best applied to solving the problem of this person in front of me.

I’m writing this while waiting for my car to be repaired. I had planned this to be a short visit to Home Depot. But while crossing the causeway about 2 miles from my home, lots of smoke started billowing from the hood of my 2003 Hyundai. I pulled over immediately, shut off the engine and assessed situation. After a short time, smoke cleared and I opened the hood, just long enough to realize something had bust and sprayed water over engine. Tried engine again, which started, so I drove slowly over bridge and continued to “Tires Plus” just before smoke started again. Waiting to hear mechanic’s diagnosis, I tried my best to practice mindfulness exercises. After being told the need for over $700 in repairs, I didn’t see many viable options.

So, it’s about 2 hours later and I’m waiting on a shady bench outside large shopping mall parking lot, after buying a writing pad at Publix. What’s good about situation??? It’s a beautiful day.  Nice breeze, and I’ve got time to express my thoughts on paper.

On the walk to the mall, I stopped along the way to look more closely at a beautiful yellow dandelion. But when I put on my reading glasses for a closer look, I noticed the flower had damaged spots on its petals — not quite as beautiful as when my flawed vision filled it the blind spots. And its surrounding area had lots of mite-sized insects.

Moved on by a computer repair shop I had never noticed before in this otherwise familiar area. Went inside, discovered lots of used computer stuff, services for which I might have a future need, and a great place to recycle years of the electronic clutter in my house. Also, had interesting conversation with clerk sharing our experiences with the growth of computers over the last 50 years. He had learned Fortran and Cobol in classes at FIT. I explained that I had been part of a group discussion on what “words” should be used in COBOL (Common Business Language for computer programmers) about 60 years ago.

But back to the “Good & Bad” of any situation. Due to age-related dementia, last month I got mixed up with dates for the Florida Pre-Burn, and ended up driving 2 hours to Lakeland a full week before it opened.  I quickly realized I was not going to spend a lot of time beating myself up with stories about why this shouldn’t have happened. Instead, I assessed the reality of the situation (I’m in Lakeland!), and what’s good about that.

Well, I remembered that Lakeland was the home of Florida Southern University, which has the largest ‘collection(?)’ of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world, and is reputed to have the most beautiful campus in the country.  I had briefly started studying architecture at collage in the 50’s, and Wright was (and still is) considered one of the best architects in the world. Some 30 years ago I had visited the chapel he designed there, but had often entertained the idea of revisiting — particularly since Aaron had told me he was considering studying architecture in college.  Also, my good friend, Roy Lykes, had a relative for whom Wright had built on the top of a hill outside Phoenix. I had seen often from afar when I lived there. Also, I had known Ethel Marden and Wright’s site architect, when Ethel and her husband Luis were having their Wright home built near Chain Bridge in Virginia overlooking the Potomac.  Got to visit it several times while being built, as well as when complete. But never got to meet Luis, who seemed to constantly be on long, long trips for the National Geographic. I still enjoy looking at pictures of these homes on the Internet. One can easily Google them for ‘Lykes home’ and ‘Marden home’. Gorgeous structures with beautiful views!

Anyway, the ‘mistake’ turned out to be a much appreciated detour in my life. And I would cast my vote for FL Southern’s campus being he most beautiful I have seen. Unfortunately, a private university and too pricey ($35K/yr) for Aaron. But would recommend his visiting, if only for a short time en-route to Tampa or St. Pete.

Walked back to “Tires Plus”, and paid almost $800 to get car back. Clouds seem to be moving in, but sun still out, and I’m still here!

So, if I knew that this day were the last day of my life, would I want to change something? STOP! NOT GOING THERE! “When I argue with reality, I lose! But only ‘always’!” – Byron Katie


Biased Reaction to “Danish Girl”?

I’ve realized for years that all humans, including myself, have biases —  some of which we don’t realize we have. For myself, I even tend to deny possessing the well-acknowledged bias toward explanations supporting what I already believe. I claim to regard “truth” with the reverence of a deeply-ingrained religion, and learning that I am wrong enables me to rid myself of another barrier to finding ultimate truths. Today, I felt like I had achieved an additional insight into one of my biases regarding “gender change”.

I like to think of myself as being very “open minded” regarding other people’s behaviors. I sort of assume that others, like me, are doing the best they can — considering the many factors that go into making decisions — even questioning just how much control any of us have over such decisions. The more I learn about the functioning of our brains, the less control I realize we actually have.  Though I’ve decided that if we are to have any kind of civilization, it’s necessary to assume individuals do possess some degree of control over their behavior.

In general, I believe that everyone should have the right to live their life however they choose, as long as they do not endanger others and grant others the same freedom. My personal belief, however, is that it is a mistake to argue with reality, which includes accepting the body I’m born with. As in most card games we play, we don’t get to choose the hand we’re dealt. However, since science has discovered new rules, people do have some options to change their bodies in different ways. And I think they are entitled to do so, though I have considered it distasteful myself. At least, that’s how I felt until I got more direct information from a trans-gender person. That info came in a Shepherd Center course for seniors I took last year. The course was on “The Human Brain”, using DVD recordings from “The Great Courses”. It included discussions with Charlie Rose, several neuro-psychologists and a trans-gender person who had undergone the transformation. I remember that one class definitely made a significant change in my understanding and empathy for that changed person. Oddly enough, and I found it hard to believe myself, but I could not yesterday remember this person’s gender, before or after. I’ve become used to my age-related (84yo) moments of dementia, and the important point was that it was a “gender change”, regardless of whether it was man-to-woman or woman-to-man. But last night I watched “The Danish Girl”, and realized I did not feel as empathetic toward the central character, who is a woman biologically born a man. I wondered why I felt differently than I had felt following the course. If both changes were man to woman, then my reactions must be due to my feelings about the person. But if person I learned about in the class was originally a woman, then my reactions might be due to my bias. Justified or not, I find it easier to empathize with a woman wanting to be a man, than a man wanting to be woman. I grew up with 3 older sisters, and quickly learned that men were given privileges over women. Although, I had a few brief thoughts about female privilege. One was more flexibility in taste — at least in my small mid-western town. I loved music much more than most guys, did not like fighting, or most sports. But the latter was due more to a lack of body-coordination and being too cerebral and self-conscious in learning. Last to be picked by team. I was trying too hard to be what I was supposed to be, so I did identify with that aspect. But I was not disappointed with the result. I went out for football in high school, and made the team,  playing tackle (much heavier then, and didn’t need much athletic talent), and got to go steady with beautiful cheer-leader. Lots of fun most of my life!

I did check on the Internet today about the trans-gender person in the course. His name is now Dr. Ben Barres (born Barbara Barres, in 1955), a Stanford neuroscientist. On the one hand, that does seem to support my male bias, but it may just be that he’s much easier to like, and more believable than the “Danish Girl”. The wife and friend in the movie were very likable, but I couldn’t understand what attraction they found in “Lily”.  Great acting job, but if I were creating the person in fiction, I would have given him/her some special unique attractive special trait. I guess I’m relating to some special gay friends I’ve had, who all had some very likeable unique traits that had nothing to do with their sexuality. Consequently, their sexuality is simply as unimportant to me as it is with any of my friends. I’m not saying sexuality isn’t important, any more than relieving one’s body waste isn’t important. But it has nothing to do with my relationships with them. Similarly, I like the freedom I feel being nude, but it’s not important enough for me to join a nudist colony. I don’t want to choose my friends based on what they are wearing or not wearing. In fact, I used to make it a point to do something different every year, and one year it was to join a nudist colony. Quickly learned not to automatically associate nudity with sex. But that experience probably deserves another blog page. Scatter-brain!




GITIAG — God, If There Is A God !

For all my skepticism about believing in the Christian God I was taught (almost ‘brain-washed’) to believe in Catholic Grade school, I often find myself thinking, with some conviction, grateful thoughts like: “Thank God!” Often, before a meal, or after spending time with my family, or dear friends, and often it’s my first thought as I awaken, and realize I’ve been afforded another day in a comfortable and joyful life! But, then I remind myself that I didn’t really believe, and feel a twinge of guilt for my lack of integrity. So, one of those mornings, I decided it was a different God I wanted to thank than the God I was taught.  I could rename him, GITIAG, “God, If There Is A God”. Those were the words I used in the last prayer I remember praying. It went something like this:
“Dear God, if there is a God, you know my mind( You know I am willing to serve you, if only you turn off this brain of mine! But I feel compelled to listen to it! Why would you give me this power to use critical thinking, and then expect me not to use it? If you’re all-powerful, you are certainly capable of providing more credible evidence. In the absence of such evidence, I’m saying, “Good-bye!”.
It had taken many years after first giving myself permission to doubt, to come to this resolution. But I felt much better after sending my last formal message. It was much like I have ended a few other relationships — with a tinge of sadness, but with a healthy inner resolve that I was doing the right thing for both parties — ending something that was destructive not only to me, but to the other person as well.
I plan on writing my own funeral service on this blog, so friends and family won’t have to hop on a plane to come to an affair I’m not going to be attending as well.. I’d rather they come see me while I’m still alive to appreciate them. But I’d like them to read the following after I die:  It’s from “Tao Te Ching” translated by Stephen Mitchell, who prefaces with “If I haven’t always translated Lao-tzu’s words, my intention has always been to translate his mind.” :

The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death.
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.


Hypothesis: God “IS” Reality!

Hypothesis: God “IS” Reality!
There is a “reality” (what is; truth!) that exists independently of “perceptions of reality” (in human brains interpreting signals from their senses).
This “reality” is constantly changing, and is different in different places.(May be raining here today, but not tomorrow, or raining here, but not there.)
True Science is the search for “reality”.
If there is a God who created “reality” (Truth), He is part of that “reality.”
Therefore, “True Science” includes a search for God.
God would want us to know Him.
Therefore, there should be no conflict between belief in Science and a belief in God, if there is a God.

Personally, I find it impossible to believe in the ‘all too human’ Christian God, who finds me faulty from birth and needs me to change. Perhaps, and I only propose this as a hypothesis, God “IS” reality, which includes humans, as well as everything else in the universe (animals, cancer cells, planets, etc.), rather than separate entities (neither God creating man, nor man creating God), and nothing being good or bad, “but thinking makes it so” (as per Shakespeare’s Hamlet).

Think a “good” tennis serve. “Good” for you, “Bad” for your opponent. Think a “bad” cancer cell. “Bad” for you; “Good” for cancer cell. Maybe God doesn’t choose sides. When a woman has a miscarriage, does that mean God performed am abortion. Why? Did God make a mistake? He seems to be the world’s biggest abortionist! Who are we to judge that God? Who gets to make up the rules? Certainly, not I?

But, if I’m going to believe in God, I’m gonna think big! I’m not going to believe He has the same frailties as us humans. Nor does He have the same values! If he makes lions with a more powerful body than mine, I’ll avoid fighting lions, and develop my brain to learn how to live in a world that has lions. And if I notice he makes plants that get fed grow bigger than those that don’t get food, I’ll learn to feed the plants I like best. In other words, I’m going to learn about God by observing how “reality” works (aka “TRUTH”) — not pretend that I can make it be “fair”, the way children say the world “should be”! And I’m certainly not going to believe everyone who says there’s something wrong with me, and I need to buy whatever they’re selling to get better— be they “Super Bowl” commercials, or Evangelists! If, in the 21st century, God doesn’t know how to get messages to me other than bibles with more contradictions than words, he underestimates his own creation.