How Trump Beat Clinton in Game of Thrones

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With apologies to Game of Thrones aficionados (I personally don’t imbibe), success in  presidential politics has historically relied upon good old despotic leader type attributes like intimidation, widespread corruption, and power wielding as reflected in ones ability to use unfettered access, influence, political connections, and leverage among others who hold substantial power and authority.  LBJ is a good example of an “old school” politician.  My  sons tell me Game of Thrones similarly gets down and dirty as far as collusion, backstabbing and the proverbial “heads will roll” approach to becoming “top dog”.

For many reasons this formula has changed to one that depends more on the use of personal charisma and psychosocial connections (ie.,reciprocal projection) with the largest and broadest base of voters possible, including those with grassroots as well as “power broker” ties. While personal ambition and drive have always been contributing factors, winning a presidential election today now requires an individual with endless ambition and a mental manufacturing plant (ego) for both that operates essentially 24/7 and 365 days a year. Based on the above, Donald Trump had all the “right stuff”. Hillary Clinton, while well suited to the actual job requirements as POTUS, stumbled by choosing to not recognize bad omens earlier or listen to strident warnings given to her by her consort hubby Bill ( a pretty sharp/charismatic political cookie himself). As a result, she was outplayed on the last campaign battlefield. A psychological  analysis and political post-mortem would show that HRC  lacked specific Julius Caesar-like qualities that Trump possesses. In Game of Thrones terms, you don’t need a Valyrian steel sword if you’ve got JC’s “tiger blood”. Sad but true.

If you’re interested in history,  read below two separate psychobiographical summaries and note the specific ways, like it or not, that Donald Trump holds a scary resemblance to Julius Caesar that wonky Hillary Clinton (and the Republican establishment) weren’t prepared for:

Traits/Qualities Julius Caesar Possessed that Led to His Remarkable Success

Intelligent and Self-Confident
First and foremost, Julius Caesar, the Roman general and statesman who upended the Republic and it’s laws, was a smarty pants, especially in military strategy. His intelligence and supreme self-confidence were both important reasons why he was so successful. Caesar was a compelling speaker. When he was addressing the Senate or the public, Romans hung on his every word. His critical mind was especially beneficial during his military career. He specifically planned and strategized to outmaneuver his opponents.

Julius Caesar: Energetic
In addition to being clever, Caesar was incredibly energetic. As the governor of Gaul, Caesar was able to fight wars for seven years, while also writing a series of books recounting his escapades. During his life, Caesar traveled non-stop. Whether he was fighting a war or simply visiting a Roman province, he was constantly on the move.

Caesar’s energy was also evidenced in his romantic exploits. Over the course of his life, he had three wives and multiple mistresses. Imagine taking over a country, fighting multiple wars, AND juggling several girlfriends at the same time. The man never tired!

Julius Caesar: Cunning and Generous
Immense military intelligence and energy were not the only qualities that made Caesar a formidable leader. He was also exceptionally driven, power-hungry, and cunning. Caesar came from a noble but poor family. What Caesar lacked in funds he made up for with an insatiable thirst for power. Every action was calculated for personal gain; nothing he did was without purpose.

For example, when one of his greatest political opponents died, Caesar went out of his way to memorialize the man. Not because he liked him or thought he was a good guy, but because Caesar knew that speaking about his fallen adversary would help neutralize his opponents posthumous influence.

Aside from being cunning, Caesar was also generous, bestowing lavish gifts on the people closest to him. He gave his mistress, Cleopatra, her own palace in Rome. Additionally, he showed mercy to the people he conquered and spared many of the political opponents he defeated.

Julius Caesar: Personality Type Analysis
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Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman aristocrat, politician, military leader, Dictator, and author, active in the last decades of the Roman Republic, in the first century BC. His impact on western history is enormous: he was chiefly responsible for incorporating Gaul (i.e. modern France) into the Mediterranean world i.e. the Roman Empire, as well as indirectly for the same with regards to Britain. The modern calendar, based on a year of 365 days with a leap year every 4 years, and 12 months, is essentially the same one as introduced under his instructions. The month ‘July’ was named so in his honour, after his clan name ‘Julius’, immediately after his death. His family name, ‘Caesar’, eventually became a synonym for ’emperor’, surviving into the 20th century as ‘Kaiser’ and ‘Tsar’. He is also generally regarded as one of history’s greatest military leaders, his battles serving as case studies to this day.

Although by ancestry belonging to the high nobility – his clan ‘Julius’ claimed direct descent to Aeneas and therefore to the goddess Venus – Caesar’s family was (relatively) impoverished by the time he was born in 100 BC. In the ultra-competitive, expensive, high-stakes world of Roman politics of his time, that meant that Caesar, not withstanding his titled family background had to adopt unconventional means of advancing his political career from an early age.

Especially considering his circumstances and powerful opponents, Caesar’s political career was extraordinarily successful, with him advancing faster, and to greater heights, than any of his contemporaries, even those far wealthier and better connected.

Simplistically, Caesar’s whole career progressed on the basis of all-or-nothing extreme risk-taking. In electoral politics, that meant spending money far beyond his means, getting into debt to the point of criminal liability – but always rescued by electoral or military success. But failure at any point could have meant bankruptcy, disgrace, and exile: famously, at the age of 37, he bet it all in winning the election to Pontifex Maximus, telling his mother that day that either he’d win or have to go into exile.

Likewise, as a military leader, his style was to get himself and his men into very difficult situations (numerical inferiority, poor logistics, unknown and hostile territory, etc.) and then use tactical brilliance and improvisation to find a way out – with supreme self-confidence in his abilities and, as he himself put it, “Caesar’s luck”. In so doing, he basically re-invented ancient warfare as he went along, even in situations where he had no previous experience, as in siege warfare (Alesia) or urban warfare (Alexandria) or in more conventional battles (Pharsalus). This meant that more conventional or cautious commanders such as Pompey were outmanoeuvred by Caesar even when in numerical and tactical advantage.

Caesar obviously trusted his on-the-moment tactical improvisation and often neglected the accumulation of intelligence, as in his first expedition to Britain. That almost led to disaster as he simply did not realize that the Channel tides were far more intense than those of the Mediterranean.

Caesar’s never-ending, sometimes reckless pursuit of political power, as well as his natural ability to lead and his confidence in his own assessment of forces on the battlefield on the spot, demonstrate a fearlessness that few possess. This is also confirmed by his apparent lack of physical fear even in very disadvantageous situations, even when kept prisoner by pirates (he mocked them and said he’d crucify them as soon as he was set free, which he did).

As a leader of men, Caesar was notorious for not caring about imposing discipline on his men in the way of rules: what he cared about was their loyalty, obedience, competence. and trust (i.e. willingness to follow him into seemingly hopeless situations). His leadership was based not mainly on the fact that he was their hierarchical and social superior, but that he was better than they were at being leader and therefore deserved to be followed.

Caesar’s extreme confidence can be seen in his own memoirs of his conquest of Gaul, when he repeatedly boasts of his personal relationship to the Gallic chieftains (and complains of those who couldn’t be trusted). It can also be seen in his approach to political enemies: Caesar was so confident in his ability to gain the trust of those he had defeated that he preferred to pardon them and receive them as friends once they were vanquished.

Caesar’s pursuit of personal political power and wealth, besides based on extreme risk-taking, was also based on ignoring conventions and rules, even laws. His approach was to achieve his goals, regardless of their difficulty and worry less about such “details”. The problem with that is that his continuous illegalities led to him being liable to prosecution by his political enemies – precisely what meant that his only way in the political ladder was up: even a brief period out of office would mean legal prosecution. Like his near-disastrous military traps, that was a longer-term personal trap that he found himself into, arguably without realizing it, leaving him no way out except through his ultimate extreme gamble i.e. illegally invading Italy proper with his legions, characteristically saying “let the dice fly” as he did so.

Having achieved (illegal) control of Rome and Italy through sheer military power, Caesar was concerned about legalizing it but he did so in a seemingly ad hoc manner, becoming at first Dictator for just a few days, then consul, then later Dictator again in different ways – as with military campaigns, that was done in a ‘making it up as you go along manner’ and apparently having less concern with consistency.

Although chiefly concerned with completing his victory over his political enemies, during his period as Dictator, Caesar engaged into a series of isolated reforms: a settlement of the debts of over-indebted individuals, urban reform in Rome, reform of the then-chaotic calendar (introducing the modern calendar), reform of the supply of subsidized grain, etc. All of those were implemented with enormous energy in a very brief period of time, but rather as a series of isolated measures aimed at fixing specific problems pragmatically, not as part of any ‘restructuring’ of Roman society or constitution. Indeed, despite his own position having become essentially extra-constitutional, Caesar showed no apparent concern (or idea) of how to adjust the constitution accordingly, and at the time of his death his plan was to start another huge military campaign, against Parthia (Persia). This shows where his priorities lay.

Julius Caesar was a man most focused and able, and an ultra confident individual, particularly in matters of career climbing, military exploits and conquest, but almost always carried out in a way where extreme (and sometimes almost disastrous) risk-taking was the pattern, and with little sign of longer-term strategy or vision. In fact, in most matters he appeared to lack any visible ‘ideology’ (except that of his rising to the top).

Finally, besides being confident in his ability to get the respect and trust of individuals, by all accounts he was the perfect politician in terms of knowing the value of propaganda and in exercising enormous personal charm when he wanted to.

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The Dump

Notwithstanding my love of the run on sentence, My Facebook friend Wendy has challenged me to write a 300 word max essay utilizing the following words she randomly pulled out of her ass: distended, lugubrious, flaccid, notwithstanding.

The Dump

I wade into the fray with clearly more disciplined and professional writers. My stock and trade is the perverse, what others consider the dark side of the naked city. I write about dicks, pricks and assholes. Sure Donald Trump is all three but besides his swollen bobblehead I prefer to author twisted but anatomically correct diatribes about penises, sexual behavior and bowel movements. I do this for my own exhibitionistic pleasure, for lack of regularity within my own sluggish and distended intestines and because even tho it’s Stargate 2016, the average Millennial in skinny jeans is an idiot savant who can’t locate Afghanistan or his own anus without a GPS, a specialized phone app or a text to his helicopter mommy. God forbid they might actually get their hands wet by reaching into the toilet bowl of life and learning how the world really works. I’m sure the White House is metaphorically no different. The real shit goes on in the musty smelling, dark cobwebby basement where CIA operatives, Morlocks, and Cheney clones with wrenches scuttle around fixing furnaces, turning dials and planning the takeover of foreign governments.

 

Sometimes I fear we’re raising a new race of flaccid spawn with beehive minds. They are the Eloi in the original Time Machine movie. Sure they have books but they’ve never read any. Intelligent ideas or independent thought that includes debate and challenging discourse is as rare today as a single succinct sentence in my legendary pirate blog. Call me cantankerous. Call me lugubrious. I call it as I see it which apparently is a lot better than most umpires in professional baseball or football. Did you see that missed pass interference call in the Atlanta Falcons game recently?  Now imagine Trump and his minions at the wheel of our nation. I’d call that demolition derby-type game “Narcissism Nascar” and that’s one sport I’d rather sit out and patiently wait for a cathartic dump of biblical proportions.

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Human Error: What 12 Monkeys, Donald Trump and the Seven Hens Schnitzel House Have In Common

 

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
― Isaac Asimov

“If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”
― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

I’ve written a few previous blogs about “human error” and how when things go wrong, i.e., ships collide, planes crash, monkey viruses go rogue, or people freeze to death on Mt Everest,  it’s usually due to many different reasons with human factors often occupying the primary explanation. It’s difficult to overcome ones cognitive biases, unbridled ego and limited perspective. Most of the time we proceed in life believing that we are “right”. However, personal blinders when combined with a refusal to solicit adequate objective feedback/input from others leave us vulnerable to making false assumptions, inaccurate conclusions and expensive mistakes. Luckily, not every error we make is of the size, cost or consequence of a Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. For that matter, the majority of our human “boo-boos” pale in comparison to monster mistakes like the sinking of the Titanic or George Bush’s decision to get us embroiled in a trillion dollar war on the basis of non-existent WMDs. In light of this topic and introduction I’d like to illustrate the concept of “human folly” by sharing a very small but pertinent example I just read about in the Atlanta Jewish Times.

I heard that both restaurant locations (Sandy Springs and Decatur) of Seven Hens the Chicken schnitzel eatery are closing. Honestly, I was surprised they lasted more than a year given that I counted only three paying customers there in over 2 years and their festive theme was  “Come Enjoy Chicken Schnitzel around the World”, not exactly a culinary concept I’d pay an ad agency a lot of dough to think up. However, given Seven Hens longevity  I began to wonder if the place was really a front for the Ukrainian Mafia who were selling kilos of cocaine and young girls out the back door. I developed this theory partially because the one guy I did see there more than once (besides the cook) was a tall gentleman who looked a lot like Liam Neeson in the “Taken” movie series. However, I was wrong. Apparently so was the Israeli owner/founder Michael Gurevich who according to the AJT article “lacked restaurant experience” but fervently hoped that the South would “embrace schnitzel and enable me to franchise it”. Riiiight…. He would have been better off franchising sweet tea and Nascar decals. Let this be a lesson to all of us. Even Israelis, the supreme innovators and entrepreneurs on planet Earth are capable of being misled by their own cultural blinders and flawed logic. The good news is that the Decatur location will be replaced by a Korean street food emporium and the Sandy Springs space has already become the Poke Bar, a Los Angeles “casual seafood/raw fish concept”. I look forward to trying them both out before they close as well. As for Donald Trump, I feel semi-confident his “goose is cooked” and like his licensed brand of “commercial quality” steaks which no longer exist, he should probably pack up his presidential snake oil products and declare bankruptcy , which is the same as saying he “lost” but is far easier on his forked tongue.

Post Election Addendum:  It seems I was wrong about that one too. My bad….

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My Mini-High School Reunion

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I just got back from a mini-high school reunion in Highland Park, Illinois. It’s been 45 years since I left that cushy suburban enclave to seek fame and fortune elsewhere. I returned at age 62 (soon to be 63) not as the prodigal son, but as a wiser and more arthritic version of my former self. My long hair is long gone. The hippie-esque bell bottom jeans and puka shell necklace have been replaced by clothing meant to produce a “slimming” effect” rather than make a political statement of any kind. My wise-ass self-centered attitude and condescending voice tone have given way to a sincere interest in listening to my contemporaries and learning about their varied lives. It seems we’ve all been on some epic journey and like brave Odysseus have returned to our childhood home somewhat bruised, battle weary but with quite a Homeric tale to tell. The fearlessness and YOLO (You Only Live Once) type thinking endemic to youth is tempered now by a host of nagging health concerns common to aging Baby Boomers, neurotic anxiety, i.e.,”Gee, I wonder if somebody remembered to feed the dogs?”, and worse, by the unmistakeable realization that some of our classmates have passed away or are suffering from serious illnesses which they may or may not recover from.

How can this be? I thought we were immortal. I thought life was going to be a relatively predictable process, a linear trajectory like climbing a ladder or taking a long hike on a well designated trail in one of the many lush forest preserves in or near Highland Park. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I figured I was prepared for it not just by my excellent education at Highland Park High School (including drivers ed) but also by my self-professed mastery of “life-like” board games like Risk, Monopoly, and Life. How much tougher could negotiating ones way in the adult world be then all the road hazards, obstacles, and simulator tests we’d already faced in Coach Wisniewski’s Drivers Ed class? Maybe I should have noticed or remembered subtle signs like how in the colorful board game “Life” with it’s many twists and turns and little plastic cars full of acquired family members how certain “peg people” would refuse to stay in their assigned seat and repeatedly fell out onto the increasingly cluttered game board. Were those Parker Brother premonitions of a future divorce or of having to send a kid to residential care or rehab someday?

Regardless of the game, at age 18 I still thought it (life) was going to be a semi-predictable algorithm: Deal the cards, buy up lots and lots of “stuff “(or assemble an army) and well, proceed to “take over the world”. Now that I say that aloud I think  that certain individuals like Donald Trump are still stuck in their teenaged head eating Twinkies and playing a megalomaniac board game in some buddy’s wood paneled basement. Unfortunately, at age 62 (two days from becoming 63), I’ve learned it’s not that easy in the real world and some of us don’t have the time, the energy, the bank account or the reservoir of narcissistic supply left to lose a billion dollars in one year…or even eighteen. To consider that in retrospect as somehow “brilliant” is one delusional bipolar bridge too far for most of us. The ups and downs of a meaningful life still early in the fourth and final quarter of the “game” is acceptable to me. Frankly, at this point I’d rather hang out with my high school friends eating good deli food, drinking root beer and swapping stories than be President of this United States. That said, maybe I did learn a few good tricks playing Risk at Billy Terman’s house with Mark Scher, Joel Pathman,Todd Logan, Mike Lembeck, Harlan Bass and a few other HPHS game playing gunslingers…..but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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How to Be a Real Manly Man

Submitted for publication to:  The Good Men Project  9/29/16

I am a certified sex therapist who purposely de-emphasizes sex-related behavior and sexual performance in my clinical practice. Instead I prefer to explore issues of sexual identity and self-esteem with my male clients as well as how ones intentional behavior interfaces with fundamental evolutionary principles (see Evolutionary Principle below). In a previous Manly Man blog (captaincliff.wordpress.com) I discuss the downsides of living in a phallocentric society. Phallocentric is just a big word referring to those cultures that oversubscribe to stereotypical masculine principles and who worship the male genitalia otherwise known colloquially as the “dick”. I mentioned that Ancient Rome was a prime example of a phallocentric society and one which has been described as technologically advanced yet strangely obsessed with it’s own sexual vigor and political fortune. The Roman Empire wanted both qualities to last forever and even coined the latin term “Imperium sine fine” which roughly translates to “Power without end”. Paradoxically, their fear of losing power and control may have also helped to create a shadow aspect within their patriarchal culture characterized by considerable insecurity and rampant superstition. i.e., penis sculptures and phallic amulets strewn around practically everywhere, mostly for “good luck” and to ward off the “evil eye”.

Our modern world and the United States in particular also emphasizes the male genitals and it’s many symbolic and societal meanings, i.e.. power, authority, masculinity, strength, virility, etc. White men currently carry both the privilege and the burden of being the dominant stakeholders in our highly competitive patriarchy and capitalistic society. Well, what’s so burdensome about occupying an elite status and a governing socioeconomic strata you may ask? It’s more about the concomitant psychological weight in the form of “performance anxiety” and constant pressure placed upon men to succeed, to be the biggest and best, and to flaunt their success, superiority and sometimes even their shlongs like angry and/or insecure alpha male chimpanzees. If that description happens to sound like Anthony Weiner or Donald Trump, well then I guess the Bruno Maglia shoe fits….. and you must NOT acquit.

It’s not surprising that in times of stress and emotional turmoil human beings need to feel somewhat good about themselves and carry a supporting belief that they’ve been relatively “fortunate” in life, ie. lucky. When I use common terms like fortunate or lucky I mean to say that men want to feel that as a result of their intentional actions and agency they’re able to survive, adapt, and “surf” life’s challenges adequately as opposed to fighting a constant riptide of inevitable failure (think poor Prometheus). Similarly they want to maintain a positive self-concept and see themselves as successful actors and/or heroic figures rather than as insignificant specks floating aimlessly in a vast ocean or sailors drowned in a tsunami wave of bad situations, lousy relationships and repeated misfortune. To put it another way, like brave Ossysseus we all want to feel that the “Gods are smiling down upon us” or at least that they’re NOT in cahoots against us. What could be worse than believing that one’s God or a gaggle of God-like beings (as in the Roman pantheon) are either sitting around Mt. Olympus gossiping about you or actively conspiring to bring about your demise if not actual death?

Furthermore, even when the seas are calm and things are going smoothly in life, which is almost never, men want and possibly need to experience the hardwired warrior-hunter-gatherer adrenaline rush of accomplishment. Sure, sex in it’s multiple masculine forms feels good but it’s not quite the same thing as breaking in a wild mustang (either the horse or the sportscar) or reeling in a boat-sized marlin like in “Old Man and the Sea”. Human males not only are programmed to mate successfully but also have an irresistible need to occasionally belt a home run, bowl an impressive strike, or at least parallel park their station wagon like a champ. In the case of more “gatherer” type individuals (such as myself) the instinctual drive is to collect every known infomercial Chia Pet, professional baseball card, Star Trek episode and rare  coin in the stamp and coin universe. Hunting and gathering not only makes men feel better but I would speculate it reconfirms our primal sense of masculinity on some unconscious level.

Neuroscience suggests that the brain seeks continual stimulation in the form of key neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins. The opposite state of a fully functioning and fully engaged manly man is a static depressed male or one who is crippled by anxiety and caught in a web of unhealthy or unproductive compulsions. Ironically, snorting mounds of cocaine or crystal meth are (at least physiologically speaking) potentially misguided and pathological attempts to “ignite” or reinvigorate ones essential inner caveman, particularly when the brain’s pilot light/ignition switch (just like on the manly outdoor barbecue grill) has stopped working. I say pathological because all that illegal drugs or dopaminergic stimulants like methamphetamine end up doing is turning the user into a pimply faced drug addict who needs to steal your 60 inch flat screen TV so that he/she can buy more drugs. Richard Pryor the stand-up comedian spoke of this misguided notion of compulsive masculinity, depression, self-esteem, and hubris when he literally lit himself on fire while smoking crack cocaine. The point doesn’t get much more visually graphic than that.

The quintessential healthy “manly man feeling” I am referring to is more closely associated with what one experiences when successfully achieving a tangible goal (or less tangible intrinsic reward or positive reinforcement) resulting from a “job well done”. In the process of reconnecting to our ancient hunter-gatherer heritage we become increasingly more motivated, confident, focused, and energetically alert. It’s sort of like taking Adderall XR but sourced in the primal desire to hunt, capture, consume and then “savor” something extra delicious (like Andrew Zimmern does on his show Bizarre Foods) rather than just the momentary excitement experienced from getting an A on the  Geometry midterm exam….altho that’s still a good thing.

Due to our genetic make-up and evolutionary status as the biggest baddest apex predator, Homo Erectus (us) may very well have a built-in biological need to win, “score”, succeed, make a touchdown, or at least conquer something or someone every so often. I’m sure the testosterone thing also plays a major role in that part as well. Overall, women appear to have a much lesser need to purposely sink a sharp spear or musket ball into an opponents chest to prove their existence and re-confirm their gender identity.

Thus, every time Cro-Magnon man actually did manage to kill “two birds with one stone” or spear a really big fish something probably went off in his noggin like the sound of a slot machine hitting payola in Vegas. Even in the Old Testament it appears that God (Yahweh) enjoyed having the proto-patriarchal Israelites exult after beating the crap out of their Holy Land competitors. All that smiting and smoting not only gave proof of their divinely inspired success, fealty and faith, but it also probably felt damn good to kick some Philistine ass and “win” a hard fought biblical battle. So why do guys need to succeed or “win” so badly? Who knows. It’s pretty clear it sucks to lose badly as any online gambler would admit and practically every elementary school kid learns from playing dodgeball in P.E. class. Getting the “I participated” ribbon or a cheap plastic medal on “Field Day” once a year doesn’t usually cut it for many competitive males and is fairly equivalent to receiving the “Biggest Loser” or “Slowest Runner” award. Let me repeat. In general, guys want to be warrior heroes and they want to provide safety, security, and sustenance for themselves and their loved ones. They live in fear of being “cucks”, “goats”, or “losers”. Ladies, ask your man what day your birthday or anniversary is and he will probably hesitate. Ask him for a specific example of when he struck out with the bases loaded or literally MISSED the slow rolling rubber ball for a called strike in kickball and he will remember it like it was yesterday. Along with Pearl Harbor these are the REAL days and dates that “live in infamy”.

Like a guy claiming final victory in the popular board game Risk (akin to taking over the world like Alexander the Great or Attila the Hun) or putting out the last sore loser in Monopoly, gaining a sense of mastery and control (which like it or not often involves succeeding over others) triggers some selective pleasure center in our lizard man brain. Whether it is purchasing a 1.3 billion dollar winning lottery ticket or getting a free bagel with every dozen bought at the local deli, we seek out and “hunt” for feel good manly moments, successes, and fortunate circumstances that we can claim for our own….and later post to our unrestricted Facebook page. In other words it’s not all that abnormal for a man to want to climb Mt. Everest or something else tall and treacherous and then plant a flag at the top….even if it almost kills them. This may again have something to do with the feel good endorphins, some “risky gene” in our DNA or a bio-behavioral adaptation passed down from our brutish caveman ancestors. All things equal and cultural norms notwithstanding, men care more about their personal achievements in life including the specific acts of courage undertaken (or endured) to better their lives and the lives of their loved ones than they do about having sex. Obsessing about one’s penis size and spending money on worthless infomercial/internet products in an attempt to grow a “bigger one” is a sad example of how core masculine values become skewed and diminished in a sex and genital focused culture.

So like it or not we are a competitive lot and a carnivorous species that enjoys winning. Without a big win or a few timely successes many men become despairing, depressed, bitter, lethargic and all around miserable. Look at the average Chicago Cubs fan (until this year) or Atlanta Braves season ticket holder. Something  important is missing in their pitiful lives that can only be cured with a pennant win. Over time their vitality, free testosterone and essential lifeforce has drained from their increasingly sedentary, diabetic and morbidly obese bodies. Screaming insults and eating tons of crappy food at the game is the very best they can do. This particular kind of ill-tempered Bleacher Bum, whether they realize it or not really wants to bring down a charging buffalo or crack the skull of a nosey Neanderthal attempting to get with his kin but all they can do is sit and watch the other team round the bases over and over and cuck dance in the dugout. No wonder they settle for getting plastered and starting fights with other angry drunk and depressed guys. They, much like Donald Trump and Anthony Weiner are still stuck in psychological adolescence comparing and contrasting their penis size. They haven’t learned to expand their definition of masculinity and have failed to embrace the deeper and far more mature meaning of the expression, “Buddy, It’s not the meat, it’s the motion”.

November 3, 2016 Addendum:  Last night the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. It’s as if the entire city of Chicago has taken Viagra. They finally got their manly man mo-jo back.

Tony Soprano’s Penis Dream: https://youtu.be/apkoUIBj91w

Maria Muldour: It Aint the Meat, It’s the Motion

The Evolutionary Principle is a largely psychological doctrine formulated by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss which roughly states that when a species is removed from the habitat in which it evolved or that habitat changes significantly within a brief period (evolutionarily speaking), the species will develop maladaptive or outright pathological behavior.

Cliff Mazer, Ph.D.  is a sex therapist and Clinical Psychologist living in Atlanta, Georgia. He has three grown manly man sons and loves everything Pirate. Contact:  404-932-7193

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I am Spartacus! A case for Mature Masculinity

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Introduction: Lately there’s been a lot of talk about toxic masculinity and male privilege. Old school narcissists with tiny hands like Donald Trump are as bad an example of mature masculinity as Anthony Weiner who cant seem to keep his Gen X pecker in his pants and  fingers away from his cell phone camera. Both of them protesteth too much as far as promoting themselves as “manly men” who carry a “big stick”. Me thinketh they both suffer from male-patterned insecurity cultivated in an unusually competitive capitalistic society and cutthroat sociopolitical state.

Historically, patriarchal cultures and patrilinear societies like the Roman Empire tend to be insecure about their political fate and sexual potency. Historians remark how obsessed ancient Rome was with “the penis motif” (otherwise known as the “dick”) and wonder why such an advanced civilization felt the need to install phallic symbols everywhere for protection, good fortune, and/or as conveniently shaped street signs. In contrast, my approach to men and masculinity applies broader and less “genital-centered” principles to address sex-related problems. Focusing too much on the penis either in therapy or in life can only lead to a bad case of performance anxiety, genital warts or penis envy a la Siggy Freud. As an older clinical psychologist and sex therapist of the male persuasion (62 years old) I hope to have gained (in addition to the proverbial extra 20 lbs “spare tire”) a few distinct advantages as a result of my longitudinal life experience. This includes but is not limited to such things as “hindsight” and a “big picture” perspective. It also means I’ve gotten my cocky male narcissistic butt kicked around enough times to know what humble pie tastes like. It’s rather tart in fact. Trying too hard to be the biggest and best at everything including sex can end up having the exact opposite effect on ones ego and externalized sex organ. In other words, it’s not just the grass that appears greener and possibly grander when you look too close at what others possess in the locker room or the Imperial gladiator ring. Personally, I say “thank the Gods” that there are other human attributes to focus on as we age besides ones penis length to offset the enlarged prostate, progressive baldness, hearing loss, and my total invisibility to any woman under the age of 50 at Starbucks.

Developing the psychological maturity necessary to experience and express emotional vulnerability, profound love, loyalty, compassion, receptivity, and empathy are not booby prizes in the sexual revolution or so-called battle between the now somewhat indeterminate sexes. Such qualities help to define our humanity and may represent the golden keys to freedom from an insidious form of male genital-centered slavery and oppression, something that has hindered both men and women alike for thousands of years. Hey, I am Spartacus!!

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Human Error and Why Shit Happens: Part 2


PompeiiPompeii People

Everest Dead

The Shining

“Shit happens” is a common colloquial expression that many people intuitively understand and can relate to. However, far fewer people go on to inquire, “well, why did that particular shit happen?” Bear with me on this question because I suspect this will not be real easy to explain. To some extent, bad shit like major disasters, catastrophes, and fatal accidents continue to remain shrouded in mystery and myth for many people. Especially in the past (but sometimes even today) God, superstition, rumor and outright confabulation somehow become part and parcel of the disaster narrative and end up confusing the scientific analysis and rational explanations.  In other words, what we think we know is usually not completely true and we often continue to assume its truth/veracity based on ignorance, cognitive rigidity and consensual agreement with other misinformed souls.

For example, I happened to recently watch a documentary about Pompeii on TV and realized for the very first time that the perfectly preserved remains of the townspeople caught in the violent volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius were actually (for the most part) not “bodies” or complete skeletal remains but reinforced casts (like a plaster mold) made by a certain individual in the late 1800s. So much for my childhood fascination with 2000 year old dead Romans buried alive in volcanic ash and frozen in their contorted death agony for all eternity… Somewhat related is the longstanding and relatively common assumption that when REALLY BAD SHIT happens like a biblical flood or giant plague of locusts, etc., it likely involves supernatural causes that are basically inconceivable and unknowable. To “know” or understand such cosmic or divine proportion events is usually reduced to believing what the BIG BOOK (or Pat Robertson) tells us…otherwise we too might get turned into a pillar of salt. While such interpretations of why shit happens often fall under the basket category of, “God did it so dont ask for a repeat performance” they also may inspire a kind of scientific laziness, learned helplessness and general surrender to the “mysteries of the universe”.

 Second, it is a fact that when shit happens it often involves complex reasons and multiple interacting variables that are difficult to assess. Large airplanes are known to disappear off radar screens never to be seen or heard again….right? Nevertheless, human beings very often need and want simple answers in their pursuit of what they erroneously perceive as “closure”. Let’s face it. Hitler alone did not cause (or carry out) the Holocaust. As a result, those desperately in need of answers are sometimes willing to entertain highly unusual or unlikely simplistic explanations… like UFO’s, the Bermuda Triangle, and various other creative or nefarious conspiracy theories.  I call this the “Alien Meets Big Foot Syndrome”. It’s more difficult to acknowledge that many answers to unexplained or catastrophic events are not easily obtained due to the difficulty and expense involved. Identifying reasonable primary determining factors and teasing out spurious or confusing interaction effects, hidden or confounding secondary variables is arduous and challenging at best. The additional presence of changing/dynamic conditions that alter statistical equations, prediction models or forecasts make scientific investigation even more difficult to conduct, calculate and control. That’s one reason why pharmaceutical companies can get away with a lot of their rather weak clinical data “proving” their drugs effectiveness even tho the placebo effect is often almost as good. Things tend to change and replication studies are rare.

Recently, I was able to come to a better personal understanding of this “why shit happens” topic after watching the movie “Everest” on cable television and then reading a journal article about this same event.  Somehow it helped me (both practically and metaphorically) to first view a dramatic recreation of this literal shit storm involving two professional climbing expeditions that met disaster on Mt Everest in May of 1996. Through watching the dramatic story along with the unfolding sequence of related events I was better able to grasp the unique context involved as well as the interplay of multiple determining factors, both human and otherwise. In any catastrophe or major disaster, whether it is the sinking of the Titanic, the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, or the more recent mass shooting of innocents in a gay nightclub in Orlando there is an unseen “flamenco dance” of contributing factors, mathematical probabilities, dumb luck (or lack of) and Final Destination-like fate/destiny playing out in real time and space. In other words there apparently is such a thing as being in a really bad place at the very wrong time. Such a high stakes poker game, vibrating quantum wave and probabilistic “roll of the dice” (for or against life, death, and survival) is not unlike that which Albert Einstein referred to in his famous (but often totally misinterpreted) quote, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe…” Einstein might have fallen a bit short on the quantum mechanics and spiritual aspects involved in why good and bad things happen but at least he got gravity right. However, messing up with gravity and the need to maintain stability at high altitude/steep descent circumstances can get yourself killed …as was shown on Mt. Everest and more recently demonstrated in the “freak” water slide accident in Kansas City.

The journal article I read (see below) about the Mt. Everest disaster, while somewhat dry and wholly lacking in the aforementioned cinematic suspense, was really the best available scientific analysis of why and how “shit happens” in certain high risk situations. I’ve always been obsessed with survival and “fate” and tried to look at such complex issues from multiple perspectives using various human lenses that include wearing my spiritual and gut intuition glasses as well as my rational and scientific spectacles.Of course it’s important to not get ones viewpoint mixed up.  As an example, my ex-wife Rona’s fateful dream several months before she died from Stage4 lung cancer (the one about a wild cat that approached her and needing to make it to “Gate 30” at the airport on time) represented a prophetic and symbolic story line and one that lent itself better to a personal and/or spiritual rather than scientific interpretation. Still, as dreams go it was pretty amazing….

As stated, “shit happens” in life not just for a single reason but for a host of interrelated reasons and explanatory factors. What we call “good luck” or “bad luck” is often just the compounding of many positive and/or negative factors that people are either previously unaware of, somewhat aware of, or completely blind, deaf, and dumb towards. It’s not just that human beings (unlike computers) cant compute or fathom the multivariate nature of complex mathematical probability models, predictive analytics or practical risk factors. It’s also that computers are lousy at utilizing spiritual or intuitive information and tend to filter out what is perceived to be “extraneous” or superfluous data. God (the Universe) on the other hand is apparently capable of factoring in everything and nothing is seen as total garbage. Our limited human minds and egos, somewhat like computers, also have built-in filtering mechanisms (like psychological defense mechanisms, cognitive schemas, fuzzy logic, self-serving report biases and errors in judgement and attribution). Because we are human beings with strong emotional processing systems (rather than purely objective computer systems based on binary coding) there is a general tendency to “drift” toward non-objective thinking, again often in service to our fundamentally hard-wired emotional needs, fantasies, wishes, etc.  That’s probably at least one aspect that Sigmund Freud got right abut human learning and behavior (clearly NOT counting the whole penis envy/castration complex thing) . 

It’s worth mentioning that it’s probably true that many people live their lives too often in a kind of sub-clinical “flight or fight” mode and somewhat understandably cant seem to stay sufficiently balanced between the need/requirement to initiate change, move, adapt, and take calculated risks with the simultaneous need to stay safe, hunker down, and remain cautious. Essentially we either under or overreact as a result of anxiety and perceived risk (overcorrect) or we fall asleep at the wheel and fail to take adequate precaution, so to speak. On top of all this, as mentioned, the many variables that determine and explain bad accidents and disasters are a moving target of predictable and seemingly unpredictable factors like fast moving ice storms on Mt. Everest or in the case of the kind of “weird news” I report on in my web blog, some totally wacked out crazy person randomly deciding to slit a strangers throat in a grocery store for no apparent reason ( I know, “WTF?”). Talk about bad luck. Either way, such unforeseen events would throw off the careful, all-inclusive multivariate regression and subconscious risk factor analysis going on in our head that is normally programmed towards insuring personal survival. You just dont expect some nut job to kill you while you are testing the avocados for ripeness in the produce aisle.

In the end, more often than not (as amply demonstrated in one of my favorite TV shows “Air Disasters”……(FYI: NOT a great program to watch right before flying somewhere on vacation) it is usually human (pilot) error, mental/emotional factors or excessive stress/fatigue that triggers the subsequent “cascade” of faulty decisions and even mechanical failures that directly lead to bad shit happening like airplane crashes or freezing to death on Mt. Everest. My guess is that Stephen Hawking’s recently publicized  “down grade” of humanity’s probable chance for long term survival as a species is at least partially based on his realistic calculation of human error related global extinction events occurring sometime in the near future like climate change, Trump being elected as POTUS or ISIS getting their fanatical hands on tactical nuclear weapons. Black holes arent the only things in spacetime that contain within their basic structure a certain end point that represents the statistical point of no return or “event horizon” as far as survival is concerned.

Bottomline: “Survival” is an interesting “board game” and something we all “play” on a daily basis whether we realize it or not.  In an earlier web blog I wrote about my near obsession as a small boy playing with plastic army men. I didnt just play “War” in my backyard or basement like I imagine most kids do or did (altho i really liked blowing stuff up and lighting them on fire) but I would set up “fateful” life or death situations and scenarios with blocks, Lincoln logs, etc. I would carefully place all these little plastic warriors in the various structures and then bomb the living shit out of them with heavy objects. That’s right. I was the Angel of Death, Mt. Vesuvius, Godzilla, the Luftwaffe, Gorgo, the Enola Gay Hiroshima bomber, Robert Oppenheimer, Hurricane Inez, Dr. Mengele, and the deadly Passover Plagues all combined.  It sounds morbid, maybe even somewhat disturbed, but I just wanted to see who survived, who didn’t and why.  It certainly wasn’t that I wanted to really kill people or someday become an insurance claims adjuster, corporate risk manager or crash-test scientist or dummy.  I just wanted to see how placement, preparation, dumb luck, happenstance, probability and various other factors interacted to determine survival and continued life rather than death.  Death, I realized even then, was a somewhat unfathomable mystery but survival seemed to be more of a probabilistic enterprise that could be analyzed and understood. Being a big hypochondriac, I should also admit, I even noted and evaluated the little plastic army guys (or Cowboys and Indians or whatever) who were merely “wounded” by virtue of their semi-prone yet still semi-standing positions after my incessant air attacks and ruthless bombing runs. Even as I type this I am watching a military history program on TV about a certain Canadian fighter pilot who for very identifiable reasons became a distinguished flying “ace” in WWII by shooting down over 30 Nazi planes over Malta and surviving it all…only to die a mere three years later in a freak unexplained midair explosion. Apparently in his post-war boredom and brief retirement from military aviation he signed on to help deliver an airplane to Israel during its War of Independence. In my mind such ironic events deserve a formal military salute with an associated rolling of the eyes, shaking of the head and ponderous gaze toward the heavens above while thinking aloud to myself, “Seriously? God, You gotta be fucking kidding me?!!”

pure.au.dk/portal-asb-student/files/…/Lessons_from_Everest.pdf
 

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