All posts by Mike Zonta

Caruso on singing


“I have to get the little Caruso out of the way so I can let the big Caruso sing.”  (quote courtesy of Alex Gambeau)

Enrico Caruso (February 25, 1873 – August 2, 1921) was an Italian operatic tenor. He sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and the Americas, appearing in a wide variety of roles from the Italian and French repertoires that ranged from the lyric to the dramatic. Wikipedia

Biography: George Sanders

George Sanders All About Eve

George Henry Sanders (3 July 1906 – 25 April 1972) was an English film and television actor, singer-songwriter, music composer, and author. His career as an actor spanned more than 40 years. His upper-class English accent and bass voice often led him to be cast as sophisticated but villainous characters. He is perhaps best known as Jack Favell in Rebecca (1940), Scott ffolliott inForeign Correspondent (1940) (a rare heroic part), Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (1950), King Richard the Lionheart in King Richard and the Crusaders (1954), Mr. Freeze in a two-parter episode of Batman (1966), the voice of the malevolent man-hating tiger Shere Khan in Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967), and as Simon Templar, “The Saint”, in five films made in the 1930s and 1940s.  (

Is Anything Truly Random or Is There an Underlying Order to Everything?


By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times

The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) wrote in “Ethics I”: “Nothing in Nature is random. … A thing appears random only through the incompleteness of our knowledge.”

In modern physics, certain quantum processes are deemed fundamentally random.

“As we currently understand it, quantum randomness is true and absolute randomness,” said theoretical physicist York Dobyns in an email to the Epoch Times. “Nothing in the universe can predict quantum outcomes except at a statistical level.”

Put simply, things are considered fundamentally fuzzy or indeterminate in quantum theory. A particle may behave as a wave; Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that we have a limited ability to know more than one physical property of a particle (such as position and momentum) at the same time; radioactive decay is unpredictable, it results from a particle quantum tunneling into or out of the nucleus.

As far as physicists can tell, quantum mechanics includes true randomness. But Spinoza may still be right.

Uncertain Footing of Quantum Theory’s Uncertainties

Dobyns admitted that it is possible even quantum randomness is not truly random. If that is so, quantum theory would have to be majorly reworked.

Physicists expect such a reworking. Quantum theory has major gaps and scientists are seeking a new major theory to replace or complement it.

Science is torn between classical physics and quantum physics. Each holds true in certain circumstances, but neither can explain how everything works.

“Current quantum theory can and will be replaced if a better theory (one that explains more) can be devised, and a theory that can make accurate predictions of events that are random according to the current version of QM [quantum mechanics] would be a great candidate,” Dobyns said.

If quantum theory is replaced by a so-called “Theory of Everything,” the idea of randomness may also disappear. No theory that can predict random quantum events has been proposed, so for now we must assume they are truly random.

Random Number Generators

Machines called random number generators (RNGs) use the quantum processes to generate encryption keys for banks. They are also used as tools for various scientific experiments.

RNGs have particularly been used in psi (the unknown “psychic” factor that cannot be explained by known physical and biological mechanisms) experiments; for example, researchers have used them to test whether a person could exercise psychokinesis by causing the machine to produce a pattern instead of randomness.

Dobyns designed and implemented data processing strategies for the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lab at Princeton University, where RNGs were often used in psi experiments.

Dean Radin, chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, has also used RNG generators to conduct psi experiments. He explained how the randomness of RNGs is tested statistically.

RNGs produce random bits. They’re often described as electronic coin-flippers; they randomly produce either a 1 or a zero.

To test the RNG, researchers run tens of millions of bits produced by the RNG through statistical tests (one such suite of statistical tests is called Die Hard, developed by mathematician George Marsaglia at Florida State University). They test the distribution of bits in many ways, using variables that mathematicians have determined should indicate if the RNG is behaving randomly.

“If it passes all of the tests, then you say, ‘As best as we can tell, this is behaving like a true random system,’” Radin said. “But it’s quite true that you actually never know. Because it could be that after you’ve tested the 10 million random bits that the next 10 million might all come out the same, or some silly thing like that.”

“You assume that the sample of the tested bits is a fair representative of the whole population of bits and accurately reflects how the RNG works,” he said.

Some RNGs use computer algorithms instead of the “noise” created by quantum processes. These are sufficient for certain uses, but the resulting sequences are deterministic, and some uses require truly unpredictable, non-deterministic sequences.

Some RNGs also use thermal or atmospheric noise instead of defined patterns. But these may still be biased, for example, toward higher or even (as opposed to odd) numbers. RNGs using quantum processes are considered the most random.
In addition to banking encryption and psi tests, MIT Computer Science and Engineering Professor Steve Ward, pointed out another use for true randomness in a post on the MIT website: “If you go to an online poker site, for example, and you know the algorithm and seed, you can write a program that will predict the cards that are going to be dealt.”
Radin said the encryption keys produced by true RNGs are the best we can do at present, as confirmed by the mathematics used to test them. Quantum mechanics appears to provide us with true randomness, for now at least.
Follow @TaraMacIsaac on Twitter, visit the Epoch Times Beyond Science page on Facebook, and subscribe to the Beyond Science newsletter to continue exploring the new frontiers of science!

Don Tapscott: How The Blockchain is Changing Money and Business

TED Talk | What is the blockchain? If you don’t know, you should; if you do, chances are you still need some clarification on how it actually works. Don Tapscott is here to help, demystifying this world-changing, trust-building technology which, he says, represents nothing less than the second generation of the internet and holds the potential to transform money, business, government and society.

Donald Trump Is Going To Be Elected!

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Michael Rosenblum (

August 25, 2016

Donald Trump is going to be elected president.

The American people voted for him a long time ago.

They voted for him when The History Channel went from showing documentaries about the Second World War to “Pawn Stars” and “Swamp People.”

They voted for him when The Discovery Channel went from showing “Lost Treasures of the Yangtze Valley” to “Naked and Afraid.”

They voted for him when The Learning Channel moved from something you could learn from to “My 600-lb Life.”

They voted for him when CBS went from airing “Harvest of Shame” to airing “Big Brother.”

These networks didn’t make these programming changes by accident. They were responding to what the American people actually wanted. And what they wanted was “Naked and Afraid” and “Duck Dynasty.”

The polls may show that Donald Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton, but don’t you believe those polls. When the AC Nielsen Company selects a new Nielsen family, they disregard the new family’s results for the first three months. The reason: when they feel they are being monitored, people lie about what they are watching. In the first three months, knowing they are being watched, they will tune into PBS. But over time they get tired of pretending. Then it is back to the Kardashians.

The same goes for people who are being asked by pollsters for whom they are voting. They will not say Donald Trump. It is too embarrassing. But the truth is, they like Trump. He is just like their favorite shows on TV.

Mindless entertainment.

Trump’s replacement of Paul Manafort with Breitbart’s Steve Bannon shows that Trump understands how Americans actually think. They think TV. They think ratings. They think entertainment.

We are a TV-based culture. We have been for some time now. The average American spends 5 hours a day, every day, watching TV. After sleep, it is our number one activity.

More shockingly, we spend 8.5 hours a day staring at screens — phones, tablets, computers. And more and more of the content on those devices is also video and TV.

If you spend 5-8 hours a day, every day, for years and years doing the same thing it has an impact on you. For the past 40 years, we have devoted 5-8 hours a day staring at a screen — every day. And we haven’t been watching Judy Woodruff. We have been watching reality TV shows. That is what we love. That is what we resonate to. “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

The French may love food. The Italians may love opera. What we love is TV. We are TV culture. It defines who we are.

In the 1950s, early television was allowed, with many restrictions, to be an observational guest at political conventions. They were quiet “flies on the wall,” carefully and quietly commentating on what they saw way down below. They did not get involved in the process. Today, they ARE the process. Today, political conventions are nothing but carefully directed TV shows. Likewise “debates.” They exist only to entertain a TV audience. TV and entertainment now dictate everything political. It is a never-ending show. The biggest reality show on air.

And Donald Trump is great TV.

He knows how to entertain.

He understands ratings.

Hillary Clinton is crap TV.

She may be smarter, better prepared, a better politician. It won’t matter. She is terrible entertainment.

That’s just how it is. Depressing, but true.

He is Kim Kardashian. She is Judy Woodruff.

Who gets better ratings?

Who would you rather watch for the next four years?


In 1825, the great French gastronom Brillat de Savarind said, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Today, in America, we can safely say, “Tell me what you watch, and I will tell you what you are.”

And what do we watch?

It isn’t “PBS NewsHour.”

As previously posted in

Found! Potentially Earth-Like Planet at Proxima Centauri Is Closest Ever

By Mike Wall, Senior Writer

The star closest to the sun hosts a planet that may be very much like Earth, a new study reports.

Astronomers have discovered a roughly Earth-size alien world around Proxima Centauri, which lies just 4.2 light-years from our own solar system. What’s even more exciting, study team members said, is that the planet, known as Proxima b, circles in the star’s “habitable zone” — the range of distances at which liquid water could be stable on a world’s surface.

“We hope these findings inspire future generations to keep looking beyond the stars,” lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, a physics and astronomy lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement.”The search for life on Proxima b comes next.”

A long search

The discovery of Proxima b was a long time in the making.

Astronomers have been hunting intensively for planets around Proxima Centauri for more 15 years, using instruments such as the Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph (UVES) and the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), both of which are installed on telescopes run by the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image between the planet and Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface.
This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image between the planet and Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface.  Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

UVES, HARPS and other instruments like them allow researchers to detect the slight wobbles in a star’s movement caused by the gravitational tugs of orbiting planets.

Astronomers found hints of such a wobble back in 2013, but the signal was not convincing, Anglada-Escude said. So he and a number of other researchers launched a campaign to ferret out the planet. They called this effort the Pale Red Dot — a nod to Carl Sagan’s famous description of Earth as a “pale blue dot,” and the fact that Proxima Centauri is a small, dim star known as a red dwarf.

The Pale Red Dot team focused HARPS on Proxima Centauri every night from Jan. 19, 2016, through March 31 of this year. After they combined this new data with UVES observations from 2000 through 2008 and HARPS observations from 2005 through early 2014, the signal of a possible planet came through loud and clear.

Then, after analyzing observations of the star’s brightness made by several other telescopes, Anglada-Escude and his colleagues ruled out the possibility that this signal could be caused by the variable activity of Proxima Centauri.

“The conclusion: We have found a planet around Proxima Centauri,” Anglada-Escude said Tuesday (Aug. 23) during a news conference. [The Search for Another Earth (Video)]

How did Proxima b remain undetected for so long, in an era when astronomers are finding exoplanets thousands of light-years from Earth?

“The uneven and sparse sampling, combined with the longer term variability of the star, seem to be the reasons why the signal could not be unambiguously confirmed with pre-2016 data, rather than the total amount of data accumulated,” the researchers wrote in the new study, which was published online today (Aug. 24) in the journal Nature.

The news confirms rumors first reported earlier this month by German magazine Der Spiegel.

Incidentally, the team also spotted possible signs of an additional Proxima Centauri planet, which would have an orbital period of between 60 and 500 days. But that second signal is much weaker and might be caused by stellar activity, the researchers said.

Artist’s illustration of the surface of Proxima b, a potentially Earth-like world that circles the nearest star to the sun.  Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

An Earth-like world?

The HARPS and UVES data indicate that Proxima b is about 1.3 times more massive than Earth, which suggests that the exoplanet is a rocky world, the researchers said. [6 Strange Facts About Planet Proxima b]

Proxima b lies just 4.7 million miles (7.5 million kilometers) from its host star and completes one orbit every 11.2 Earth days. As a result, it’s likely that the exoplanet is tidally locked, meaning it always shows the same face to its host star, just as the moon shows only one face (the near side) to Earth.

For comparison, Earth orbits about 93 million miles (150 million km) from the sun. But Proxima b’s relatively tight orbit puts it right in the middle of the habitable zone, because red dwarfs are so much cooler and dimmer than sun-like stars, team members said. Not much else is known about Proxima b, so it’s unclear just how hospitable the planet may be to life. In fact, there are reasons to be pessimistic on this front, noted Artie Hatzes, an astronomer at the Thuringian State Observatory in Germany.

Proxima Centauri fires off powerful flares, and the planet therefore experiences a much higher dose of high-energy X-ray radiation than Earth does, Hatzes, who is not part of the discovery team, wrote in an accompanying “News and Views” article in the same issue of Nature.

“Energetic particles associated with the flares may erode the atmosphere or hinder the development of primitive forms of life,” Hatzes wrote. “We also don’t know whether the exoplanet has a magnetic field, like Earth, which could shield it from the dangerous stellar radiation.”

But the higher X-ray flux is not a “showstopper” for life, Anglada-Escude and his colleagues said.

“None of this does exclude the existence of an atmosphere, or of [surface] water,” co-author Ansgar Reiners, a professor at the University of Göttingen’s Institute of Astrophysics in Germany, said during Tuesday’s news conference.

How Proxima Centauri behaved in the distant past is more relevant to the newfound planet’s potential habitability than current radiation levels are, Reiners added.

“What is more interesting is the history of the planet — whether in the early ages, the young ages, of this planet the star was so active, and the star emitted so much high-energy radiation, that it blew away the atmosphere and may have blown away the water also,” he said.

Other aspects of the planet’s history also have a bearing on just how wet Proxima b may be. For example, if the alien world formed far from the star but then migrated inward, it is likely water-rich; if it formed near its present position, it likely started out much drier, study team members said. (But even this latter scenario doesn’t preclude the existence of large amounts of water on Proxima b, Anglada-Escude stressed; comet and/or asteroid strikes could deliver the substance, as apparently happened here on Earth, he said.)

Tidally locked planets were once regarded as inhospitable to life — baked too hot on the star-facing side, and freezing cold on the dark side. But recent research suggests that such worlds may indeed be habitable; winds in their atmospheres could distribute heat, smoothing out temperature extremes.

And if Proxima b is potentially habitable, life-forms have a long time to gain a foothold there: Red dwarfs keep burning for trillions of years, in contrast to stars like the sun, which die after 10 billion years or so.

“Proxima Centauri will exist for several hundreds or thousands of times longer than the sun,” Hatzes wrote in his “News and Views” piece. “Any life on the planet could still be evolving long after our sun has died.”

The sun is 4.6 billion years old. Proxima Centauri is thought to be slightly older — perhaps 4.9 billion years or so, study team members said.

Searching for life

Proxima b likely does not “transit,” or cross the face of, its host star from Earth’s perspective, Anglada-Escude and his colleagues said.

That characteristic will make it tougher to study Proxima b further; astronomers can learn a lot about the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets by studying the starlight that passes through them. (NASA’s $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in late 2018, will use this method to look for possible signs of life in the atmospheres of nearby alien worlds.)

But Proxima b is close enough to Earth that scientists may soon be able to image it directly. Indeed, it should be possible to resolve the planet (separately from its host star) using a telescope with an aperture of 11.5 feet (3.5 meters), provided that the scope is outfitted with some advanced technology, such as a starlight-blocking coronagraph, Reiners said. (For perspective, NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope has an aperture of 7.9 feet, or 2.4 m.)

“We are quite far from it right now, but physics allows us to do it,” he said. “And then, you can study the light coming from the planet itself, and that gives you the opportunity to learn about the atmosphere spectroscopically or photometrically, or whatever you want.”

A trip to Proxima b?

Proxima b is also a prime target for a potential up-close visit by a future space probe.

This past April, scientists and engineers announced the $100 million Breakthrough Starshot project, which aims to develop the technology required to accelerate tiny, sail-equipped “nanocraft” to 20 percent the speed of light using powerful lasers.

Breakthrough Starshot team members said they hope to eventually launch flotillas of such postage-stamp-size probes to Alpha Centauri — a binary star system about 4.37 light-years from the sun. (In 2012, incidentally, astronomers analyzing HARPS data announced the discovery of a roughly Earth-size world around the star Alpha Centauri B, but later work suggested that the putative planet does not actually exist.)

Spacecraft traveling at 20 percent the speed of light could make the trip to Alpha Centauri in about two decades, as opposed to thousands of years for conventionally powered probes.

Proxima Centauri lies just 0.24 light-years from Alpha Centauri, and is regarded by some scientists as part of the latter system — so Breakthrough Starshot team members are recalibrating possible mission profiles a bit now.

“With today’s announcement, we now know that there’s at least one planet, the one orbiting Proxima Centauri, that has some characteristics similar to the Earth,” Pete Worden, chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, said during a news conference today.

“Over the next decade, we will work with experts here at ESO and elsewhere to get as much information as possible about the Proxima Centauri planet, perhaps as noted, even including whether it might bear life, prior to launching mankind’s first probe towards the star,” Worden added. “We also hope to obtain similar data about the other nearby stars, Alpha Centauri A and B.”

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on

Fashion statement: Jared Leto


He’s spent months staying in character and donning The Joker’s iconic green hair whilst filming new movie Suicide Squad.

And now it seems the colour is something Jared Leto holds close to his heart as he flaunted his quirky style once again on arrival at the film’s London premiere in an eye-catching green coat.

Never one to shy away from pushing the envelope with his questionable fashion, the 44-year-old Oscar-winner continued his wacky ensemble with a pair of ankle bashing pink trousers.

Read more:

Pope Francis Warns Catholics This Not Good Time To Bother God (


VATICAN CITY—Saying it was probably a good idea to give Him some space for the next little while, Pope Francis warned Catholic worshippers this week that now is not the best time to bother God, sources confirmed. “God has a lot on His plate right now and these last couple weeks have been especially crazy for Him, so I strongly urge everyone to just hold off with any requests for divine guidance for the time being until everything blows over,” said the pontiff, asking the faithful to just take his word and trust that, at least for the next few days, they should simply make do without the Lord at their side. “Honestly, until I tell you otherwise, I’d say you should probably just keep your prayers to yourself. Feel free to talk to your priest about whatever’s on your mind, or you can always reach out to the Virgin Mary—she’s around. But for now, let’s just plan on leaving God be. Okay?” Pope Francis added that if the matter was truly urgent, Catholics could give their message to him and he would pass it along to God, but stated that he could not be held responsible for however God reacts.

What Would Joseph Campbell Say About Donald Trump?


The executive producer of “The Power of Myth” reflects on Campbell’s teachings and how they apply to the hero’s journey that Trump claims he’s on as he tries to win the White House.

Like so many others, I’ve been puzzling over the Trump phenomenon for months. It seems like every journalist, pundit, psychiatrist, psychologist and armchair psychologist has something to say about the man. Understandably, they are trying to figure out what kind of person he is and why he is so popular with millions of Americans, including nearly half of the Republican Party.

My own interest is undergirded by the work and ideas of the late Joseph Campbell, a foremost interpreter of world mythologies and author of The Hero With a Thousand Faces. It was said of Campbell that “he could make the bones of folklore and anthropology live,” as millions of viewers would learn in watching the classic PBS series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. [Disclosure: I knew Campbell from my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught for 35-plus years. Many years later I served as executive producer of the Campbell-Moyers series.]

Campbell’s gift was to interpret the themes and forces underlying myths, stories and legends and how they play out in our lives. He illuminated the interior pathways of the mind which guide human behavior and action — a psychological roadmap within each of us which is nonetheless dark and mysterious to most of us.

One of the dominant highways on that inner map is the Hero’s Journey. The hero appears as a universal character in all cultures, everywhere, throughout human history, in myths and legends. It is so universal a theme that Campbell, along with other scholars and psychologists, called it an “archetype.”

According to Campbell, the hero emerges from humble beginnings to undertake a journey fraught with trials and suffering. He or she survives those ordeals and returns to the community bearing a gift — a “boon,” as Campbell called it — in the form of a message from which people can learn and benefit. So, properly, the hero is an exceptional person who gives his life over to a purpose larger than himself and for the benefit of others. Campbell had often lamented our failure as human beings “to admit within ourselves the carnivorous, lecherous fever” that seems endemic to our species. “By overcoming the dark passions,” he told Moyers, “the hero symbolizes our ability to control the irrational savage within us.”

Drawn to Campbell’s work, George Lucas invited him to Skywalker Ranch to share his insights into Star Wars. The two became friends, and it was at Skywalker in the mid-1980s that we taped most of the conversation that became the six-part PBS series. Campbell grew animated as he talked about how Lucas “has put the newest and most powerful spin” to the classic story of the hero: “It’s what Goethe said in Faust but which Lucas has dressed in modern idiom — the message that technology is not going to save us. Our computers, our tools, our machines are not enough… We have to rely on our intuition, our true being.” He admired Luke Skywalker for finding within himself “the resources of character to meet his destiny.” Furthermore, Campbell said:

I think that Star Wars is a valid mythological perspective, and the problem of it is that the system and the state are the machines. Is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity? Humanity comes not from the machine, but from the heart.

Darth Vader is an expression of the state and the system. [Darth Vader] isn’t thinking or living in terms of humanity. He is living in terms of the system [the dark side — which Carl Jung, the psychologist, would call “the shadow”].

This is a threat to our life. We all face it. We all operate in our society in relation to a system. Now, is this system going to eat you up and relieve you of your humanity, or are you going to be able to use the system for human purposes? …. Luke Skywalker is the hero, living as a human being within the system.

You see, this thing up here [he points to his brain], this consciousness thinks it’s running the shop. It’s a secondary organ. It’s a secondary organ of a total human being, and it must not put itself in control. It must submit and serve the humanity of the body.

A myth is a metaphor, explaining one thing in terms of another. In this case, our politics and politicians are “the government, the state, the system, the machine.” Our leaders in Washington are “the elites” who have long thought they are running the show. But our leaders have not been listening to the whole body, the body politic, the heart and soul of America.

Framing this campaign in the Campbell construct, Trump casts himself as Luke Skywalker fighting the inhumane system. He says he wants to  destroy it and  replace it with whatever he alone envisions — again and again he says, in effect, “I Am The Man.” His supporters and followers get it. They project the hero image in their own psyche onto Trump.

But does this make Trump a hero? Hardly. There is nothing he has said or done that suggests he wants to use the system for human purposes.

Let’s look at his own narrative, as he sees it:

Donald was a humble boy, not born in great luxury. He was not rich, or at least not the richest in his own eyes. His father was a success but only in Queens, the poor relative of Manhattan — and Trump sets out to conquer it.

He meets obstacles on the way, but prevails. Donald Trump — always a winner. To accomplish this, he has sacrificed — as he sees it, a sacrifice as great as losing a son in war. His sacrifice has been to make billions from building a business. So what if his successful father staked him in the beginning with capital to help make his journey easier and more comfortable? The elder’s sacrifice doesn’t count in the Trump version of his narrative, as it does in Star Wars.

Now Trump says he wants serve a higher purpose, to give his life to something bigger than himself — to the country, to history — by winning the presidency. If he prevails, he will show his country how to be great again by also winning. The message he brings back to his people: Everyone in Washington is stupid or corrupt. America should be like me, like Donald Trump.

No doubt many of Trump’s followers hate the system he’s fighting, one in which technology and trade have beaten them down, have made them losers. In their eyes Trump is a winner. He presents his own successes as a gift that others could enjoy if they elect him: his third wife, the fairest of them all — a virtual mannequin on which to hang his manhood; his children, who appear to be constructed by highly paid artists to make them seem perfect and who are following in their father’s own perfect footsteps, starting at the top; and, finally, his buildings all over the world — the most gilded (if not always the tallest), and bearing his name in capital letters.

But the truth is there is no hero there. Trump is the very personification of the system that enabled him to win — a white, wealthy, powerful male who dominates everything in his orbit, the white supremacist writ large who would make America over in his own violent image.

So the question arises: Is Trump, then, Darth Vader? It’s tempting to answer yes. Campbell said that “when the mask of Darth Vader is removed, you see an unformed man, one who has not developed as a human individual. What you see is a strange and pitiful sort of undifferentiated face.” When we look at Trump, we have to ask: Where is the humanity?

But Donald Trump is not Darth Vader. He may actually be worse. Darth Vader knows better than to want to destroy the system and set out instead to harness it to his purpose. Trump is on no hero’s journey. His is a journey of self-destruction, hate and cruelty. Unlike the hero who serves humanity, Trump is simultaneously serving his own self-destructive “dark side” while calling forth America’s dark side — bullies obsessed with money, power and materialistic success, absorbed with their own hubris and empire. Instead of trying to improve the system and make it better for all, he is trying to blow it up. The alternative he offers would be chaos.

Despite all of its flaws and failings, our democratic system has produced some of the best expressions of positive human effort and ideals so far in history. Most Americans want our government to work and we want to make it work better — but not by destroying it. We want to win over the dysfunctions of the system. We want to get our country back in order to get it going again — in the right direction, serving most of the people, most of the time. If only “the elites” — Republicans and Democrats and independents — would hear what the majority of Americans on all sides are saying, Trump would suddenly be irrelevant, exposed as Darth Vader was in the final scenes of Star Wars — a puny and pathetic farce.

As this campaign makes abundantly clear, no hero is going to swoop in to save us. We have to be our own heroes.

Joan Konner is Dean Emerita of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. A long-time producer of documentaries, she was executive producer of the popular PBS series, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth.

TNT: The Power Within You


Many years ago, I was given this book. I was just starting a career & was nervous. This book gave me a roadmap, easy to follow, which got me started and has served me for many years. I recently hit a negative period in life, so I re-read it again, with WONDERFUL results. This book gets you ON TRACK and keeps you there. I think it is not “one of”, but THE BEST self-help book ever written…PERIOD.

By Kip Walton on March 19, 2002 (