Frédéric Chopin – Prelude in E-Minor (op.28 no. 4)

Frédéric Chopin-Prelude in E-Minor (op.28 no. 4)

Played by: Aldona Dvarionaite

Fryderyk Chopin (Polish: Fryderyk [Franciszek] Chopin, sometimes Szopen; French: Frédéric [François] Chopin;March 1, 1810 — October 17, 1849) was a Polish virtuoso pianist and piano composer of the Romantic period. He is widely regarded as the greatest Polish composer, and one of the most influential composers for piano in the 19th century.

Chopin was a genius of universal appeal. His music conquers the most diverse audiences. When the first notes of Chopin sound through the concert hall there is a happy sigh of recognition. All over the world men and women know his music. They love it. They are moved by it. Yet it is not “Romantic music” in the Byronic sense. It does not tell stories or paint pictures. It is expressive and personal, but still a pure art. Even in this abstract atomic age, where emotion is not fashionable, Chopin endures. His music is the universal language of human communication. When I play Chopin I know I speak directly to the hearts of people!

Chopin’s music for the piano combined a unique rhythmic sense (particularly his use of rubato), frequent use of chromaticism, and counterpoint. This mixture produces a particularly fragile sound in the melody and the harmony, which are nonetheless underpinned by solid and interesting harmonic techniques. He took the new salon genre of the nocturne, invented by Irish composer John Field, to a deeper level of sophistication. Three of his twenty-one nocturnes were only published after his death in 1849, contrary to his wishes.He also endowed popular dance forms, such as the Polish mazurka and the waltz, Viennese Waltz, with a greater range of melody and expression. Chopin was the first to write ballades and scherzi as individual pieces. Chopin also took the example of Bach’s preludes and fugues, transforming the genre in his own preludes.

Chopin was born in the village of Żelazowa Wola, in the Duchy of Warsaw, to a Polish mother and French-expatriate father and came to be regarded as a child-prodigy pianist. In November 1830, at the age of twenty, Chopin went abroad. After the suppression of the Polish 1830–31 Uprising, he became one of the many expatriates of the Polish Great Emigration. In Paris he made a comfortable living as composer and piano teacher, while giving few public performances. A great Polish patriot, in France he used the French version of his given name and, to avoid having to rely on Imperial Russian documents, eventually became a French citizen.After some ill-fated romantic involvements with Polish ladies, from 1837 to 1847 he conducted a turbulent relationship with the French writer George Sand (Aurore Dudevant). Always in frail health, at 39 in Paris he succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis.

Chopin’s extant compositions all include the piano, predominantly alone or as a solo instrument among others. Though his music is technically demanding, its style emphasizes nuance and expressive depth rather than technical virtuosity. Chopin invented new musical forms such as the ballade,and made major innovations to existing forms such as the piano sonata, waltz, nocturne, étude, impromptu, and prelude. His works are mainstays of Romanticism in 19th-century classical music. His mazurkas and polonaises remain the cornerstone of Polish national classical music.
[from Wikipedia]


SF's Historic Fort Miley

SF’s Historic Fort Miley
by Suzanne Gordon on September 6, 2016 (

It is Tuesday afternoon, at three o’clock and four unlikely students of “mindfulness meditation” are relearning how to breathe. Instruction in being more mindful is everywhere these days, particularly in the Bay Area. So I could have been sitting through a similar training in Berkeley with a group of 60-something women with crinkling faces, flowing gray hair, and a history of New Age enthusiasms. Or I could have been on Valencia Street in San Francisco, epicenter of that city’s techie take-over, where whiz kids in their twenties and thirties are coping with long hours in Silicon Valley at a studio with a website called

The 12-week mindfulness training I am attending takes place in a distinctly different setting, however. It’s held in a corner conference room in Building Number 8, the Behavioral Health Building, at The San Francisco VA Health Care System at Fort Miley and led by clinical psychologist Susanna Fryer and psychology intern Ian Ramsey. The group of veterans in their fifties and sixties who’ve come to Fort Miley are not here only for an intellectual or spiritual exercise. For some of these men, becoming better able to control their thoughts and anxieties through mindfulness is literally a matter of life or death.

Dressed in spanking fresh jeans, and starched white shirt, Harvey holds himself steel rod straight. He speaks deliberately, each word clipped, sharpened as if surrounded by a barbed wire and warning signs advising people to keep their distance.  His cross to bear is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), also depression and ten years of being homeless.

Ronald, an African American veteran is almost his opposite, supple, fluid, and easy with jokes. Yet, he has experienced similar struggles with homelessness, poverty drugs, and divorce

James has suffered for years from a panic disorder.  He will find himself in a supermarket or on a bus and suddenly, he is overwhelmed with anxiety.  He feels he has to get out or he will quite literally die.  There have been times when he has run out of the room screaming in fear.  These panic attacks have been with him since he was 22 and was raped during a hazing ritual on a ship when he was in the Navy.  He is now in his late fifties.  For over thirty years he has self-medicated with drugs and alcohol.  He lost job after job and lived on the streets.

Finally, there is Jose who is a Vietnam vet who has PTSD and is plagued by nightmares and has trouble with sleeping.  A divorce tipped him over the edge and after 20 years managing without treatment, he went into a spiral of alcohol abuse that led to homelessness before he finally came to the The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for help.

All of these men struggle just to get from day to day.  When they talk about intrusive thoughts, it’s not about the boss who wants them to work morning noon and night or what diet they should choose, Paleo or gluten free.  The things that are a struggle for me – impatience standing in line at the supper market or a ten minute wait on hold with some clerk at my doctor’s office, are not just some of life’s minor, albeit often infuriating, frustrations.  For these men, they are triggers that can send them over a line into a tailspin from which it can take years to recover.

When they talk about difficult relationships, “negative people,” as Ronald describes them, they are talking about a whole lot of people who have ripped them off (or who maybe they have ripped off) who have knives, and guns, and needles, and bottles into which they can disappear for months at a time.

In many media articles on the Veterans Health Administration, reporters talk about veterans’ frustration with wait times.   Those of us who do not have these problems, naturally assume, ‘oh these guys were frustrated because they had to wait weeks, months to get help.’  And maybe that was the case.  But I have learned that, to someone with PTSD, or a traumatic brain injury, or panic disorder or all three, an intolerable wait can be 15 minutes, not 15 weeks.  It could be standing in line for five minutes not waiting for an appointment for five months.

Susanna Fryer, who facilitates mindfulness-based stress management groups at the SFVAHCS explains that her work is largely based on pioneering program development by mindfulness advocates including Jon Kabat- Zinn, Zindel Segal and others.  The Fort Miley programs, (programs which are available at many VHAs across the country) which combine mindfulness and cognitive-behavior therapy principles, usually have eight to ten veterans per group.  Unlike private sector programs run on a fee-for-service basis, the VHA’s will continue even if some vets drop out.  Not all veterans who are referred to the mindfulness program have mental illnesses, Fryer adds.  Some with heart disease, for example, or dealing with cancer treatment, may be referred to lower their stress levels. Others may be in chronic pain.

Whatever their reason for coming, mindfulness training is part of an integrated approach that includes other therapies. The men in the room may have done Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychosis, or PTSD or depression or anxiety.  They have done group therapy or had an in-patient hospitalization.  Some are also taking psychiatric medications.

The mindfulness stress management group, Fryer explains, can complement other treatments.  In sessions that build upon one another, veterans learn, and begin to practice, skills that can be used in their daily lives to help them stay connected socially, manage stress, and create healthy habits that will help them be less reactive in ways that can lead to problems at home or at work.

The idea here is to begin accepting the thoughts that intrude as you concentrate on breath in, breath out, eating a raisin, or learning not to focus on people whom you can hear talking through the open window.  The goal is to help patients learn to distinguish between the points of the triangle that Fryer always draws on the conference room’s whiteboard before she begins each session. At the apex of the triangle is the word “thoughts.”  At the base, the line connecting to the left edge leads to a point at the base where she writes the word “feelings”  Across the bottom another line links feelings to “behavior.”  Thoughts produce feelings –- anxiety, depression, anger — which in turn lead to behaviors that can be destructive and dangerous – to ourselves and others.  Mindfulness techniques which teach people to tune in to their present-moment experiences can help people understand that a thought is not reality and that feelings don’t have to lead to destructive behavior.

For example, in one of the sessions I attend, she asks the men to imagine a situation.  “You’re walking down the street and someone cuts you off.  What might be the thought that runs through your head?”

“Get out of my space,” Ronald says. “What a jerk, I should have brought my gun.”

“I should tell him off,” Harvey volunteers.

“This person doesn’t know you,” Ian Ramsey suggests.

“Let’s workshop each of these thoughts,” Fryer proposes.  “What are you feeling when you think, ‘get out of my space?’”

“Agitated, angry, I feel nervous when people get in my space, nauseous even.” Ronald explains.

“Retaliation,” Harvey adds.

“Like you’re entitled?” Fryer probes,” This is my space.”

The men continue to explore, discussing the rudeness they see everywhere today in San Francisco, the sense that they constantly need to be on the defensive, and even to act to defend themselves.  As they go deeper, they recognize and discuss the stress response, the lingering impact it has on their mind and body.  After further discussion, Fryer asks them to consider the cycle – something happens, a thought emerges, and then influences what they feel and do.  “With mindful awareness of your thoughts,” she reminds them,” you have other choices.”

“That’s what I like about this class,” James says,” I’ve got choices I never had before.  I get to think about things not just react.  I was at the pharmacy and had to wait and line and got all agitated, now I can breathe through it, instead of reacting like I used to, storming off, furious.”

Fryer introduces the acronym HALT, to discuss common stress triggers and what happens when people are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired and about how to apply the mindfulness skills from the group to cope when you’re in an agitated state.  The men nod in agreement.  Jose says that sometimes he now says a prayer to relax himself.  Harvey goes back to the visualization they have all learned, where you let negative thoughts, like leaves, float down stream, until they are far, far away.”

Fryer affirms their progress, explaining how the quick, judging brain works to send us off on a negative spiral, making assumptions about the person who cut us off, didn’t respond to our needs, or wasn’t quick enough to get us our meds.  “At the end of the day, we don’t even know if people meant what we think they meant?”

“Or even if they did, is our response worth it?” Ramsey asks.

The group continues discussing how to work with thoughts in a mindful space to cultivate non-judgmental awareness.  “This being human is a guest house.  Every morning a new arrival.  A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.  Welcome and entertain them all.  Even if they are a crowd of sorrows” Fryer reads from a poem by Rumi called the “The Guest House” commonly recited in mindfulness circles.

Ronald returns to the struggle of waiting on lines, for example, at the check out counter of the supermarket. After eight sessions of mindfulness work – not only in these weekly hour -long sessions but through homework and practicing mindfulness techniques– he explains that he is trying to get patient with his impatience.  He is making strides.

“That’s why we call it practice,” Ramsey says. “That’s why we are here.”

Journalist Suzanne Gordon is writing a book about VA healthcare.  Check her website,

“Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America” by Robert S. Ellwood, Jr.


By Steven H Propp on September 17, 2009 (

This book is a fairly brief (about 300 pgs) survey of various modern religious/spiritual groups originating in America. Many of the groups are labeled as “cults” by the authors, which they define as, “a group offering an alternative to the dominant spiritual tradition, which is small, has authoritative and charismatic leadership, offers powerful subjective experiences which meet personal needs, is separatist, and claims a relation to a legitimating tradition.”

Groups surveyed include the Theosophical Society, Anthroposophy, Rosicrucianism, the “I AM” movement, the Church Universal and Triumphant, the “Liberal Catholic Church,” Spiritualist churches, Flying Saucer groups, the Aetherius Society, Gurdjieff groups, Scientology, Wicca, Satanism, the Self-Realization Fellowship, Transcendental Meditation, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Meher baba, Eckankar, the Unification Church, the Black Muslims, as well as actual religous groups such as Baha’i, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism. They also present a “Reading Selection” (i.e., an excerpt from one of the writings of the movement) at the end of most chapters, which really helps give one a genuine “flavor” of the group.

Most of the groups receive only a few pages of survey, but the authors include a lot of information in those pages. The revised edition published in 1988 is somewhat “dated” now, but is still useful for students of such groups (although you will obviously have to obtain more detailed treatments of any group you have a particular interest in).

Kurt Vonnegut’s Call on Humanity to Save the Planet From Four Decades Ago Is Just as Timely as Ever

Photo Credit: Everett Collection /

“I think you should devote your lives to creating something which this planet has never had. The planet will die, if it doesn’t get it now.”

The following is an excerpt from the new edition of If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? by Kurt Vonnegut (Seven Stories, 2016): 

The State University of New York at Albany,
May 20, 1972

It is nice of you to have me here.

I have been asked to make an announcement by the management: If anyone cheated in the process of getting a degree, now is the time to confess it and leave quietly. If you don’t confess it now, you will be haunted by bogeymen for the rest of your lives—and by a very angry Santa Claus.

I never graduated from college, but I am sick about things I did in high school. I, too, was invited to confess. And did I? No. That is one of the reasons I have heebie-jeebies all the time.

Another reason I have the heebie-jeebies is that I am almost sure we have been invaded by flying saucer creatures from the planet Pluto. That will be the big news in this speech, I think—about the invasion from Pluto and what Earthlings can do about it. But I’d like to save that for a little later on.

My brother works here. He used to work in a bloomer factory. It was a very good job. He was pulling down twenty-five thousand a year.

That isn’t really true. I just like that joke so much. Actually my brother is a scientist, and always has been—and an Earthling, too, as far as I know.

He works in your department of Atmospheric Sciences. You mustn’t picket him or blow him up. Dr. Bernard Vonnegut is not in war work. He is trying to find peace-time uses for thunder and lightning. I made sure he had tenure before I agreed to speak.

Bernard and I used to work for General Electric over in Schenectady. I have worked for several large corporations in my life. This is the first time I have knowingly worked for Standard Oil.

I am an exemplar. I would not have been invited here, if I were not exemplary. I am in Who’s Who. I am costing about what a used 1968 Volkswagen would cost—with a busted tape deck and good rubber all around.

I will show you today what Diogenes had such trouble finding—an honest man. I am perhaps the second honest man ever to come to Albany. My brother was the first. He moved in from Delmar about four months ago. He can tell you the truth about the sciences, which are killing us all. I will tell you the truth about the arts, which would like to drive us crazy.

You may have been told at the great institution of higher learning that the arts are good for everybody—or at any rate have no harmful side effects. That isn’t true. One of the principal uses of the arts in this and many other modern countries is to confuse the uneducated and the powerless and the poor.

I am talking about expensive arts now, tremendously official arts—and not the little tunes and poems and pictures and stories which the downtrodden select or create for their own amusement.
I am talking about the arts which are supported by dictators and social climbers and multimillionaires.

I have heard powerful men on both sides of the Iron Curtain praising the arts. I have been in their museums and concert balls. I have seen the common people attempting to appreciate the art treasures said to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or rubles or what have you. The common people always look waterlogged. They seem to have double pneumonia. They swoon with apathy.

This is what is supposed to happen.

The purpose of the museums and concert halls and theaters and public statuary and so on is to persuade the common people that they are unworthy of holding power or making big money—because their minds and spirits are inferior.

Proof of their inferiority is the fact that they are incapable of appreciating great art.

The rich and powerful are even more bored by the arts than the common people. One has only to attend the opera in any country but Italy to know this is so.

But they have to pretend to appreciate the arts in order to demonstrate their natural superiority, since they can scarcely demonstrate it in any other way. And I pity them. I am a compassionate man. How much fun can it be, really, to pretend to love Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer day in and day out, year in and year out? How much fun can it be to pretend to love the German opera—or War and Peace, which you haven’t read, even though you’re a Russian?

How much fun can it be, day in and day out, to pretend to admire the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Albany Mall?

I assume most of you are sufficiently familiar with modern art history to know what I mean by “the Albany Mall.” Then again, perhaps architecture isn’t thought of as being one of the fine arts at the State University of New York at Albany.

That would certainly be understandable. My brother has gunports instead of windows in his laboratory. He turned on his Bunsen burner, and Pepsi-Cola came out.

Be that as it may: I like the fine arts all right, but I doubt that they are any finer than a lot of other human games. And I deny most bitterly that persons claiming to love the fine arts are necessarily fine people. The emperor Nero was a patron of the arts. So was Herman Goering. So were so many of the American economic robber barons who cut the guts out of what was left of the American dream after the Civil War.

There is some small chance, I suppose, that some works of art are closer to God or Truth or what have you than some other things which men have made. I am a Unitarian, so I wouldn’t know. I have no handles on God or Truth.

I do know something about the American dream, since that is what brought my ancestors from Germany to Indiana so long ago. And I can name things men and women have done which are closer to the American dream than any book or statue or painting or building or song. These are the acts of social justice.

We have plenty of art, and important art, too. I will guess that one American in twenty has a love for the arts which is joyful and natural and genuine. I am one of those persons, and had to get out of Indianapolis on that account.

And that tiny part of our population which appreciates the arts is well taken care of, is often appalled by how much good stuff there is to read and see and listen to. We have plenty of art in America.

It is social justice which is in gruesomely short supply.

Can the arts distract some people from social justice? Yes—they can. Consider the case of Thomas Jefferson, our third president, the author of our Declaration of Independence. He died on the Fourth of July, by the way. Nobody ever wrote more eloquently about freedom and fair play and the natural rights of every human being than Jefferson.

He was also fond of architecture and the pleasant things which can happen in well-designed dwellings when labor is cheap and tractable. So he kept human slaves until he was an old man. He let them go at last, but he was old by then.

Let us forgive Thomas Jefferson. He had a weakness for the finer things in life. A lot of us do. What’s wrong with a little slavery?

Dear friends—I have told you that the arts often play an insidious part in class warfare.

And you have said to yourselves perhaps, “Well—this is fairly interesting, maybe, but it’s irrelevant. Our present king doesn’t even pretend to be interested in the arts. Neither do his buddies Bebe Rebosa and John Mitchell and Billy Graham and so on.”

The point is well taken. You may have noticed that more and more people are rising to the top of our society who are not only indifferent to the arts, but to jokes and cheerful sex, and to all sorts of human playfulness. I have noticed this, too. And this is what has led me to believe that flying saucer creatures from Pluto have invaded us.

Pluto is a suspicious and prideful and secretive and warlike planet, with a technology far in advance of our own. My guess is that Plutonians began to arrive and reproduce and hold jobs in our government just as the Second World War was ending. Our last three presidents may have been Plutonians. Most of them, however, are in the Pentagon.

We would perhaps welcome them, if it weren’t for their humorlessness and pitilessness, and their blather about national honor—and for their love of war.

Also they are not respectful of the Constitution of the United States of America, the most exuberant work of art in the history of this planet. So let us ask ourselves today, at this long-overdue puberty ceremony: “What can Earthlings do?”

He can’t beat the Plutonians militarily. They have all the weapons. A Plutonian, almost by definition, is a person with a weapon. Governor Wallace was shot by a Plutonian.

We could try to beat them politically. But Plutonians engage in power politics and nothing but power politics from junior high school on. What Earthling could do that? Let us face it: an Earthling’s sense of humor and fascination with sex makes it impossible for him or her to concentrate seriously on anything, even his or her survival, for more than an hour at a time.

Our best hope, it seems to me, lies in our banding together in order to be proud of being Earthlings. The Plutonians, like all invaders, want the natives to be ashamed of their own ideals and dreams. We might choose as our motto: “Earthlings are beautiful.”

Or we might start more modestly with: “Americans are beautiful.” We could go planetary later on. Americans aren’t beautiful now, of course, because of the Plutonians among us. But there is a chance that we can change that now.

I propose a great adventure to you. That is something every good graduation speaker is expected to do. When I graduated from high school, the speaker told us about the great adventures we could have in science—especially in plastics and polarized light. I wound up in the infantry instead. Almost everybody did.

I propose a better adventure than polarized light or the infantry or plastics or the arts or the exploration of outer space or the conquest of cancer or athlete’s foot. I think you should devote your lives to creating something which this planet has never had. The planet will die, if it doesn’t get it now.

You must create an American people. There never has been one. You must create one now. We must create one now. This is a matter of life or death.

When I spoke of the Plutonians and the Earthlings, I was of course alluding to the murderous half and the healing half of every American I have ever known. If I don’t mention the good and evil in foreigners, that is because I don’t know doodley-poop about foreigners. I’ve seldom been far from home. Get a world traveler next time.

One thing I have noticed, though, staying close to home, is that those who rule us, nearly two-hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, do not want an American people to be born. To them, our hatred for one another, our unwillingness to touch one another, have been votes in the ballot box and money in the bank.

I will tell you an embarrassing story about myself, about my own one-hundred-per-cent-American unwillingness to touch another human being, even a close relative. I adopted a boy when he was fourteen. He was my nephew. When he was twenty-one, I congratulated him on being a man, and he said to me, “Do you know you have never hugged me?”

What a hell of a thing to say.

I didn’t want him to think I was a homosexual.

At the very core of my American education was a dread of any gesture which might be interpreted by the football coach as being even vaguely homosexual. The safest thing to do was to never touch anybody—not even Mom. Or maybe especially not Mom.

I was also taught that American men seldom cry, except when the flag goes by. I couldn’t even cry when that boy told me I had never hugged him. I was also taught to fear words. Some words, I was taught, could never be spoken at an assembly like this without making us all feel ashamed and diseased. They had to do with sex and excretion. I was taught the American fear of germs, which is more frantic than the worst nightmare Louis Pasteur ever had. But the fear of germs was extended to strangers, too. My parents and my hygiene teacher told me, in effect, “Beware of strangers or anything touched by strangers. Or you’re liable to get syphilis or leprosy or the bubonic plague.”

I look back on all the taboos that I was taught, that everybody was taught, and I see now that they were parts of a great swindle. Their purpose was to make Americans afraid to get close to one another—to organize.

It was even taboo to discuss the American economic system and its bizarre methods of disturbing wealth. I learned that at my mother’s knee. God rest her soul. God rest her knee. She taught me never to say anything impolite about the neighborhood millionaire. She didn’t even want me to wonder out loud how the hell he ever got to control that much wealth.

We must learn to deal with one another more frankly and openly, even humorously. But, more important than that, we must learn to touch. If we are to become a strong and decent people, we must become cousins now—eccentric cousins maybe, but cousins all the same. Blood is thicker than water. Let us learn from the Mafia. It is time, incidentally, that the white people in this country acknowledged that the so-called black people are actually blood relatives of theirs. This is easily proved.

But this is no time to marvel and cackle over family trees. This is a time for us to become excited about being members of the family of man.

Does anyone have nerve enough to touch a stranger near him or her now? Even an old person? Ambulances are waiting outside. First aid stations have been set up in white nylon tents, in case you need oxygen or want to want to wash your hands in Lysol.

If an American people is to be born during the tragedy of the war in Vietnam, it is going to have to be a personal, visceral adventure.

I do not apologize for making this suggestion.

We must become a family in order to take care of one another the way families do. Now, nearly two hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, written by a man who owned human slaves, I think we understand that our politicians and millionaires can do very little for us, except to take our money. There are sound reasons for this, I’m sure. I mean to study economics some day.

Meanwhile, we must love one another and care for one another as best we can, and we must organize. You, our new generation of adults, must organize us.

And if our government persists in being as wrong-headed as it is today, you must threaten it with the only effective weapon the Earthlings have against the Plutonians, which is a general strike.

I have tried to preach pacifism today. If I were the White House preacher, I would try to make a Quaker out of Richard M. Nixon. That is how crazy I am.

Our history teaches us that we need not fear pacifism. It will not leave our nation defenseless. I was raised to be a pacifist, and so were most people my age. In the public schools of Indianapolis and in the public schools of all over the land, people my age were instructed when young to jeer at the nations of Europe for maintaining enormous standing armies, for wasting their substance on weapons and allowing generals and admirals to help decide what the nations would do next, where the energy and the money and people would go.

I learned my contempt for the military at the same place I learned to fear germ-laden strangers and symptoms of homosexuality and so on—in the public schools. “Every cloud has a silver lining,” as they say.

Well—all those yellow-bellied pacifists produced by the American public school system in the nineteen-thirties became a harrowingly effective army in the early forties, when we got into a war which seemed just.

As for preparing this country against an attack from anti-missile anti-missile anti-missiles. By developing an anti-missile anti-missile anti-missile anti-missile, I may be in the minority, but I think the American people should spend the money on hospitals and housing and schools and Ferris wheels instead.

Thank you, and good luck.

George Carlin’s newest release (from September 10, 2001)


George Denis Patrick Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic and author. Carlin was noted for his black comedy and his thoughts on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects. Wikipedia

September 5, 2016

What really distinguishes this work [“I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die”] from Mr. Carlin’s previous work is that it becomes totally unhinged from logic.  He was nothing if not a rigorous thinker, who made you laugh by finding his way through arguments that led to outrageous conclusions like his brief against the sanctity of life, zeroing in on exceptions (“Doesn’t apply to cancer cells, does it?  You rarely see a bumper sticker that says ‘Save the Tumors'”).
–Jason Zinoman, New York Times

Man On Cusp Of Having Fun Suddenly Remembers Every Single One Of His Responsibilities

GAITHERSBURG, MD—Local man Marshall Platt, 34, came tantalizingly close to kicking back and having a good time while attending a friend’s barbeque last night before remembering each and every one of his professional and personal obligations, backyard sources confirmed.

While cracking open his second beer as he chatted with friends over a relaxed outdoor meal, Platt was reportedly seconds away from letting go and enjoying himself when he was suddenly crushed by the full weight of work emails that still needed to be dealt with, looming deadlines for projects that would take a great deal of time and energy to complete, an upcoming wedding he had yet to buy airfare for because of an unresolved issue with his Southwest Rapid Rewards account, and phone calls that needed to be returned.

“It’s great to see you guys,” said the man who had been teetering on the brink of actually having fun and was now mentally preparing for a presentation that he had to give on Friday and compiling a list of bills that needed to be paid before the 7th. “This is awesome.”

“Anyone want another beer?” continued Platt as he reminded himself to pick up his Zetonna prescription. “Think I’m gonna grab one.”

Platt, who reportedly sunk into a distracted haze after coming to the razor’s edge of experiencing genuine joy, fully intended to go through the motions of talking with friends and appearing to have a good time, all while he mentally shopped for a birthday present for his mother, wracked his brain to remember if he had turned in the itemized reimbursement form from his New York trip to HR on time, and made a silent note to call his bank about a mysterious recurring $19 monthly fee that he had recently discovered on his credit card statement.

“Everything’s fine,” said the tense, mentally absent man whose girlfriend asked him what was wrong after his near-giddy buzz vanished and he remembered that he hadn’t called his aunt yet to check up on her after her surgery. “I’m having fun.”

According to sources, Platt tried to put his responsibility-laden thoughts out of his mind and loosen up by opening another beer but suddenly remembered a magazine subscription that needed to be renewed by Friday, a medical bill he thought might now be overdue, and the fact that he needed to do laundry by tonight or he would run out of clean socks and underwear.

“Who made this guac?” said the man who almost let himself take pleasure in the beautiful evening with his closest friends before he let his brain become consumed with thoughts about how he needs to move on from his current job but is putting off the work necessary to make the transition. “It’s delicious.”

While the barbeque’s host chatted with Platt about how excited he was to see the upcoming Superman movie, sources confirmed that all Platt could think about was the fact that his recently married sister was coming to town next weekend and was supposed to stay with him, which reminded him that he needed to clean his apartment, which reminded him he needed to buy extra bedding for his sister to sleep on, which reminded him that he had to make an after-work trip to Bed Bath & Beyond, which reminded him that he would be tired after work and wouldn’t want to go to Bed Bath & Beyond, which reminded him that he also needed to go to the grocery store because his sister would think he’s irresponsible if she saw his empty refrigerator, which reminded him that he and his sister aren’t as close as he’d like, which reminded him that his parents already had a house and two cars by the time they were his age, which reminded him that he’s been with his girlfriend for over five years and that while everything was going fairly well, he felt overwhelmed by the prospect of marriage and the mounting pressure to propose.

“Yeah, Man Of Steel looks good,” said a smiling Platt, who was only thinking about how he graduated from college over 10 years ago and still owed $86,000 in student loans. “Can’t wait to see it.”

Accounts confirmed the man nearly convinced himself that all his responsibilities would be taken care of in due time and that he should just relax when a friend mentioned a recent road trip he had taken with his wife, which prompted Platt to mull over the fact that he still needed to renegotiate the lease terms of his 2010 Jetta, a task he was delaying until he had a fender bender repaired.

In addition, Platt began thinking about the number of opened envelopes on his kitchen table, some of the contents of which, he remembered, were actually important and should be rechecked before he throws them away.

“Hey, I have to get going,” said the man who could barely recall anything that anyone at the gathering had said the entire evening. “Just have a couple things I need to get to tonight.”

“This was great, though,” he added.

It’s a Great Time for Virgins: Here Are 5 Fine Alternatives to Sex

Today’s virgins have more access to sexual satisfaction than ever before.

Photo Credit: CHAjAMP / Shutterstock

If you’re one of the many members of America’s youth desperate to ditch your virginity, you might want to rethink your priorities, because as some new research confirms, sex might not be as accessible for you as it was in years past.

According to a 2011 report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, virginity is on the rise. Twenty-seven percent of men ages 15 to 24 years old have never had any form of sexual contact with another person—oral, vaginal or anal. That statistic is up from the 22 percent of self-reported virgins back in 2002.

A separate study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior confirmed that millennials will have fewer sexual partners than the generations before them. A separate study conducted by online dating service Match found that 49 percent of 20-somethings have not had sex at all in the past year.

“This is a generation that has grown up with an awareness of HIV/AIDS,” Jeffrey Arnett, a research professor at Clark University and author of Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood, told Time. “When the boomers were in their heyday, that didn’t exist, and it seemed like free love was a good idea.” That’s not all bad, however. These days, young people are far more likely to use condoms than in generations past. Unsurprisingly, the teen pregnancy rate has decreased dramatically as well.

There’s also the added sexual hindrance of the commonality of young folks’ boomeranging back to their parents’ places. “You’re not going to bring a parade of partners through Mom’s basement,” Jean Twenge, a professor and researcher at San Diego State University, told Vice.

But if less sex sounds like a depressing stat, fear not. Because while it might not be the most popular trend, it could very well be the best time in history to not be having sex. Listed below are five fine alternatives to indulge in.

1. Outercourse

Conversations surrounding sex don’t begin and end at penetrative intercourse, not anymore at least. “Penetration of one’s body part into another’s body cavity is only one small part of being sexual,” Terri Vanderlinde, a board-certified practitioner in sexuality counseling, told AlterNet via email.

“Many people have fabulous and satisfying sexual encounters based on ‘outercourse.’” She also introduced us to the concept of “very erotic non-insertion sex,” abbreviated to VENIS. “Remember, ‘sex’ does not necessarily mean penetration, and ‘pleasure and satisfaction’ do not necessarily mean orgasm,” she added.

2. Masturbation

Adult industry marketing specialist Adella Curry reminds us that the conversation is starting to open itself up to everyone’s favorite alternative to partnered sex: masturbation. There are chatrooms, support groups, even advice columns on the subject, like Better Than The Hand. “Their mission is to de-shame male masturbation and create a safe place for guys to talk about what works and what doesn’t,” says Curry. Publications like Vice, Salon and AlterNet are here to offer detailed information on the subject.

Of course, we’ve got to give a nod to another masturbatory favorite: pornography. In 2015, Pornhub received 21.2 billion visits to its site. Its analytics team concluded that its audience spent a total of 4,392,486,580 hours watching porn. If sex isn’t on the table, you can always look to porn as an accessible alternative.

3. Virtual Relationships

Among the many bridges technology has helped gap, we can also thank it for introducing us to new forms of erotic entertainment. “You have people in their early 20s now, they grew up on the internet, and their first sexual experiences may have been virtual. Virtual sexuality is something they’re very well versed in,” says Stefan, owner of the camming social network MyGirlFund.

When we interviewed a woman named Stacy, a camming professional working on the site, she explained that many of her clients sign up to explore an otherwise embarrassing kink. Some do it to enjoy a no-strings-attached sexual relationship. And others, she says, do so by way of necessity. Stacy told us, “I think some of these guys are drawn into the digital relationship because they don’t feel comfortable with themselves. They don’t talk to women at all. This way, they get to.”

4. Virtual Sex

The virtual world has also begun to open itself up to new modes of sexuality. VR is becoming an increasingly popular porn niche where users can take claim in a sexuality that may not be “real” in the traditional sense, but sure enough feels like it.

“Sex is healthy, but sometimes the right partner is just not in your life for one reason or another,” says Daniel Peterson, the founder and CEO of “VR porn is the closest that technology has ever come to the real thing, and it gets better all the time. We hear many users commenting on the unexpected intimacy that they feel with the actors.”

5. Sex Toys… and Robots

Long gone are the days where masturbation was an activity accompanied only by some lotion and a box of tissues. Today’s sex toy market has ballooned into a multibillion-dollar industry. Blow job machines, iPod vibrators and full-blown sex robots are all on the menu. And while some of these toys may lean toward indulgence, many are designed for the sole purpose of bringing more orgasms into the bedroom.

Some sex therapists have even started prescribing vibrator u sage to women who have difficulty achieving orgasm. The new products on the market are increasingly targeted toward exploring new forms of sexual pleasure (more notably, in the realm of anal play), be it with a partner or on your own.


For those who aren’t satisfied with the new options available, hang tight. If you really want to have sex, you’ll get there, eventually. Life has a harsh way of reminding us that we don’t always get to call the shots. Sex will happen; you might just have to wait around until the opportunity presents itself.

Carrie Weisman is an AlterNet staff writer who focuses on sex, relationships and culture. Got tips, ideas or a first-person story? Email her.

SETI Investigates Unusual Radio Signal From Space


Follows close on mysterious discovery regarding fast radio bursts

by Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times (August 29, 2016)

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) institute announced Monday that it considers a radio signal detected by Russian astronomers a potential sign of intelligent inhabitants in a star system 94 light-years away.

“There are many other plausible explanations for this claimed transmission—including terrestrial interference. Without a confirmation of this signal, we can only say that it’s ‘interesting,’” wrote Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer for SETI, in a technical analysis.

Nonetheless, Shostak considered the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial origin. Analyzing the strength of the signal, he said it would have to have been sent by a civilization capable of generating at least a trillion watts in one shot. That’s comparable to the total energy consumption of humankind.

The signal seems to be coming from the star system HD 164595, which centers on a star of comparable size and brightness to our sun. It is known to have a Neptune-sized planet, though its tight orbit makes it unlikely to host life. But, Shostak noted, more habitable planets may yet be found in HD 164595.

The signal was picked up by the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, at the northern foot of the Caucasus Mountains. SETI will continue to monitor the star system with its Allen Telescope Array to see if there is any repeat of the signal.

It lasted longer than so-called “fast radio bursts” (FRBs), which last mere milliseconds. A total of 17 FRBs have been detected in the past eight years, though their origin also remains unknown.

A study published in the journal Nature in March by an international team of scientists revealed that FRBs are more mysterious than previously thought.

Previously, the bursts had been detected as single, non-repeating events coming from outside our galaxy. This led to the hypothesis that they originate in cataclysmic events, such as the collision of neutron stars, which would send shock-waves through space.

The researchers found, however, that 10 additional bursts followed FRB 121102 from the same location. The study states: “This unambiguously identifies FRB 121102 as repeating and demonstrates that its source survives the energetic events that cause the bursts.”

The study speculates that the source may be a young neutron star, but Shami Chatterjee, a Cornell University senior researcher who contributed to the study,said in a news release: “It seems we’ve broken this enigmatic phenomenon wide open.”

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8 Scientists Contemplate Place of Human Consciousness in Science

By , Epoch Times

The founders of quantum physics contemplated the philosophical implications of their findings. They were astounded that the thoughts of the observer seemed to influence the matter being observed. Principles believed to stabilize physical reality didn’t seem to apply.

The power of the human mind to influence physical reality has been recognized in various fields. For example, the effectiveness of placebo treatments has brought the role of human consciousness to bear on conventional modern medicine.

Dr. Robert Jahn served as an engineering dean at Princeton University while studying for decades the impact of human thought on the functioning of mechanical devices. In his book “Margins of Reality,” he reopens the questions once raised by Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, and other influential scientists—questions of human consciousness, which Jahn says modern students seem to pay less attention to than the physical data collected by these science greats.

Jahn, Planck, and Schrödinger are not the only scientists to have contemplated the role of human consciousness in science. Many have suggested that scientists must face the enigma and challenges of understanding consciousness for science to make it’s next big leap. Here are the views of eight scientists.

1. Max Planck, Founding Father of Quantum Mechanics

Max Planck
German physicist Max Planck, c. 1930. (Wikimedia Commons)

Planck is regarded as one of the founders of quantum mechanics. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918 for “the services he rendered to the advancement of Physics by his discovery of energy quanta,” according to the Nobel Prize website.

In “A Survey of Physical Theory,” Planck wrote: “All ideas we form of the outer world are ultimately only reflections of our own perceptions. Can we logically set up against our self-consciousness a ‘Nature’ independent of it? Are not all so-called natural laws really nothing more or less than expedient rules with which we associate the run of our perceptions as exactly and conveniently as possible?”

2. Erwin Schrödinger, Nobel Prize Winning Physicist

Erwin Schrödinger, 1933. (Nobel Foundation)

Erwin Schrödinger was a physicist and theoretical biologist. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933 with Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory,” according to the Nobel Prize website.

Jahn quotes Schrödinger: “Consciousness is that by which this world first becomes manifest, by which indeed, we can quite calmly say, it first becomes present; that the world consists of the elements of consciousness.”

3. Robert G. Jahn, Princeton Engineering Dean

Professor of aerospace science and dean emeritus of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University Robert G. Jahn began studying psychic phenomena some 30 years ago.

Jahn suggested in “Margins of Reality” that the study of consciousness may start by quantifying consciousness in statistical form. He has conducted many experiments on the ability of the mind to influence machines. We will give a very simplified overview of his experiments to illustrate:

He used a random event generator (REG) that can produce bits representing either 0 or 1. Study participants would try to influence the REG either way, toward 0 or toward 1. If the events showed a significant favor in the direction of the person’s will above what chance would dictate, it suggested the person’s will influenced the machine. Human intent was thus boiled down to a measurable, binary form. With many tests, Jahn built up a mass of results that could then become reliable statistics.

He noted, however, “Since most established behavior in consciousness-related domains can only be quantitatively represented in statistical terms, and since all statistical formats are themselves constructions of consciousness, it follows that the validity and limitations of the statistical representations must themselves be well defined and well understood before an anomaly can be claimed.”

4. David Chalmers, Cognitive Scientist and Philosopher at NYU

Chalmers is a philosophy professor and head of consciousness studies at the Australian National University and at New York University.

In a TED Talk earlier this year, he said science is at a sort of impasse in its study of consciousness, and “radical ideas may be needed,” to move forward. “I think that we may need one or two ideas that may initially seem crazy.”

In the past, physics had to incorporate newly discovered fundamental building blocks, such as electromagnetism, that were unexplained by more basic principles. He wonders whether consciousness is another such building block.
“Physics is curiously abstract,” he said. “It describes the structure of reality using a bunch of equations, but it doesn’t tell us about the reality that underlies it.” He quoted a question posed by Stephen Hawking: “What puts the fire into the equations?”

Maybe consciousness puts the fire into the equations, Chalmers said. The equations stay as they are, but we see them as means for describing the flux of consciousness.

“Consciousness doesn’t dangle outside the physical world as some kind of extra, it’s there right at its heart,” he said.

5. Imants Barušs, Psychologist, Member of Society for Consciousness Studies

Dr. Imants Barušs is a psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, who teaches courses on consciousness. He studied engineering as an undergraduate student and completed a masters degree in mathematics before receiving his Ph.D. in psychology. 

At the inaugural meeting of the Society for Consciousness Studies at The California Institute of Integral Studies on May 31, Barušs presented a paper outlining his vision for consciousness studies and his reasons for supporting it.

He highlighted the importance of such research, and even a paradigm shift, by arguing that strictly materialist science is contributing to mental health problems among youth. Many depressed teens who hurt themselves don’t possess the “hallmarks of a psychiatric disorder,” wrote Baruss, quoting a Toronto Star article titled “Psychiatrists see rise in suicidal teenagers.” “Instead they seem to be suffering an existential crisis that is sort of ‘I’m empty, I don’t know who I am, I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t have any grounding and I don’t know how to manage my negative feelings.’”

Barušs wrote: “Scientific materialism assures us that reality is a meaningless, incidental, mechanistic, collocation of improbable events.”

He summarized some of the ways in which the materialist interpretation of reality has already broken down: quantum events are seen to be non-deterministic; time is no longer linear, as effects have been shown to precede their causes; particles change position depending on where one looks or what one decides to measure.

Finally, he said, “Materialism cannot explain … the sense of existence that people have for themselves.”

He hopes the Society for Consciousness Studies can promote open inquiry. Collectively, scientists interested in this line of inquiry could work to find funding or support those who are censured by their colleagues or employers.

6. William Tiller, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University

Tiller is a fellow at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and professor emeritus of materials science at Stanford University.

Tiller has discovered a new level of substance in the empty space between the fundamental electric particles that make up our normal electric atoms and molecules, in the vacuum. This kind of substance is usually invisible to us, and to our measurement devices.

But, he has discovered that human intention can affect this substance in such a way that it interacts with the substances we can see or that we are able to measure.

“Consciousness lifts the higher thermodynamic free energy state [of the vacuum level], then we can access the physics of the vacuum,” Tiller says. “Accessing that new physics allows intention to bring forth effects you wouldn’t imagine.”

The consciousness can, in a way, affect or interact with a power greater than anything conventional instruments have been able to measure thus far.

7. Bernard Beitman, Psychiatrist, University of Virginia

Dr. Bernard Beitman
Dr. Bernard Beitman (Courtesy of Dr. Beitman)

Beitman is a psychiatrist forging the emerging discipline of Coincidence Studies. He is a graduate of Yale and Stanford and is the former chair of psychiatry at the University of Missouri–Columbia.

In a 2011 paper, Beitman wrote: “One of the biggest challenges in the development of the new discipline of Coincidence Studies is providing a systematic place in scientific research for subjectivity and for human consciousness. Meaningful coincidences depend upon the mind of the observer. The question of how to develop methods and an accompanying technical language that includes and respects the subjective element built into the fabric of coincidence needs to be answered.”

8. Henry P. Stapp, Physicist Specializing in Quantum Mechanics, University of California–Berkeley

Stapp is a theoretical physicist at the University of California–Berkeley who worked with some of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics.

In a paper titled “Compatibility of Contemporary Physical Theory With Personality Survival,” Stapp looked at how the mind may exist separately from the brain.

A scientist physically affects quantum systems by choosing which properties to study. Similarly, an observer can hold in place a chosen brain activity that would otherwise be fleeting. This shows, said Stapp, that the mind and brain may not be one and the same.

He said scientists should regard “the physical effects of consciousness as a physical problem that needs to be answered in dynamical terms.”

*Image of human consciousness via Shutterstock

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