Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

In Search of 21 Influential Thinkers

Monday, December 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison ... who are their 21st Century counterparts?

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison

A few weeks ago, in a burst of subtle synchronicity, Elon Musk was removed as board chairman of Tesla at the same time John Flannery was removed as chairman and CEO of General Electric. Since both companies were struggling in different ways, the firings, while surprising, were not shocking.

The surprise in Musk’s case was that he was forced out by actions taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which actually fined him and the company $20 million apiece for false statements Musk tweeted about financing to take the 21st century startup company private. Musk stayed on as CEO, but it’s nice to see the SEC is paying attention.

In Flannery’s case, he had only been on the job for a year, which seemed to many Wall Street analysts not nearly enough time to breathe life into the moribund, more-than-century-old company.

So, a reliable old company, with a household name, a onetime giant of household appliances and energy, but which has seen better days, and a new, hotshot company, with a sexy name, electric cars, solar panels, a colorful leader with an eye on dominating the next century of energy production, were both having trouble making their stockholders happy. That’s Wall Street, you say. How are the simultaneous takedowns of their bosses anything more than coincidence?

To many observers it won’t be. But to those who recall that Thomas Edison was one of the founders of General Electric and that Tesla Inc, is named after Nikola Tesla, Edison’s arch-rival for credit in discovering electricity as well as profiting from the discovery, well, perhaps it’s just another example of their names and future being linked by some invisible yet undeniable force. Like electricity.

Or synchronicity.

Were he still with us in more than name and spirit, I think Tesla would agree. Consider this statement from the visionary inventor: “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

Of all the non-physical phenomena, perhaps the most common and least explored is “coincidence.” Carl Jung made some significant efforts, but more “traditional” science has for the most part ignored what it cannot easily explain.

Don’t worry, this is not going to be an effort to do so.

Tesla first entered my consciousness in more than a vague, yeah-I’ve-heard-of-him kind of way, eight years ago. I had recently retired and begun wading into the world of blogging. When you write daily editorials for 23 years, it’s difficult to go cold turkey. One day, a couple of friends who actually read my blog gave me a challenge: Come up with a list of the 20 most influential thinkers of the 20th Century.

Not a bad idea. Challenging and a good way to engage readers by asking for suggestions.

“Nikola Tesla,” my friend Ernie suggested when I put out the call for nominations. “He should be on the list. He invented electricity and radio; he just didn’t get credit because he was a terrible businessman and didn‘t know how to promote himself.”

As it turned out, the one who “got credit” and a good deal more, was Thomas Edison, who I had wisely put on my first, tentative list. Connection made. Eventually, Edison, who gave us the incandescent light bulb, and Tesla, who contributed alternating current, both made the list. Yes, Edison was the better businessman and Tesla the more visionary thinker.

But Edison’s heirs, if you will, eventually lost their way, venturing into health insurance and buying NBC-TV, among other non-power-related ventures. Meanwhile, the company that took Tesla’s name for inspiration, has been true to his visionary approach and, in hiring Musk, apparently, also true to the Tesla disregard for conventional wisdom and clumsiness with business affairs. Must be a coincidence.

What’s the point?

I’m looking for a new list of thinkers, this one for the 21st century. The question: Who are the Teslas and Edisons and Jungs who will shape the way we live in the rest of this still young century?

As with the 20th Century list, I need your help. This is a cooperative venture. It’s kind of what social media is best suited for. In fact, I will start the working list with names of thinkers who make this venture possible: Bill Gates (who made the 20th Century list), Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs.

Others who are having profound influence on our lives: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the aforementioned Elon Musk, who at least seems to aspire to Tesla’s legacy. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, is working on a new, privacy-focused web to rival the world of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

But there’s more to life than technology and shopping. As Jung explored coincidence and synchronicity, so now do Mooji, Eckhart Tolle, Rupert Spira and Deepak Chopra make us think about the nature of reality — the “non-physical phenomena” of which Nikola Tesla spoke. Author/essayist Rebecca Solnit has become the voice many people seek out for an explanation on a variety of complex subjects. Are there other authors, political leaders (77-year-old Bernie Sanders, 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?), scientists, philosophers, poets, artists, inventors, business leaders or anyone else you think will have profound influence on the course of this century? Please share and I will share and eventually come up with a list of 21 influential thinkers for the 21st Century.

As a possibly useful prod, I include the list we came up with eight years ago. Of course, looking back is much easier than looking ahead, but compiling a list of those we think will be influential in the 21st century actually makes us part of the process of shaping things to come.

The 20th Century thinkers list:
Albert Einstein
Gandhi
Henry Ford
The Wright Brothers (count as one)
Thomas Edison
Picasso
Nikola Tesla
Mark Twain
James D. Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin (DNA trio count as one)
Winston Churchill
Philo Farnsworth
Rachel Carson
George Orwell
Sigmund Freud
Carl Jung
Bill Gates
Margaret Sanger
Bertrand Russell
Bob Dylan
T.S. Eliot

I know these are stressful times, but if we all contribute in a positive way to the Greater Consciousness, it just might relieve some stress. Email or comment. Don’t be bashful.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

It’s Time to Un-dumb America

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Sarah Palin ... she was the warning .

               Sarah Palin
    … she was the warning

I think Sarah Palin was the canary in the coal mine. We missed the warning.

I’m sitting at the keyboard asking myself when it became OK to be dumb in America. Never mind just dumb. There’s always some of that. In a better, more tolerant, mood, I might call it ill-informed or poorly schooled.

I’m not talking about that and I’m not in a tolerant mood. I’m talking about proudly dumb. Insistently dumb. Scientifically dumb. Historically dumb. Intellectually dumb. Socially dumb. Patriotically dumb. Spiritually dumb. Financially dumb. Ethically dumb. Environmentally dumb. Grammatically dumb. Unhealthfully dumb. Politically dumb. Morally dumb. I-don’t-want-to-hear-it-because-it’s-inconvenient dumb.

Willfully dumb.

Sarah Palin/Donald Trump dumb.

The planet is on schedule to destruct by the end of the century. Eating romaine lettuce anywhere in America right now could kill you. The pretender-in-chief of the United States of America says California could prevent forest fires by raking leaves. He also says it’s OK to tear-gas children across the border in Mexico because the adults who brought them to seek asylum in America are criminals and might not even be their parents and, besides, the Border Patrol used “safe” tear gas. This is supposed to be better than devoting sufficient resources to processing the asylum seekers in an orderly, dare I say, humane manner.

Dumb. And apparently just fine with millions of Americans as long as their kids aren’t the ones being hit with tear gas.

Along with the turkey, I enjoyed a 100 percent organic salad on Thanksgiving (no romaine). I will be upset with myself if every word in this column is not spelled correctly. In many households in this country, these two admissions make me some kind of strange creature, a “libtard,” as the MAGA geniuses on social media put it. Someone to be scorned or mocked.

Why? I mean, why is it a bad thing to eat good food that is free of chemicals or to not want to have spelling or grammatical mistakes in something that carries your name as the author? I get it that on social media the standards are significantly lower, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing when you’re supposed to be making your country great — again, no less.

I’ve been called a lot worse than “Libtard” in my opinion-writing career, so it’s not personal. I just think that letting anything someone misspells, mispunctuates or misquotes pass as acceptable, while it may sound egalitarian, is really a way to lower the bar.

Like when Palin, running for vice president, was asked what newspaper she read and answered, “All of ‘em.” In other words, none of ‘em. She also said she could see Russia from her front porch in Alaska and that gave her foreign policy experience. And she gave this memorable account of Paul Revere’s ride:

“He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.”

We escaped Palin, but wound up with Trump.

I get it that some people are just born with more brain power than the rest of us and that not everyone grows up in an environment that encourages learning, curiosity and a willingness to hear new ideas. An environment that makes it OK to say, “I don’t know” without fear of ridicule.

Fear is a powerful force, especially the fear we create in our minds. Donald Trump thrives on it. His entire political philosophy, if he can be said to have one, is based on fear of those who question, those who disagree, those who look, sound or think differently. “Others.”

“They” are coming to take something away from you or to harm you. It’s a fear founded in ignorance. But worse. Trump preys on other people’s fears for his own personal gain — votes, money, prestige, power. It’s always a transaction for him, easily changed for the right (more profitable) counter-offer. And some people choose to believe him in spite of all the evidence to the contrary because they have never learned — are afraid — to say, “Why?” Or, “Are you sure?” Or, “I don’t know.”

For Trump himself, in my humble opinion, the fear is that he will be found out as a fraud and so he must at all times act as if he knows what’s going on. He’s been doing it all his life. It doesn’t even matter if he believes what he says.

Global warming? “I don’t believe it.” He hasn’t got a clue, but all those people who actually studied when they went to college — “The ones who think I’m stupid even though I’m worth billions and they’re not — think it’s real. I’ll show them. I’ll save the coal mines.”

West Virginia goes for Trump. Dumb.

That Thanksgiving salad? I’m not a stickler for organic, but I do like to know the food I eat is safe as well as healthful and delicious. I do think it’s dumb to reject some food out of hand because someone says it’s good for you. Brussels sprouts, for example. Try it. If you don’t like it, at least you have some reason for not eating it other than you think those who do are strange. And strange, by the way, need not be threatening.

Neglecting the safety of our food or failing to teach children about the health benefits of a diet balanced beyond French fries and pizza is dumb. Trump doesn’t care. We should. He exists on ‘burgers and mocked Michelle Obama for trying to make school lunches more healthful. I’d like to think she succeeded, but I’m not sure. As someone who lives in apple country this is hard to say, but I’m pretty sure middle schoolers are still tossing apples in the trash when they leave the lunch room.

OK, this is not a treatise, just a minor rant. I’m probably hungry. But I do think, given all the above, our educators and legislators have a major challenge facing them. The Fox News Generation, fed a daily diet of fear and fiction, may be beyond saving, but there’s still time and hope for the youngsters. Knowledge is power. Our schools need to step up their game. They need to  encourage intellectual curiosity and let students know that it’s OK to know stuff. To know how to tell the difference between real and fake news, for example.

That way they may be able to tell the difference between real and fake candidates for political office, they’ll know the Earth is not flat and, Twitter notwithstanding, spelling is not a function you should leave entirely to your phone.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

America’s in Need of an Intervention

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

The First Family ... in need of an intervention?

The First Family … in need of an intervention?

Democrats are talking about impeachment. Robert Mueller is looking at indictments. I’m fine with both, but honestly, more than anything else, I think America needs an intervention. Our addict-in-chief is out of control.

In addition to writing a blog for the past 10 years, I have been writing a monthly column called Addiction and Recovery. The goal always is to provide information on issues that are widely misunderstood. Like non-drinkers behaving like full-blown alcoholics.

Like Drumpf.

The Dotard-in-chief has talked sparingly about his respect for the power of alcohol, noting that his brother, Fred, died of alcoholism and at least implying that this may be the impetus for the Donald’s tea-totaling ways. But professionals in the field of addiction and alcoholics in recovery will tell you that alcohol is but one symptom of the disease. Take away the alcohol but change nothing else and you have what’s known as a “dry drunk.” That’s someone who has all the “isms” and can be so miserable to be around that people often wish he or she were drinking again.

They’ll also tell you it’s a family disease. It can cross generations, skipping here, striking there and can manifest in many ways. To repeat, alcohol need not be present for alcoholism to exist. It generally just makes it easier to spot.

What got me thinking about Drumpf and alcoholism was the obvious state of withdrawal he went into following the defeat of so many Republicans in the mid-term elections, culminating in the Democrats reclaiming the House of Representatives. It was bad enough to drive a man to drink. He was obviously depressed and reportedly irritable and angry at everyone in the White House. He even blamed Republican losers for not soliciting his support. He claimed Democrats voted more than once by changing clothes outside polling places. He fired his attorney general. He sat in his hotel room in Paris, watching TV and refusing to attend ceremonies at a cemetery to honor Americans who died fighting in World War I. Because it was raining. He was pouty with all the assembled world leaders, save for his buddy, Vladimir Putin, who managed to bring out a smile in him.

Why Putin?

Well, for one thing, the Russian president may be the only head of state who hasn’t let it be known, directly or otherwise, how little regard he has for Trump, as a person or a president. I think it’s fair to assume that Putin buffs Trump’s huge, fragile ego every time they meet. Especially in private. That’s because Putin is smart and Trump is a sucker for applause, adulation, approval.

It’s his alcohol.

The other factor in his more-erratic-than-usual behavior of the past week or so was the absence of political campaign rallies in his life. Leading up to the elections, they were an almost daily ritual. Get on a plane; fly here or there; make up scary stories of caravans of immigrants threatening America; rile up the base; hear them cheer. Look at all those MAGA hats! This is great! Bartender, hit me again. …

Whaddya mean it’s closing time? I’m the president and you’re not. I want another campaign stop. They love me. Let’s do Arizona again. Tell them I’ll give them a tax cut.

It’s tough to go back to work after that, especially when you hate your job and know you don’t know how to do it but have to act as if you do. Alcoholics tend to have large egos and low-self esteem. This is often disguised by an outsized personality or an ability to persuade people.

Sound familiar?

Dr. James West, founding medical director of the Betty Ford Clinic, who was described by the clinic’s director as “an addiction physician before there was even that term,” also wrote a column on addiction that appeared in the Desert Sun, a daily paper in Palm Springs, Calif. in the 1990s. One column addressed the question of an “alcoholic personality” in someone who doesn’t drink.

“Generally,” he wrote, “alcoholics seem to have the same kinds of personalities as everybody else, except more so.”

Among traits, he said, “The first is a low frustration tolerance. Alcoholics seem to experience more distress when enduring long-term dysphoria or when tiresome things do not work out quickly. Alcoholics are more impulsive than most. Secondly, alcoholics are more sensitive.”

“Alcoholics have a ‘low rejection threshold.’”

Don’t we know it.

Dr. West, who was a recovering alcoholic himself, died in 2012 at age 98. He also wrote: “Another trait found in excess in alcoholics is a low sense of one’s own worth. Then there is isolation. Alcoholics are loners. It is with most difficulty they are able to share innermost thoughts and concerns with anyone.

“Although they may be articulate, charming and very persuasive, they operate behind an armor or shell that keeps the world out. They are afraid of intimacy.”

This brings me back to Trump and the subject of an intervention. Much as I think it’s needed, I don’t see it happening. It’s usually the family and close friends who initiate such a drastic step. Melania seems to have accepted her role as wifely enabler, probably with a sweet pre-nup. The two older sons are chips off the same old block and probably fear daddy’s wrath. Ivanka, the apple of his eye, obviously does not see herself suffering from his addiction. Should that ever happen, the dynamic could change dramatically.

Which is to say, intervention for America from this First Family addiction could come from an interested third party, say in the form of a Robert Mueller indictment of Ivanka, or one or both sons. A moment of stark clarity for the Trumps. No cheering crowds. No MAGA hats. Lots of lawyers and legal fees.

“Daddy, turn off the TV. We need to talk …”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Buck Never Stops With Trump

Friday, November 9th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

D4EC7881-03DC-40CE-B0DA-02AA50509A49There’s still too much happening, too fast, so I’m sticking with the Jimmy Cannon approach for a while. So …

— Maybe it’s just me, but I’m having trouble figuring out which is worse: a) claiming you don’t know someone you just appointed to a pretty important job when critics immediately say the appointment is illegal and inappropriate; b) lying about knowing the guy when you just said on national TV less than a month ago that you know him and he’s “a great guy”; or c) thinking that the best way to cover your butt for making what is being described as an “unconstitutional appointment“ of someone who is being widely described as a “crackpot“ to the position of acting attorney general of the United States of America is to say, in effect, “Hey, they told me he was a good guy for the job. I never met him. Don’t blame me.”

The buck never stops at Donald Trump‘s desk. Think about it (you Trump supporters who stumbled in here by mistake can ignore this part), the man who occupies the most powerful position on the planet would rather people think he appointed a political hack to the most powerful law enforcement position in the country without ever talking to the man face-to-face than admit maybe he was a bit too hasty. Coincidentally, of course, at a time when the Justice Department this stranger would head has an active investigation of Trump and the 2016 election.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, with Drumpf, lying is second nature, but being embarrassed is unacceptable. It must be someone else’s fault. The media’s! Yeah, that’s it. I’ll blame CNN.

— Maybe it’s just me, but if I were a member of the White House press corps, I wouldn’t ask a single question at the next press conference if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is at the podium. No one. No questions. She took lying for a living to a new low with the use of a doctored video to revoke Jim Acosta’s White House credentials. The truth is under constant assault by this administration and the Republican Party. The press is the defender of the truth. Sarah must go,

— Maybe it’s just me, but I have issues with voters who prefer a dead pimp, a congressman indicted for insider trading, another one indicted for using thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal affairs and another one who is proudly racist over their opponents just because their opponents are Democrats. Methinks it says some unpleasant things about those voters. The Republican Party of Reagan, never mind Lincoln, no longer exists.

— Maybe it’s just me (and this definitely falls in the category of patting my own back), but those dots (I listed 17 of them) I wrote about back in January got connected on Election Day with a wave of women (mostly Democrats) elected to the House of Representatives. Sparked by the #metoo movement, with “a record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels,” I wrote, and with “female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States … this is not simply a revolution about sexual predation — or an attitude of male sexual privilege, if you will. As I see it, it is an awakening, a moment of clarity, a realization that what was does not have to continue to be. Cannot be, in fact. Republicans are mostly clueless to the moment. Democrats ignore it to their continued ineffectuality at the polls.” So I said. It’s nice to be right occasionally, even nicer that the Democrats paid attention.

— Maybe it’s just me, but has anyone heard about anyone being charged with murdering Jamal Khashoggi? Are we still buddies with the Saudis?

— Is that caravan still threatening our southern border?

— Is it petty to criticize by name the members of your political party who didn’t get re-elected because they didn’t beg for your support? Is it typical (see item one) to think you, with your policies and rhetoric, bear no responsibility for their defeat?

— Maybe it’s just me, but Floridians deserve whatever they get for electing Rick Scott governor in the first place and maybe a bonafide racist to replace him. Throw in Marco Rubio, too. Imagine, counting all the votes is cheating.

— And finally, maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed that, unlike Congress, the third leg of government, the courts, have been holding their own against the onslaught of anti-everything coming out of the White House? The latest rulings stalling the Keystone Pipeline and preserving DACA show the value of independent courts. Maybe it’s just me, so why is Chuck Schumer being so soft on Mitch McConnell?

#voxpopuli

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Why Would They Throw Rocks?

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Occasionally, when the news has gotten away from me — too much, too fast to have reasonable, well-thought-out opinions on all of it — I borrow a device used to great effect by the late, great sports columnist Jimmy Cannon. Jimmy had opinions on lots of things and from time to time would tell readers, “Nobody asked me, but …”

I have found that this approach helps clear my mind and provides a touch of sanity. So …

— Maybe it’s just me, but why would they throw rocks? By “they,” I mean the unarmed members of the “caravan’’ of Central American asylum seekers that Drumpf sees as such a threat to national security he says he may send 15,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us. The dotard-in-chief, who studiously avoided military service, says rocks will be answered with bullets. Well, first of all, no they won’t. Established procedure for such missions, which is outside the usual scope of the regular military, calls for troops to protect themselves and avoid responding if objects (like rocks) are thrown, unless their lives, or others’ lives are in danger. Then, deal with the situation. This is typical Trump tough talk to rile the bigot base. If you’re fleeing violence at home, looking for a safe haven for you and your family — and there are thousands of families in this “caravan” — why would you throw rocks at armed, trained troops at your chosen destination? Another thing. Not all the troops will be armed because, well, there’s no need and it helps avoid an unnecessary, tragic over-reaction. One report said a few migrants briefly scuffled with Mexican police at a border crossing — some rocks may have been thrown — but it was quickly resolved, no shots were fired and the migrants got in line and were quickly processed. But that story doesn’t get the bigot vote out.

 — Maybe it’s just me, 

Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi

but does anybody remember what that story was out of Saudi Arabia, or maybe it was Turkey? Something about a journalist who lived in Virginia because he wrote some stuff for the Washington Post that the royal poohbah prince of all princes didn’t like and the journalist was afraid to live in his homeland, which the prince was reportedly dragging out of medieval times but really wasn’t, and so the journalist went to the Saudi embassy in Turkey to get a document that verified he was divorced, which would enable him to marry his Turkish fiancée, but while he was in the embassy the paunchy, middle-aged journalist picked a fight with 18 Saudi goons who just wanted to ask him a few questions and it wound up with him being tortured and dismembered while still alive? I think it’s something like that. And the Saudis denied it and the Turks said we’ve got proof and then the Saudis said, well maybe it happened, but it was an accident and the prince had nothing to do with it and we will make sure these guys with the bone saws are punished, but don’t go threatening not to sell weapons to us, America, or we will stop buying condos in Trump properties and Trump said, at first, that he asked the prince about it and the kid denied it, and then Trump said, well, if he lied something “bad” would happen to the Saudis, but so far nobody knows where the body is and nothing bad has happened to anyone except the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, and his fiancée. I think that’s it. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like kind of a big deal.

— And the bombs. A dozen, sent in the mail to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, CNN and a bunch of other public figures who have been critical of Trump‘s policies. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that a president who lies about everything, uses violent language at campaign rallies and refuses to condemn hate groups, might want to cool his rhetoric and assume some responsibility for the effect of his inflammatory words on people looking for any excuse to vent their anger and resentment at conveniently provided targets. Maybe not provide those targets. And maybe that same president might actually want to pick up the phone and call the targets of those mail bombs and express regret that someone who is clearly one of his followers is apparently responsible for them. Also, maybe say that he’s glad no one was hurt. Again, maybe it’s just me, but when asked if he’s going to make those phone calls, the president in question doesn’t say, “I think I’ll pass.”

— Speaking of passing, maybe it’s just me, but I think if I were an NBC-TV executive, I would’ve passed on the “opportunity” to hire Megyn Kelly away from Fox News and give her a morning chat show where she could not only demonstrate her outstanding inability to be chatty, but also remind NBC viewers what coffee-talk racism sounds like. Knowing that she smilingly told any kids watching her on Fox that Santa Claus was, without question, undeniably and proudly white, how could NBC execs be surprised to learn that she felt there was no problem with white kids going out on Halloween in black face? She said they did it all the time when she was a kid. Maybe in her neighborhood; not in mine. Maybe it’s just me, but I think people who do that at Fox aren’t faking it and the NBC folks were just hoping she wouldn’t revert to form.

— Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think any of the above is normal or acceptable.

— And finally, after a half century of informing the people to the best of my ability, I don’t like a pathological liar who praises a congressman for body-slamming a reporter calling me the enemy of the people. No maybe about it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Shedding Some Light on Blackouts

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Addiction and Recovery

Note: In light of the recent testimony and controversy over the youthful drinking and behavior of Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, I thought I would post my most recent Addiction and Recovery column on alcohol-induced blackouts on this blog.  I hope it answers some questions.

By Bob Gaydos

 AA8D800B-40C4-49FD-9FA2-33C3E62B429EThere are two enduring views about alcohol-induced blackouts:

  1. They don’t exist. They’re just an excuse for inappropriate behavior.
  2. They exist, but they’re just a harmless, often humorous, occasional price to pay for a night of fun.

Both views are wrong — dangerously so — for the same reason: Denying the existence of blackouts or minimizing their significance could lead to serious consequences (health, legal, personal, professional) for the persons experiencing them and others. If you’ve experienced blackouts or know someone who has and are not concerned about them, you should be.

To start with, blackouts are not the same as passing out. That’s a common misconception. People who drink too much and pass out stay put. They wake up in the same place they passed out and remember, maybe with a hangover, how they got there. People in blackouts can wind up in different states, strange beds, wrong apartments or behind bars when they come to and not know how they got there. “How did I get home last night?” is a common question for blackout veterans. “Where’d I leave my car?” is another.

Many recovering alcoholics who recall their drinking history in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings point to blackouts as one of the “healthy fears’’ that help them stay sober. After all, it can be frightening to find out about some reckless behavior that happened apparently in a blackout and to wonder what else may have happened without your being aware of it.

Some local examples:

— Jordan, a 50ish man from Orange County, who has been sober more than five years, says he once spent a four-day business trip in Texas in a blackout. Airport-to-airport. He did come out of it briefly, he says, to call his boss on Day 2 to tell him he wasn’t feeling well.

— Whitey (all names used are fictitious), who drives for a living, says he regularly drove between New York and Virginia in blackouts.

— John, retired in Sullivan County and sober more than two decades, says he’s positive he was fired from an excellent job because of remarks he made to his boss’s wife while in a blackout.

— Marie, a chef sober less than a year, says she has no recollection of a phone call in which she was extremely rude and insulting to her husband’s sister, other than what her husband and sister-in-law told her. She’s embarrassed by the incident.

— Sunshine, a nurse sober half her life, recalls with a mix of horror and shame coming out of a blackout “as a guy was trying to have sex with me.” She says she fought him off. But she didn’t immediately stop drinking.

That’s often the case — not stopping drinking despite risky or embarrassing consequences. As an isolated incident, a blackout may not signify anything except drinking too much, too fast. Something you might want to avoid because of potential embarrassment or worse. As a pattern, it could be a sign of a more serious problem.

While it’s not just alcoholics who experience blackouts, the connection between blackouts and alcoholism or alcoholic use disorder is real and knowing some facts about the symptom could help dispel some of the myths and avoid more serious problems.

For a long time — most likely from whenever humans first discovered the mood-altering effects of wine until modern science started doing research on the brain and behavior — blackouts were regarded as just one of the possible side effects of drinking alcohol. A little fuzzy memory. No big deal. Just drink less.

When researchers began studying blackouts, however, they soon discovered that persons experiencing them didn’t have just a little amnesia. Rather, they had no recollection of certain events and, try as they might, even when told the details many times over, they had no memory of them. Their subjects didn’t forget, researchers concluded; they never formed a memory in the first place.

The prevailing accepted science, as cited by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and other similar agencies, is that persons experiencing a blackout can function and appear to be “normal” to others because their brain is operating on stored, long-term, procedural memory, but the short-term memory of what they are experiencing never gets to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that processes long-term memory. Alcohol — especially a lot of it in a short period of time — short-circuits the process.

According to the NIAAA, “As the amount of alcohol consumed increases, so does the magnitude of the memory impairments. Large amounts of alcohol, particularly if consumed rapidly, can produce partial or complete blackouts.”

More about blackouts:

— It’s not what you drink, it’s how much alcohol gets into your bloodstream and how fast it gets there. This means it’s possible for anyone to black out if he or she drinks enough alcohol quickly enough.

— People who have a low tolerance for alcohol are not necessarily more likely to black out. On the other hand, those with a high tolerance for alcohol are often able to drink heavily and carry on conversations, drive, etc. while in blackouts.

— Women may be more susceptible since they tend to be smaller than men, meaning each drink has a greater effect on the body’s blood alcohol content.

— Drinking on an empty stomach can make blackouts more likely, again because of a more acute impact on the blood alcohol concentration.

— People sometimes have glimpses of memory of an event, but not total recall. These partial lapses are called “brownouts.”

— Blackouts are the product of consumption of an amount of alcohol that affects motor coordination, balance, impulse control and decision-making. This is bad enough when someone is not in a blackout, never mind being unable to recall any risky, self-sabotaging behavior that may have caused serious harm to others.

— Some researchers suggest that people in blackouts, operating on procedural memory and little more, have little impulse control and are more likely to do things they would not otherwise. (See examples above.) This presents embarrassing, sometimes dangerous situations for the person in a blackout, family, friends and even strangers.

— Blackouts are often the unrecognized explanation for someone’s uncharacteristic actions. “Why did you (say/do) that last night?”

— Because of a shortage of evidence-based science on the subject, there is considerable difference of opinion on the use of blackouts as a defense in criminal trials.

So, what to do if you have blackouts? Take them seriously. Maybe talk to a professional health provider who knows about them. While blackouts are not solely the result of years of heavy, alcoholic drinking, they can be a sign of an existing or potential alcohol problem. Even one or two — perhaps the product of binge drinking in college — should be enough to cause concern since not being aware of what one has done is not considered acceptable to most people.

Being the unaware “life of the party” may be tolerable as a one-time experience, but repeated bizarre behavior of which you have no memory is nothing to laugh at.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump/Bakker: Marriage of Convenience

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Jim Bakker, sticking with Trump to the end...

Jim Bakker, sticking with Trump to the end.

The good news is that I think I finally have a handle on this whole evangelical Christians love affair with Donald Trump. The bad news — and the apparent reason it took so long for me to get it — is that the revelation comes from Jim Bakker. Jessica Hahn’s former boss and philandering lover is not exactly on my radar screen.

Regardless, I’m grateful for the belated enlightenment. According to the TV evangelist, the Orange Dotard and the chaos he has loosed on the planet are all part of God’s plan. The End Times are approaching, people — can’t you hear the hooves of the Four Horsemen? It will all end in a cataclysmic war, or something, and the world will be saved with the second coming of Jesus.

Well, not the whole world. Just the Christians. And not just any Christians, just, you know, the good ones. The “true” ones who look like them and think all other people — and they do mean all — are sinners, blasphemers, heretics, etc. The rest of us will be left behind in the Rapture, with only true disciples ascending to Heaven. Evangelicals have believed in some version of this prophecy from the Old Testament for centuries and the fact that it hasn’t happened yet has never been a deterrent to new believers — or to preachers willing to exploit it to their own profit. The end is near; send me your money.

The key to my finally understanding the evangelical embrace of Trump, the most amoral, immoral, irreligious occupant of the White House perhaps ever, is realizing I had it backwards. It doesn’t matter to Bakker and other evangelicals (I understand some evangelicals disagree with him, but their silence is deafening) if Trump is a serial sexual assaulter, a racist, a bigot, a phony Christian, a liar, a thief, a purveyor of hatred and resentment. That’s all part of the plan. The worse Trump is, the sooner the holy war starts and the sooner Jesus returns to save us.

Well, not all of us. Just, you know, “true” Christians. So, to reserve your seat on the Greyhound to Heaven, send in your donations today to Jim, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham (Billy’s son) or one of the others.

This Old Testament prophecy now apparently serves as the basis of presidential policy, being digested at regular prayer breakfasts in the White House. Those breakfasts are attended by evangelical ministers, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the Trump cabinet who profess a belief in the End Times theory.

The wisdom of our forefathers in separating church and state has never been more evident.

What’s not so obvious to me is, in this room of con artists, who is ultimately conning whom? The evangelicals latched on to Trump because he clearly has no use for the same people they exclude from their salvation story. He’s even apparently willing to use force or defy international efforts at cooperation to demonstrate his view. But his reasons are clearly not based on religious beliefs. They always have to do with him. He’s a con man. How can he benefit? In this case, he gets the evangelicals’ political support and votes, knowing they’ll support him no matter what, even though he doesn’t really believe their story. Because God sent him.

The evangelicals know that he knows. They know he doesn’t believe. That’s their con. In fact, that’s what makes their story more credible to them. A non-believer, they believe, will deliver them to Heaven by reclaiming Israel for the Jews, which is what they saw in Trump’s moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — a move guaranteed to produce more conflict in the Middle East and one undoubtedly dreamed up at one of those White House prayer breakfasts.

Robert Jeffress, a Rapture pastor who attends those breakfasts, delivered the new embassy’s opening prayer. Jeffress has called Mormons heretics, said homosexuals are filthy, Islam promotes pedophilia and Jews are fated to hell. But, heck yeah, let’s pray for reuniting Israel anyway so that the holy war can start soon and we can get on with salvation.

It’s all a matter of convenience, in my way of thinking at least. That’s the con. Whatever Trump does, it’s all God’s will. (Get those donations in; seats are filling up fast.)

Still, I’m not completely clear on what’s about to happen. Versions of End Times vary and Bakker himself seems to have confused the issue by saying God told him (Yes, he got it straight from the Source) that: “Donald Trump is a respite in this troubled times and I sent him in grace to give you time to prepare for what’s coming on earth. …”

“We have a president people think is crazy,” Bakker said. “They call him crazy, but he’s making peace treaties, he’s doing all the things to try to solve the world’s problems and God has put him on earth— God spoke to me the other night. He said, ‘I put Donald Trump on earth to give you time, the church, to get ready.’”

So, is Trump here to make peace or war? See what I mean by convenient?

I read the novel, “Left Behind,” many years ago out of curiosity. It’s the Rapture in paperback. As I recall, in the book a lot of people were surprised to find loved ones gone — empty clothes, idling cars, etc. — but they were still around. And there was some new, false Messiah offering peace to a troubled world. (Mike Pence may be auditioning for this role.)

So, if I’m looking for a happy ending to this morality tale being played out on Pennsylvania Avenue, I can easily believe that Bakker et al got it wrong when they decided who and what was right. They conned themselves. That would mean, if the Apocalypse, etc. happens, Bakker, Trump, Pence, Graham, Jeffress, Robertson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and most of Trump’s cabinet will be left behind to clean up their mess while the rest of us eat tacos and hummus and listen to Elton John in Heaven.

Either that, or the sound of hooves is Robert Mueller arriving on a white horse called Conquest. That’s in the story, too.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Aretha, Elvis, the Babe … What’s Up?

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

 Aretha Franklin, January 20, 2009

Aretha Franklin, January 20, 2009

A member of royalty has died. Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,“ was 76 when she succumbed to cancer on August 16. Usually, the date of someone’s death is a footnote, an afterthought, unless the person is famous or a loved one or, as with Aretha, loved and famous. Even so, the actual date of death seems to us mortals to be random. The luck of the draw.

In this case, I’m not so sure. I’m wondering if there wasn’t more than randomness involved in choosing what for many fans of the music icon will be a date to remember. In fact, it’s almost as if August 16 was preordained to be the day Aretha shrugged off this mortal coil. It seems to be a day designated for royal departures.

As news of Franklin’s death spread, even a casual user of social media would’ve been hard-pressed not to notice that August 16 was also the date on which Elvis Presley, “the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,“ died. Hmmm.

There was more. The immortal Babe Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat,“ the ultimate symbol of baseball royalty, also died on August 16, we were reminded. If you don’t believe in synchronicity, it might be time to start reading up on it. As a believer, I went to a website that lists famous (and not so famous) deaths on August 16.

Would you believe, Bela Lugosi, who brought the infamous “Prince of Darkness” to, um, life, on the silver screen, also died on August 16? Heart attack. No sunlight, silver bullets, or wooden stakes involved. He was buried in his full Dracula costume.

So, Count Dracula, the Sultan Babe, and the musical king and queen all died on the same date. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m thinking it’s more likely there’s a message we humans haven’t figured out yet.

Well, some of us. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, offered what he thought was a pretty good explanation of “coincidences.” There aren’t any, he said. Everyone, he theorized, is connected through a greater unconscious and something called synchronicity ultimately controls what happens seemingly randomly. We just go around acting like we do it all. It’s obviously a lot more complex than that, but it’s the best I can do right now.

Then, of course, there is quantum physics, which also talks about everyone and everything being connected since everyone and everything is energy. Still, till, most physicists are reluctant to accept Jung’s explanation for scientifically unexplainable coincidence  — synchronicity.

Personally, I’m inclined to think that if we are all connected through a greater unconscious or consciousness or energy or whatever you want to call it, then there’s a force at work which we choose to call “coincidence” for lack of any other explanation.

And I think it is altogether reasonable to assume that this greater consciousness to which we all contribute would devise a way to keep “special” people together for the greater good. Like having them leave their earthly bodies on the same date as a way to help plan for future use of their unique contributions to lift the positive energy level on this planet, not to mention the universe. 

In fact, the mere recognition that such special people all died on the same date surely had an effect on our collective energy level this past August 16. With the shared shared sadness of the loss of Aretha Franklin also came innumerable shared memories of shared happiness that she — and all the August 16 departed — have contributed. W With those memories came the recognition that, even in this sometimes maddening, occasionally depressing world, there can be beauty, joy, special moments created by special people for all of us to share.

And, if I may theorize a bit, it need not solely involve “royalty.” Another of the August 16 Departed is Bobby Thomson, a pretty good baseball player responsible for one of the greatest moments the game has known — “the shot heard ‘round the world.” Thomson’s home run  in the bottom of the ninth-inning of the final playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants in 1951 — a game the Giants were losing until Thomson came to bat — sent the Dodgers home and put the Giants in the World Series. It certainly made Thomson royalty as far as Giants fans were concerned.

But the fact that it was the first major sporting event televised live (another “coincidence”?) made it an exciting, exhilarating moment for many more than the 34,320 fans gathered in the Polo Grounds. Broadcaster Russ Hodges’ home run call, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!“ became instant legend. The Giants had staged an improbable end-of-season comeback to catch the Dodgers and Thomson had finished them off. With baseball as metaphor, it was a dramatic that even when you’re down to your last at bat, there is always hope.

Dodgers fans, of course, have always blamed their “fate” on Ralph Branca, the pitcher who served up the home run ball. Despite that and the fact that the Dodgers and Giants were arch rivals, Thomson and Branca wound up being good good friends when their baseball careers were over. The greater unconscious, it seems, had something beyond a baseball game in mind when it brought these two men together.

Let’s all get together next August 16 and see who’s missing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

Bobby B, Lebron, Elon and Tom Wolfe

Friday, August 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

What do Bobby Bonilla, Lebron James, Elon Musk and Tom Wolfe have in common? Aside from being well-accomplished in their chosen fields, that is. And being millionaires.

All right, it’s kind of a trick question. All four men’s names were on a list on my phone’s “Notes” section. The list was started on July 6 and it was titled “Non-Trump news.” Yeah, I was searching. I came across the list the other day and was reminded how quickly the daily news cycle gets overwhelmed by the White House Twitter storm, how other news — real news — gets lost and maybe never even noticed by a lot of people. I figured, if these names were on a list of newsmakers, I should at least tell people why. So, in case you missed it …:

  • Bobby Bonilla: He’s undoubtedly the least-known person on the list, except to Mets fans. Bonilla
    Bobby Bonilla

    Bobby Bonilla

    was a power-hitting outfielder who was first signed by the New York team in 1991 to a five-year contract for $29 million. After 3½ stormy and somewhat disappointing years, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. But in 1998, chasing a pennant, the Mets reacquired Bonilla, who spent more time on the disabled list, arguing with his manager and playing cards in the clubhouse than hitting home runs. When they decided to let him go, the notoriously frugal Wilpon brothers (who still own the team) didn’t want to pay Bonilla the $5.9 million they owed him for the coming season. Instead, they agreed to a deferred payment deal with 8 percent interest, which would pay Bonilla $1,193,248.20 every July 1 for 25 years … starting in 2011. This is why he was on my Notes list. It was payday. The deal totals $29.8 million for Bonilla, but the Wilpons at the time figured they would make considerably more than that with the 10 percent annual return they were getting on their investments with Bernie Madoff. Yes, that Bernie Madoff, the one in prison for running a Ponzi scheme. The Wilpons got taken and Mets fans and financial hotshots still debate whether Bonilla made out better by deferring his payout. The facts are that, at age 58 and not having played baseball since 2001, the one-time all-star, is guaranteed a $1.1 million check every July 1 until 2035 from a team he once sat down on and for a season he wasn’t even on their roster.

  • Lebron James: The only-one-name-needed basketball superstar was originally on the list because he had decided to leave his beloved Cleveland (again) for Hollywood. Well, L.A. Lebron signed with
    Lebron James

    Lebron James

    the Lakers, where all only-one-name-needed stars wind up. Magic. Kobe. Shaq, Kareem. It was inevitable, even if it doesn’t guarantee a championship for his new team. But Lebron has made much more significant, if you will, news since then with the announcement that his foundation is providing millions of dollars to support a public school for 245 at-risk children in Akron, Ohio, his hometown. Lebron is paying for programs and services that tax dollars can’t cover at the “I Promise School” and he has guaranteed to pay for college tuition for all the graduates. Naturally, the Orange Dotard, who fears accomplished African-Americans, went on Twitter to call James dumb. As if the world needed to be reminded there’s a racist sitting in the White House. And no, Akron taxpayers won’t have to pay added dollars for the school. Everything was already being covered by tax dollars, as required by law. James is merely paying for added resources that tax dollars can’t cover to help these at-risk children deliver on the promise to graduate and go to college. That’s as opposed to operating a sham university.

  • Elon Musk. At this point, I almost forgot why Musk was on the list because he has had trouble for several months now just keeping quiet and trying to make money for his companies. But in July he
    Elon Musk

    Elon Musk

    was calling a   British cave diver who helped rescue a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave a pedophile, without citing any evidence. After being threatened with a lawsuit, Musk eventually apologized, but the incident only added to questions about his mental stability (at least in my mind). He sounded like a man with a huge ego whose feelings got hurt because a bunch of other men heroically saved 13 people without benefit of the genius of Musk and the individual submarine he had built for the job. The divers said it wouldn’t work. Their strategy did. Lately, he’s been talking about taking the publicly traded Tesla private, which got Wall Street worked up for a while because a lot of people aren’t sure he can do that either. Oh yeah, back in July he was also building electric cars in a tent because Tesla was behind on orders. Maybe he should focus on getting his car back from Mars.

  • Tom Wolfe: He died, May 14, at age 88, without, in my opinion, sufficient notice. I, among others, am guilty. Reading of his death was one of those “Oh no” moments for me. Not another one. I felt a
    Tom Wolfe

    Tom Wolfe

    synchronicity with Wolfe, who started as a reporter at The New York Herald Tribune (my favorite paper) in 1962 when I was starting to get serious about journalism. Then he went and changed journalism and it was terrific. The New Journalism he helped create told stories about real life that were as appealing to readers as they were informative. In essence, he made it OK to write “that way” and still be a journalist. He gave us the terms “Radical Chic” and the “Me Decade” as he punctured every ego he ran into. The biggest criticism of him was usually his all-white, summer-dandy wardrobe, including hat and walking stick with which he strutted around Manhattan. He reportedly called it ”neo-pretentious.” He was in on the joke. And he was a terrific teller of tales, true or true enough if you knew your current events. The best thing about good writers when they die is that their words live on. If you are among those who still read, or know someone young who reads, find a copy of “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,” “The Right Stuff,” “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” “Bonfire of the Vanities,” “A Man in Full,” or “Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.” Enjoy.

That’s it for now. I’m going to start on a new list.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

TAD? TFS? Whatever … I’ve Got It

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Trump on Facebook jpgDonald Trump is messing with my journalistic instincts. How do I know? Well, I never got past the headline of the Facebook post that informed me psychologists were diagnosing something new among their patients, informally called TAD — Trump Anxiety Disorder.

I never bothered to read the article. Of course they are, I said to myself. What took them so long? The whole damn country is suffering from it. We’re one, big, herky-jerky mass of resentment and anxiety just waiting for the next tweet to make us great again. Or have us at each other’s throats.

I recognize the symptoms in myself every morning when I wake up and remember that the sorry excuse for a human being called Trump still lives in the White House and millions of Americans are apparently OK with that. I’ve also been told that acceptance is the key to serenity and that I don’t have to like the situation to retain my sanity, just accept that it is. So I’ve now given up trying to figure out or reason with the Trumpsters. The universe and history will deal with them.

But as someone who has been trained and conditioned over time to write about such things as a colossal upheaval of the moral underpinnings of the supposed defender of democracy, equality and justice on the planet (i.e. the United States), I also feel obliged to try to write despite the angst. To report, if you will, on the latest outrage. But really …

There’s no keeping up. Pick a topic. Is it Korea, Russia, the wall, trade wars, utter incompetence, lies, NATO, Iran, hush money for sex with porn stars, China, lies, kneeling football players, the queen, racism, ignorance, attacks on reporters, lies, Hillary, tax cuts for the rich, boorishness, caging immigrant kids, nepotism, the budget deficit, witch hunts, lies …?

It’s all different, yet all the same. Follow the bouncing ball. Three-card Monte. What did he just say? So, while I may have Trump Anxiety Disorder, I think I’m also suffering from what the mental health professionals call a co-occurring condition — Trump Fatigue Symptom.

It’s downright tiring writing the same thing over and over again: Dotard did/said something dumb or cruel, or both. Then he lied about it. Republicans didn’t care (they’ve committed suicide) and his loyalists cheered. End of story.

The end of story I’m hoping for, of course, is one written by Special Counsel Robert Mueller: Trump led out in handcuffs, along with his family and cronies. But I’m also looking for a good read in a chapter to be written in November — the midterm elections. If there’s not a big Blue Wave vote for Congress, TAD will become epidemic I fear.

Meanwhile, someone who cares about me and is curious about the true meaning of life (it’s not politics or baseball, I’m told), has steered me to some people who seem to have a pretty good handle on it. Eckhart Tolle. Mooji. Rupert Spira. Deepak Chopra.Tom Campbell. Thanks to YouTube, they are helping me to change my outlook, maybe even lower my anxiety level.

The key is simply to be, these enlightened men say. I am not my thoughts. I am not even my body. Consciousness (not the Dotard) is in charge. All I have is now. Be present. (Have lunch with my sons.) Meet everything in the moment. Be aware of being aware. (Do all-you-can-eat sushi every Sunday.) Lower the entropy (disorder) in a system (consciousness) and increase the cooperation, order, caring, even love. There are no coincidences.

This is all a virtual reality, says Campbell, a physicist. In that case, I want to be the player in charge of the Dotard’s avatar. I think I could bring plenty of energy to that experience, appreciate every moment and lower the entropy of the entire planet.

It’s working slowly.

Also, please vote Democrat.

rjgaydos@gmail.com