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Sunday, July 28, 2013

But My Dreams . . .

Did You Have A Dream?

Hey All -- It's About That Time!

A few nights ago, I was chatting with a friend from college on Facebook, and a few memories came back.

When I was active in Alpha Phi Omega, the National Co-Ed Service Fraternity, we would have the weekly Brotherhood meeting every Sunday night.  These meetings were usually divided into three topics:  Part I was the actual organization and administrative issues that the chapter needed to address (zzzzzzzzzzzzz).  Part II discussed pledging (drama, insults, slander, divisiveness, and crocodile tears).  Part III, and my favorite, was Open Floor.

After all the serious, oh-so-serious, business was concluded, all of the backstabbing and childishness that went with discussion of pledging was documented and tabled, this was the time for anyone who felt the need to do so, to speak their minds.  And that's where the legend began.  ;)

I realized that the chapter needed a little humor as a release from the aforementioned drudgery and drama that would usually engulf Sunday nights.  So I started telling people in Open Floor that I had "The Dreams."  No, I didn't really dream them, but I did use fantasy scenarios that would require me to compare people in the chapter with well-known celebrities or characters.  For example, I knew someone who seemed to resemble Dan Aykroyd in his SNL years, and told people I dreamed he was a Conehead.  Or maybe there was someone who had a distinctive, and loud, Long Island accent, so I told people I dreamed she was The Snapple Lady.  I cracked myself up, as I sometimes still do.

For some reason, these humorous images did not sit well with everyone.  While common sense would dictate that this simple act of storytelling would be more entertaining than Old Business and New Business, and would be significantly more pleasant than idle gossip and reinforced animosity, these miscreants instead met my jokes with rancor, exaggerated objections, and well-rehearsed groans and moans.  However, after the meeting had adjourned for the evening, at least 5 times as many people would privately tell me that what I'd said was hilarious, very accurate, allowed them to head back to the dorms smiling, and that I should be proud to continue them.  And so I did, up until the very last meeting before I graduated.

(then again, there were other people who would tell me they didn't want to hear the dreams because it was fun for them to be part of the act that way.  Deep down, they loved them just as much as I did)

It's frighteningly easy to give up on your dreams just because some blowhard or loudmouth tells you they think your dreams are stupid.  It's even easier to give up on them when the blowhards and loudmouths try to flaunt their intellect and tell you that they have every reason in the world to show you up.

Even if it defies the supposed logic that these bullies and miscreants try to trap you with, the dream stays.  You never give up on it, now matter what those 'holes have to say, because it is yours and yours alone.  It's not relevant to me what that dream actually is, because if it's truly yours, a plan to make it work will follow naturally.  Every chance you have to yourself, when you get bored of watching "Werewolf Hunter" on Syfy and surfing Facebook gets less thrilling, you'll diagram, plan, consider, re-consider, research, edit, and present it.  Or maybe chuck it and do it again from the beginning, that's your call.  But keeping it alive somehow, even with the hustle and bustle that everyday adult life throws at you, is the most important quest you have.

One major step in this process is to stop reacting.  The more time you spent being upset that you have to handle a negative comment or insult, the less time you'll have to prove those bandejos wrong.  If you are able, then as I've said before, you can treat these parasites with the options of eviction, expulsion, rejection, or banning from your life.  If you can't, you can grown your skin several degrees thicker.  And if you have enough ammunition to operate from a position of strength, shut 'em down and shut 'em down hard!

That way your head will remain clear, as you should always strive to keep it.  Granted, your dreams are probably more genuine than a few made up stories about how that big guy who disses everyone looks a lot like Chris Christie.  All the more reason to keep at them.  ;)

In future posts, I'll refer to a few people I've known over the years who've had dreams, despite insurmountable challenges.  Before I do that though, I'll need to get their permission.  See, even if you have a dream, even if most of it is a no-brainer, you sometimes have to think part of it through.

Whew!  On fire tonight, peeps.  Here comes the video!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rise Above It!

To Rise Above It

Hey All -- it's Sunday night again -- time for all my peeps and followers to groove to my words and to soak in my knowledge.

Hm.  Not sure where that came from.  But I digress.

I've posted many times about anger, about how it can wreak havoc on our lives and psyches if not controlled, and how it can be used constructively instead.  To add just a little bit to that, I've discovered a visualization technique that can help keep it at bay.

(1)  Close your eyes and take one deep breath.  All the way in, and all the way out.
(2)  Raise your right hand, palm down, and keep it level with your chin.
(3)  Curl it into a fist.
(4)  Place your left hand on top of it, pressing down on it.
(5)  Inhale deeply.
(6)  Exhale slowly.  As you do so, lower your right by pushing down slowly with your left hand.  Stop when you get to waist level.
(7)  Inhale deeply once more.
(8)  Exhale slowly.  As you do so, bring your hands to your sides and shrug your shoulders back.
(9)  Straighten your back and contract your abdomen.
(10)  Hold the position.

You were about to drown in anger -- like an ocean of lava or toxic acid.  Instead, you kept your head above water, pulled yourself out of the pit, and then shrugged off all remnants of it.  You are now on sold dry land, above the storm and chaos, and you are able to think clearly and see the problem for all that it's worth.  Nothing that happens can draw you back into the abyss.

Obviously, running can drive these feelings out of you better than anything else.  But if you find your feet confined to Florsheims, heels, or work boots instead of Asics, and can't bust out the door with a 7:30 pace, this should serve as a gap filler.

If you don't want people to actually see you perform these motions, just think of them while breather, but still perform 8-10, as they're still good for your posture and your core.  It'll also make you look just a little bit badass.  ;)

Feel free to repeat it a few times.  Chances are, you may still feel some anger in spite of what you visualize.  Picture it as "swimmer's ear."  Feel free to do that old-school swimmer's exercise to get it out.  :)

Just to reinforce the prior posts, you control the anger, it does not control you.  And if you want to be able to use it, make sure you are operating from a position of strength, and that you have a clear and obstructed shot to take.  Then, and only then, can the anger make you a winner.  Otherwise, it can only defeat you because you didn't handle it the right way.

DISCLAIMER:  Don't read into this, peeps, your boy ain't fuming or snapping at anyone.  He just may have figured something out, is all.

Last but not least, a good friend of mine has set up a site on Facebook to set forth her political and societal views.  You'll find that the topics tend to grow out of the blue perspective of life, and that's somewhat different from the content of this blog, but it's worth a read anyway.  Feel free to click on:

Night, all!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zimmerman Not Guilty!

Another Controversial Decision

Hi All.  Sunday night, and you know what that means. . . .

Last night, a jury in Seminole County, Florida found George Zimmerman not guilty, even after the charge of manslaughter was added.  The reaction to all of this was huge, and seems to be dividing our society along political lines, and to some degree, along ethnic backgrounds.

First and foremost, I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to the family of Trayvon Martin.  It is not only tragic, but unnatural, for a parent to outlive a child.  I will never know what Trayvon's parents have been going through for the past year and a half, but I extend my sympathies for their loss, and I pray that they'll find justice in another venue.  That being said, I'd like to give my take on it all.

(1)  THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE.  I already mentioned this in an earlier post and video when I noted how unfortunate it is that people made it a racial issue when it wasn't one.  This seems to happen quite often because racism is what I like to call a "soft issue."  That doesn't mean I deny its existence or I minimize its impact on our society.  That does mean that it's an issue that the masses can grasp far more easily than facts and substance.  It's a lot easier to make a fuss over buzzwords and catchphrases than it is to ask questions, research, study, and figure out everything that happened.  The only reason why jumping to conclusions is not an Olympic event is because it requires no skill.  No matter how passionate the rhetoric is, no matter how many examples of similar situations decided differently have been discussed, and no matter how righteous it may seem, it is completely disingenuous to make this case a racial issue, or to blindly follow any demagogue who would have you believe that there is a racial issue.  And now that you've had a day to get it all out of your systems, I suggest that further discussions of this inflammatory topic be contained.

(2)  THIS HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE LAW.  The United States Constitution and Bill of Rights delegate the police power to the states and their subdivisions.  This is why every state has some form of penal code.  And this is also why, as Judge Wapner told us decades ago on "The People's Court," the laws of your state may or may not be different.  In Florida, the statute defining murder in the second degree is drafted and worded differently than it might be in other states in defining the intent that must be proven for a conviction.  That state also happens to have a "stand your ground" law that is somewhat broader than the self-defense affirmative defenses that are available in many other states.  The essence of criminal law is that crimes can only be defined by statute, and that jurisdiction can extend no further than the county and state where the crime is alleged to have been committed.  Accordingly, this case had to be tried under Florida law, regardless of what the rest of the country may have thought about it.

Congress cannot force a state to repeal its own laws because it does not agree with them.  Neither can any other state in the union.  The U.S. Supreme Court can only deem a state law unconstitutional (should it even elect to consider the matter at all) if it violates constitutional rights, and not if it increases them.  Laws that protect defendants accused of crimes are sacrosanct in the United States of America, as they prevent us from becoming a one-party dictatorship where a mere accusation of a crime sends one hurtling towards oblivion.

In all 50 states, the prosecution has the burden of proving a criminal defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  In Seminole County, Florida, the State's Attorney did not carry that burden.  Its witnesses testified favorably for the defense.  Their testimony revealed that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, assaulting him, actually supporting the self-defense issue.  There was no testimony that Zimmerman was ordered to remain in his car.  There was nothing to indicate that Zimmerman's mental state was as described by statute.  And last but not least, manslaughter was added at the last minute, sending a clear signal that the State's Attorney realized it might not win.

All of these factors, and then some, led to the only proper result, an acquittal.  We do not send people to prison because they're ugly, because they're stupid, because the victim is a different color than the defendant is, or because they "probably" did it.  We send them there when the prosecution carries its burden, covers all bases, eliminates all wiggle room, and leaves nothing to chance.  Here, they did not.  If anything, they fulfilled the defendant's burden of proving self defense, eliminating the need for him to testify on his own behalf.

On the facts and the law, George Zimmerman was not guilty.  And there is no appeal from an acquittal.

There has been talk about a possible federal prosecution for civil rights violations.  However, since the FBI already performed an investigation and found no such evidence, it does not seem likely that the Government would press this further.  They've already lost to Roger Clemens and John Edwards -- does the Department of Justice really need another front-page acquittal?  I think not.

(3)  THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES NONETHELESS.  I never said that Zimmerman was a hero, either.  Guilty or not, he killed a teenager.  He will be a marked man the rest of his life, like Cain himself.  He will have no employment prospects, he will have lost most of his close friends, and family will always have to tiptoe around this issue from now on.  Other than to promote the book he may write, or to consult on the TV movie that will be made, he will be at risk wherever he goes.  Unless he and Casey Anthony want to cohabitate in hiding, and put a Netflix account in someone else's name, they will both be personal non grata forever.  The jury was free to make its finding at trial, but the rest of society is free to make its own findings as well.

And more importantly, a family remains without a son.  Regardless of the outcome of this trial, they would have remained without Trayvon Martin, and that pain still would have followed them the rest of their lives.


(A)  I appeal to the public to become more educated as to these basic civic matters.  I find it distressing that every time there is a sensationalist case like this one, people pretend that they never took seventh grade social studies, and rail against the perceived injustice of a criminal justice system that has been in place for more than 200 years.  Everybody knows about "innocent until proven guilty," and everybody knows what "beyond a reasonable doubt" means, but they let emotions and feelings get in the way of their judgment of the result.  Sooner or later, we've got to become mature enough to understand why it's done this way, and save the teeth-gnashing and rancor until the process is finished.  You don't decide who wins a sporting event until its over, don't make premature judgments about trials either.  And once it is finished, let those feelings be tempered by wisdom.  Especially when we don't live in the jurisdiction where this happened, and the laws of that state have nothing to do with the rest of us.

(B)  However, the people of Florida have more thinking to do than the rest of us.  Are they content to let a law remain on their books that allows for this kind of result?  Is this the kind of self-defense that the legislature intended?  Apparently an amendment of this statute down in Tallahassee may be in order.

(C)  This is why we need to think before we act, all the time.  A neighborhood watchman could have thought before he got into a confrontation with someone who posed no threat.  A teenager could have thought before he wore clothing that would make him appear more threatening than he was.  They were both wrong, and they both had their lives ruined.  Please see Paragraph (1), above.

As a child, I disliked it immensely when my parents would "test" me to make sure I had thought of everything, and was prepared for anything, no matter what I did.  How right they were.

Yes, this one was longer than normal, but that's only to drive home the message even further:  (A)  Educate yourselves on the substance, and don't be swept away by the "soft issues;" (B)  If a law provides an inequitable result, in the jurisdiction where you live or work, contact your representatives and let them know that if they don't make changes, they will be voted out of office;  (C) Don't make the same mistakes they made:  THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK OR ACT, ALWAYS.

That is all, check the video.

DISCLAIMER:  The above post is not intended to smear, besmirch, malign, or cast aspersions on anyone, beyond what is objectively and obviously true.  While it may invite opposing arguments, it is still not intended to invite libel, slander, personal attacks, accusations, preaching, or any other adversarial responses, whether the audience agrees or disagrees.  See also Paragraph (1), above.  The author reserves his rights to take appropriate action against anything other than a rational and thoughtful argument.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July 4th Video!

Summertime -- A Portal To Eternal Youth

Hi All -- Hope you had a great July 4th Weekend.  I've blogged before about declaring one's own independence, but this year I'm declaring my independence from the desire to recycle and re-post.  Sometimes new experiences require posts that take new perspectives.  Since I had one, by popular demand, here it is.

Growing up on Long Island meant summers at our world-renowned beaches.  Long Beach, Jones Beach, Captree, Robert Moses, Montauk and Fire Island all come to mind.  Those care-free months in between school years would usually consist of days swimming in the waves, protected by a healthy layer of what my parents called "shmearox" while laying in the sun, and watching the planes leave sky-writing above the water.  And although I hadn't started doing it at the time, the fully-intact Long Beach Boardwalk provided the perfect spot for summer running, as did the Jones Beach trail, parallel to the Ocean Parkway stretching out east.

If you were lucky enough to have a cabana at Point Lookout or Lido Beach, you had it made.  After waiting patiently on the waiting list, you'd have your space for a BBQ, to play some touch football in the sand, or to just soak it all in.  It felt like living the life of jet-setters in Hollywood or moguls in South Beach, and it was only half an hour from home.

And the nightlife?  Second to none!  Concerts on the water at Jones Beach Theater brought out some of the best groups in rock & roll for the best leg of their summer tours.  Clubs such as Malibu were strategically placed right near the cabanas for those who wanted to get their groove on after dark.  And the bars all along Long Beach made it the centerpiece of the summer.  Nothing but a good time all summer long, throughout the 80's, 90's, and 00's.

This weekend, I unexpectedly found myself on some old stomping grounds -- some friends advised that a new club/restaurant had opened at the former site of Malibu, which had been closed a few summers before.  A well-known cover band was going to be trotting out some classic rock hits from the Beatles, Chicago, and possibly the Man, Billy Joel.  Although I'm quite happy living here in an outer borough, I was more than happy to come back to Long Island's own vacation paradise, and remember a good part of my youth.

And these friends were not only good friends, they were slick, sly, and resourceful.  A reservation had been made for about an hour before this band was to go on for six people -- not a huge party by any means, but enough to put the ever-eager maitre'd and her staff on notice to secure a table for us the minute we arrived, while those with smaller parties would have been relegated to the bar, waiting and waiting for a table of their own for an hour or more.  And the location gave us a perfect view of the band, as well as the sunset that would provide the perfect background for the first half of their set.  We feasted on the most excellent seafood, and some land-based fare, and toasted how damn-near-perfect this time turned out to be.  We capped off the night after sunset as I took the opportunity to show everyone that I had the moves like Jagger . . . well, like somebody anyway . . . on the dance floor.  :)

We often associate springtime with childhood, summertime with adolescence, and "the autumn of the year" with middle age and beyond.  We cannot be adolescents forever, for obvious reasons, but we can always revisit the places that gave us hot times and cool nights in the olden days.  We can remind ourselves how awesome it felt to be temporarily free of responsibility, to let loose and enjoy the setting created for us, and if we were lucky, to meet that special someone to make it even better.  Sometimes those old familiar places can rejuvenate us, and allow us to return to our states of maturity with just an extra little lift, and a few extra smiles.  The week that follows will obviously be no "day at the beach," but it will go somewhat easier after basking in the sun.

The past few years had taken me off the Island, but I should return to this place again and again.  Nothing more than a train ride on the most famous commuter railroad in the US keeps me from it, and that ain't bad (so long as people can keep their cell phone conversations to a low roar and not make a scene, lol).

Not only did it make me feel young again, it also gave me a little bit of long-lost hometown pride.  There's been a lot of talk about the Jersey Shore rebuilding after the consequences of Hurricane Sandy, and more power to them. But the south shore of the Island, particularly Long Beach, got smacked up pretty badly too, and that should not be ignored due to the lack of well-known politicians putting out spots advertising the progress.  Since everyone I was with that night was affected in some way by that SuperStorm, it felt good to be reminded that Mother Nature, as badass as she truly can be, cannot and does not always have her way with us.  Jersey Shore is back?  G-D bless them.  Guess What, So Is Long Island.

That's all I got now, but the video will follow.  But last, and not least, I'd like to welcome a few new "friends and neighbors" to the blog.  As long as a few more summer memories can be created, a few extra "behind the scenes" stories for the Fanfare will be written.  Just keep watching, peeps!