Cognition & Reality

Thursday, 31 March 2011

More On Melo Drama

Filed under: Sports — drtone @ 9:44 am

Although I believe the only “power ranking” worth anything is a team’s won-loss record, ESPN now has the Denver Nuggets #2 in their ranking of NBA teams, bolstering my claim that trading Carmelo Anthony made Denver one of the strongest teams in the league. The Nuggets have been tearing up the league since the trade, in contrast to the NY Knicks, who have their fans tearing up their programs. Some of the talking heads are pointing to next season for the trade to pay off for New York, perhaps anticipating that the team will trade Chauncey Billups, and find a point guard who better suits Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun coaching style. Strangely, Raymond Felton, whom they traded for Billups, is such a player. There’s always talk of Chris Paul coming to New York as a free agent, raising the question of how many superstars it will take before the Knicks are any good.

It’s as if the Knicks’ management looked at a team that was weak on defense, but had no trouble scoring, and said to themselves, “To make ourselves a true contender, let’s get a great offensive player who does not like defending–and divest ourselves of almost every good defensive player on the team.” To make matters worse, they went to great lengths to acquire Billups, who does happen to play defense well, but is a poor fit with the highly paid, highly respected D’Antoni, himself brought to New York as the Knicks’ savior. Remember, it was the Billups part of the trade that delayed it for so long, because the Nuggets did not want to give up their most popular player. It is a sad irony that, in order to acquire Denver native Billups and in addition to giving up Felton, the Knicks had to trade Danilo Gallinari, the son of D’Antoni’s best friend from his time playing basketball in Italy. The result of this bartering of beloved players is that Billups, one of the finest men in the game, has somehow become the villain of the piece, rather than the childish Anthony or the fools who run the New York Knicks.

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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Women & Drinkin’

Filed under: Date Rape,Sex & Love — drtone @ 12:31 pm

Despite the many changes that have occurred in the role of women, men are still expected to initiate “romantic” interactions. That can mean asking a woman for a date, or it can mean approaching a woman in a social situation. Of course, there are exceptions to the normal rule, but the more things have changed the more they’ve stayed the same in this department. For that reason alone, alcohol cannot have the same valence for men and women. A couple of drinks gives a man a little “liquid courage,” to ask a woman out or ask her to come home with him. The same two drinks, as has been well known literally forever, will lower a woman’s “sales resistance,” making it easier to get her into bed–and also easier to rape her.

As I have discussed here and here, there is a disconnect between the formal and informal rules our society has adopted regarding the freedom of a woman to go anywhere she wishes, including into a bar, and the relationship of alcohol and sexual behavior. That disconnect goes deep into the structure of modern society: The moral strictures that protected women when women literally belonged to men hang around like ghosts in a culture that has liberated women. One reason for this is certainly that, in a wide range of circumstances, women are in more danger than are men. Beyond that practical concern, however, there remain open questions about the role of women in the modern world, one that nobody wants to look at because of the forementioned ghosts, which are pretty darn scary.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Melo Drama Continues: Breen Goes Off

Filed under: Sports — drtone @ 11:51 am
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Recently, I predicted that the New York Knicks’ trade for Carmelo Anthony, which jolted the NBA, would not work out well for the organization. Although I emphasized how much New York gave up in the trade as the main reason it would not work out for the Knicks, I mentioned, as another factor, the heat that would be on Carmelo and the team, because of the attention the trade had drawn and the impatience of the New York fans and press. The nightmare is coming true.

The Knicks, a .500 team overall, fell to 7-9 with a loss to the Boston Celtics Monday night. It was a signature loss, if there is such a thing. Carmelo was dynamite in the first half, but got into early foul trouble, compounded by a stupid foul, giving him four, about midway through the third quarter, forcing him to sit down for several minutes. He never really got back into the game. Meanwhile, the Celtics, behind almost the entire way, won through outhustling the Knicks down the stretch.

The New York media are already in on the discontent. The papers eagerly quoted the remarks of the team’s other superstar, Amar’e Stoudemire, which were deemed to be sideways criticism of Anthony, after the latter blew a potential game-tying basket in a loss Saturday night at Detroit, a losing team. For Stoudemire to express his disappointment barely a month after the trade matches the expectations of many that, on the court or off, the two immature, egotistical stars would get in each other’s way. The Knicks may be only a couple of losses from unraveling. Although New York is almost certain to make the playoffs, owing to the weakness of the teams behind them in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, they seem destined to make an early exit from the post-season, stimulating discontented howls from their fans, and more second-guessing by the talking heads.

Another prediction: Although he may be one of the few players in the NBA capable of steadying the Knicks on the floor and in the locker room, Chauncey Billups will be gone before the start of next season.

During the big game with the Celtics, Knicks announcer Mike Breen took shots at Carmelo. When the home team’s play-by-play announcer is openly critical, consider how bad the feeling is on the street in NYC. Breen’s complaint that Anthony must “change his ways”is absurd: You don’t trade for a veteran superstar expecting him to become  another type of player or even a better player. Anthony, in his eighth year, has established himself as a great offensive player who hogs the ball and who plays defense both indifferently and with indifference. His numbers with the Knicks are in line with those he was posting for Denver, although he has had to share the ball with Stoudemire. Despite the obvious need of the Knicks to spread the ball around more and defend better, Breen’s suggestion that Carmelo become more unselfish and defense-minded is bizarre, at best. It’s not as if the Knicks bought a pig in a poke.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Figuring It Out

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 2:25 pm

Despite recognizing that my story of myself is an illusion, I have maintained a naive faith that I could position my mind in such a way as to answer every question at once. Although I recognize limits of my strategy, because I can only experience my “mind” as a rather complicated story, I nevertheless try to figure it all out. I am not alone in experiencing this conundrum. None of us can figure out the web of stories we tell ourselves. “Figuring it out” is, in fact, another story. There has to be a better way.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

“Getting Better”

Non-attachment means recognizing the basic goodness of our situation. I give up my goals, my notions about improving, because trying to “get better” implies moving away from WHO I AM NOW. Whatever I do, win or lose, come or go, I experience reality as it happens, unadorned by my stories about it. By the same token, as long as I focus on where I want to be in the conjectural future, I reduce the psychic space available in the present. If I am not attached to results, not only am I free from the suffering I might engage in, but also my mind and senses are clear. Paradoxically, once I renounce my attachment to going anywhere in particular, I become more effective at going where I want to go.

We can’t open selectively, however. Because pain and turmoil are part of life, we must accept them if we are to remain open to love and joy. I have told clients who have come to me as a result of ruptured relationship or financial crisis to welcome the opportunity the seeming disaster presents. Although these events are painful, to say the best, they also can illuminate pathways that would have been impossible to see under the prior, apparently more comfortable, circumstances. Notoriously, for example, a secure marriage, once gone, reveals itself as having been a hindrance to growth. Non-attachment from the immediate consequences of separation and divorce can therefore lead directly into previously foreclosed possibilities.

Friday, 18 March 2011

UCLA & The Clock

Filed under: Sports — drtone @ 9:05 am

I haven’t watched college basketball all season. Last year, I didn’t even watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, “March Madness,” but this year is different, because I’m at loose ends. As long as I don’t have much to do, I might as well check out the games, right? For many years, I rooted for UCLA, going all the way back to when I first lived in Riverside. Later, my father taught there, which made for another connection. Of course, I’ve always rooted against Michigan State, because I was born on campus at Michigan. Reason enough, right?

There I was yesterday, watching 10th-seeded Michigan State play 7th-seeded UCLA. It was a close game in the first half, but UCLA got out to big lead in the second, as much as 23 points. At just under 10 minutes to go and up by more than 20 points, UCLA should have been milking the 35-second shot clock on every possession. I can’t quite say “by my calculation” they would have won easily doing that, because I’m not sure how to do the calculation. Nevertheless, it’s hard to see how, if UCLA were using 25 to 30 or more seconds every time down the court, Michigan State could have caught up, given that UCLA was playing good enough defense to keep State in its half-court offense for at least 15-20 seconds pretty much every time. At that pace, MSU would only have made maybe a dozen trips downcourt to their basket. They would have had to score every time and prevented UCLA from scoring altogether, in order to win. That’s not what happened.

UCLA started to run the clock down, but then  started shooting whenever a player got open. It looked like they were seduced into shooting by some early successes following the decision to slow it down, as players were coming open early in the clock and putting it in the basket. Then they got sloppy. On one possession, UCLA point guard, Malcolm Lee, committed an offensive foul with about 3 seconds on the shot clock. On another possession, at a point when merely keeping the ball probably would have iced the game, he lost the ball through sloppy play. UCLA players were missing open shots. The pace, instead of slowing down, became frenetic, with the teams charging from one end to the other. There was almost no way for that not to work in Michigan State’s favor, and their coach, Tom Izzo, could not hide his gloating. With about four minutes remaining, time stopped. UCLA players kept going to the free throw line and missing. Meanwhile, State scored a few quick, easy baskets. By the weird black magic of basketball, the huge lead became one measly point.

In spite of  Ben Howland’s terrible strategy, if you can call it that, UCLA did manage to pull out a two-point win. I will never understand why Howland did not force his team to take the air out of the ball when they had the chance. He’s a successful coach who has three times taken UCLA to the Final Four. In addition, I was amazed that, while his team’s huge lead dwindled away, none of the announcers were talking about his huge coaching lapse.

I’m not suggesting that it’s easy to hang on to the ball for 30 seconds every time downcourt. The reason UCLA kept going to the line was because of MSU’s desperate defense. On several possessions, however, UCLA would set up high, set screens, and fake toward the basket, as if intending to hold on to the ball, but then they would work toward the basket or take a jump shot. It was the only way that MSU was going to get back into the game and was  frustrating to watch.

Right now, I’m going to see if Michigan, an 8-seed, can beat 9th-seeded Tennessee.

It’s a couple of hours later. Michigan won going away, operating in a style that, coincidentally, drives home the point I made above. With about eight minutes to go in the second half, and up by 20, Michigan began to freeze the ball. On their possessions, they stayed out on the perimeter until, with 10 or 12 seconds on the clock, they would initiate a play. As it happens, of the three or four crucial possessions on which they tried this strategy, they scored on all but one. The clock kept ticking, and Tennessee, desperate for a score, took some ill-advised shots at their end. After only a few trips like that, with Michigan patient and Tennessee wild, it was all over: The clock was down to four minutes and the Wolverines were up by 25. The Michigan coach, John Beilein, understands how to win.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Japan & Reality

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 9:41 am

The disaster in Japan has become another opportunity for me to act the curmudgeon. Maybe inside this tai-chi-and-yoga social democrat there lurks a despicable right-wing creep. I hope not. Anyway…

When I suspended my news blackout to read about the nuclear meltdown in Japan, one of my first thoughts was that a lot of people were going to become even more afraid of nukes than they already are. Although nukes can represent a serious danger, as we now have illustrated for us again, they are only one danger in a dangerous world. Meanwhile, the industrialized world must obtain energy from somewhere. People can moralize all they want about overpopulation and over-industrialization, but everyone wants electricity, motorized transportation and the other basics of modern civilization. There is no way to produce these without “breaking a few eggs,” by drilling for oil, building nuclear plants, etc. The alternative is…There is no alternative. (There are those who offer the solution of a “sustainable” world population at about a quarter what it is now. In other words, their alternative is that four or five billion people should die.)

There’s reality, and then there’s everything else. At my yoga class the other night, people were talking about empty shelves at the local health food store. Apparently, if you want some iodine, you can now forget it. Fukushima, Japan, the site of the nuclear plant where the meltdown might be happening is over 5000 miles from Southern California, where the radiation plume will arrive tomorrow, raising background levels by a “miniscule” amount. Stipulating that the authorities, particularly the owners of the nuclear plant, are downplaying the risk, surely there is a danger gradient in effect, such that people close to the meltdown are in far more peril than someone literally across the ocean.

Consider, as well, that Japan is the only country in the world where people remember widespread radiation sickness, thanks to the boys at Los Alamos. A meltdown is a different animal, to be sure, but bombs that blew up in the atmosphere, incinerating and poisoning hundreds of thousands of Japanese, did nothing to the rest of the world. The Japanese are the ones with the warrant to be scared. The rest of the world is on a fear jag.

Then there is the destruction from the earthquake and tsunami. The horror. As real as the disaster might be for someone in Northeast Japan, what could be more of an illusion than scenes of broken cars and buildings and people beamed into one’s house from thousands of miles away? Shit happens, as Gautama would have said were he alive now.

There are a lot of things in this world to be afraid of. I worry about my doggies all the time, for example, and there are one’s own health problems. Things blow up. There are car wrecks, windstorms, and lightning strikes. Life is fragile, and the trappings of civilization are fragile, as well. Maybe that’s why we meditate, not to escape our fears, but to gather the inner strength to live with them.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Dogsitting & The Economy

Filed under: Economics — drtone @ 8:32 am

In about a week, I’m going to one of my quarterly retreats, where we explore Relational Somatic Psychotherapy. Before I moved from Riverside to Sun City, having my dogs cared for, during those retreats and other times I went away, was a simple matter. By a lucky coincidence, I lived across the street from a woman who had been boarding dogs for decades. I trusted her, and the dogs always eagerly skipped up the steps to her place when I brought them there. Since my move, I’ve left my dogs there two or three times, but it’s a lot more hassle than simply walking them across Brockton Ave. In addition, I’ll be going out to the desert for a long weekend in about six weeks, first stopping in San Diego, which would mean a trip in the wrong direction to board my dogs in Riverside.

All this is a rather long introduction to my saying that I posted an ad on web site that’s a clearinghouse for dogsitters and babysitters. I have not counted the replies I have received, but it must be at least two dozen and they’re still coming in. Almost all are from women, most of them college-age girls trying to earn a few extra bucks, but some are in their 30s to 50s. I actually gave the gig to the first person who followed through by calling me and coming over to the house, but I could have spent daze sorting through the possibilities and negotiating a low price. It should be said that I live in newly incorporated Menifee, an area that’s chronically depressed. Even taking that into account, there are a lot of unemployed and underemployed people out here. In a way, I’m one of them.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Pictures, Real & False

Filed under: Emotion,Memory,Radical Constructivism — drtone @ 11:14 am

I had an interview this morning about a contract job I may take. I had spoken on the phone a few daze ago with the person I was meeting. Based on that conversation, I was expecting someone in her early to middle forties, with permed blonde or strawberry blonde hair, pretty but pinched WASPy features, dressed in a prim outfit. The real person was in her early to middle thirties, not a WASP, maybe part Chicano or something, dressed casually in slacks and a striped top. On the phone, I thought she would be a brittle person trying to be overpowering,  Actually, she was easygoing and mild. It’s amazing how one develops pictures in the mind of how someone or something will be. In my experience, the picture and the reality rarely match.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Date Rape Drugs And The “Good Girl”

Filed under: Date Rape,Propaganda,Sex & Love,Urban Myths — drtone @ 12:10 pm

I promise that I will soon get off the topic of date rape, but not quite yet. When I wrote my first entry on “date rape drugs” after watching a stupid movie, I discovered the depth of the topic, how it drills down to some core values in our society. Now that I’m there, it’s hard to stop.

A fascinating aspect of the prevailing fantasy about date rape drugs is that it makes contact with a societal trope one would have thought had died in the sexual revolution. The “good girl” no longer must abstain from sex before marriage. Instead, she does have sex with her boyfriend in a committed relationship, but  she doesn’t have sex with a random Joe she happened to meet at a bar or party. At least, she doesn’t do so regularly. A magic substance that can be slipped into an alcoholic drink, transforming it into something that render a person unconscious, as if alcohol couldn’t already do that, obviously taps into deep hypocrisy about the consumption of alcohol by women. It not only “explains” the effect of alcohol on a woman’s inhibitions, but also “explains” the non-virtuous behavior of a supposedly virtuous woman.

A “good girl” doesn’t get hammered and end up in bed with an ill-mannered stranger. Maybe she entertains the notion that there’s someone like that deep inside her, but does not contemplate letting her out. Therefore, if she wakes up in a strange place, certain that she behaved recklessly, ashamed of herself, it must have been the result of a “date rape drug,” and not the result of a chain of bad judgments that began when she went to a a party the night before. Clearly, the scenario of a drunken woman leaving a party with a stranger could be a prelude to sex that is truly forced and qualifies as rape. But just as clearly, an alcohol-fueled sexual liaison can simply be confusing, uncomfortable, and something for which one would like not to take responsibility. A “good girl” doesn’t, by definition, act like a slut…unless she’s been drugged.

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