Creative commentary plus crafty composition

So-called advances in education (as in, children not learning multiplication tables?!) notwithstanding, there’s plenty to be said for enhancing self-awareness the personal way, via introspection blended with own experiences, stories of the streets, etc.

The June edition of Psychology Today includes a list of skills which are likely to be only truly clarified, then absorbed, outside the classroom.  The key rewards for doing so lie in linking one’s vision with achieving life goals.

Here are some of these ‘positive behaviour modification’ techniques:

  • A significant lesson for those in power, or with other means of disproportionate influence, is to appreciate that not everything we experience is about ourselves; an excellent daily example in bigger cities is dealing with a traffic jam – which has a habit of performing on its own schedule, not ours; for a less reactive and more directed life we need to be aware of ‘egocentric bias’, indeed “to recognize that our own point of view isn’t the only one, or necessarily the best one”
  • We can take advantage that we are not, or don’t have to be, as transparent as we think we are, since others don’t notice and judge us as much as we think they do; this means we can disguise our persona if we’re not at our best or feeling defensive; ‘self-distancing’ can become self-regulation, by communicating internally as from an outsider viewpoint, creating ‘mental space’; this space in turn permits the emotional experience to be mitigated, so reaction can be better controlled
  • A prime attitude to ensure that a life of meaning is possible is to recognize that one’s own needs and values matter; not acting this way paves the way to ‘a life of regret or resentment’; a thoughtful employing of passions and skills requires that one “discover what they are and equip (one)self to deploy them”; there is a vital balancing act involved, since both internal and external factors impact self-awareness; the skill is reconciling “the part of us that knows its own desires and passions and remains essentially stable over time and the part that derives meaning and identity from a social context which by definition is in flux”; the challenge is illustrated in realizing that “People high in both internal and external self-awareness are at best navigating the dueling expectations”
  • Whatever our prime goals and directive, we need to avoid falling into a path in which an accumulated sense of constancy morphs into rigid thinking and reaction; with or without our inputs, circumstances around us change, so exhibiting behaviours based on learning principles and then being constrained by them may cause us to reject changes, and in so doing, personal growth; a challenge of age is that ‘neural flexibility cedes ground to efficiency’; fortunately, ‘cognitive flexibility’ can be rekindled by physical activity mixed with mental training, particularly permitting curiosity to be more vital than mastery in exposure to new things
  • If we want to accomplish tasks, we need to find and keep to habits which support self-motivation; regular activities which can help are writing down affirmative outcomes, imagining having a ‘coach in the head’ or competing with peers, or adhering to behavioral routines which represent steps on the way, perhaps even taking pleasure in the process
  • The increasing pace of modern life means we must accept acting on the basis of less-than-fully definitive information, and so must tolerate ambiguity; the rewards of accepting ambiguity include being more able to experiment, to be flexible, to not reject new information out of hand, and to let situations develop; we’ll probably never know all there is to know about an issue, and thus never able to be 100% certain; clarity is a substance that ‘develops best over time’

We can appreciate how the average, structured classroom environment is not conducive to engaging these lessons, given they exhibit amorphous parameters which require shifting mind-sets and responses.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that graduation ceremonies give out diplomas, and not carte blanche road maps.




Some of us are old enough to remember that, before the end of the last century, there seemed to be momentum from supporters of Esperanto, promoting it as a universal language for our world.  Conceptually, this still sounds like a laudable goal.

Deservedly or not, nowadays one seldom (if ever) hears stories about it having impact.

Let’s consider Esperanto’s linguistic context.  It may be surprising for some to learn how old this artificial language is.

According to on-line information, it was first presented in 1887 by its creator, Polish physician Ludwig Zamenhoff.  ‘Esperanto’ was a pseudonym he used for his first textbook.  Approximately 70% of the vocabulary came from Romance languages.  Notably, the initial impact of English on its vocabulary was in the range of 10%.

Its grammar has limited rules for nouns and verbs, with a simple connection between written and spoken text; together, these patterns would expect to make it easier to learn than a natural language (although how easy, clearly, depends on which one).

Thousands of written works, original and translated, have been published in Esperanto, which itself means “a hopeful person”.

Yet, after more than 125 years, there are guesstimated to be only about 1,000 ‘native speakers’; about 2 million use it worldwide as a ‘second’ language, the most widely spoken ‘constructed’ one – in over 100 countries, mainly in Europe, east Asia, and South America.  Thus, we seldom hear it in public places and gatherings in North America.  (Even if we did hear, what’s the likelihood we’d know what it was?)

Complicating its status is the issue of currently three ‘tendencies’ in the Esperanto movement:  a conservative group, which advocates sticking to the original version of the language; a progressive group, which is trying to adapt the language to give it wider use, in part by making it more like English; and a group of scientists wanting to stay separate while using the language ‘for pragmatic reasons’.

Another divisive element for this attempted unifier is that Esperanto has been partly fragmenting into smaller competing versions or dialects.

For now at least, major perceived pros and cons of Esperanto include:

  • Standardized pronunciation, but some words difficult to pronounce
  • Standardized grammar, but difficult for some linguistic cultures due to significant European influence
  • Easier for Europeans and English speakers, but can be affected by regional accents
  • Not tied to any one or two countries, but few people to speak with
  • Can facilitate international understanding, and help learn other languages, but is not an official language anywhere

Illustrating what represents, in fact, a decline in big picture interest is that there are fewer periodicals published in this language and fewer attendees at annual gatherings.

Esperanto can’t even claim to be the only notable constructed language.  Others have appeared, particularly ‘Interlingua’ and ‘Lojban’.  Then there’s the semi-real version ‘Klingon’, which, as anyone attending a Comicon (or familiar with a certain episode of Frasier) knows, has its adherents.

On the solar side, a message in Esperanto was included in at least one of the Golden Records in Voyager spacecraft sent out to extraterrestrials in 1977.  No response yet, at least as far as the public knows.

If we take interactions as shown on TV or in films as any indication, English seems to be popular with alien civilizations, somehow, as well.

At this time, the fact is that English is the nearest we have to a universal language. Despite the many examples of its importance on our planet, ranging from business to sports to politics, etc., this does seem surprising in a glaring respect: English is a truly difficult language for the uninitiated to grasp (and even for some of us born to it!), due to there being seemingly more exceptions to than rules of grammar, and tangential variations of meanings.  For instance, how many versions of slips can there be on a slippery slope?  Perhaps another challenge is lack of purity due to the endless looping in of expressions from other languages.

While in all corners of the world versions of English are spoken, this definitely does not apply to Esperanto, or its alternatives.  Perhaps the lesson is that there have been and continue to be limits to the acceptance of constructed communication.  Perhaps no language, constructed or otherwise, can be considered a one-of-a-kind beacon for human unity.  For now, happily for those of us immersed in its idioms, English is integral as a functional unifying force of international contact.

Unless something dramatically changes, Esperanto, it’s too bad, we hardly knew you.


Now in its second season, TV series THE GOOD FIGHT, a spin-off from the seven years’ run of THE GOOD WIFE, seems to be firmly grounded in being topical and controversial.  Moreover, the controversy angle has explored more rarefied plateaus, with numerous references to the twists and stumbles, and worse, of the current U.S. administration.

Its opening title sequence, for many series, increasingly has become an art form, and this one certainly fits the bill.

In the ‘old days’ of limited channels and media, TV universe options for the openings would likely feature a jingle-type theme song, with action shots or close-ups of its stars.  Production values were perfunctory, often incorporating episode clips.

Nowadays, the inclusion of digital technology to optics and music score in the opening theme and titles has meant an ever-widening tangent of variations, quick cuts, and massaged effects.  Sometimes these intros loosely define the concept, sometimes they knead it by adding potent imagery, pieces of the thematic puzzle.

THE GOOD FIGHT, especially in season two, emphasizes more of the latter.

The opening music and titles appear after brief or elongated (this has become the approach of numerous shows) initial scenes, or to lead off the episode.  The sequence conveys the premise of confronting power and the legal system: along with a catchy musical score, the tile sequence both seasons has presented images of fancy lamps, wine bottles, computers, law books, etc., being crushed unceremoniously, against stark backgrounds.  Reflective of its more biting political commentary, season two explodes images of Russian President Putin and U.S. President (for now) Trump, in typically self-inflated portraits, modern day pieces of destruction, before the muted ending fades in.  An approach which both whets your appetite and makes you realize that the show producers are not kidding around with subtlety.

The basic premise in season one originally took a few characters from almost lily-white surroundings of the Chicago law firm in THE GOOD WIFE, and shifted them to a, heretofore all-black, similar if not even more crusading Chicago law firm.  Further, THE GOOD FIGHT takes on the current issue, ethical consciousness of the first show, broadening this to become even more up-to-date (paralleling life in these obsessively immediate, social media times) and confrontational.   It is full of illustrations for reflection on clashes between monetizing conflict and weighing ethical behaviour, so relevant in these highly politicized times.

There are underlying lessons which may be applicable to our lives…

  • While art may be in the eye of the beholder, so may be its destruction be art
  • Retirement as a state of mind might have to suffice for the real thing awhile
  • ‘Good’ is a four-letter word
  • The more valuable information is, the less it can be depended upon
  • Those large offices and chairs contribute to either expanded thinking or less overt avoiding
  • Everyone has an agenda, whether they write anything in it or not
  • The interracial aspect of a relationship adds another unpredictable dimension of flies in the ointment
  • Years of filtering double-talk gives slick professionals a jumping point for adjusting moral behaviour
  • Respect for institutions not only has to be earned, there also needs to be a cloak of humanity
  • Personalities count in the courtroom

One wonders what would happen if the premise was The Bad Fight

It’s worthwhile periodically to consider what it is that makes some of us so much more successful than others, in certain occupations or other pursuits.

This doesn’t mean we should look to copy what they do.  It doesn’t mean we should be envious.  It does mean we should emulate the positive and practical of their drive, their manner, and their goal-setting.  What is it, in manifestations of their mindsets, we could use to better ourselves and the value of our actions? Read the rest of this entry »

Lucky Charms

Some of us will recall a TV commercial for a heavily sugared breakfast cereal named Lucky Charms, declared to be ‘indescribably delicious’.  Well, their consumption, no doubt, has been beneficial over time to the dentists whose clients have overindulged in such candied cereals when younger.

The more general concept of lucky charms, also known as talismans, has been widespread for ages.  Read the rest of this entry »

Weather forecasting is relatively easy in some parts of the world because changes are so limited or slow to form: deserts for example, where wind changes are the greatest variable.  In other places, forecasting takes advantage of regularity: tropical rain forests for example, where predicting rain is like predicting daylight. Read the rest of this entry »

Many are the skills we can develop which help us to grow, making a positive ripple effect of our efforts on others, gradually wider and fuller.

Some aptitudes have wider applications than others – consider cooking versus negotiating skills.  The significance, the impact, of some talents may expand beyond the borders of their logical environments. Read the rest of this entry »