Donald Trump is a Kitten

As soon as I put my gym bag on the floor, my new seven-month old kitten was sitting on it, playing with the straps. I could scold him, but for some reason he thinks it’s just more fun, me chasing him with a spray bottle or piece of paper. Playing with the bag is fun, being chased for doing it is even more fun.

When I kick the spiral toy out of my way in the kitchen, we’re playing soccer. All objects on the kitchen table are fun to push onto the floor. Napkins and toilet paper are the best fun around as you can unravel them then roll around in them on the floor.

Furniture, that’s a launching pad for attack on the other members of the household, two older females, one feline one not. Stalking is also easier with furniture barricades.

How do I explain to this good-natured, playful kitten that walking on the table is very, very bad and I’m very, very serious when I say don’t do it?

The flawless flow of the household has been aggressively disrupted by this ten-pound ball of fur. Doesn’t this kitten understand it took years to develop that perfect set of habits that assures optimal use of time and resources? His “playful” actions are upsetting the entire routine.

As Napoleon Dynamite would say, “Kitten, you’re ruining my life!”

This Sounds Familiar

Thinking of the disruption of my life by the energy of a new feline brings to mind our president, Donald Trump. Like my kitten, he’s a disruptor.

Metaphorically speaking, Trump has knocked things off the table, ruined the furniture and rolled in the toilet paper all the while acting like it’s the best fun he’s ever had. Like my kitten, he doesn’t understand that for those disrupted, this is serious business; this is real. You may not need toilet paper, but I do.

“Trump, you’re ruining my life!”

In response to Trump, there has been great polarization. The positive side of polarization is that is activates dormant issues that truly need to be resolved.

The negative side, clearly, is the waste of energy by people who choose to bait but have no true desire to find common ground. When this occurs, it’s a stealing of energy by what I call “psychic vampires.”

The Solution

Possibly for those disliking the Trump disruption, strategies I use for the kitten may be of use. The kitten’s playfulness is both his greatest asset and his greatest liability.

  1. Doors – In order to keep the kitten from disrupting activities that might truly cause harm (like getting stuck behind the washing machine), doors are useful. I simply close the door and the disruption ceases. While shutting someone out seems an avoidance of issues, don’t underestimate the power to cut the disruptor off at the pass. Possibly the wall Trump has promised can be built a few thousand miles north of its original location.
  2. Distraction – Playfulness as a liability means that I simply need to toss a squeaky or jingly toy to an area away from the center of activity and off the kitten goes. He’s a smart kitten but this is his kryptonite. He can’t resist. This clearly works for Trump as well although he seems to use it in reverse, to keep his detractors away from the center of activity.
  3. Sleep time – While a kitten doesn’t sleep much, it’s still a great time to do things that don’t create a lot of kitten-stimulating noise. I’m not sure how much Trump sleeps, but possibly late-night sessions with whispering can help those that want to progress in a somewhat straight line achieve some forward motion.

Laser Focus

Those with cats may know that they enjoy playing “laser.” You point a laser pointer at the wall and floor and they run after it. At first I felt a bit guilty about this as there’s no way to catch the laser so it seems kind of cruel. The cats seem to know in some way they will never catch the laser but never tire of the chase which removed my guilt. They like it and it helps them burn off some of their hunter energy.

In a way, we all are chasing after laser points, ephemeral and non-existent images projected before us so that we go running. Like cats, we never seem to tire of the chase no matter that we never catch the dot.

Trump the disruptor seems to have created a world of laser pointers projecting red dots over all the walls and floors. Trump is both the kitten chasing dots and the owner projecting them. He seems to chase his own dots.

Trump is a kitten – a kitten who got a hold of the laser.

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Marketing Mindfulness

In a new documentary on Lady Gaga, she explains that fame is not what she expected. “It is,” she says,” lonely, it is isolating, and it is very psychologically challenging because fame changes the way you’re viewed by people.”

Words, too, can be famous. One of my recent favorite words that became an adjective for all that could be sold is “artisan.” How can a pre-packaged, frozen-and-reheated cheese sandwich ever be considered artisan?

Artisan, thankfully, appears to have had the Andy Warhol promised 15 minutes of fame and no more. When I see “artisan” in the future, hopefully it will be attached to product hand-made and not mass produced, at minimum.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another word achieving its moment of social fame. And like Lady Gaga it may be feeling lonely and isolated. Like other words that reference states and not objects, the word mindfulness is certainly open to interpretation. Yet it’s usage appears to be applied much like “artisan” as a word that evokes pleasant emotions toward the object being promoted.

For example, I received an email from Scholastic promoting “Food Mindfulness During the Holidays.” Seeing mindfulness in this context is very heart-warming. Scholastic is helping parents teach children to be aware of what they are ingesting, a great lesson at any age.

Yet this usage still seems one step removed from the concept as I understand it in terms of meditation. For me, mindfulness is exactly as it reads – awareness of the mind. It also includes awareness of the senses. The awareness of the mind is what opens the door to understanding beyond the mind as the mind creates certain traps that prevent us from full understanding of our true nature.

From Mindful.org:

Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.

For me, mindfulness is as discrete an activity as golf. When you are golfing, you are not bowling. When you are mindful, you are not involved in your mind but observing it. Watching TV isn’t mindful to me but you can be mindful during a TV-watching experience.

Meditation is also used colloquially to be any deep attention to a matter. For me, meditation is also a discrete activity which can occur in other activities but is not those activities. Golfing is not bowling; neither activity is meditation.

Fame Monster

As Lady Gage explained, fame changes the way people view her. Likewise, when words are famous it changes the way they are viewed. Through use in marketing, mindfulness can be viewed differently than it’s pure form in spiritual practice.

Mindfulness is based on a certain concept of “mind” that doesn’t truly exist in Western culture. We see brain as mind. We also have such a strong focus on individuality and uniqueness that observing the mind is very threatening to the sense of self.

Like Lady Gaga, “artisan” and “mindfulness” may feel lonely and isolated. Possibly they are now hanging out in a group therapy session with love and god. If they are, they are in good company.

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Transgender Gods

Myth is how we define the religious belief of the past which we no longer believe. Myth branches out into folklore, legend, fable and parable which are all identified as “stories” and not truth. Myth, however, was once the prevailing religious belief.

Did the Greeks and Romans believe in their gods the way we do today?

This is a sensitive subject in our human existence. Throughout the last several thousand years, not sharing belief with the prevailing group in power could often result in death.

Although we’re living in a Twitter and Facebook world of brief, incoherent and abbreviated communication, we still read books that are hundreds of pages. We still desire complete and comprehensive stories.

Will this result in spiritual/religious beliefs as the only stories? Are we returning to the past?

If our beliefs are like books (and many beliefs have a corresponding book), then individuals not sharing in the story aren’t a character in the book and in a sense are non-existent. That may explain why they are so easily exterminated. They’re not real.

It’s kind of like your beliefs make you Harry Potter but you find yourself in the midst of London in a Tale of Two Cities.

Bring Back the Gods

While I have affinity with Far Eastern religions, I don’t formally subscribe to any organized religion. Yet, when younger I came to realize through the understanding of Greek and Roman mythology that the many gods of their pantheon represented more of my human existence than my culture’s beliefs.

In most of my daily existence, I encounter situations and personalities that demand unique and varied responses. The world is filled with characters and the belief system of my culture doesn’t represent even a few of those characters.

A “bring back the gods” movement seemed in order so that we could have gods that laughed, cried, were like your best friend, your siblings, your loving or difficult spouse, the controlling manager at work, your crazy president, that quirky college roommate, and, of course, the sociopathic ex. Everyone has one of those.

We need more gods.

Transgender Gods

When Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner, my internal comedy sketch writer went into action. I imagined in the sketch Bruce having a coming out party to be Caitlyn and then learning that as a woman, he was now expected to bring a potluck dish and clean up after the party. Someone vomits and he’s sent to the kitchen to get paper towels. You’re a woman now, Caitlyn, and this is woman’s work.

Possibly Caitlyn Jenner likes those things. Possibly she even identified with those very things I, as a woman, deem unearned responsibilities. (On the other side of gender stereotypes are unearned assets. We all match a few of our gender’s stereotypes both good and bad.).

The transgender movement confused me at first as I don’t desire to be male. But as I consider all the gender roles we unique individuals confront daily, I realize that transgender individuals dissolve the idea of gender as a prescribed life path.

If there were no prescribed gender, there would be no gender roles. We are then individuals who may or may not like to defend a nation, cook for others, clean up after the party or grill the steaks. Maybe we are nurturing and also like to defend the nation – we don’t have to identify with one quality over the other. We don’t have to choose between qualities that in the world are deemed to be dualities. Qualities aren’t opposites and neither are individuals.

If we were to project new energies into the belief system, I would hope they encompass the transgender energy of individuality.

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Female power and creative partnerships

How many female creative partnerships can you name?

McFey and Pohler
Stanton and Anthony
Laverne and Shirley
Thelma and Louise
Cagney and Lacey
Romy and Michele

Who else?

How about five famous male partnerships?

Lennon and McCartney
Jobs and Wozniak
Batman and Robin
Simon and Garfunkel
Key and Peale
Laurel and Hardy
Holmes and Watson
Woodward and Bernstein
Jeeves and Wooster
Ben and Jerry
Mick and Keith
Tom and Jerry
Romulus and Remus
Nixon and Kissinger

And the list goes on. Even the children’s television show Sesame Street has a male partnership – Bert and Ernie.

Historically women struggled for lives outside of the domestic sphere which may be the lack of creative partnerships; yet in our age of technology, the partnerships are still primarily male. Our lack of creative partnership seems to be related to our imbalances in political power, even though we’ve made progress.

Hillary Clinton

Even writing “Hillary Clinton” I can feel people cringe. The election is over, I know. In the back of my mind the question is still there – why do people hate her so much?

In questioning the hatred, I’m not suggesting she was the best candidate or deserved to be president; however, what was chosen in contrast to me represents a visceral undercurrent of our culture which came to light in many ways.

Having watched Clinton for her 22 years on the public stage, I know she was hated from the very earliest days. What has continually struck me is that she is disliked for no particular reason.

During the election, two ethical issues were targeted toward Clinton – the Benghazi attack in Libya and the use of a personal email server. The irony of the personal email server is that it appears to be the only email server not hacked by Wikileaks during the 2016 election.

For so many years in politics, there was not much more. But when you heard people react to Clinton both in 2008 and 2016 on why they did not like her, it wasn’t these issues. People just didn’t like her personally. I still recall a 2012 NPR story where a man was asked why he was voting for candidate Romney. “Obama is a socialist,” he said. “And Hillary is . . . Hillary.”

Did he not like Hillary the person or Hillary the woman?

People speak of mistrust of Clinton, dislike, evilness, and other assorted non-specific reasons. But what is it they really don’t like?

In 1992 when Hillary Clinton’s husband was running for president and her mothering was questioned, she replied, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”

That comment increased dislike of her and has always led me to believe that Clinton’s evil persona was due to engaging in law and politics rather than traditional female pursuits. During the 2012 election, Clinton won some points by shedding tears. That cemented the idea for me that Clinton’s issue was lack of feminine vulnerability.

What finally crystallized for me recently is that dislike for no reason is simply that – not a reason but a feeling. Clinton evoked FEELING, something very much associated with females.

What feelings did she evoke?

She evoked all the ugliness, nastiness and egotism of modern politics. We felt through her the ugly, the evil, calculated coldness of politicians. Hillary, the female, was the receptacle for a host of negative back-splash. While she tried to be “good” by planning, preparing, smiling (something the female candidates were asked to do from viewer feedback) and wearing light colors, she carried all the bad feelings we have toward politics.

In contrast, the male candidates latched into different energies to make segments of the population feel good about themselves. Hillary made people feel bad; the male candidates, including her main nemesis Bernie Sanders, made people feel good.

Tracy Flick

Digging into my own psyche, I relate by thinking of Tracy Flick in the book and movie Election. Ambitious and calculating, she’s a detestable creature who plays by all the rules, studies hard, has clear goals and ultimately wins.

She’s a winner – why do I hate her?

Like Clinton, she is upset in the high school election by a planted male contender, a popular football hero (Sound familiar? Although in Flick’s case, she is ultimately deemed the winner.). This male is a kind, sympathetic character who through a turn of events passes the win to Flick. Had he voted for himself, he would have won.

In a third point of contrast to our ambitious female/popular male is a female contender who through a separate turn of events runs against both Flick and her brother the football hero. She’s the lesbian rebel who calls out all the phoniness of the election and tells the truth – the election benefits only the winner.

Had the lesbian not been suspended by the principal for upturning the table, she would have won the election. A female hero! But she was tossed out by the authorities.

The lesbian anti-hero was refreshing and unique while the rule-following Flick was a stomach turner. That’s how people felt about Clinton. I can feel their dislike.

Creative Partnerships

How does this relate to creative partnerships?

Women don’t appear to bond to each other in the sphere of politics and power although they do in the spheres of entertainment and social issues.

When strong, ambitious females meet, they do not like each other. When males see other strong, ambitious males they tend to respond favorably. Men make heroes of other men in all spheres of modern and ancient life including entertainment, sports, politics and religion.

Barack Obama is now a god to some on the left, the voice of peace and reason in a crazy time. Yet Obama, like all of his predecessors, was a politician who did both positive work as well as the dirty work of his role including mass surveillance of his people, drone assassinations and occasionally cavorting with tyrants.

Females in power are faring quite poorly right now. In a Los Angeles Times article on female heads of state, only 33 were calculated to have risen to power through election (rather than family succession). Of the 10 elected in the 2010s, two have been deposed.

If women don’t admire each other and form creative partnerships then we will always struggle for balance in political power. Female political power and holding of power doesn’t have to be male – it doesn’t have to be Hillary Clinton and Tracy Flick – but will be that way if that’s what females admire. While we can say it’s Hillary-the-person and not Hillary-the-female we dislike, I don’t see any other female in this country receiving admiration that would lift her to the role of president.

For women to rise in political power, we have to like what we see in the mirror.

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The Cat on the Mat

By Angela Slezak

“Just keep returning to the mat,” my meditation teacher often says. “Just keep returning.”

Over time, I’ve come to understand this. It’s not about a “good” or “bad” meditation experience. It’s about returning which trains us to be still. As with anything you learn in life, practice is essential. Sitting in meditation is, in fact, called the “practice.”

Returning to the mat is difficult. There are so many things to do – buy groceries, cook food, do laundry, get an oil change, work and everything else that is part of maintaining a modern life. Have I just reminded you of something you forgot to do?

Then there are the pleasures I want to have that also take time – visiting with friends, enjoying a long bike ride without schedule, trips outdoors, watching movies, reading books and a host of other activities. What is life without pleasure?

One day after a sit, I left my mat on the floor rather than putting it away immediately. With stealth and opportunism, the cat appropriated the mat without even stirring my attention. The little brat.

The cat returns to the mat every chance she gets. Why is it so difficult for me?

As Chinese martial arts models animal behavior for defense postures, returning to the mat can model feline behavior. Cats relax in a manner quite envious to humans; it can take me a full week away from my work life to near the level of relaxation a cat can achieve in minutes. Massage can help speed up the process of relaxation.

Cats grooming, I believe, is actually massage. That we project our pre-sleep tooth-brushing with cats licking their toes is to apply human motivation to animal behavior. Living with a cat who excessively “grooms,” comfort’s role in “grooming” has become even more obvious.

Likewise, feline owners may have learned that full cleaning of a litter box is a human projection of the need for a clean, germ-free bathroom. Cats, in contrast, want their smell in the box. If you take it away, they will return the smell immediately.

Unlike felines, we’re not drawn to the mat as our territory marked by our smell. Yet the mat is a sort of boundary where we are safe to be still. Cats tend to sleep in the same place for periods of time, possibly in the same way we should return to the mat to remember and accumulate stillness.

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Real, Fake or Marketing?

By Angela Slezak

There’s a lot of discussion today about “fake” news and how to acquire “real” news. Fake and real are binary suggesting “news” is either one or the other. Yet there seems to me to be at least one other, huge, category for news and information – marketing.

While I truly believe in facts, they also seem to me to be a minority of the thought and communication that occurs. If I boil it down, I might say facts are generally objects (such as a car having four wheels) or effects on objects (such as gravity). If I say the car is blue, others might say it’s actually black or metallic gray. Even color is not “fact.” Color, also, can’t be described except in relation to itself.

Situations involving people and events rarely are agreed upon by the participants and observers. We might say that when an event occurs, there a handful of facts but each participant will see something “real.” To many others, our interpretation will be “fake.”

Working in the profession of analytics, I see daily that no “fact” or information goes unchallenged. Several years ago I engaged in a hearty, public debate on this with an intelligent but truly emotionally unhinged consultant. He wanted me to simply state the “facts.” I argued that I could put one variable (fact) on the slide but that interpretation would vary and laughed inside at the joys that awaited him.

Challenging “facts” both in politics and corporate is a way to procrastinate dealing with the meaning behind those “facts” such as we must stop spending money or using all the world’s resources. Challenging facts can be a smokescreen and harms those who truly want to delve deeper to understand a situation.

In another observation for the corporate world, when results are what we want to see, we rarely challenge “the facts.” When results are not what we want to see, we spend an inordinate amount of time researching and explaining them.

Rational people do a lot of rationalizing. I see it every day in my data-driven profession.

Real, Fake or Marketing?

Our public worry over fake and real news is long overdue. We avoid it because when we discover that we share our entire worldview with no one, it’s a bit disconcerting. What if there is no shared reality outside of objects?

If there is no shared reality, then meaning is easily influenced. There is where marketing enters the scene. Marketing is mostly associated with advertising but also involves the number-crunching analytics which is why you receive coupons that have exactly the product you previously purchased.

The MBA definition of marketing is about how goods and services move to a consumer. The 4Ps are product, placement, price and promotion.

Since I’d don’t have an MBA, my own definition differs. The MBA definition has a hidden premise – we have need for all the products we purchase. For me, marketing is an attempt to appeal to identity to affect behavior and drives “need.” What we need is very important, but limited. Need and want are not as clearly separated as they were before the explosion of consumer goods.

Marketing is used in politics. That “fake” news is absorbed is due to marketing’s ability to tap into your identity. “Fake” news is appealing which is why it’s used both offensively and defensively. In politics, marketing is called public relations. I’d also say it’s called propaganda, but usually in this country we reserve this term for the public relations of other countries, especially when we disagree with it.

When President Obama said the economy was doing great, this was an example of public relations. For Obama, the economy may have been great in relation to where it started. Whether the economy is doing good or bad is also a debate where “facts” are often interpreted differently by economists. Also, much of the economy is about consumer confidence so saying the economy is great is a way to boost confidence leading to a better economy.

President Obama was one to tap deeply into the data side of marketing – analytics – to determine how to effectively campaign to his base. Analytics is also the core of what is called gerrymandering where districts are sliced and diced for boundaries that provide the maximum votes for one party (for example, receiving 40% of the votes but 60% of the seats).

Health information online is prime for marketing, and not just the ads on the side of the website. If you read 100 online articles about a topic, you’ll find not only that they say the same thing, but the actual words and content are identical. That is called curated content. Finding a dissenting voice or sideline details is very difficult.

Are you doing a search online for pizza? The world of search engine optimization determines which pizza you see at the top of the screen. Did one million people love that movie? Really? Or was it marketing?

A couple of years ago, my other blog dropped in views but in a very specific proportion to its normal trend. I learned that Google changed an algorithm devaluing non-authoritative sources. My blogs are not profit-making ventures. But what if I were a small business owner dependent upon my blog or small website and Google suddenly ranked me so low, you’d never find me?

Marketing is driving almost everything you see online. If you click on a story about a gorilla attacking a child and many others do as well, the marketing engines rank “human – animal” stories high and then you will continue to see like stories. In marketing, an early mentor explained “like breeds like.”

If we try to get outside of marketing to get “news,” it’s difficult. Reading news on the BBC website reveals that they know my location and choose to feed me news relevant to my location. The problem is that I go to that site to get news not relevant to my location, but to the world. It’s increasingly difficult to get outside of our marketing cage.

Don’t Click It

If marketing is behind much of our news and information, then clicking on a link is tantamount to asking for more of the same. As consumers of information, we must be like consumers of food. We don’t eat everything we see; we’d never drink an open bottle of water sitting on a park bench. Yet, when we consume our news, we don’t consider it’s intellectual and spiritual effect on our being.

Fake news is a result of marketing which is appealing to our identity and desires, like the episode The Cage from the original Star Trek. Our captain is on a planet where they want to keep him captive by using his internal images for pleasure or punishment. He chooses freedom over the eternal picnic of his memory.

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Brevity of Thought

By Angela Slezak

Classical Chinese texts can be quite difficult for the non-native speaker to learn. There is no punctuation and it lacks many of the connecting words we’re used to in English – and, then, but, if, as a result of, etc. Also classical Chinese is more monosyllabic (uses one character) where spoken Chinese might use more than one syllable to make a word.

This brevity of thought requires a profundity of understanding. One character embeds deep meaning. Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Ching in English translation has 50 words; the Chinese text has 39 characters:

Better stop short than fill to the brim.
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and title, and disaster will follow.
Retire when the work is done.
This is the way of heaven.

Tao Te Ching (Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

Twitter

The brevity of ancient thought suggests the authors didn’t have much time but wanted to tell us something important while they had access to ink and scroll. Today’s prevalence of ink, scroll, and key pad make brevity of thought a necessity because we don’t have time for thoughts beyond the immediate. Our world keeps us very, very busy.

Twitter is the classical Chinese of the modern world. Below are Twitter feeds from the unknown (randomly found by typing a few letters and looking for names of the non-famous):

Late night thoughts can really get to you; they make you feel either on top of the world or below it.

Not much else is worse than wanting Chic Fil A & then realizing it’s a Sunday.

#IBM beats Amazon in 12-month #cloud revenue, $15.1 billion to $14.5 billion via @forbes #IBMCloud

I guess when it all comes down to it my dream would be to never hear the phrase totes mcgoats spoken aloud again ever

I was pre approved but at the gate @British_Airways said Muffin cannot fly to London with me. If Muffin can’t go, I can’t go.

It doesn’t matter where sexual assault happens, it is always a crime.

how dare she

After the big success of our Guide to Marketplaces we are announcing our 2nd eBook: “Understanding Social Platforms”

We will literally NEVER. Have a woman as extra and iconic as Whitney in the music industry. I MISS HER SO MUCH

I somehow didn’t realise chocolate covered coffee beans contained.. coffee. This may be another sleepless night with phil

Also: every man in the 8th arr. last month appeared to be adopting Macron’s navy suit and white shirt uniform

Teen wolf season finale on right now east coast, some say this is the greatest episode of television possibly ever……others……do not

@michikokakutani i will miss you

I actually find it comforting that Comey got a book deal because it means his publisher thinks the world will still exist next spring.

I’ve stopped pulling random Twitter feeds; it was clearly addictive so I’ve learned about the lure through this brief blog. It’s so much nothing and so interesting (although I did learn one important thing – Michiko Kakutani is retiring).

Who are these people?

Return to the ancients

The cycles of time and history are quite fascinating. Often when we get older, we become like children again. The more language and communication we have, the more we are like the ancients in a reverse aging process.

We have so many words, so many books, so many documents and so much knowledge. Are we returning to brevity of thought in response? The tai chi symbol represents extremes becoming their opposite. Is that what’s occurring here? Should we aim for the middle? What if we only spoke in 144 characters? That would be interesting.

Our last words, then, might be mama and papa, sounds easily made and used in many languages to denote our parents, those with whom we first choose to communicate.

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