About Cecil

The ongoing uproar about the death of Cecil, the sleepy-looking lion in Zimbabwe who was killed by a crossbow-wielding Minnesota dentist, is one of those stories where the competing viewpoints simply don’t understand each other.

Supporters of big-game hunting depict it as a noble sport with a long history — one that has attracted the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway and that, they say, can serve animal conservation efforts and support the economies of impoverished African nations.  Opponents of big-game hunting recoil at the idea of humans hunting and killing innocent creatures not to survive or feed their families, but solely for their own pleasure.

I’m in the latter camp — and the death of poor Cecil, who was lured away from the safety of a sanctuary by an intentionally placed animal carcass, then shot with a bow, tracked for hours,  killed with a gun, skinned, and beheaded, triggers every anti-hunting sentiment in my being.  It’s hard for me to see how anyone could portray that kind of scenario as a noble sport, much less fair, or just, or humane. I see it as simply slaughter designed to make a wealthy guy feel like even more of a macho big shot and allow him to hang stuffed trophies of his wall, where they no doubt creep out many of the people who see them.  (When our family first moved to Columbus 45 years ago, we bought our house from a guy who had big-game trophy heads on the walls of the basement.  I thought their marble-eyed likenesses were sad and disturbing and disgusting then, and I still have the same reaction now.)

Then there are those who view the outcry about the death of Cecil as an overreaction.  It’s only one animal, they say, and not as important as other issues of the day.  I’m not defending the internet death threats against the Minnesota dentist — although I sure wouldn’t want to have my teeth examined by somebody who has no problems with killing an innocent creature and then grinning for a photo op with its dead body — but I can understand why this one incident has captured worldwide attention.

So many of the issues of the day are so vast and complicated that they seem far beyond our full comprehension, much less our ability to solve.  Big-game hunting is different because it is simpler.  Should wealthy people using high-tech weaponry be able to lure and kill lions, and elephants, and other beautiful animals?  It’s not a hard issue to grasp, and it’s one where we feel that maybe, just maybe, we can do something about it.  Already the killing of Cecil seems to be moving the needle on international views about big-game hunting.  If it produces a ban on big-game hunting, or at least more rigorous controls, then perhaps there might be something noble about Cecil’s death after all.

Another Reason To Oppose The Death Penalty

In Colorado, James Holmes has been convicted of multiple counts of capital murder.  He’s the bug-eyed killer who burst into a crowded movie theater in 2012, threw tear gas, then started shooting, killing 12 people and wounding 70.  The carnage he caused has been recounted, with lasting horror, by some of the survivors at his trial.

But now we are hearing emotional testimony from James Holmes’ mother.  She says she thought she had a “good kid” who was self-sufficient and responsible, although she was saddened and guilty that he was “losing his joy” as he grew into adulthood.  She says she never knew that her son was so mentally ill that he was capable of random mass murder.  And other family members, teachers, and friends have testified about Holmes being a happy boy, a “Renaissance child,” and a nerdy teenager.

It’s all part of the “mitigation phase” of the trial, where the jury will decide whether Holmes should receive the death penalty for his appalling crimes.  His lawyers want the jury to feel sorry for him and his family and to conclude that the shootings didn’t occur because Holmes was intrinsically evil, but because he was mentally “sick.”  And so the jury has been listening to witness after witness testify about Holmes in a way designed to encourage jurors to show mercy — even though he didn’t show mercy to those innocents he gunned down.

I’m opposed to the death penalty on principle, so I don’t need to be convinced that Holmes should receive life in prison.  However, I think this phase of the Holmes trial aptly illustrates another reason why the death penalty should be abolished.  It is simply unfair to put the families of the victims through a process where they have to hear that the person who ruthlessly killed their loved ones was once an outgoing “Renaissance child” or an uncoordinated teenage nerd, and it is unseemly to call his Mom and Dad to the stand to shed a few tears to try to save their little boy’s skin.

A process that is designed to curry sympathy for the killer, by recalling his boyhood and moments where he laughed or cried or kicked a soccer ball, is senseless and offensive because whatever his meager childhood accomplishments may have been shrivel to nothingness against the magnitude of his adult crimes.  Don’t try to make me feel sorry for James Holmes.  I feel sorry for the victims and their families for the loss that Holmes inflicted.  Lock him away, and be done with it.

The Trump Debate Conspiracy Theory

If you were conspiracy minded — and who among us doesn’t have a touch of that lurking somewhere in your personality? — you might swear that Donald Trump’s shenanigans were part of a plot to boost the viewership for the first Republican presidential debate.

This past weekend, I heard a lot of talk about the Donald and the first Republican debate.  The Republican folks, regardless of whether they think Trump is great for “telling the truth” or consider him an oddball gloryhound, will be watching, and at least one diehard Democrat conceded that he probably would tune in just to see what kind of weirdness the Trumpster might produce.  Why not?  It might be good TV.  As one of the people who talked about Trump kept saying, “he’s entertaining!”

And I suppose he is, in the same perverse way that a train wreck or a messy public divorce of Hollywood celebs might be viewed as entertaining.

What does that mean for the other Republicans?  It means that you hope that your poll numbers are good enough that you get to share the stage with the guy who’s getting all of the press.  The ratings for this first debate probably will get the highest ratings for any debate, ever, that isn’t between the two nominated candidates, and you sure as heck would want to be present to have that big audience checking you out.  And if the Donald implodes — which inevitably will happen, if it hasn’t happened by then, anyway — and you can come across as an appealing alternative, so much the better.  If you’re not on stage, you don’t get any of that crucial face time before a national audience.

Could Trumpelstiltskin have concocted all of this hullabaloo as part of some devious political strategy to command as much attention as possible and suck all of the oxygen away from the Ds?  Who knows?  But it’s a pretty good conspiracy theory, isn’t it?  In fact, it’s just the kind of conspiracy theory that the Donald himself would likely latch onto.

Life Coaching

Every workday I walk past a storefront that offers yoga and exercise classes and “life coaching.”  That option makes me chuckle a bit and sticks with me as I walk, and I think of a guy wearing a plain gray t-shirt, seat pants, a ball cap, and a whistle, yelling at me to follow the “life playbook” and get my affairs in order.

What is a life coach, exactly?

IMG_6321After doing some internet research, the precise role of a “life coach” is still not entirely clear to me.  It looks like people with that title can offer advice on everything from financial affairs to marital problems to exercise and diet regimens to general decision-making and goal-setting.  Lifecoaching.com says:  “Life Coaching is a profession that is profoundly different from consulting, mentoring, advice, therapy, or counseling. The coaching process addresses specific personal projects, business successes, general conditions and transitions in the client’s personal life, relationships or profession by examining what is going on right now, discovering what your obstacles or challenges might be, and choosing a course of action to make your life be what you want it to be.

It also appears that the “life coach” field is a largely unregulated one, without any legal requirements as to training, licensing, or capabilities, although there are certain industry certifications that “life coaches” can obtain if they choose to.  If you run a Google search on life coach training, you’re likely to get results that tell you about the variety of training programs, on-line courses, or books you can read to become a “life coach” and then lots of results advertising the “life coaches” in your area.

So, as best I can figure it, a “life coach” is someone who a person can talk to in a structured way about what they’ve been doing and where they want to go, and get advice about how to get there.  Although lifecoaching.com apparently disagrees, it sounds a lot like what a trusted and knowledgeable mentor, friend, or family member might do.  And that seems to beg another question:  why would a person pay an unlicensed “life coach” to listen to their problems and offer advice rather than talking to an older, experienced, successful family member or colleague who knows them, cares about them, and won’t charge them a dime?  Is it because they want someone who they consider to be objective, even if they might not know a lot about the person, or because they don’t want to share their problems or personal goals with a friend or family member due to embarrassment?

I suppose there could be lots of rationales for why you would seek “life coaching” at a storefront location in your town, but it also seems like another way in which what used to be a significant, potentially enriching and strengthening part of family relationships and/or personal or workplace friendships is being replaced by paid services provided by strangers.  Maybe that’s a good thing — or maybe not.

 

What If They Gave A Hotel And Nobody Came?

IMG_6246I was in Washington, D.C. recently and saw this sign in front of the Old Post Office, advertising it as a new “TRUMP” property — in this case, the Trump International Hotel.

The Old Post Office is a beautiful building, and I have no doubt that it will make a magnificent hotel, but . . . the Trump International Hotel?  Doesn’t that seem just a tad inconsistent with The Donald’s recent political speechifying?

How many international visitors are really going to feel welcome at a Trump hotel and are going to be eager to stay there?

When Donald Gets Gonged

Donald Trump is an embarrassment. He’s been serving a purpose, in a perverse way, but now it’s time for him to exit stage left and serve a purpose in a different way.

Trump’s recent comments about John McCain are inexcusable. Obviously, it’s perfectly acceptable for anyone to disagree with Senator McCain about immigration. It’s not an easy issue, and it covers a lot of different big picture items, from employment to trade to national security against potential terrorist incursions. In America, there is room for many different positions along the political spectrum about immigration.

It isn’t appropriate, however, to question McCain’s patriotism, or his service, or to casually dismiss the meaning and impact of McCain’s POW experience. It not only is unfair to the man who was tortured and forced to live as a captive in a North Vietnam prison, it also shows an appalling lack of respect for all of those who have served in our armed forces and put their lives and personal security on the line. The reality of war is that some members of the military may get captured by the enemy, through no fault of their own. When that happens, those members of the military deserve our support, and when they bear up through their POW experience with the courage and dignity and fortitude shown by John McCain, they deserve to be called heroes. This is not a hard question — but apparently it is beyond Donald Trump.

Trump’s entry into the presidential race has been serving a purpose, in a perverse way — he’s been demonstrating by omission the qualities we should be looking for in a President. Do we want someone who responds to every criticism by lashing out with anger and insult humor, or do we want someone who is thick-skinned and capable of responding with grace and intelligence? Do we want a boastful schoolyard bully who never tires of touting his own wealth and accomplishments, or do we want a mature adult who has the skills to build a consensus around a reasoned position? Do we want someone so self-absorbed that he’ll say whatever is necessary to grab another headline, or do we want someone with the self-assurance to work behind the scenes in order to get the job done? In many ways, Donald Trump exemplifies all of the qualities of the anti-President; standing next to him, virtually any candidate would look like a thoughtful statesman.

As a society, we tend to tolerate people like Trump. He’s like a contestant on The Gong Show whose act is so bizarre that it briefly entertains through shock value — but quickly becomes tiresome and uncomfortable. With his comments on John McCain, Trump has crossed into gong territory. I’m glad to see that there seems to be a growing, uniform sentiment that Trump’s comments about Senator McCain are inexcusable. Trump may be serving a purpose in another way: by showing that, in our divided country, it is still possible to develop a true consensus about something.

Chinny Chin Chins

There’s a popular new trend in the cosmetic surgery world of New York City, according to the New York PostMen are going to plastic surgeons in droves to get treated with a new drug that is supposed to get rid of those dreaded double chins.

Ah, the double chin.  That unsightly, flabby slackness of the upper neck that makes you look old and unfit and weak, all at the same time.  It’s an embarrassing feature for any successful man who wants to radiate virility and good health and ruggedness.

But, what to do if you have those worrisome wobbling wattles?  There aren’t exactly neck crunches or other exercises that precisely target that one, flaccid spot.  But now there’s Kybella, a new drug that is supposed to melt that under-chin flab.  Turkey-necked men can go to an approved Kybella practitioner, get multiple injections into their double-chin neck fat in a series of 2 or 4 or 6 treatments — at a price tag of $800 to $1800 a treatment, depending upon how much of the Kybella is needed — and watch the fat cells dissolve and the saggy necks tighten.  Some people might freak out at having a needle repeatedly jabbed into their throat region, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging too many patients.  In fact, so many people are having the procedures that NYC plastic surgeons have had to increase their office hours.

These days, it seems like there is an injection or surgery or wonder drug for just about every less than perfect physical feature.  If only cancer could be dispatched as easily as fat cells in the neck!  Of course, the cost of Kybella might be more than some vain but loose-necked men can afford.  For those members of the double-chin brigade, there is always the alternative that I selected:  grow a beard and forget about it.