Archive for July, 2009


July 28th, 2009

It seems that car problems are ineluctable.  My car broke down this afternoon after the thermostat raged in the red zone and an orange light appeard onboard the dash, screaming for me to stop.  After popping the hood, seeing smoke rise like a bonfire, and pouring water down the coolant tube to no avail, I called a tow truck and brought it to a body shop.  The engine may have to be rebuilt.

I have opted for a rental car to finish the remainder of the trip and am down one full day.  Can I make it from Arizona to North Carolina in 55 hours?


July 19th, 2009
Serenity.  The only tree stump for sitting at this location.

Serenity. The only tree stump at this location.

Solitude is my friend. I have found no other companion that stimulates the creative mind and broadens my horizons. When I’m not out on mad adventures, I retreat to a place by myself and ponder about life.  Being free from all worldly engagements is like taking a vacation for the mind – the traffic of life has adulterated the mind and only in solitude can we refreshen it and think anew.

Waking up in the car with sunrays in my face; opening the door to find majestic mountains and serene rivers flowing in front of me; breathing in the crisp morning air and dew of the trees; hearing the twigs shuffle about my footsteps and dulcet tones of birds in the sky; beating my chest and rubbing my eyes to make sure this was real – these were my mornings during the previous week at Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.  Solitude was king.   In the words of Kerouac:

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.


July 16th, 2009

Crazy Horse MonumentIf you’re not from the Mid-West, chances are that you have never heard of the Crazy Horse Memorial.  This massive monument is dedicated to Crazy Horse, a doughty warrior of the Oglala Lakota tribe.  It is carved from the Thunderhead Mountain, a seventeen mile drive from Mount Rushmore.  It is of epic proportions – when finished, it will become the world’s largest statue at 563 feet high and 641 feet long.  To put this in perspective, the statue will be taller than the Giza Pyramids and the head of Crazy Horse will encompass an area greater than all of Mount Rushmore.

dsc_0725But the truly amazing thing here is not how massive the monument is, but how sculptor Korczak Ziółkowski dedicated 34 years of his life from 1948 to his death in 1982 to this project.  In 1947, he moved to South Dakota, built a log cabin at the the present Thunderhead Mountain site, and started blasting away millions of tons of rock.  Along the way, he married, fathered ten children, and grew a beard reminiscent of Rip Van Winkle.  He endured four spinal operations, heart bypass surgery, and countless broken bones but nonetheless, stayed course and continued working on the memorial.  Because he had the foresight to know that it would never be finished within his lifetime, he incorporated his children to help him. Today, Korczak is buried at the base of the mountain and his surviving wife, Ruth Ziolkowski, manages the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation while seven of his ten children continue working on this project.

Korczak had one thing in common with the great movers and shakers in history: dedication. Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilburforce knew that the causes they campaigned for were bigger than themselves and would continue beyond their lifetimes, so they dedicated their lives to the cause.

I am reminded of what Glen Lewis told me in Washington D.C.:

If you’re not ready to die for what you believe in, you’re wasting your time.

In other words, in whatever you do, if you aren’t willing to expend significant time and energy, your attempts will be feckless and your dreams will never be realized. A TV producer I met in New Hampshire told me that he wanted to make a difference, to change the world and impact others.  The only way to do this is to dedicate yourself to the cause.  Anything less will be a mediocre effort that will yield mediocre results.

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July 11th, 2009
 Public playground in the Bronx

Public playground in the Bronx

One of the questions I get asked most often is how I shower and workout.  The answer is that I use public facilities.  Public pools are perfect for showering.  Though not all of them have hot water, they are more than adequate to keep me clean and presentable.

I am often given encomiums on thinking outside the box when people learn that I use public playgrounds to work out.  But the truth is, anyone who is forced into a situation will always think of innovative ways of getting by.

Instead of paying hundreds of dollars per year for running on a treadmill in a gym, I run in the park. Instead of using weight machines, I use the playground bars to work and sculpt the body. Body weight positioning provide nearly infinite combinations to workout all the muscles of the body. To isolate muscles, I use a sledgehammer.  The hammerhead is used as a fulcrum.  The further away I grip the handle from the fulcrum, the more torque I have.  And because the handle is sufficiently long, it will provide the weight I need for years to come, thus mimicking an entire set of dumbbells. The cost?  $12.

Our tax dollars pay for public facilities from parks to libraries, so why not take advantage of them? In this economy, you need to cut the non-essentials out of your budget.  Start with the basic necessities and innovate.  You’ll have extra cash and you’ll be ebullient when you find interesting, lower cost alternatives to your daily routines.

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Peace if possible, truth at all costs

July 7th, 2009
Miles Maeda at Smartbar

Miles Maeda at Smartbar

Chicago is the birthplace of house, a electronic music genre characterized by funk-infused disco and a synthesized bassline. It transcends boundaries. No one is ostracized because of creed, age, ethnicity, sexual preference, or gender – all people come together as one, united under the same music. This is the epitome of tolerance and self-expression – you can dance as you please, and no one will care or look at you in disbelief.

To learn more, I tagged along with a couple of veteran house DJs and producers during the weekend. I had a behind the scenes look at major house clubs, such as Smartbar and Vision. Beats were pounding, people were dancing, and for a moment, the music transcended reality. But house music is more than just an adrenaline pumper. It is also about the underlying quest to search for identity and truth. At an after-party that lasted for 21 hours, a debate ensued about truth.

Truth, in essence, is absolute. Everything from good to evil, from ethically comprehensible to morally ambiguous decisions are encompassed by it.  Truth is pervasive; it exists regardless of opinion.  Any person that wants to deny the existence of gravity is welcome to jump off a bridge and test out the fact of its existence.

Everyone strives to know the truth but everyone’s perception of it is different.  In less obvious scenarios, can one really determine what is good and bad? In other words, if you feel someone acted unethically, can you tell that person what he did is wrong if he perceives right and wrong differently than you do? For example, one man’s conscience keeps him away from alcohol, but allows him to do mind-altering drugs. To the hidebound thinker, this is a moral travesty but to this drug user, this is permissible, and as long as others are not harmed, it is perfectly fine.

Is there a morally correct choice to make in every scenario?  There is no easy answer to this dilemma. Many complex issues arise from different perceptions of reality, which can commonly be seen in religion and politics, even amongst those who share the same fundamental beliefs. Uniting people under the same banner with mutual tolerance and respect is the first step for negotiation. Let the house beat go on.

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