Polarity Of The Mind



One of my jobs is the ghost-writer of autobiographies. People tell me their life stories and I write them in their voice. Over the course of several projects, it became very apparent that people tend to remember the negative events with much more clarity than the positive ones.

This can be said for myself as well. I remember quite vividly falling into a camp fire and getting a third degree burn on my leg in the summer of ’82 but I cannot tell you what I got for Christmas that year. I can remember every negative comment made by the opposite sex about my looks going all the way back to kindergarten. It’s harder to remember the compliments. This can have a massive effect on a person’s general outlook and self-esteem in life.

Interactions in our lives can be broadly organized into three categories: Positive, negative and neutral.


Positive = You receive a compliment on your hair.

Negative = You are told by your boss that your new idea will not be implemented.

Neutral = A barista takes your order.

Research shows that for every one negative experience, it takes a full five to counterbalance it. (1) Since our brains our wired with a bias towards negativity, neutral experiences can also become negative. For instance, if someone spends a lot of time planning and cooking a meal for their friend and they do not receive gratitude for the effort (perhaps the friend had a bad day at work is or just forgot to say thank you) then the feelings associated are those of disregard and neglect. The friend didn’t say the food sucked but they didn’t say anything at all and sometimes that is worse. So, the neutral becomes negative.

In addition to interpersonal interactions, we are also under constant bombardment from the media telling us that we aren’t good enough and we all need X product to feel positive. We hear about school shootings and corrupt politicians. With such overwhelming negativity all around us, what can we do to feel positive or at the very least, balance the polarity?

First, we can try to focus on the good things in our own lives. Try not to allow the neutral become the negative. Accept your flaws and move forward. Try not to let it get to you when someone disregards your own politeness or is an outright asshole.

Second, we can make an effort into helping others to create good memories. Be mindful of someone who looks like they might need a kind word, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time. If you’re at a restaurant and the food is good, tell someone. Instead of sitting silent when a co-worker makes a good suggestion, say the words “good idea.” Compliment your friends on whatever it is they do well and thank them for their efforts, even if they fall short.

Tell your spouse how much you appreciate the way they do that silly, insignificant thing that makes you laugh. It may be the 1st positive thing that this person hears that day and it might get outnumbered by the negative. Or it may be the 5th that changes his whole outlook and memory of that day or week forever. It’s really not that hard.

We all want our autobiographies to be filled with good memories. But, we can’t do that on entirely on our own.

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias

The Death Of Generation X

Red X

If one Google’s Generation X, one of the first things that comes up is an article in the Telegraph titled ‘’Whatever Happened to Generation X?’’ Born roughly between 1961 and 1981 and sandwiched between the much larger baby boomer and millennial generations, our invisibility can be attributed to many of us possessing a generally mellow ‘’live and let live’’ attitude. But, are we in fact, truly forgotten? With yesterday’s announcement of the suicide of Chris Cornell, it occurred to me just how influential we have been and how many of the good things we created and/or embraced, have been lost over the past 18 months.

It’s been a tough time for Generation X and with Cornell’s death on top of everything else that came before it, I first felt that we are on the precipice of losing our identity. Then, I realized that this is a part of our identity. And it’s not our fault. The main event that kicked off the current run of crap was the death of Prince in 2016. from an opioid overdose. Opioid addiction is a problem that has reached epidemic proportions. It was created by the greedy pharmaceutical industry (run by baby-boomers), whose sole intent is profit, above and beyond the suffering caused by the mass distribution of their addictive products. Additionally, many turn to street drugs when their Doctors cut them off (after having received their kickbacks from the manufacturers, of course.)

When he died, we lost something big. Although Prince was not the first to break racial and gender identity image barriers, he was the first to do by crossing musical genres commercially. What other black artist in history could pull off a yellow ass-less jumpsuit and high heels and still be the most masculine guy in the room? What other musician before or since could compose, produce, mix and play all his own music? What other artist fought for artists’ rights and changed the way we think about record companies and the concept of copyright and ownership of sound? There was only Prince.

Although a boomer himself, he was embraced commercially by Gen X and I remember vividly, older people in the mid ‘80s not understanding him at that time. But, we understood him. Our open-mindedness contributed to his success. We didn’t care about his curious sexuality and accepted his positive racial message ‘’white, black, Puerto Rican. Everybody just a-freakin’.’’

This was made abundantly clear when our generation’s President, Barack Obama was elected over the boomer favourite Hillary Clinton in 2008 and under his watch, gay marriage was made legal. For a short time, it seemed as if we could let go of our disenfranchisement with society and we almost became hopeful. Almost.

Collectively, we spent the ensuing years watching the older generation try to tear down and reverse the wheels of progress that we put in motion. By the time Obama’s second term in office was over, there was a full-scale boomer revolution whose fires were fuelled by those who preferred to throw society into regression rather than continue the forward momentum we started. Shocking to anyone under the age of 60, Obama was replaced by a bullshitting trust-fund baby reality TV star con-man. Since then, we’ve seen an erosion in voting rights, healthcare policies, women’s rights and pretty much everyone who isn’t healthy, wealthy, male and white is now fucked. Once again, we were robbed of our accomplishments by a bunch of old establishment types that just never understood the things that seemed perfectly logical to us.

Then Chris Cornell died. His suicide is currently being reportedly as being connected to an adverse psychological reaction to a medication he was on. Strike two for the pharmaceutical industry.

As one of the founding members of the seminal Grunge movement that began in the early ‘90s as a reaction to the crappy state of the economy and late ‘80s hair-band rock music, Cornell’s bands Soundgarden and Audioslave contributed greatly to the revitalization of the hard rock landscape and gave us some of the best albums ever made.

Their lyrics spoke to Generation X. Then, as now, we were pissed off. Many of us raised ourselves because our parents worked constantly. Then, after seeing their successes, we were told ‘’Sorry, not for you kids!’’ and graduated into a world of boom/bust cycles created by decades of Thatcher/Regan/Bush economic policies that made the boomers rich but ensured that Gen-X would be the first generation since WWII to not do better than our parents. The songs were dark, honest and raw. No bullshitters allowed. Once again, the message was liberal. ‘’Times are gone for honest men.’’

Now, along with Scott Weiland, who died from a drug overdose and Kurt Cobain, who also committed suicide, we have lost three of the most influential members of the musical movement that defined our youth.

Unfortunately, this is our legacy, as well. Anxiety, depression, addiction and suicide are common among Gen-X but rather than admit complicity, it is frequently dismissed as being self-indulgent by the hypocritical boomers, whose social and economic policies have helped to create this shit show we now live in.

My heart goes out to Chris Cornell’s kids, who will now have it even worse than we did. Their Dad isn’t at work. Their Dad is dead. My only hope is that they, and the countless others like them will grow up to start their own musical movements, reflective of and a catalyst for the change that they too crave. They have the numbers that we didn’t and as the boomers die out, and Generation X gets older, we won’t be as resistant to change. They seem more optimistic than us but are equally as angry for the socioeconomic and political situation they have been left with. I know there are good bands out there with something to say. I just hope that there enough of us Gen-Xers left to see them when they come around on tour.
















How to Fix the U.S. Media: 101


In the ‘90s I had a very passionate Professor named David Hawkins who taught my Broadcast History 101 class. During one memorable lecture, he told us that the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 was the single most destructive act of de-regulation ever committed against our democracy. He told us bright-eyed young journalists, editors, writers and presenters that we would some day face a very different world professionally than the one we had signed up for. It took a few years for this to materialize, but ultimately Professor Hawkins was right. RIP.

The Fairness Doctrine was implemented by the United States Federal Communications Commission in 1949. It required all licensed broadcasters (including radio) present all issues considered to be of public importance, i.e. Presidential races, be presented in a manner that was honest, and equitable to all sides of a debate, with all points of view being represented. Those broadcasters who failed to do so were at risk of losing their license. WWII was fresh on the minds of both regulators and the public, who all understood clearly how Hitler and Goebbels had manipulated Germany’s media to their advantage. For many years, this rule helped the U.S. to avoid a similar situation developing at the dawn of the advent of a little thing called Television.

Just imagine it. To be able to turn on your TV or Radio and have actual facts presented and different points of view all in one place! Rather than some truths, many half-truths and opinions presented as facts, all from one side of the aisle depending on what station you’re tuned in to.

The people who argued against the doctrine (people like Rupert Murdoch) referred to the doctrine as “the thought police” and believed that it “restricted the journalistic freedom of broadcasters.” (1). Because as Stephen Colbert once noted “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

It’s funny how those who argue the loudest that their freedoms are being hindered are usually the ones who inevitably remove everyone elses. But they had Ronald Regan’s ear and the act was eliminated in 1987.

In years since, we have seen the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Fox News and MSNBC. In 2011, all language even referencing the doctrine was removed. The final nail in the coffin of responsible un-biased journalism.

Now, here we are with a Trump/Pence administration set to take over the country. Many are decrying the agendas of the different so-called news outlets. Outlets that have become sad shadows of their former selves. Even more are criticizing the lack of oversight on the publishing of false information on Social Media. But nobody is advocating a return of industry regulation, despite all signs to the obvious.

Re-instatement won’t work. Technology is changing too fast for that. What we need are new modern regulations that include current and future social media platforms and take into the consideration the 24-hour news cycle, which did not exist when the original rules were written. Perhaps then we can return to the discourse of reason, facts, calm debate and respect for opposing viewpoints. Perhaps then we can close the gap between “them” and “us” and realize we’re all in this together. Perhaps then we can avoid political and economic shitstorms like the one we’re heading into.

Oh, wait…that’s not profitable. Sorry! I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled bullshit now.

Finding purpose as a multipotentialite

Square Peg in a Round Hole
A square peg forced into a round hole.

It seems that a week cannot go by without the publishing of a new article on finding one’s purpose. A cursory Google search brought up 196 million hits dedicated to doing so. Quizzes, personality typing tools, pep talks and “how to” books all dedicated to helping people to figure out what they want when they grow up, regardless of age. It is clearly a lucrative game. But I wonder if it’s really helping or it’s just a lunchtime mood booster for miserable office workers to see guys like Tony Robbins share their success stories from their palatial estates telling us how successful we’ll be if we follow his plan of self-discovery. For a price, of course.

What about those of us who have taken the personality tests, read the books, listened to the “experts” and find it disheartening to discover that we don’t fit into any one box? A few of us have lots of different interests that have changed and developed over time. What about people perfectly happy in one job for a while who then decide to do something else, only to hear “You don’t have the experience!” or “Your CV has too many different things on it!” from recruiters. Some of us are good at more than one thing and find it frustrating when we cannot apply our skills in our working lives. It’s time for us to find our collective voice.

For this type of person, reading (and writing) articles on finding your purpose or doing quizzes to identity your passion are counter-productive because they promote what career coach Emilie Wapnick calls “a narrowly focused life.” This may be fine for those who knew from age 3 that they wanted to be a Doctor. But, many people are what Wapnick calls multipotentialites.  It’s a great word that describes a person with “many interests and creative pursuits.”

Rather than focus on the negative aspects of possessing such a personality i.e. having a fractured CV or dealing with the problems of changing fields, Wapnick ascribes us 3 Superpowers. These are:
1. Idea synthesis (bringing ideas from a broad range of fields of expertise together to create new and interesting concepts)
2. Rapid Learning (people who are polygamous in their interests are generally good researchers and keen to learn all they can about their new subject of interest)
3. Adaptability (the ability to become whatever an employer needs them to be. They can draw on their vast past experiences and broad range of knowledge.

It is a model that stresses breadth and depth, rather than simply the depth of finding one thing to do for the rest of your life and sticking with it. These are attributes encouraged in higher education, but rarely drawn upon in the professional world outside of academia.

I for one will be exploring my newfound multipotentialite attributes and eschewing any more of the “specialist” focused online quizzes and purpose-finding books and articles.

Emilie Wapnick’s Ted Talk on Multipotentialites can be found here: https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?language=en#t-472195

10 Things the UK must do to move into the 21st Century

20/03/2012 Torn and tattered Union Jack flag on Plymouth Hoe pic by Lucy Duval

The 5th anniversary of my moving to London from Los Angeles has passed. Even now, people ask me to compare living in the US to living in Great Britain. A few things are superior over here, such as sensible gun laws, the NHS (although this is deteriorating), good public transportation, great beer and a simplified tax system. Actors and musicians are top notch and of course, there’s the rich history every Brit boasts of proudly. But after 5 years, I can say with absolutely no regret whatsoever that this place needs work in some very basic areas. The UK would be better served by moving into the 21st century in the following 10 ways:

Get some decent clothes dryers. Laundry takes 8-12 hours per week. I’m not kidding. In winter it’s longer. It’s tortuous, slow and everything has to be a. hung up or left to b. left spinning in a “water extractor” dryer for many hours at great cost to the electric bill. If it saves money and time, surely it’s worth drilling that small vent hole, right?
Put screens on the windows. The UK has flies, mosquitoes, wasps and the biggest house spiders I have ever seen. Not to mention wandering cats (one of whom let himself in through my bathroom window repeatedly and turned out to be a real sweetie), mice and rats. But not one window has a screen on it anywhere in the UK. The technology is not new. Bonus: Having screens makes having the windows open during the 4 days of summer much more pleasurable and a lot less like camping out.
Make it illegal for companies to require women to wear high heels to work. To be fair, not all companies have this incredibly sexist policy, but many do. Parliament will be debating this issue following a petition that signed by over 150K people asking the Government to force companies to make their dress codes equitable.

Eliminate recruitment agencies. For those unfamiliar, these are companies who work for other companies looking to hire people. Their employees are mostly very young and work on commission, which they receive when they make a successful match. They take valuable resources from the hiring firms, who are too stupid or lazy to build up their own internal HR and recruitment departments and have no interest in matching the right people with the right company because they work on commission. They care about nothing other than their sales record and monthly bonus. They frequently block good people with experience from communicating directly with potential employers, ignore career changers or anything that their “keyword” software doesn’t flag. In general, they are a nasty bunch of self-serving kids with little respect for their clients. I am hopeful that businesses will soon realize what a waste of money these jokers are stop using them.
Learn some damn manners (applicable in London only). Simple phrases include: Please, Thank You, Bless you (for sneezes), excuse me and I’m sorry.
Improve your dentistry. You knew it was coming, right? Well, far be it from me to break a stereotype. The less said about brown teeth the better.
Get over your classism. Bono once said that the difference between America and the UK was that Americans look at a big house on a hill and say, “I aspire to have that.” In the UK they say, “I’m going to get that son of bitch.” Truer words were never spoken. Example: Just because a person eats at a gastropub and drinks craft beer does not mean they are “posh” or “stuck up.” It means they have better developed taste buds and yes, probably a bit more money. Is it a bad thing to work hard and spend your earnings on healthier, tastier victuals? For a large segment of the UK population, it is. Conversely, a person who wears a leather jacket is not necessarily a criminal waiting to rob you blind and every shopper with a backpack in a department store is not shoplifting.
Get some therapy. Alcoholism is rampant among all age groups and binge drinking is a huge problem among under 25’s. Recently, the London sewer water tested for high levels of cocaine. This, to me, is evidence that everyone is miserable and repressed. So society has set up “pub and club culture” as a way to self-medicate and allow for “social lubrication” (apparently it’s terrifying speaking to other human beings while sober) on a grand scale.
Legislate renters’ rights and real estate rules. Currently, any one can sell or rent a house in any condition to anyone else and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do to protect themselves. Agents have no governing body or required license and landlords are not required to keep up with maintenance.
Stop funding the Royal family. Stop wasting tax pounds in an era of austerity where libraries are being closed while paying for an already rich family’s palaces, cars and boats. It’s freaking ridiculous. They supposedly hold no political power, so why not let them survive on their own millions for a while?
Of course, none of these are likely to change any time soon, unfortunately. What they need is a good old American-style social revolution. But the Brits have a habit of losing revolutionary wars.


Why Selifes are Bad for Humanity


Yesterday, a friend called to tell me about his awesome trip to Plitvicka Lakes National Park, Croatia. The conversation soon turned to his annoyance with crowds blocking the hiking trails by stopping to take selfies at the most scenic spots. Having been almost impaled by an extremely sharp selfie-stick last summer in Venice, I sympathized. I am convinced that the taking of selfies is bad for humanity. Here’s a list of reasons why:

  • It is annoying to your fellow bipeds. We don’t just take selfies in front of spectacular scenes or monuments. We do it everywhere. In the process, we piss off countless others simply trying to walk to their destination.
  • It feeds into a fear of the natural process of aging. Andy Warhol said, “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” Perhaps this is what motivates millions of us to document every single moment in our otherwise ordinary lives. Because some day, we will get old and die and it’s important that our great grand children know about that time we stood in front of the bus stop waiting for the 57 to Raynes Park looking hot.
  • It is narcissistic. I am reminded of the scene in Madonna’s documentary Truth or Dare where then-boyfriend Warren Beatty questions her exhibitionist decision to have her throat exam filmed. “Why would you say something if it’s not on camera?” “What point is there existing?” The answer for many is that there isn’t.
  • It’s potentially dangerous. Earlier this year, there were stories about people ignoring safety signs and ultimately dying trying to take selfies in Yellowstone National Park and my friend said the same had, sadly, happened in Croatia. Let’s think about that. They died trying to capture a moment rather than being aware of their surroundings, enjoying that moment for real and surviving to tell others about their amazing experiences.
  • It brings out the worst in people. The worst abuse of the technology I have come across was late at night when I came across a group of drunken 20-somethings who had awoken a homeless man and forced him to take selfies with them. It was almost as if the camera phone gave these people protection from real-world consequences. He pleaded with them to leave him in peace. It was the single most disgusting thing I have seen since moving to London and that includes watching a rat consume fresh human vomit on a train platform.

My solution is to avoid taking selfies unless only I find myself in the very rare situation that I am surrounded entirely by people who are missing all manual digits.

What will yours be?

Top 10 School Supplies we had in the 80s


It’s back to school time in the USA. Many of my former classmates from the 1980s are now teachers. Even the ones who threw 6” steel nails at Mrs. Drake’s head and flaming matches at Mr. Passer in the 9th grade. They are sharing how different things are in 2016 when compared to our time. Ahhh, the 1980s. When Eddie Murphy was funny, hair was big and mascara thick. Things were simpler then. Especially in terms of school supplies. Rather than 3-page lists with specific requirements from schools that must be upheld, we had a few simple items that lasted all year. Here is a list of the Top 10 things that every kid had.

  1. A Trapper Keeper. With this, you could fit all of your schoolwork into neat little pockets, with dividers for each subject. Mine had kittens on it.


  1. Number 2 pencils. They started out long and tall. An ideal slingshot frame. By the end of week 2, they would fall victim to the horrible medieval pencil sharpeners mounted on the walls in each classroom.

#2 Pencil Nub

  1. Shitty eraser tops. They broke apart and smudged color all over your freshly ruled paper but they were good for stress chewing and throwing at other kids. Hurt like hell if you took one in the eye.

Shitty Erasers

  1. Troll pencil toppers. I never understood this fad. I always thought they looked like creepy old junkies with pencils up their asses.

Troll Pencils

  1. A Real Metal Lunch box with thermos. Not the plastic kind! Mine was from my then-favorite TV show Space 1999. Still a great show available for download on iTunes. Somehow it made the crappy bologna sandwich taste better.

Space Lunch Box

  1. Duffle bag a.k.a a Book bag. The boys typically had a sports logo and the girls had unicorns and rainbows. All were brightly colored so as to blind you. Doubled as a deadly weapon when full of books.

Duffle Bag Unicorn

  1. Sketch Scented Markers. They smelled like fruit. They actually encouraged kids to sniff them. AWESOME.

Fruity markers

  1. Brown paper bag book covers. They lasted the whole year and were mandatory to protect your textbooks. You could draw on them. Band logos, landline numbers and dick pics never looked so good.

Book Cover

  1. Folders with popular characters on them for extra paperwork. I had one with Garfield in a Hawaiian shirt and another with the Purple Rain album cover. Of course I did.

Garfield Folderjpg

  1. Denim Jacket fully customized with favorite band patches and pins. Not so much a supply item but a standard for small-town American kids. Where uniforms were not a requirement, we established our own. Pretty much the same now. It’s nice to know that some things never change.

Denim Jacket 2