Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Zen, September 29-30

Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. 

                      ~ Max Ehrmann

Friday, September 28, 2012

Daily Zen - Friday, September 28

For me, every hour is grace. I feel gratitude in my heart each time I meet someone and look at his or her smile. 

                      ~ Elie Wiesel

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Clever Internet GIFS With Sounds

What would happen if someone added a soundtrack to the internet's most popular GIF images? Nothing earth-shattering, but you might chuckle and you probably can't stop watching before the end.

This won't make you smarter, but it's fun.

If you didn't get enough GIFs with sound, here's another(Hat tip to the Daily Beast and Andrew Sullivan.)

Daily Zen - Thursday, September 27

We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly.

                  ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Remembering Andy Williams - Moon River, Love Story, and a Simon & Garfunkel Trio

Crooner Andy Williams, who died today at the age of 84, possessed a remarkable voice that could deliver drama, power, and tenderness all in the same note.

If you're not sure what that sounds like, you need only re-listen to Williams' striking rendition of the Mancini/Mercer classic Moon River or the sweeping ballad Love Story, from the 1970 movie of the same name.

During a career that spanned more than five decades, Williams not only made enormously popular records, he also hosted his own successful variety show in the late 60's and early 70s. On The Andy Williams Show, the singer performed, featured comedy acts, and promoted new musicians like The Carpenters, Bread, The Temptations, Gladys Knight, and of course The Osmonds.

Even those who are too young to remember Williams' hit songs or his variety show have likely enjoyed a bounty of Andy Williams during the Christmas season. Many of the holiday songs he recorded have become the "preferred" versions over the years. Seriously, you can't beat Andy's "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," can you?

Though away from the limelight for years, Williams will be missed. For many of us who are in the 40+ age group, the world becomes a little less innocent and a little more jaded without the shining smile, gentle spirit, and rich silky voice of Andy Williams. RIP, my huckleberry friend.

In light of Williams' passing, you have likely already heard plenty of Moon River and Love Song. I decided to feature this legendary performance that showcases Andy's phenomenal voice in pitch perfect harmony with two other American musical greats. (Thanks to my friend Jon Williams for sharing this with me!)

Daily Zen - Wednesday, September 26

When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can 
completely let go and embrace the groundlessness of our situation...that’s called enlightenment.

                  ~ Pema Chodron

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Daily Zen - Tuesday, September 25

He that can have patience can have what he will. 

                  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Monday, September 24, 2012

SNL's Fox & Friends on Mitt Romney

What do these things have in common?
  • Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Tobey Maguire
  • Microsoft
  • Saturday Night Live 
They were all born in 1975.

Last weekend, SNL kicked off its 38th season. The show has had its peaks and valleys over the years, but as the "Fox & Friends Morning Show" parody below shows, Lorne Michaels and company still deliver the goods when it comes to political satire.

Daily Zen - Monday, September 24

Life is going to be difficult, and dreadful things will happen. What you do is move along, get on with it, and be tough.

                  ~ Katherine Hepburn

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekend Zen, September 22-23

The secret to success is to start from scratch and keep on scratching. 
                      ~ Dennis Green

Friday, September 21, 2012

Homeland Security Funds Robot Tuna

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has decided to purchase a new robotic device used for underwater surveillance that looks and moves like a big yellow tuna fish.

According to the Boston Engineering Corporation, the device can be utilized for missions such as patrolling harbors, exploring damaged or wrecked ships, and inspecting tankers.

The Navy has its seals, and now Homeland Security has its tuna. Shouldn't be long before we hear about the Army's new robot groundhogs.

Daily Zen - Friday, September 21

Whatever it is you're seeking won't come in the form you're expecting.

                     ~ Haruki Murakami

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Daily Zen - Thursday, September 20

You have to look at what you have right in front of you, at what it could be, and stop measuring it against what you've lost.

                  ~ Jonathan Tropper

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Daily Zen - Tuesday, September 18

View all problems as challenges. Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow.

             ~ Bhante Gunaratana

Monday, September 17, 2012

Daily Zen - Monday, September 17

May not one take muddy water and make it clear by keeping still?

                     ~ Lao Tzu

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Weekend Zen, September 15-16

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.

                   ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, September 14, 2012

Turn of Phrase - McCain Schools Sean Hannity on Foreign Policy

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
"It was you and people on Fox that said in Libya, 'We didn't know who they were and let's not help these people.'

They had an election and they elected moderates. They rejected Islamists. 

And yes, there are al-Qaeda factors and there are extremists in Libya today, but the Libyan people are friends of ours, and they support us, and they support democracy.

So you were wrong about -- so you were wrong about Libya."

- From Senator John McCain, during an interview Thursday with Fox News host Sean Hannity. After Hannity bragged about his perceived correctness in predicting events in post-revolution Egypt, McCain disputed his "facts" and then set him straight on Libya.

What a pleasure to see McCain, a seasoned politician with a wealth of foreign policy experience, call out a hawkish Fox News simpleton. McCain's comments could also serve as a valuable reminder to his party's presidential nominee that conducting world affairs in the 21st century requires "careful calibration," not blowhard nationalistic rhetoric.

You can see the entire exchange (3 mins) below.

Daily Zen - Friday, September 14

The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.

                ~ Rita Mae Brown

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Romney's Gutless Foreign Policy Screw-Up

Mitt Romney's premature, inappropriate, and errant criticism of a statement issued by an American embassy outrages me.

Romney believed that the American embassy in Cairo had issued a a communication expressing regret for hurting "religious feelings of Muslims," after extremists attacked our consulates in Libya and Egypt on September 11.

The GOP nominee saw the embassy statement as a political opportunity to attack the President as a weak American apologist, and he pounced.

"I think it's a -- a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked, and being breached, that the first response to the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation."

Unfortunately, in his blatant eagerness to sound like a bad ass and score political points during a still unfolding foreign policy tragedy, Romney lacked many of the salient details.

First, Romney was wrong about when the embassy statement was issued. The original statement was not in fact a post-event apology, but was instead a communication issued prior to the attacks as a preemptive effort to quell a swelling undercurrent of anti-American sentiment that threatened to boil over.

Second, Romney was quick to criticize the Obama administration for the "apology," when the statement had actually been issued by a local diplomat, prior to any State Department or White House approval of the message.

The White House has subsequently issued a formal statement in response to the attacks and disavowed the original embassy message. Additionally, President Obama expressed empathy for the onsite diplomatic personnel, who crafted the original communication from a soon-to-be besieged embassy, rather than from the safety of a campaign office.

In the last two days, I've read numerous articles and accounts about this incident, and I was grateful to see politicians from across the spectrum express disappointment in Romney's poor judgment. Nonetheless, my anger over Romney's actions has become palpable.

New Species of Monkey Discovered

A new species of monkey has been discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lesula, a member of the guenon order, is only the second new monkey species discovered in the last 28 years.

With humans having encroached upon nearly every corner of the planet, I find it remarkable that scientists are still stumbling across new species of mammals, particularly ones as large as monkeys.

I love the photo of this particular lesula. His kind eyes and thoughtful expression are so human. Am I the only one who thinks he looks a bit British?

Daily Zen - Thursday, September 13

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. 

                    ~ Thomas Edison

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Daily Zen - Wednesday, September 12

Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final. 

                  ~ Roger Babson

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Turn of Phrase - The NFL Finally Comes Out

Kluwe, Ayanbadejo, and Burns
"I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful c*ckmonster.

They won’t overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children.

You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else..."

- From Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, in a letter he wrote to Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns, after Burns recommended the coercion and censoring of pro-LGBT Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Although the full story has been widely reported and Kluwe's letter has gone insanely viral online, it warrants additional discussion here nonetheless. 

For those of you who missed it somehow, here's the play in three acts. 
  1. Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo is a strong and vocal supporter of a November ballot initiative in the state of Maryland that would recognize same-sex marriage. 
  2. A Baltimore County delegate, Emmett Burns Jr., is mortified by Ayanbadejo's public support of the measure. Burns sent a letter to the Ravens owner expressing his displeasure with Ayanbadejo and insisting the player be pressured to "cease and desist such injurious actions." 
  3. Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, also an advocate for same-sex marriage, delivered a public and verbally brutal beatdown to Burns, in his very direct and powerful open letter
The online reaction to Kluwe's letter has been overwhelmingly positive, and LGBT rights groups are understandably thrilled to have both Ayanbadejo and Kluwe weigh-in so forcefully in favor of marriage equality.

The significance of the actions of these bold NFL players cannot be understated.

Facts About Jobs Before and Since Obama (August 2012)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provided unemployment and job market numbers on Friday for the period of August 2012. With 103,000 private sector jobs added in August and 7,000 public sector/government jobs eliminated, the report reflected a disappointing net gain of 96,000 new jobs.

The Bureau's August release also shows a reduction in the unemployment rate from 8.3% to 8.1%. While this is positive news on its face, the decline in the unemployment rate results mostly from a decrease in the number of Americans who are seeking work, not from an increase in the number of newly created jobs.

The big picture bad news embedded in the August job statistics is that the economy and job market continue to recover at a pace which almost everyone, including the President, finds to be unacceptably sluggish.

The good news is we now have 30 consecutive months of positive job growth. Additionally, according to Steve Benen on the Maddow Blog, in the first eight months of 2012 the economy yielded 1.2 million new private sector jobs, which is already better than five of the eight Bush/Cheney years in their entirety.

Our choices in the upcoming presidential election are becoming increasingly clear. Some of us will decide that President Obama has made the right choices and opt to give him four more years to finish the job of repairing a devastated economy. Others will conclude that the speed of the recovery is simply unacceptable and will opt for the Romney alternative.

Regardless of your choice, I believe it's important to pursue and process the unadulterated facts. The graph above represents actual job growth results and trends (red = Bush, blue = Obama), which I believe illustrate simply and plainly the real world impact of the policies of the current and prior White House administrations.

By the end of the Bush administration, we were losing more than 600,000 jobs per month. Under President Obama job growth has been slow, but steady and positive.

My question for Mr. Romney is this - what specifically are you proposing that is different from the Bush-era policies that led to so much of the "red ink" and job loss in the chart above?

Daily Zen - Tuesday, September 11

The best portion of a good man's life: his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love. 

                ~ WIlliam Wordsworth

Monday, September 10, 2012

Daily Zen - Monday, September 10

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. 

                ~ George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week In Review - September 8, 2012

Finding quality blogging time has been challenging lately, but the wide world hasn't stopped spinning and generating jaw-dropping news and events. 

Mass shooting victim and former member of the House of Representatives Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) inspired us with her moving recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the DNC. Author Richard Bach, who taught us so much in Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions, was injured in a plane crash this week and his son told the world (not ironically) how much flying means to his dad.

We acknowledged the career and retirement of American tennis great Andy Roddick with a video compilation of Andy's most hilarious, endearing, and enraging moments.

Lastly, we said goodbye to talented actor Michael Clarke Duncan who died young this week at age 54. We celebrated Clarke's life and work by sharing a clip from his Oscar-nominated performance as a death row inmate who possesses a very special gift in The Green Mile

As always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Weekend Zen, September 8-9

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. 

                     ~ Maya Angelou

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gabby Giffords - What Real Heroes Do

In January 2011, six people were killed and U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was severely wounded in a mass shooting at a Tucson area supermarket.

After being shot in the head at point blank range, Giffords "had part of her skull and brain removed, underwent intensive reconstructive surgery, and lost the full use of the right side of her body and half of her vision." (

 This is what Representative Giffords did last night.

Daily Zen - Friday, September 7

Time is a created thing. To say “I don’t have time,” is like saying, “I don’t want to.”

                      ~ Lao Tzu

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Best and Worst Moments of Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick
Photo: Frank Franklin / AP
For the better part of the last decade, Andy Roddick has been the face of American men's tennis. Last week on his 30th birthday, the former world #1 announced that the 2012 U.S. Open would be his last tournament.

Roddick's tennis resume is bursting with accomplishments, including winning one of the sport's major events, the 2003 U.S. Open, as well as 31 other titles.

Additionally, the Nebraska native spent a remarkable nine consecutive years ranked among the top 10 players in the world.

Throughout his career, Roddick's sardonic persona, both on and off the tennis court, consistently propelled him into the midst of controversy, his forthright manner endearing him to some fans and alienating him from others.

With his loss to Juan Martin DelPotro earlier this week in New York, Roddick's career has officially come to a close. ESPN and the Tennis Channel have paid adequate tribute to Roddick; below are the words and images that best capture how I will remember him.

Angry, annoying, cocksure, whiny.
When sufficiently "provoked," Roddick took on line judges and chair umpires with ferocity.

Even tournament referees and directors could not escape the wrath of Andy.

Sarcastic, entertaining, hilarious, quick.
Andy was not always kind to the media either. He expected reporters to be as prepared and dedicated to their craft as he was to his, and if the media fell short of his expectations - he might just walk out.

He never suffered fools gladly, though he often did so with wit and humor. This trait, along with his willingness to be self-deprecating from time to time, made for some of the game's most entertaining press conferences and interviews.

Committed, passionate, honest, real.
Despite sometimes playing the role of villain, Andy's sincerity and earnestness often made him relatable and irresistibly likable. Who didn't feel for Andy after his heartbreaking loss to Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final (16-14 in the fifth set)?

During his final moments this week in Arthur Ashe stadium, Andy showed the world what the game of tennis has meant to him with grace and humility.

Say what you will about Andy Roddick (he doesn't care what you think anyway), but his departure leaves a hole in American men's tennis that none of the current crop of younger tennis players, talented though they may be, is ready to fill.

Daily Zen - Thursday, September 6

We gain freedom when we have paid the full price.

                ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Turn of Phrase - Richard Bach In Plane Crash

"Dad described his religion as flying. He's a very avid aviator. It would be terrible if he recovers and can't fly again — this guy needs to fly."

- From James Bach, son of writer Richard Bach.

Bach, the acclaimed author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions, is in serious but stable condition after crashing his private plane last weekend.

My high school guidance counselor turned me on to the work of Richard Bach, and to this day, I consider Illusions to be pivotal in my development as a grown-up human being.

Bach often uses flight as a metaphor for life in his work, and his books are comprised of inspirational and aspirational stories that both challenge and aid us in finding our truest selves. His words show up regularly in some of my all-time favorite Daily Zen quotes on the blog.

Get well, Richard. 

Daily Zen - Wednesday, September 5

Live your own life. That is to say, where you are, with what you are, and with who you are.

                  ~ Swami Prajnanpad

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Remembering Actor Michael Clarke Duncan

Actor Michael Clarke Duncan died Monday at the age of 54, having never fully recovered from a heart attack he suffered in July.

Duncan, who at 6' 5" and more than 300 pounds was a hulking and recognizable figure, appeared in dozens of films, but he was best known for his Oscar-nominated portrayal of a convicted child murderer in The Green Mile (1999).

In The Green Mile, Duncan played John Coffey, a character to whom writer Stephen King purposefully gave the initials J.C., and a gentle giant of a man who sits on death row awaiting execution by electrocution.

Duncan played opposite Tom Hanks, the prison guard who learns that not only is Coffey very unlikely to have murdered anyone, he is also a man with a very special and potentially divine gift for absorbing the pain of others.

If you've seen The Green Mile, the clip below will remind you of Michael Clarke Duncan's extraordinary work in the film. If you haven't seen the movie, add it to your Netflix queue tonight.

RIP, Mr. Duncan, and thank you for bringing John Coffey so beautifully to life.

Daily Zen - Tuesday, September 4

The only dream worth having is to live while you're alive and die only when you're dead.

                   ~ Arundhati Roy

Monday, September 3, 2012

Daily Zen - Monday, September 3

Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.

                    ~ John Lennon

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Weekend Zen, September 1-2

Today tell yourself every word I utter will be chosen consciously. I will refrain from complaints, criticism and condemnation. 

                ~ Deepak Chopra