Category Archives: Lists

On the Town: Live Performances I’ve Attended

Although most of the lists on Make Lists, Not War are meta-lists, some are more personal in nature. Most recently I published a list of every place I’ve lived. Other personal lists include: Where Have I Been? (all the states and countries I’ve visited), The Birds (all the birds I’ve ever seen), My Backyard Menagerie (all the creatures I’ve seen near our house), Native Plants I Have Grown and Loved (Part I and Part II) and Concert Log (all the music and comedy performances I’ve been to). I recently revised the Concert Log to add plays and other theatrical performances, so that all the live performances are together in one list. (Note: I’ve omitted performances in which I participated in some way.)  There are significant gaps here – I know there are other plays, concerts and performances I’ve seen that I can’t recall right now, but I think I’ve covered the most significant ones. Here is the revised list: Live Performance Log.

I guess the real question is, why would anyone but me be interested in this list?  I don’t know the answer.  Some people like to look at other people’s experiences because it provides the vicarious pleasure of seeing through another’s eyes (“Oh, I would love to have seen Led Zeppelin live!”).  Others may use it as inspiration to dig into their own pasts (“I’m going to make my own list!”). For others, reading this list would be a complete waste of time.  No problem.  Read it or not, here I come!

Oh, The Places I’ve Lived…

What does it mean to live somewhere? Last October I stayed in Rome, Italy, where I slept in a hotel for nine nights after seeing the sights each day, but I don’t think anyone would agree with me if I started telling people I had lived in Rome. On the other hand, pretty much everyone would agree that I lived in Ridgewood, New Jersey after learning that I slept in the same house there the majority of nights between March 1962 and September 1979, when I went off to college. Where do we draw the line between a visit or vacation on the one hand and a domicile or residence on the other? Is it length of time? Anything more than a month in the same place? Or does it have to do with where we keep our stuff? When I went to college in Oberlin, Ohio, I brought a trunk full of possessions, including some blankets and sheets, lots of clothes, books, my guitar, a  tape player and lots of tapes, and posters for my wall, but I still had a bedroom in Ridgewood that I returned to during breaks. I feel like I lived in Oberlin for those four years, at least during the school year, with occasional visits “home.” But I’m not 100% sure about that.

And what about the summer of 1983? Two friends and I drove out to Costa Mesa, California and stayed in a trailer where another friend was living with his wife and their child for a couple of weeks until we got a trailer of our own in the same trailer park and stayed there for another couple of weeks. We then left Costa Mesa to go to the San Francisco area, where we stayed in the lounge of a UC Berkeley dorm for a week before finding two rooms in a house in Oakland, where we stayed three weeks (and got short-term jobs) before driving back to Oberlin. Did I live in Costa Mesa? Berkeley? Oakland? Can I say I lived in California that summer, or was I just visiting?

“Why do you care?”, you might reasonably ask. Because I want to make a list – a list of every place I’ve lived. I’m going to use the criterion that being in the same general area for at least a month means I lived there, unless it is clearly a vacation (and I’ve yet to go anywhere on vacation for more than a couple of weeks).

Here’s the list, in chronological order:

4/61-3/62: Palisades Park, NJ
3/62-8/79: Ridgewood, NJ
9/79-5/80: Oberlin, OH
5/79-8/80: Ridgewood, NJ
9/80-5/81: Oberlin, OH
5/81-8/81: Boston, MA (Back Bay)
9/81-5/82: Oberlin, OH
5/82-12/82: Ridgewood, NJ
1/83-5/83: Oberlin, OH
6/83-8/83: California (Costa Mesa, Berkeley, Oakland)
9/83-12/83: Oberlin, OH
12/83-10/84: Ridgewood, NJ
10/84-11/84: Cambridge, MA
11/84-12/85: Boston, MA (Jamaica Plain)
1/86-8/89: Somerville, MA
9/89-8/93: Newton, MA (Newtonville)
9/93-8/01: Watertown, MA
8/01-Present: Waltham, MA

That means I’ve lived in 11 different municipalities in four states, all in the US.  What about you?

Reading Lists

Although I love lists, I don’t like to make my own Top 10, Top 25 or Top 100 lists.  I usually have many more than 10, 25 or 100 favorites in any category, and so the supposedly fun process of making the list becomes the intensely painful process of cutting items from the list.  I love more than 100 movies, 100 books, 100 musical recordings, etc.  – what is the point of putting myself through the unpleasantness of culling the sum total of favorites just to meet some arbitrary cut-off number?  My preferred method is to rate items on a scale (1-5 or 1-10 usually) and then list all the top-rated items (those with 5 out of 5 or 10 out of 10 stars) as my “best of” list.  Some may find this disconcerting, because there is no easy round number of items – both my best movies and best books lists have somewhere between 200 and 300 listed items – but I find this listing method much less arbitrary and more fulfilling, because it is comprehensive.

I recently updated my list of best/favorite books – you can find every book I’ve rated 5 out of 5 stars HERE.  In going over the list, I noticed that I read a number of the books before high school.  I rated them as an adult based on how I remembered feeling about the book way back when.  This is a risky technique, I suppose, since I don’t know if I would give the book five stars if I read it as an adult.  The list I’ve set out below shows the 16 books on my “Five-Star Books” list that I read before entering high school (first through eighth grade), organized chronologically by date of publication:

  1. The Voyage of the Beagle. Charles Darwin (1839)
  2. On the Origin of Species. Charles Darwin (1859)
  3. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Jules Verne (1869)
  4. Kidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
  5. Dracula. Bram Stoker (1897)
  6. The Bounty Trilogy: Mutiny on the Bounty; Men Against the Sea; Pitcairn’s Island. Charles Nordhoff & James Hall (1932-1934)
  7. Life Long Ago: The Story of Fossils. Carroll Lane Fenton (1937)
  8. The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkein (1937)
  9. The Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger (1951)
  10. The Foundation Trilogy: Foundation; Foundation & Empire; Second Foundation. Isaac Asimov (1951-1953)
  11. Nine Stories. J.D. Salinger (1953)
  12. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction. J.D. Salinger (1955)
  13. The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien (1956)
  14. Franny and Zooey. J.D. Salinger (1961)
  15. The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1973)
  16. All the President’s Men. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (1974)

Books (or movies, or music, or other works of art) come into our lives at different points in our development and we respond to them as the people we are then.  What books were right for that moment but would not translate well to this moment we are living in now?  What books did we just not appreciate at the time we read them that we would see today totally differently?  Feel free to let me know what you think.

FYI, here are links to all my five-star lists:
My Five-Star Books
My Five-Star Films
My Five-Star Albums

Sean Osborn: Celebrity Guest Lister

Make Lists, Not War is proud to announce that celebrated American classical clarinetist and composer Sean Osborn – a visitor to the website – has provided us with some of his favorites – below are two lists he made: one is Best Operas and the other is Best Clarinet Concertos.  For those who want to know more about Mr. Osborn’s music, check out the following:

His website: http://www.osbornmusic.com/
His recordings: https://www.amazon.com/s?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=music&field-artist=Sean%20Osborn
His compositions: http://www.osbornmusic.com/workslist.html

BEST CLARINET CONCERTOS (a list by Sean Osborn)
1. Carl Nielsen, Clarinet Concerto, op. 57 (1928)
2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622 (1791) (tie)
2. John Adams, Gnarly Buttons (1996) (tie)
4. Aaron Copland, Clarinet Concerto (1949)
5. Carl Maria von Weber, Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in Eb Major, Op. 74 (1811)
6. Gerald Finzi, Clarinet Concerto, Op. 31 (1949)
7. Magnus Lindberg, Clarinet Concerto (2002)
8. Jean Françaix, Clarinet Concerto (1968)
9. Carl Maria von Weber, Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73 (1811)
10. William Bolcom, Clarinet Concerto (1992)

BEST OPERAS (a list by Sean Osborn)

Personal Favorite
IL TRITTICO (1. Il tabarro; 2. Suor Angelica; 3. Gianni Schicchi) (1918) Composer: Giacomo Puccini

Masterpieces
LA BOHÈME (THE BOHEMIAN LIFE) (1896) Composer: Giacomo Puccini
OTELLO (OTHELLO) (1887) Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG (TWILIGHT OF THE GODS) (1876) Composer: Richard Wagner
WOZZECK (1925) Composer: Alban Berg
LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO) (1786) Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Some Near-Masterpieces
TOSCA (1900) Composer: Giacomo Puccini
PETER GRIMES (1945) Composer: Benjamin Britten
SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (1979) Composer: Stephen Sondheim
COSÌ FAN TUTTE
 (THUS DO THEY ALL) (1790) Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
CARMEN (1875) Composer: Georges Bizet

The Making of a List – The Best 200 Movies of All Time – Using a New Method

This post introduces a new “Top Movies” meta-list that I compiled using a completely new methodology.  Those of you familiar with my lists know that I usually make all my meta-lists the same way: I collect “Best of” lists on a specific topic from the Internet, books and magazines and give one point to an item for every list it is on.  You also know that, for complicated mathematical reasons explained HERE, I treat all lists equally, no matter how long they are (a top 10 list and a top 1000 list are not weighted differently, as long as the total number of items in the classification is much higher than 1000), and no matter where an item is on the list (in the case of a top 1000 list, for example, I treat the item at Number 1 exactly the same as the item at Number 1000).  Don’t fret – it all works out.

NOTE: The links to the new list are at the bottom of the page if you want to skip the methodology and analysis information below.

Because my traditional method for making meta-lists does not take advantage of the more complicated rating schemes available on certain websites (particularly those involving film), I thought it would be fun to use those websites to see what kind of a film list they would create.  Here’s what I did:  First, I took the top 250 movies (as rated by the public) on the website IMDb.com (the Internet Movie Database), along with the 1-10 rankings for each movie.  I then added the top 100 movies on the Rotten Tomatoes website, as determined by the site’s Tomatometer score, which uses an algorithm based on critics’ reviews.  I added to that the top 200 movies as rated by the members of the Rate Your Music website (which rates films as well as music), along with the ranking (RYM rates on a 1-5 scale, so I just doubled each score to get a 1-10 rating). To put my personal opinions in the mix, I then added every movie that I rated 10/10.  I then added all the films on the most recent Sight & Sound Magazine polls of film critics and directors (100 movies on each list, from 2012).  To get a ranking, I assigned numeric values on a 1-10 basis (10 for the top 10 movies, 9.95 for the next 10, and so on).  I took that list of nearly 500 movies and looked up for each movie the average critic score from Rotten Tomatoes (which is calculated differently from the from the Tomatometer score and tends to be lower), my personal 1-10 rating (if I had seen the film) and the critics’ rating from Metacritic.com, if available. (Metacritic doesn’t rate most older movies unless they were recently re-released or reissued.) This gave each film the possibility of up to eight 1-10 ratings.  To avoid skewing the data, I then deleted any film that did not have at least three of the eight ratings, which reduced the total number of movies on the list to 376.  Using Excel, I calculated the average rating for each movie.  The top film had a 9.67 rating; the film at the 376th spot was rated at 6.25.  I then somewhat arbitrarily selected the top 200 films on the list as the best of all time (the 200th film’s rating was 8.67).

The result is definitely not your typical best movies list: for one thing, there are quite a few very recent films; some perennial favorites are missing and some unusual selections have made it. The list sometimes rates less well-known films of a director higher than the film usually considered the director’s best.  Using my personal ratings means that many of my favorite movies are on the list (and movies I gave very low ratings did not make the cut: so long Forrest Gump, Inception, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Up and WALL-E!).  But don’t think of this as a list of my favorites.  If anything, the Sight & Sound movies received the most weight, since they are drawn from hundreds of respected movie critics and directors. Many of my top-rated movies were cut because they didn’t have a minimum of three ratings out of the eight potential sources.  So, for example, I have never seen the top three movies on the list – Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist – although you can believe I’m pushing them to the top of my Netflix queue.

I have examined the new list a bit and came up with some interesting tidbits about it, as shown in the analysis below:

MOST FEQUENTLY LISTED DIRECTORS AND THEIR MOST-LISTED FILMS

6 Films
Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo)

5 FIlms
Jean-Luc Godard (Contempt)
Ingmar Bergman (Fanny and Alexander)

4 Films 
Robert Bresson (Au Hasard Balthazar)
Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai)
Federico Fellini (La Strada)
Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey)
Luis Buñuel (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)
Billy Wilder (Sunset Blvd.)

MOST COMMON COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN AND TOP FILM FOR EACH COUNTRY

United States: 107 films (Top Film: The Godfather)
France: 27 films (Top Film: Au Hasard Balthazar)
United Kingdom: 19 films (Top Film: A Hard Day’s Night)
Italy: 16 films (Top Film: The Leopard)
Japan: 9 films (Top Film: Seven Samurai)
Germany: 8 films (Top Film: Aguirre, the Wrath of God)
USSR: 5 films (Top Film: Battleship Potemkin)
Sweden: 5 films (Top Film: Fanny and Alexander)
Denmark: 3 films (Top Film: Gertrud)
New Zealand: 3 films (Top Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) (co-production with US)

DECADES WHEN FILMS WERE PRODUCED AND TOP RATED FILM OF EACH DECADE

1910s: 1 film (Intolerance)
1920s: 12 films (Top Film: Battleship Potemkin)
1930s: 16 films (Top Film: The Rules of the Game)
1940s: 19 films (Top Film: Open City)
1950s: 33 films (Top Film: Anatomy of a Murder)
1960s: 36 films (Top Film: Au Hasard Balthazar)
1970s: 27 films (Top Film: The Conformist)
1980s: 11 films (Top Film: Shoah)
1990s: 15 films (Top Film: Pulp Fiction)
2000s: 18 films (Top Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)
2010s: 13 films (Top Film: Boyhood)

TOP-RATED DOCUMENTARY FILMS
Shoah (France, 1985) Dir: Claude Lanzmann
Man with a Movie Camera (USSR, 1929) Dir: Dziga Vertov
Capturing the Friedmans (US, 2003) Dir: Andrew Jarecki
The Act of Killing (Denmark, 2012) Dir: Joshua Oppenheimer
Grizzly Man (US, 2005) Dir: Werner Herzog
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Canada/US/France/Germany/UK, 2010) Dir: Werner Herzog
Man on Wire (UK/US, 2008) Dir. James Marsh
Hoop Dreams (US, 1994) Dir: Steve James
Stop Making Sense (US, 1984) Dir: Jonathan Demme

TOP-RATED MUSICALS
Singin’ in the Rain (US, 1951) Dir: Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly
A Hard Day’s Night (UK, 1964) Dir: Richard Lester
The Wizard of Oz (US, 1939) Dir: Victor Fleming
Nashville (US, 1975) Dir: Robert Altman
Once (Ireland, 2006) Dir: John Carney
La La Land (US, 2016) Dir: Damien Chazelle

TOP-RATED ANIMATED FILMS
Anomalisa (US, 2015) Dir: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson
Toy Story 3 (US, 2010) Dir: Lee Unkrich
Spirited Away (Japan, 2001) Dir: Hayao Miyazaki
Toy Story (US, 1995) Dir: John Lasseter

So now that I’ve piqued your interest, you probably want to see the new list.  Click on the links below for two versions: one is organized by rating/ranking, the other is chronological.

Top 200 Movies – By Ranking
Top 200 Movies – Chronological

The Sound of Silents: The Best Films from the Years Before Talkies

Silent films were never silent.  At the first official movie screening by the Lumiere brothers in Paris in December 1895, a guitarist accompanied the presentation of 10 short films, including the first documentary, Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory, and the first comedy, The Sprinkler Sprinkled.  In the U.S. it was more common for a pianist or – in the case of major films in big cities – a small orchestra, to accompany early films, which due to lack of the requisite technology had no synchronized soundtrack.  The musicians began by improvising or linking together popular melodies to illustrate what they saw on the screen, often adding sound effects for galloping horses, thunderclaps, ringing bells and other actions. In 1908, the first fully-composed film scores appeared in France (by Camille Saint-Saens) and Russia.  The first major U.S. film to have a score was D.W. Griffith’s racist blockbuster The Birth of the Nation, with music composed by Joseph Breil, in 1915.  The giant movie theaters built in the 1910s and 1920s often incorporated immense theater organs that allowed for musical accompaniment, which usually involved a combination of following the score as well as improvisation and elaborate sound effects.  The switch to synchronized sound after the success of The Jazz Singer in 1927, a change that permitted the actors to speak their dialogue and allowed moviemakers to incorporate music into the film itself, put thousands of movie theater musicians out of work.

Modern audiences often have difficulty watching movies from the “silent” era.  The acting style necessary to communicate without spoken dialogue – essentially a form of mime – seems histrionic and over-the-top to many now.  (Even some contemporaries agreed. When Charles Chaplin made A Woman of Paris in 1923 – one of the few Chaplin films that did not star The Little Tramp – he specifically instructed his actors to adopt a more subdued acting style than was the norm. As a result the film seems more modern than many other silent films.)  The stilted, corny or moralistic tone of some of the intertitles can also be offputting to modern audiences.  On top of these substantive concerns, there are also physical problems with many silent films – many were badly preserved.  In fact, we are lucky to have any silent films left at all – it is estimated that 70% of all feature films from the pre-talkie era have deteriorated beyond repair or were deliberately destroyed after the switch to the new sound technology.

But these difficulties should not dissuade movie buffs from checking out some of the classic silent films, particularly those made in the 1920s.  It was during the silent era that filmmakers developed the basic visual vocabulary of moviemaking. By the mid-1920s, studios around the world were turning out high-quality films, some of them with dazzling visual technique and inventiveness.  In fact, the first years of sound movies, which required the noisy film cameras to be placed in soundproof (and immobile) boxes and anchored the actors to the location of the nearest microphone, saw a decrease in the cinematic inventiveness and overall quality of films. Look at many sound films from the late 1920s and early 1930s and you will see film returning to the days when everything looked like a filmed play – no moving cameras, few or no tracking shots – everything static.  The transition period is lovingly parodied by Betty Comden and Adolph Green in their screenplay for Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 musical directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.

Because there was no dialogue, and intertitles could easily be translated into any language, silent film was a more international art than film after the introduction of sound. Germany during the Weimar Republic was a particularly strong producer of high-quality films in various genres: horror (Nosferatu), science fiction (Metropolis), crime thriller (Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler), and drama/social commentary (The Last Laugh; Pandora’s Box).  Several of the best German directors – Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Ernst Lubitsch, Erich von Stroheim, Josef von Sternberg – brought their expertise to Hollywood in time to produce silent film masterpieces on both sides of the Atlantic.

Perhaps the most accessible of the silent films to modern audiences are the comedies. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and other comic geniuses created personae that appeared in film after film in one outrageous fix after another.  The relative critical reputations of Chaplin and Keaton have see-sawed over the years.  At times, the sublime mix of comedy and pathos that characterizes Chaplin’s best work receives top billing; then the pendulum swings to the unsentimental acrobatics of the stone-faced Keaton, who never asks the audience for its sympathy.

I urge you to take another look at silent films, many of which are available online either free on YouTube or through a streaming service.  Or take the DVDs out of your local library.

To give you a selection of the best silent films that have been preserved, I collected 10 lists of “Best Silent Films” and made two meta-lists.  One organizes the movies by rank, that is, with the movies on the most lists at the top.  The other list is chronological.  Enjoy.

Best Silent Films of All Time – The Critics’ Picks
Best Silent Films of All Time – Chronological

Unsolicited Advice: A Manifesto

  1. If someone asks for your opinion or for advice, give it thoughtfully, but avoid giving unsolicited advice.
  2. No matter how right you think you are, you may be wrong. Admitting the possibility now may avoid a great deal of trouble in the future.
  3. Honey is better than vinegar, but sometimes only vinegar will do the trick.
  4. Consensus is preferable, but majority rules.
  5. Use your words. Don’t expect other people to read your mind about what you want. Ask other people to use their words. Don’t guess about what they want: ask them.
  6. Be kind. Be considerate. Be helpful. Smile at people you don’t know and say, “Good morning.”
  7. Have a sense of humor about the absurdity of life and especially about yourself, but don’t make fun of other people in a mean-spirited way and don’t mock them for things they have no control over.
  8. If you are someone who doesn’t express feelings very often, regularly ask yourself, “What am I feeling?”
  9. If you are someone who is constantly thinking about yourself, regularly ask yourself, “What are the people I care about feeling?” and “What are the people around me feeling?”
  10. Be assertive about exercising your rights and getting what you need without being aggressive or mean-spirited.
  11. Anger is not one of the seven deadly sins. Anger is real and happens to everyone and pretending you don’t feel it will slowly kill you and destroy your relationships with others. Learn how to acknowledge your anger – even when it seems irrational – and communicate it to others in appropriate ways. If you tend to express your anger through abuse, demeaning language and violence, ask for help.
  12. Pretty much everyone had a dysfunctional childhood and so pretty much everyone needs help from someone (I recommend trained mental health professionals) to process what that dysfunctional childhood has done to them. If not, the unhealed childhood traumas will regularly be triggered by incidents and people in your current life and you will have no idea whether you are reacting to what is happening now or what happened way back when. Not being able to distinguish between the two will wreak havoc on your mental health, your ability to achieve your goals and your personal relationships.
  13. Stop living in the past and the future. Be here now in the present moment. This moment is the only time we are actually alive.
  14. Curmudgeons, complainers, sourballs and Debbie Downers: feel free to express yourselves, but be aware that blending a little humor into your negativity will make your opinions easier to swallow and lose you fewer friends.
  15. Mental health is not separate from physical health; mental health is a type of physical health.   This is because the mind and the body are not two separate entities, the mind is part of (or a manifestation of) the body. The two things are inseparable.
  16. Color your hair, don’t color your hair.   Doesn’t matter to me.
  17. When you think about money, first realize that (according to one study) a US resident who earns more than $32,400 a year is wealthier than 99% of the world’s population.
  18. When you worry about how you can survive on your income, remember that the median household income for American families in 2015 was $54,462, which means that half of all households made less than that.
  19. Evolution by means of natural selection is the foundation of all biology. Analysis of DNA proves that Darwin was correct when he hypothesized that every living thing is descended from the same single-celled creature. This means we are all family.
  20. Representative democracy, with all its flaws (and there are many), along with a robust Bill of Rights, is still the best way to run a country.
  21. Despite all the complaining about how bad politicians and government bureaucrats are, remember that despite the many obstacles to change, this is still our government, not theirs. They work for us, the people, not the other way around.
  22. Representative government is the best solution to the problem that there are certain goals we want to achieve that can’t be achieved by the effort of individuals acting alone but only by the combined efforts of all of us working together. In a society as big as ours, this solution includes identifying the best people to work on these goals full time so that the rest of us can do what we need to do and collecting contributions from all of us who can afford it to pay for all the things we need to do but can’t do by ourselves.
  23. The USA and I are both engaged in a lifelong struggle between two competing sets of values: individualism and communitarianism. Individualism allows us to say “I can do it myself” and to assert our rights and get what we need, but it can also lead to “I don’t need anyone”, “I won’t ask for help”, “I’m better than you” and “Every man for himself.”   Communitarianism can lead to cooperation and loving kindness and a recognition that some tasks require us all to sacrifice for the common good, but it can also lead to martyrdom, self-abnegation and loss of self-identity through lack of assertiveness and squelching of our individuality.
  24. If we all started on a level playing field and were given the same access to resources and opportunities, I might be a libertarian. But we didn’t, and I’m not.
  25. When deciding what public policies are best, put yourself in the “original position”, where you imagine that you are making decisions without knowing where you rank in society – at the top, at the bottom, or somewhere in the middle – but you acknowledge that some of us start with advantages and others start with disadvantages. Most everyone in the original position would agree that, no matter who else it benefits, every policy we adopt should also benefit the people in society who started out with the most disadvantages. (Thanks, John Rawls.)
  26. All I know is that I know nothing. (Thanks, Socrates.)   Knowledge in the truest sense is beyond our capabilities except in mathematics (2 + 2 = 4, at least in certain universes, is knowable). On the other hand, we must act as if we know things because otherwise we couldn’t make decisions. (Thanks, David Hume.)
  27. Everyone is an asshole some of the time; some people are assholes most of the time; but no one is an asshole all of the time.
  28. Being physically attracted to other people is a natural biological phenomenon that helps to keep our species going. Advertisers and pop culture know that being physically attracted to someone else releases dopamine in your brain, which acts like a drug. The release of the drug will make you want to do things, like spend money, in order to keep the dopamine flowing. Be aware of this and do your best to act according to your best interests and the advice herein, not the dictates of your addictive brain.
  29. Don’t treat people you are attracted to like they are sexual objects first and human beings second.   If they are not interested in your attentions, take the hint and stop it. Again: use your words, ask for permission, and if you don’t get an affirmative “Yes”, stop it.
  30. Never treat people as a means to an end, but only as ends in themselves. (Thank you, Immanuel Kant.)
  31. Mean people suck.   (Bumper sticker.)
  32. Believe in yourself, but remember to leave a little room for some healthy self-doubt.   Self-righteousness and low self-esteem are both pernicious qualities.
  33. You should not be able to exercise an individual right to the extent that it will cause harm to someone else or impinge on someone else’s rights.
  34. Being tolerant of different points of view does not require me to tolerate intolerance.
  35. Even though I’ve rarely met a rank-and-file union member who likes his/her union, I believe that most employees would be better off in a union. Unions are the most effective restraint on the excesses of rampant capitalism.
  36. Celebrate difference, don’t be afraid of it.
  37. Keep learning forever.
  38. Be curious but not nosy.
  39. Engage; don’t isolate.
  40. Ask for help.
  41. For those of us who sometimes think too much, it is amazing how easy it is sometimes to ‘just do it.’
  42. When you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up – we all make mistakes, but accept responsibility for your actions and omissions, make amends if necessary and move on.
  43. Don’t be afraid of contradictions. Embrace the ambiguities.   See if you can get to a place where “Life sucks, then you die” and “Live. Laugh. Love.” can coexist in peace. Each of us contains multitudes. (Thanks, Walt Whitman.)
  44. Don’t worry about complaining – it is a form of expressing your anger and may be necessary for your mental health. On the other hand, be aware that some people cannot endure the sound of someone else complaining, and accept the consequences of your actions.
  45. People pleasers and conflict avoiders: If you continually deny your true self in order to avoid conflict and give others what they want, you will slowly die inside and ultimately be unable to please anyone. Let your true self blossom even if it means a little conflict – the people you deal with may not get everything they want from you anymore, but they will have more respect for you, as you will for yourself.
  46. Only connect. (Thanks, E.M. Forster.)
  47. Take time to appreciate nature and art.
  48. Create. Anything.
  49. Sing whenever possible.
  50. Conserve fossil fuel based energy – there are thousands of ways to do it. Recycle. Reuse whatever you can. Compost if feasible.
  51. Reduce your exposure to advertising. Learn to critically engage with the advertising you are exposed to so that you can make rational decisions about spending your money.
  52. Listen to music. Read books.   Watch movies.
  53. Tell stories.
  54. Don’t plant invasive exotic plant species.
  55. Don’t keep wild animals as pets.
  56. Bike paths are like streets: travel on the right, pass on the left. You, your spouse, your kids, your double-wide stroller and your labradoodle need to move over now before someone gets hurt.
  57. Pedestrians: never enter an intersection on a “Don’t Walk” signal if you can see a car moving towards you. This is not a game of chicken; in a physical confrontation between a human and a car, the human will always lose.
  58. Automobiles: (a) Never enter an intersection if you are not 99% sure you will make it all the way across before the light turns red. Ignore the people behind you honking their horns. (b) If the light turns yellow before you enter the intersection and you are going slowly enough to stop, stop. Only enter an intersection on a yellow light if stopping would be dangerous (high risk of being rear ended) or impossible (going too fast).
  59. When you want to say something difficult to someone else, ask yourself three questions: (1) Is this something that should be said? (2) Is this something that should be said by me? (3) Is this something that should be said by me right now?
  60. If you are doing something that you can’t seem to control and your life is becoming unmanageable as a result, you may have an addiction. Ask for help.
  61. For the depressed: Depression is not the flu – staying at home and sleeping all day will make it worse, not better. Take one tiny step, then another, then another. Brush your teeth and dress yourself neatly. Get out of the house – even if just to the front steps. Go to work if you possibly can. And ask for help.
  62. Pathological individualists: Sit down and be honest with yourself for just a minute about how you got where you are today. Make a list with three columns. In the first column put all the benefits you received before you were old enough to make your own decisions: your parents, your genes, where you were born, when you were born, your early nutrition and education. In the second column, list all the benefits provided by others after you became an adult. Include contributions by your family, friends, governments, businesses and other entities. This may include emotional and financial support, an environment free of deprivation or constant violence, the maintenance of infrastructure such as roads, bridges and transportation systems, quality educational institutions, and businesses (and the economy supporting them) with jobs to offer you.   In the third column, list all the accomplishments you have achieved. Still think you did it all by yourself?
  63. I doubt that good and evil exist as some kind of counterposed Manichean forces, but I do know that sometimes people do evil things and other people suffer because of it. Many such acts are committed by people beset by the scourges of discrimination, poverty, trauma and addiction who feel they have no choice. I believe such people are capable of becoming “productive members of society” if we provide the necessary support, training, counseling and resources. On the other hand, there may be people who are so irreparably damaged that they have no conscience, guilt or moral compass and there may not be any way to restore them to their communities intact. But I hope I’m wrong.
  64. Support locally-owned independent businesses. Except tanning salons and vape-cigarettes.
  65. Eat locally-grown food in season whenever possible. Eat organic if you can afford to. The best reason to eat organically grown food is not to avoid eating trace amounts of pesticide and herbicide but to reduce the huge amount of greenhouse gases released into our atmosphere by traditional farming techniques.
  66. Do your part to reduce noise pollution – don’t operate cars or motorcycles in a way that deliberately creates more noise than necessary. Using rakes and shovels instead of leaf blowers and snow blowers (if feasible) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as noise.
  67. Make sure you complete your living will and your wishes in case of a catastrophic accident or illness.   Try to have these difficult conversations with your parents or other elderly relatives. Death with dignity means avoiding unnecessary medical treatment at end of life. Remember, modern medical technology has not enabled us to live longer, but only to die slower.
  68. Take steps to make green burials legal in your state, if they aren’t already. The current options – traditional burial and cremation – are costly, wasteful, energy-hogs, although cremation is better than traditional burial if those are the only two choices.
  69. Whenever you are in a conversation, confrontation, negotiation or commercial transaction with someone – from your spouse to your boss/co-worker to the phone company or the waiter at a restaurant – always try to be aware of what you are feeling and what your goals/hopes and fears are. Then try to imagine what it would be like to be in the other person’s position.   What are they feeling? What are their goals? Their fears? What common ground do we have?
  70. Charities are a necessary evil. The better solution would have elected governments tax us fairly and use the money to solve all the problems of society and promote arts and culture. If that happened, charities would be unnecessary and the decisions about what problems should be solved, how much money we need to spend on them and what methods we should use to accomplish our goals would be handled democratically by governments that must be responsive to citizens instead of unelected, undemocratic organizations whose agendas are set by the elite and which are much less accountable to the people than elected governments. On the other hand, charities are essential to the system as it currently exists, since the people do not want their governments to tax us sufficiently to accomplish the work now done by charities.
  71. Corporations are not people.   They should not have the rights of individual people, certainly not the right to contribute money to political campaigns. As long as campaign finance laws permit what is essentially a system of legalized bribery, the best candidates will be discouraged from running for office, and those who do will have their hands tied by the inevitable quid pro quos they make with large contributors.
  72. Just as businesses cannot discriminate against employees on certain grounds, they should also not be able to engage in behaviors that have other negative consequences to society, the environment and the overall economy without being held accountable financially for the damage they create. In making decisions, shareholders of corporations should be required to take into account workplace safety, employee compensation and benefits, environmental issues and other collateral consequences of their decisions, and not just maximization of profits.
  73. We need to stop judging people based on their personal appearance, particularly with regard to aspects of physical appearance over which they have little or no control.   Being attractive does not make you a better person, just as being unattractive doesn’t make you a worse person. We should always be asking ourselves if a person’s physical appearance is leading us to treat them differently and try to surface this tendency and counteract it.
  74. If you go to another country where English is not the primary language, make an effort to learn something of the language of the other country, if only a few common phrases.  This shows respect and contradicts the ‘ugly American’ stereotype, plus you’ll enjoy your trip even more.
  75. Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last. (Thanks, Paul Simon.)
  76. If you like something that someone is wearing, let them know, politely.
  77. Adults having consensual sex: go right ahead, but be responsible. Use birth control and protect against STDs. And before you do it, ask yourself, “Is this what I really want?” and “Is this going to hurt anyone’s feelings?”
  78. Every once in a while, notice something about your environment. Look closely at a bee on a flower, or an architectural detail on a building you pass every day. Listen to a song you’ve heard a hundred times as if you are hearing it for the first time. Take a moment to explore the features on the face of someone you love the way you’d explore a newly-discovered country.
  79. Be open to discovering what makes you laugh out loud and make sure to return to those things regularly. Laughter is the best medicine. (Thanks, Reader’s Digest.)
  80. When you find a movie, book or other work of art “depressing”, remember that: (1) this artist took a “depressing” topic and created art from it, which is really kind of inspiring, and (2) unless you suffer from clinical depression, your “depressing” is pretty mild stuff and you’ll get over it. Maybe you’re not really “depressed” but actually sad and maybe there are some things we need to feel sad about in order to be fully human.
  81. Talk to animals whenever the opportunity arises. It will bring out the best in you.
  82. Parenting tips: Don’t raise your child to fulfill your unrealized dreams. Don’t depend on your children to give your life meaning and purpose. Don’t treat children like they are adults. Don’t ask your children to fulfill your unmet emotional needs.   Encourage their enthusiasms and give them freedoms commensurate with their age and maturity. Create structure and establish limits; set reasonable expectations. Respect them and cherish them and hug them often. Don’t shame them for showing their feelings, especially their fears. Don’t expect them to learn from your words if they contradict your actions.
  83. Anxiety is contagious; so is goodwill.
  84. Move your body around in any way that feels good, preferably rhythmically to music or on paths in natural places, as often as possible. Straight men who won’t dance: get over yourselves. Your dance partners will be forever grateful.
  85. Instead of cocooning yourself in the culture you were raised in, learn about and expose yourself to the cultures of your parents’ and children’s generations. Don’t get stuck in the “back in my day” or “kids these days” ruts, or the cultural amnesia that is fixated only on what’s happened since you were a kid. There are songs and movies and books from every era that you may find appealing – and the old and young alike will appreciate you for reaching out of your comfort zone to share something they are familiar with.
  86. Learn about history of your family, of your nationality/ethnicity, your country, your religion, your world. We can’t go forward if we don’t have knowledge of what came before.
  87. Discrimination is not a two-way street. If you are a man, you are sexist, whether consciously or not. If you are white, you are racist. If you are straight, you are homophobic/anti-gay. The world is divided into the historical oppressors and the historically oppressed. Those of us in the oppressor categories (straight white males in particular) need to recognize and take steps to acknowledge and neutralize the oppressors inside us and work to destroy the institutional sexism, racism and homophobia that are embedded in our culture, our economy and our educational and government institutions through centuries of organized oppression.
  88. Recognizing the history of oppression embedded in a person’s history does not make that person a victim or deprive that person of active agency in his or her life, just as helping to understand how trauma and physical and mental illness affect people does not make those sufferers into victims.
  89. The largest minority group in the US is Hispanics/Latinos, who make up 16 percent of the population.   Blacks/African-Americans are the second largest, with 12 percent of the population. (Note: Some African-Americans also identify as Hispanic/Latino.) While I applaud the effort to bring more black actors, directors and stories to Hollywood movies, where is the outcry about the lack of Hispanic/Latino actors, directors and stories? And shouldn’t we all be learning to speak Spanish, so we can communicate with each other?
  90. The most basic human instinct is the instinct for self-preservation and the most basic human fear is the fear of death. Second to death is the fear of pain.  So much of what we do to avoid feeling emotional pain – including numbing ourselves with addictive substances – only leads to more pain later.  Feel the pain now – get it over with.  If it seems like too much, ask for help.
  91. The most powerful human motivation is self-interest, but self-interest can be defined in many ways.   Self-interest may be narrow or broad, enlightened or unenlightened. Some people define their self-interest in purely materialistic terms – more possessions, more financial security, more comfort, more luxury, better health, longer life – while others define it in terms of happiness: the love of family and friends, lack of conflict, lack of suffering, peace, enjoyment of the world around me. Some find that making the world a better place is in our self interest. That preserving the rainforests, reducing the raising of large animals for meat, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, alleviating hunger, poverty and disease all over the world, increasing tolerance and compassion and finding ways to resolve conflicts without violence are all in our self interest.
  92. It is OK to have faith in religion or in a set of spiritual or religious beliefs, as long as you have tolerance for those who do not share your faith. And please do not proselytize.  If I am curious about your beliefs, I will ask you about them.
  93. I have faith in science.   While I recognize that science has not answered every question about the nature of humans and the universe we live in, I have faith that it will and that the tools and methods of science are the best way to answer those questions. On the other hand, I recognize that science (and academia in general) consists of the efforts of flawed humans and is itself an imperfect process.
  94. I believe that the universe (at least since the Big Bang) follows the laws of physics, chemistry and biology. I don’t believe in supernatural beings or spirits or energies; I don’t believe in ghosts or auras or immortal souls. I believe that our minds and spirits are manifestations of our physical brains and that when our brains die, we die.
  95. Include these phrases in your daily interactions with others: “Please”, “Thank you”, “You’re Welcome”, “Can I help you?” and “I’m sorry.”
  96. Feeling feelings is an all-or-nothing proposition. If you don’t allow yourself to feel pain, you won’t be able to feel joy. If the pain hurts too much to feel it, ask for help.
  97. If you love someone, tell him/her frequently.
  98. Be as honest as you can with others without causing them undue pain. Remember that when you do something hurtful, lying about it to the person you hurt (including lies of omission) will ultimately cause more pain than telling the truth.
  99. Love is not a feeling; it is something you do. You may feel happiness, infatuation, lust, compassion, tenderness, attraction, sympathy or empathy and call it “love” but love is actually a series of decisions that you make every day. We really do make love, not only in the sexual sense (though that is something to celebrate), but through our actions and our words. Love not only means saying you’re sorry (and thank you) as often as necessary, but making restitution, making sacrifices and sometimes doing things you don’t feel like doing (or not doing things you feel like doing) because it is the loving thing to do. Love can be an emotional rollercoaster and sometimes the work is too hard, the sacrifices are too many and the trust is irreparably broken, and the relationship must end. But don’t mistake a temporary change in your feelings or the need to do hard work as a sign that you’ve made a mistake or that you are no longer “in love.” You have little or no control over whom you are attracted to and who is attracted to you, but everything after that is a matter of choice.
  100. If someone breaks Rule No. 1 and offers you unsolicited advice and you have time to hear it, listen politely and say thanks.   Then take anything you find useful and leave the rest.

JMB 12/28/16