28 February 2010

a friend fallen flat as a flattened souffle

One of my favorite T group pals of all and also a former neighbor had a big party plan come crashing down upon her ego. She had the numerator cranked way too high on her old happiness equation.

Happiness = Expectations / Results

She was a surgical nurse before retirement, and she relished the act of saving someone's life from deadly peril. She described a liver transplant operation she participated in as being better than the best sex she ever had. That was unforgettable hearing from an eighty year old lady let me tell you.

Her next greatest joy was in her network of relationships. A surgeon, a literature professor, a breeder of champion show dogs, and on to an almost endless list. She met the pope and did not consider it any top ten experience. One day she decided to have a large party at her house, although throwing large parties was something she almost never did. She thought it a pity that all these fine people she knew did not know each other, that if she brought them together the result would be magical, like Madame de Stael's Paris salon. Alas, her party fell completely flat and she never knew why and considered it a dismal failure and great disappointment.

There is a formula for throwing successful large parties, as you probably know. They need a precise starting time (the kickoff at the Super Bowl at 6:30 Eastern Standard Time is mainly institutionalized in our culture because of this very feature.) And they need a large stack of strong liquor. The hard stuff. You assemble 25-35 people at 6:30 sharp and lubricate them with whiskey and gin and your party will be great fun. Eightish, wine, cheese?

Good luck with that.

Surely one of her fabulous friends could have clued her in to this aspect of our material universe. I didn't mention it to her either, although of course when I found out about her trouble it was way too late to do anything about it.

It can be more deflating to find out facts if it is too late. One of my writer pals seemed to take satisfaction in telling me, "you manage your therapy so as to render it completely ineffective." He did not tell me that to help me out. He was pleasing himself as he loved the way it sounded. Also he was wrong. I started out that way and I was not the fastest learner; but I have learned a technique for maximizing therapy effectiveness. It is documented (see e. g. Irving Yalom, Theory and Practice of Psychotherapy) the biggest benefit in therapy is the healthful relationship, regardless of the details. It works best when you connect with the other people in there.

My formula for connection is to work in a reference to "the real world", meaning the world outside the therapy room, meaning in here there are no repercussions at all. In my experience people appreciate hearing this 9 times in 10. My specific formula may not work for you, but the idea that we have a cause-effect relationship between connecting in therapy and useful therapy is science.

17 February 2010


I finished watching the BBC Anthony Hopkins War and Peace. Since I am a native English speaker I found it easier to watch than the Sergei Bondarchuk version. It is much longer and smaller. 17 hours versus 8. So in the BBC version they use all the Maria Bolkonsky Nikolai Rostov romance business, while in the Bondarchuk version it is mostly left out. The battle scenes are far smaller. Bondarchuk used 150 000 soldiers and the BBC could not have used more than a few hundred. If you are a native Russian speaker and can see it full sized in a big theater I am pretty sure you would like the Bondarchuk version.

Also the weird thing that Bondarchuk did with having all the villains -- Helene, Anatole, and Dolohov -- the only blonde speaking parts in the movie was not replicated. Only Helene is blonde. And I do not believe Bondarchuk made quite so much about Pierre being a mad terrorist. Anthony Hopkins was really a maniac when he went out to assassinate Napoleon in the BBC version.

That is the ending of the box of Christmas presents I bought for myself at Amazon. The 5 DVD set was an extravagance. I was reminded that you can save yourself a lot of money at Amazon if you always read a couple of the two star (**) reviews before the click to add the item to your shopping cart. I am going to adhere to this at least until next Christmas when the impulse to splurge will surely be irresistible again.

One thing I got that was absolutely worth the money was my copy of Kenneth Burke's Motives of Rhetoric. I am reading it slow and close for the second time. I just finished a section which may be the most interesting part.


You can see it for yourself on google books. The passage on "Carlyle and Mystery" is eight pages. He uses the phrase "pudencies of social intercourse". Hard to forget that. He points out that, although Oscar Wilde was a hedonist, his obsession was not so much with pleasure as it was with social climbing. The message is that clothes are almost identical with the human selves wearing them. I was reminded of a conversation I had at a T group many years ago where this educated fellow insisted that our persona was trivially by definition our self. He claimed it was obvious our "social self" and our "self" were the exact same thing.

Instead of a living, breathing, fluctuating human being, he sees me as some dude in one of those Dewar's scotch glossy ads from the back cover of Esquire or GQ.

Name: T group guy
Occupation: swashbuckler
Last book read: the Necromicon in the original Arabic
Mission: to surf the Banzai Pipeline, to summit Everest, to jam with the Rolling Stones
Scotch: Dewar's

adjacent to photo of me looking smug in my library in front of hundred old dusty leather bound volumes.


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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.