Thursday, January 29, 2009

Photos: UNLV Student Protest

UNLV Student Protest, 35 photos. 1/22/08

Photos from a protest by college students, faculty and administrators against massive state budget cuts for higher education.

Kilroy Café #28: "Tabula Rasa"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay, released today. You can print it out on a single page via the pdf file, or you can read the full text below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

Tabula Rasa:
The Virtues of Nothingness
The most fertile soil for creativity and growth is a slate wiped clean.


What is freedom? It is your ability to change your path based on the circumstances of the moment. If an unexpected opportunity arises to pursue something important, you are "free" if you are capable of taking it, and "imprisoned" if you can't.

Every time you commit to something in the future, you are reducing your freedom, because when that special opportunity appears your prior commitment may prevent you from following it.

Commitment is necessary, because it is next to impossible to accomplish anything without it. You can't build a barn, write a song, get a job or maintain a meaningful relationship without committing at least some of your future to the project. If you get over-committed, however, you may find yourself trapped in the goals and assumptions of the past while the rest of the world moves on.

For freedom to be meaningful, you have to have the opportunity to use it. This means you must have regular periods of non-commitment when all your options are open. There have to be times when your life is a blank slate, tabula rasa, and you are again free to choose a new path.

Young people, drowning in freedom, are usually desperate to get rid of it. They think all they need to do is choose a path, commit themselves to it irrevocably, and everything will work out. They think if they pick a route then burn all their bridges, they have to make it work because they'll have no choice.

Unfortunately, life doesn't work like that. There is no path you can choose right now that is guaranteed to work for you years from now. The future is just too full of uncertainly. Your ability to adapt is also limited. Just because you are trapped in a cell and have to survive there doesn't mean it is the optimal environment for your skills.

The best commitment is the minimal one needed to get the job done. Why commit five years to a project if you can accomplish something similar in six months? A series of "for now" commitments is always better than a "forever" one because it gives you opportunities to change course as conditions warrant.

If you value your freedom, you must never enter into a commitment without having an exit plan. How long is this going to take? How will I escape? How am I going to return control and responsibility to the person or entity who most properly should have it?

Beware of contracts with no ending date or with terms so long that they are meaningless. These are what kill your creativity. You may be "happy" in world that never changes—assuming disaster doesn't intervene—but you won't be getting the most from your abilities.

It is okay for a short-term project to evolve into a long-term one as long as it happens naturally, not forced by external contracts. It is a lot easier to renew a one-year contract than to renege on a five-year one, and at the three-year point, you'll know for a fact that you're there by choice and not obligation.

Once you enter into a commitment, your ultimate goal is to put yourself out of a job. You want to discharge your obligations and shift away responsibilities so you can return to that blissful state of nothingness, tabula rasa. Once you return there, you can again shop for commitments and perhaps take a totally new direction.

It may sound horrible to enter into a relationship with the goal of getting out of it, but it's going to happen anyway no matter what you do. Sooner or later, you are going to die, and the people who relied on you are going to have to get along on their own. Why not acknowledge this upfront and plan for your own graceful retreat?

If you "die" many times before your death, you'll have many times for rebirth and the opportunity each time to create a new life even better than the one before. And if you do it right, no one will notice you have died. You just push responsibilities back where they belong and return to an open state. No debts, no obligations, no expectations.

Tabula rasa.

—G .C.

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kilroy Café #27: "Playing God"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay, released today. You can print it out on a single page via the pdf file, or you can read the full text below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

Playing God
Making decisions for others is never easy.


LAS VEGAS — Let us consider the plight of the gods. When you are below them, bending to their will, they seem all-powerful, but when you view things from their perspective, they are just as constrained as you are.

In tough economic times, we can curse the Governor for cutting vital services or damn a manager for laying off workers, but they are merely responding to pressures placed on them from elsewhere.

The job of a god is to make unpopular decisions. The alternatives—making only popular decisions or no decisions at all—would only invite the ruin of whatever world the god is in charge of.

Gods are concerned with "systems" —that is, the healthy functioning of an entire organization, country or planet. Inevitably, this requires going against the interests of some individuals within the system. It is terrible when a worker gets laid off, but the alternative may be the collapse of the entire organization, hurting many more people.

No matter how powerful the god may seem, he must contend with even more powerful forces that are beyond his control. Even the President must deal with his relative powerlessness. If a god were truly omniscient, he could predict the future, but most gods can't, so every decision involves an element of risk and vulnerability. You may have to become a god before you understand how vulnerable they are.

Consider the simplest exercise of power: the relationship of parent and child. To the child, the parent is a god, capable of great wonders and from whom all blessings flow. The parent, however, is facing stresses of his own that are beyond the child's understanding. How does he keep enough money coming in? How does he protect the child's health? How does he raise the child so he is best adapted to the outside world?

The child only knows what he wants right now: a certain sweet food or to go to the amusement park. It is the parent's job to constrain these desires in favor of more important systemic goals. He can try to explain his reasoning to the child, but there is a limit to how much the child can grasp. Ultimately, power may have to be exerted by force: "Because I say so!"

Every god is bound to have a dicey relationship with democracy—that is, with the will of those being ruled. Sure, they may worship you one minute, but they'll be cursing you as soon as you do something that causes them pain. If every management decision were subject to a public vote, there would be no management. There would only be the tyranny of public hysteria, jumping from one overreaction to the next.

Every god has to be cagey with those he is ruling. There can be openness, but only up to a point, because no one down below is going to take it quietly when they know their own personal future is being debated. It is the destiny of gods to be inscrutable and inaccessible—like a judge in court—because that's the only way to make truly wise and unbiased decisions.

Unfortunately, this inscrutability can lead to abuses. If you give gods too much unfettered power, some will subvert their position for their own selfish interests. All gods, therefore, must dance the political jig of seeming to be democratic and transparent even as they horse-trade in private with the lives of those below them.

Inscrutability also leads to the perception, down below, that the god is somehow more than human. Without intending it, a god can quickly be seen as God—capital "G"—where all the expectations made of Him cannot possibly be fulfilled. The downside of worship is that it can flip in an instant to condemnation. When God fails to fulfill the expectations of His subjects, He can quickly turn into Satan in their eyes and may be subject to lynching.

Only a god understands how limited his power really is. He can make broad decisions about people's lives, and if he is lucky his choices will pan out statistically, but he can't be a micro-manager. As much as the people may pray to him for guidance, they each have to work out their own problems.

No god can be in all places at all times. He can only crunch the numbers at the top, lay out the ground rules, then let people fight it out within those boundaries.

He is not God, you understand. He's just a minor intermediary.

—G .C.

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kilroy Café #26: "Paranoia: Our Enemy Within"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay, released today. You can print it out on a single page via the pdf file, or you can read the full text below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

Paranoia: Our Enemy Within
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.


The world is filled with threats. When we encounter one and get bitten by it, we retreat and avoid doing the same thing again. Like an immune system response, we develop a natural fear of the thing that once hurt us.

Years later, the fear itself may become the enemy, making us retreat from threats that either don't exist or are far less dangerous than we think they are. That's paranoia.

The trouble with paranoia is that in defending ourselves against imaginary threats we inevitably overlook real ones, even provoking them. Paranoia skews our perceptual system so we aren't responding to the world efficiently. The more paranoid we are, the more likely we are to screw up our lives through our own bad decisions.

Is the CIA sending mind control rays into your home? Is the TV news anchor mocking you when he reads the headlines? Are there spiders crawling under your skin? These are the sort of bizarre ideas we associate with paranoia, but everyday paranoia is much more plausible and harder to detect.

Am I unworthy of love? Are all members of the opposite sex untrustworthy? Was some random act designed to hurt me personally? Is everything I do doomed to failure? This is the real stuff of paranoia.

Paranoia serves the ego by giving it an escape hatch. Was it my fault that I failed the test at school? No, the teacher made me fail by deliberately giving me the questions she knew I couldn't answer. It is frightening to think that such a conspiracy exists, but not as frightening as accepting my own failure.

Paranoia gives us an opportunity to blame someone else for our own problems. In doing so, however, we neglect to address our problems, and they often fester and become worse.

The greatest irony of paranoia is that it usually brings about the very thing we most fear. If we are afraid of rejection, we are going to become hyper-vigilant for signs of it, and when we think we see them, we may go into attack mode to protect our ego. ("This isn't my fault; it's yours!") Sadly, this aggressive overreaction tends to lead to real rejection. The underlying fear is thus confirmed, and the paranoia becomes even stronger.

Paranoia isn't limited to extremists and mental patients. It is a flaw that runs through all of us. It molds our opinions and shapes our interactions with the world. Paranoia is the great protector of the status quo. It assures that we are never going to rise above the level where our inner self-esteem says we should be.

If a good thing happens to us and we secretly don't believe we deserve it, paranoia is going to give us a reason to reject it. That's why some people find themselves in destructive relationships again and again. When a good one comes along, paranoia won't let them accept it. They'll find a trumped-up flaw and use it to sabotage what might have otherwise worked.

Paranoia contains two seemingly contradictory elements. One is a secret sense of unworthiness and self-doubt. The other is a grandiose perception of one's importance in the eyes of others.

If you think the CIA is monitoring your phone calls, you are presuming that the CIA cares about your phone calls, which is a much bigger stretch than the technical ability. You desperately need to believe they care because it makes you feel important and staves off the doubt you feel inside.

There isn't much you can do about paranoia in others except to be aware of it. Whenever you take people away from the environment they are used to—especially to a much better place—paranoia is a risk. Some people have a higher latent paranoia level than others, and you must be extremely cautious when dealing with them because they could easily attack you in the guise of self-defense.

You only have control over paranoia in yourself. There are plenty of real threats in the world and evaluating them is tricky. Aside from analyzing the outward warning signs, you also have to monitor your own emotions for possible false alerts. Paranoia will always be there, circulating in your head, so you must do your best to detect it and rationally compensate for it.

—G .C.

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Assault on "Obamarama"

On Tuesday, my assault on the Obama Inauguration went without a hitch. I arrived at Reagan Airport on an early morning flight, hit the Mall for the swearing in, then escaped before the crowds did. In all, I spent only about 6 hours in Washington. It was a precision strike: parachute in, achieve the objective (photographing the event) and airlift out.

As a furloughed airline employee, I get to fly for free, but I fly only when empty seats are available and no active employees want them. Given that a million people or more were descending on the capital, an empty seat might seem impossible. My advantage, however, was that I had access to the flight loads and could choose the cities I came and went from. (In even the busiest travel period, there are always some flights with seats.) With careful planning and some luck, I managed to pull it off. I took an odd routing out of Las Vegas, spent the night in the airport in Charlotte and arrived at Reagan National Airport at about 9am.

The subway from Reagan to the Mall started out merely crowded but turned into a Tokyo-style sardine can. The mood was jovial, though. This had the feeling of a great celebration, like New Years Eve. It seemed almost a like a shared religious experience. Everyone in the crowd, both in the subway and on the Mall, seemed united by two things: their hatred for Bush and their faith in Obama.

As we were packed tighter and tighter together on the Metro, there was a lot of joking among the passengers, mostly about the ineptitude of the departing President. Someone said, "I mean, who voted for Bush anyway?"

I replied, "No one on this train!"

My subway journey was fairly complex, because several stations were closed and I wanted to be positioned on the Mall, not trapped north of the parade route. The trip from Reagan took only about 45 minutes with two transfers but was quite an amusement park ride! The cost was $1.75 but was worth much more than that!

I found the crowds I expected on the Mall—probably the greatest mass of humanity I will ever experience in my life! When you start mingling, however, you don't see the millions but quickly focus in on one neighborhood. My own neighborhood turned out to be the center of the Mall near the Smithsonian "castle" (see aerial photo below). I tried to wander further but encountered police barricades, so that's where I stayed.

This area happened to be the epicenter of television coverage, with dozens of satellite trucks nearby. The TV media had their own press stand where several dozen crews were shooting. TV crews were also roaming the crowds, which was good for my photography since the presence of TV cameras usually livens people up.

The crowds were clustered around "Jumbotrons" distributed around the Mall—giant television screens. In front of the screens, people were packed tightly, but away from them the crowds were much thinner and I could move around unimpeded.

Although we could see the Capitol building in the distance, it was of course impossible to see anything going on there. Instead, people focused on the giant screens. What was shown on the Jumbotron probably wasn't much different than what you saw at home. It was funny that most of these people had traveled hundreds of miles only to stand in the cold together and watch television, but I guess that's not really the point. This was an emotional, social and religious experience, not a practical one.

The millions here and the billions watching from afar were ostensibly focused on one moment: the swearing-in of the new President. I found it amusing, then, that the oath got messed up. I laughed when it happened, but I didn't see anyone else laughing. It reminded me that the center of all this adoration is a human being, capable of failure.

However, I couldn't help but be infused with the optimism of the moment. This is what needs to happen during a crisis: people need to draw together and start focusing on one thing, even if it's a figurehead. The nearest analogy I can come up with is the way the country pulled together after Pearl Harbor. The adoration of Obama was almost a Jesus thing, but sometimes you need a Jesus. Personally, I have put my own natural cynicism on hold. Obama seems more authentic and less self-serving than other politicians, and I am willing to have faith, for now, that he is the right leader for the times.

After the swearing in around noon, I got the idea that this would be a good time to escape. Unfortunately, so did half the crowd. As soon as I saw them moving in the same direction I was, I realized that getting back on the Metro would be nearly impossible.

I chose instead to walk back to the airport. This turned out to be quite easy. I just walked across the Potomac on an empty expressway. It was about four miles, and I easily made my escape flight to Boston at 3:30. It was only half full! (Had I waited a couple of hours longer or tried to take the subway, escape would have been impossible.)

Was it worthwhile? For me, definitely! My mission was to take pictures, so I had something to focus on. I kept moving, so I wasn't cold. The total cost of the mission was $5.50, including a return subway ticket I didn't use and a Dunkin Donuts muffin at the airport.

$5.50 well spent, I'd say!

The neighborhood where I hung out (four hours later). 1=satellite trucks, 2=press viewing stand, 3=Jumbotrons, 4=Smithsonian castle.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kilroy Café #25: "Walking Gently on this Earth"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay, released today. You can print it out on a single page via the pdf file, or you can read the full text below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

Walking Gently on this Earth
How do you live comfortably on this planet knowing how many people are suffering here?


The world is not a happy place. There may be islands of prosperity, but for most humans, life is desperate, painful and hideously unjust. Every child is born with potential, but by the time adulthood arrives, most of it has usually been squandered. The general worldwide problem is a lack of resources: lack of food, lack of opportunities, lack of adequate parental care.

If we are fortunate to live on one of the islands of relative wealth, how do we reconcile ourselves with the rest of the world? Should we feel guilty for being well-fed and free of pain? Are we required to give all our excess to people who have less? How much of the world's problems are our problems? When should we intervene and when should we leave things alone?

These are all good questions, not easily answered. The more pressing issue is how we can feel good about ourselves knowing that such suffering exists. How can we eat even a bologna sandwich knowing that someone else is desperate for something so simple?

The usual response is denial. We simply don't think about those in pain. We block them out of consciousness and pretend they don't exist. We just indulge in our own selfish tastes and enjoy the sandwich.

But denial only goes so far. From time to time, there are rips in the veneer and we see what is really going on in the world around us. Even in the perfect suburban bubble, there is leakage from the real world: drug abuse, unemployment, child abuse. When the screen tears, we feel guilty and quickly try to patch it up.

Wealthy people often try to "buy off" the guilt by making a quick donation and then retreating behind their screen again, but this is haphazard way to address the problems of the world. If you are responsible at all for the problems of others, then you aren't just responsible for what you see but also for what you don't see.

The first step to walking at peace through the world is to not have a screen at all. You have to accept that there is suffering all around you, not just on the other side of the planet but also in your own neighborhood. Behind any façade could lie some terrible secrets, and when some of these secrets leak out, you can't run away from them. If anything, you should approach suffering when you see it, so you understand what it is and how it works.

That doesn't necessarily mean you can help. If suffering exists, it is better to know about it than not know. It is just like that philosophical question: If you had incurable cancer, would you want to know about it? Yes, because then you would have better information on how to wisely spend your remaining days.

Once you are open to it, you'll see suffering everywhere, and you will eventually accept that there is far more of it than you can possibly do anything about. If you see all the suffering, not just what leaks through your defenses, you'll see that giving to the needy isn't the issue; it's giving wisely to the needy, so that your limited resources have the greatest effect.

It is irresponsible to only give to the hand that has been stretched out to you. Often, you have to refuse that hand if there are better uses for your resources. If you are truly open to the world, you are going to have to make these hard choices again and again, and the more often you do it, the more comfortable you will be at it.

Like an alien visiting from another planet you are not responsible for everything the humans have done to each other. You are responsible only for your own actions and effects while visiting. If you come here quietly, do what you can and gracefully leave, there is no reason to feel guilty.

You should feel guilty about any resources you waste while visiting. It is okay to be well-fed but not overfed. If you waste food, money, time or anything else, it is a slap in the face to anyone desperate for these things. The fact that others can't see you wasting resources is immaterial; if you want to pass comfortably through a world of suffering, you can't be squandering things that could have relieved some of it.

It is okay to have excess resources, because deciding how to use them is complicated and stockpiling them—and protecting your own future—might be the wisest choice for now. It is a sin only to squander resources when you know others need them.

You walk at peace on this earth by living a lean and efficient life where little is wasted, regardless of what your resources are. If you are blessed with wealth of any kind, you must never flaunt or misuse it, only use what you need and conserve the rest.

Good fortune is a trust, not a license to waste. You will feel good about yourself and your place in the world only if you use your blessings well.

—G .C.

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.

Photos: Obama Inauguration

Obama Inauguration (80+ photos in 2 albums)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kilroy Café #24: "Surviving the Great Forest Fire"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay, released today. You can print it out on a single page via the pdf file, or you can read the full text below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

The flames have reached the edge of our trailer park.
What happens now?


WASHINGTON — Every forest needs a forest fire occasionally. A fire clears out the dead debris and makes way for new growth. After the devastation, the forest will renew itself and grow out healthier than before.

Alas, this isn't much consolation if you're facing the fire right now. To you, this is a catastrophe, and you are only worried for your own safety and that of people you care about. No one wants to be fire fuel.

We are all facing a forest fire right now: the worldwide economic meltdown. Some of us are being hit worse than others, but nearly all of us are scared. Many of the economic and philosophical assumptions we have taken for granted all our lives have turned out to be false, and none of us knows where this is all going to lead.

Let's start with what we do know: Humanity will survive. Thirty years ago, with two superpowers aiming Weapons of Mass Destruction at each other, that wasn't so certain. A terrorist state may still set off a nuke or two and global warming may flood the coast, but the whole planet isn't in imminent peril like it once was.

You, too, will probably survive. It may be a humbled and stripped-down you, but whenever this crisis is over, your body and mind will probably still be here, attached to Planet Earth.

But it may not be the same you. Sitting here today, you may not recognize the person who comes out on the other side. The fire may rob you of many things. For better or worse, it is going to change who you are and what you believe.

Crises and catastrophes tend to cut life down to its essentials, and the greatest service they can provide is teaching us what those essentials really are. Many of the things we thought of as necessities will turn out not to be. They are things we would probably never have given up on our own, but if the fire takes them out for us we may find that we are actually better off without them.

Do we really need a house, a car, furniture, alcohol or entertainment? It's amazing how many things you can get along without—often improving your quality of life in the process—but you might never have the courage to try if it isn't forced upon you.

Whatever this economic crisis turns into, it is a fair bet you will end up making compromises you never thought you would. They may be painful compromises with no apparent positive outcome, but often they will turn out for the best in the end. There may even be some compromises that feel surprisingly good afterwards and make you say, "Wow, why didn't I try that before?"

You have to look at this crisis as an opportunity. It is a chance to hone your life into a more efficient package. Since the fire is already upon us, that's the only way you can look at it. "I'm going to use this to become a better person."

For decades, the world economy has been driven by American-style consumerism: the obsessive quest to acquire goods and obligations far beyond ones needs. It was a prison more than a paradise, and people with the means came to live in antiseptic bubbles, surrounded by their stuff but cut off from the rest of the world.

Now that the economic bubble has burst, a lot of other bubbles are going to follow. Will it be as bad as the Great Depression? Duh! Most of the planet has been living in those conditions for decades, with far more suffering souls now than there ever were back then. The only difference, post-Crash, is that larger swaths of the "developed" world will get to feel it, too.

Those who survived the Great Depression were imprinted with a frugality that usually lasted all their lives—much to the annoyance of younger generations. Turns out, this isn't such a bad trait. Sometimes, you can live life richer if you're not so rich, if you appreciate the value of what you have and don't waste it.

These days, people in developed countries don't have the same ethic. They were born to waste—money, time, resources, their future freedom.

Ah, but they'll change. You'll see. They'll change.

—G .C.

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Song #8: "On the Edge"

My latest song is intended for a female voice. Here is the tune (.mp3), the sheet music (.pdf) and me singing the song, poorly (.wav). The full lyrics are below (not too meaningful without the music). Midi file available upon request. Both the tune and the words are my own original work.

On the Edge
Life is just a movie after all.
You got a hero standing tall.
You got a wall of tragedy
That he must pass through.

I can't be that hero anymore.
I don't know what I'm fighting for.
I know that heroes sometimes lose,
Can't always have the life they choose.
Living on the edge,
Dancing on the ledge,
Dancing all alone.

He will always have a place in her heart.
It seemed like destiny from the start.
But when she gave it all away,
He took it all and went away.
Living on the edge,
Always on the edge.
She was meant to fall.

When I needed a friend,
I found in the end
No one I could turn to.
So, I made up my mind,
No rescue this time.
Only my ghost and me.

Life is an illusion after all.
We watch the curtain rise and fall.
We are persuaded to believe
In ever after.
Living on the edge,
Always on the edge.
Take my heart off the shelf,
Bring it out for myself,
'Cause I don't want to leave it at home.
Living on the edge,
Dancing on the ledge,
Dancing all alone.
Lyrics and tune copyright © Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173.

You can see all my songs here. All my songs and screen stories are indexed at Love

Reflections on the Real Estate Bubble

Back when I was a programmer in Cambridge in the late 1980s, a colleague from India bought a tiny apartment condo in town for the seemingly atrocious price of $100,000. I remember him telling me (shaking his head in the negative as Indians often do): "Real Estate is the only investment that always appreciates. It NEVER depreciates."

I thought to myself, this can't possibly be true. It simply defies the laws of physics. Sure enough, there was a downturn in the Boston housing market the following year, and the value of his condo did depreciate. There was also the collapse of a massive real estate bubble in Japan at about the same time. These events forever educated me on the fragility of real estate.

I mean, who needs it, really? Real estate is a burden as much as an asset. Once upon a time, you needed some form of real estate just to have a phone and later to plug in your computer, but now real estate is mainly a vanity item, a place to build a shrine to yourself. Everyone needs a safe place to sleep at night, a place to relax and a place to work, but when push comes to shove, this can be a very small area that changes with the winds.

You don't really need the dedicated floor space, because if you have it, you're going to fill it full of stuff you don't need—stuff that will ultimately hold you down. If you have a 2000 square foot house, you're going to fill it with 2000 square feet of junk. If you had only 200 square feet , your life would probably be far healthier.

When I was married in the late 90s, we bought a big two-story house in Las Vegas, with a swimming pool, for the very reasonable price of $130,000. We totally trashed the place but still sold it for more than twice that amount seven years later (one ray of good luck in the holocaust I was going through at the time). The buyer payed cash, planning to clean the property up and "flip" it. I knew he was paying too much, but I didn't object.

Whew! I happened to sell at the peak of the market and now have no real estate to suck me under. I own next to nothing now—mainly my camera and laptop computer—but at least I don't have any liabilities.

Having got out by skin of my teeth, I became a voice of doom in Las Vegas. Nobody listened, but that didn't stop me from preaching. I saw a classic bubble all around me and wrote about it in one of my newsletters: REPENT NOW--THE CRASH IS NEAR. I regret only that I didn't see the bigger picture: that the whole world's real estate was overvalued, not just Las Vegas'.

The same thing happens again and again throughout history (and in people's private lives). They get caught up in good times, see only the "trend"—which is upward—and start making plans and commitments based on that trend going on forever. You have to have some experience and worldliness before you realize that a "trend" is really just a cycle, and the direction is bound to change. If I had not had my experiences in Boston, I too might have believed that real estate "always appreciates, never appreciates."

The ultimate fallout of the current crisis will probably be that real estate is permanently devalued. Prices may never recover. People are living virtual lives now, so why do they need "real" estate? Why build a shrine to yourself on the ground when you can do it online for a fraction of the cost.

You need a place to "live," but you don't need the castle. Your online friends aren't going to know or care. There will always be people willing to invest in real estate and tie themselves down, but it will never again be the trendy "in" thing to do. Upwardly mobile means locationally mobile, without the heavy anchors.

Now the "trend" appears to be downward, and people are beginning to behave as such, thus accellerating the trend, but this too is a cycle, and the direction will change. The world will adjust. Real estate will someday return to stability but will never regain its delusional glory.

You can't really "own" real estate. It owns you. You can build your shrine, but then as your life winds down you're going to have to deconstruct it—either that or your heirs are going to dispose of it for you. The ornate physical plant now seems such a waste. It's what you accomplish that matters, not where you sleep. —G.C.

The real estate prices in Dublin in Sept. 2007 struck me as insane at the time: €1,000,000 for HALF a house. (That was $1.4 million at exchange rates at the time.) In this shop window in the suburb of Dun Laoghaire, the lowest price for the smallest condo apartment was €365k. Local salaries couldn't possibly support these prices.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Song #7: "Weekend Pirate"

My latest little ditty is a song for plundering, intended for a male voice. Here is the tune (.mp3), the sheet music (.pdf) and me singing the song (video 2/5/2011). The full lyrics are below (not too meaningful without the music). Both the tune and the words are my own original work. I've gone as far as I can with this song. Now it's your turn! Midi file available upon request.

The photo at the top is my own. It was taken at the Pirates in Paradise Festival in Key West last month. More photos.

Weekend Pirate
Oh, I work in an office, respectable to you,
But when I have a day off I know what I will do.
I set my course directly to where I love the most.
I raise the Jolly Roger and head off to the coast.

Oh, I'm a weekend pirate. I sail the seven seas.
From Friday night 'til Sunday, I do whate'er I please.
A parrot on my shoulder, a patch upon my eye.
Oh, I'm a weekend pirate, and I will never die.

Whene'er the crew gets restless and plots a mutiny,
I stick 'em in a lifeboat and leave 'em out at sea.
Or if I feel more gen'rous, I make 'em walk the plank.
'Cause when you are a pirate you got to show your rank.

Oh, I'm a weekend pirate, I pillage and I burn.
I compromise the wenches, 'cause they will never learn.
By day I sell insurance to mitigate your risk
So I can be a pirate and live a life like this.

My wife won't understand. She thinks I'm made of tin.
She don't have a clue the treasure I'm haulin' in.
For five days ev'ry week I tolerate her lip.
When the weekend comes, I'm captain of my ship.

Arrgh! Arrgh! Arrgh! Arrgh!

Oh, I'm a weekend pirate. I'm plundering the coast.
The fresh air and the sunshine are what I love the most.
I'm not afraid of bloodshed. I love the sight of gore.
'Cause I'm a weekend pirate. I'll never ask for more.

Oh, I'm a weekend pirate. I sail the seven seas.
From Friday night 'til Sunday, I do whate'er I please.
A parrot on my shoulder, a patch upon my eye.
Oh, I'm a weekend pirate, and I will never die.
Oh, I'm a weekend pirate, boys, and I will never die.

Lyrics and tune copyright © Glenn Campbell.

You can see all my songs here. All my songs and screen stories are indexed at Love

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Kilroy Café #22: "Words Don't Work"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay, released today. You can print it out on a single page via the pdf file, or you can read the full text below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

Sorry, Folks — Education won’t change impulsive behavior.


Get this into your thick skull: Words don't work.

No form of cognitive education will change an emotionally-driven behavior.

For example: Drug treatment programs don't work. Addicts who go through an addiction treatment program—of any kind—rarely have a better relapse record than those who don't go through it. Even the few programs that can prove, scientifically, that they work better than a placebo have such a low statistical success rate that they are hardly worth their huge cost. Quite simply, drug treatment is a fraud.

I'm not going to offer proof here, but just imagine if what I am saying were true. It would mean that advertizing campaigns, governments programs and court-mandated classes to treat addicts, drunk drivers and other impulsive offenders are a waste of money. It would mean Alcoholics Anonymous is a joke. It would mean Nicoderm, Weight Watchers, Bowflex and virtually every other product or service intended to modify habits and appetites are consumer rip-offs.

Think of the DARE program in public schools (Drug Awareness Resistance Education). The idea is to teach kids the dangers of drug abuse so they won't try it themselves. Parents, teachers, police and politicians love DARE. Social scientists hate it. Statistically, the program is useless in discouraging future drug use (if you compare two schools with and without the program). It may even be worse than useless, giving kids a virtual consumer's guide to drugs for future reference.

Am I saying that when Britney Spears checks into a very expensive rehab program, the treatment itself is completely ineffective in changing her future addictive behavior? Yes, that's exactly what I am saying.

If my claim is correct, it would mean that if your spouse smokes, drinks, overeats or watches too much sports on TV, there is virtually nothing you can do to stop them short of walking out.

Ah, but THAT sometimes works.

Threatening to leave doesn't work, but actually leaving might, provided you really go, close the door and don't turn back. Six months later, after you are long gone, your ex-spouse might realize, "Hmmm, maybe I should change."

There are only two things that can change an emotionally-driven behavior from the outside: (1) You can fundamentally alter the environment in which it takes place, or (2) You can allow the person to experience the full consequences of their actions.

If you remove a kid from a drug-addicted family and place him in one without drugs, his own chances of addiction will be greatly reduced. That's the environmental solution. It often works, but only if it's a radical restructuring that cuts to the core of the problem. Surface changes won't do.

If someone insists on drinking too much, and he suffers because of it, the best thing you can probably do is let him suffer. Those are the consequences. If he experiences them enough he might change or he might not (or he might be killed in the process), but his chances of changing are much greater than with any external program.

The technique you shouldn't bother with is talking the person out of his addiction. It doesn't work, and it's a waste of breath.

Taking away a smoker's cigarettes? Don't fall for it, even if the smoker begs you to. He'll kill you for those cigarettes later. You've also fallen into a trap, because you have substituted your own responsibility for what should be his.

The "will" to quit smoking, lose weight, quit porn or stop playing video games can only come from within. It comes from a combination of repeated consequential pain and the understanding that no one is going to save you but yourself.

Any treatment or education program says the opposite: "We're going to save you." As long as the addict is allowed to believe this—that his addiction is someone else's problem—then he is never going to change.

YOU can change whenever you want—You just have to believe you can.—but no one can impose this belief on you from the outside.

—G .C.

More of my comments on addiction....

©Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Song #6: "Flatland"

My latest song concerns a simple place that may resemble home. Here is the tune (.mp3), the sheet music (.pdf) and me singing the song (video). The full lyrics are below (not too meaningful without the music). Both the tune and the words are my own original work. I've gone as far as I can with this song. Now it's your turn! Midi file available upon request.

The photo above is my own. This was what I saw out the car window at the time I conceived this song. Lyrics are below.


Nothing happens here in Flatland.
No one ever dreams in Flatland.
No one tries for more
Than what they're drafted for,
And I can't find the door from Flatland.
Out of Flatland.

I've a family here in Flatland.
They want nothing more than Flatland.
But I can't hide the fear
That I might disappear
Having never made a mark in Flatland.
Lost in Flatland.

Every story has got
Two sides to it
Here in Flatland.
Perfect Flatland.

I just met a sphere in Flatland.
Circle or a point in Flatland.
He is not from here
And he can disappear
And I wish I could go to that land.
No more Flatland.

I can't imagine
Having three sides to me
Here in Flatland.
Isn't Flatland
All there is?

Now I can't help but feel some sorrow
For all that I've invested in.
If I walked out of here tomorrow,
I'd wonder who the hell I've been.

I just met a sphere in Flatland.
He can't shed a tear in Flatland.
He is not from here
And he can disappear
and I'd be sad to live in that land.
I love Flatland.
Lyrics and tune copyright © Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173.

Also see my other songs and screen stories at Love