Saturday, July 25, 2009

Monkey Prose is Back On Line!

(Monkey Bob and my granddaughter - Rhiannon)

Hello again! For the last 1+1/2 years, I was not actively involved with Monkey Prose. This was due to a job that consumed almost all of my time - and a number of family crises that took up what little time was left.

But now I am back.

A number of factors motivated me to reactivate this site:

There have been over 28,000 visitors to my site, so a number of people have found some value in it.

The family situation has calmed down, especially since I moved and left no forwarding address.

I have managed to reduce my weekly work schedule down to about 70 hours per week, which leaves just enough extra time to eat, sleep, and write a few words.

I turned 60 last March, which was a major milestone. If you haven't reached this age yet - avoid it. (Changing your birthday to Feb 29 is one way to slow down the process.) Turning 60 doesn't make you feel positive about your body or your chances of paying off long term loans. But the one good thing was - I realized that I'm not going to be around forever. This motivated me to increase the literary legacy that I am leaving for my family.

And finally, I want to make writing my next career after I leave the wonderful world of corporate sales. So in order to become the next Garrison Keillor, I need to hone my craft by writing on a regular basis.

Therefore you can look forward to more pithy prose from Monkey Bob in the near future. I welcome your comments!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Emotional Custody Battle Gets Hairy

Previously I've posted a number of stories about the custody battle for Emma and Jackson. They are two chimpanzees currently residing at Chimps Inc. in Bend, Oregon.

CBS Evening News recently did a broadcast about this situation. You can view it at CBS Evening News Broadcast.

I know the people who run Chimps Inc. I have the highest confidence that they are providing a loving and safe environment for all of their primate guests.

I encourage you to contact Chimps Inc. and make a donation to support their wonderful work.

"Saving two chimpanzees won't change the world, but it will change the world for those two chimpanzees."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Starting Out in the Evening

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

I like movies about people. I enjoy them even if they don’t have exploding helicopters or computer generated monsters. Human beings are the most compelling focus for film. We can never realize all there is to know about our species, so this subject is a bottomless source of enlightenment and wisdom.

A good relationship movie can take place in one room and still be rich in content and rewarding in its message. A case in point is My Dinner with Andre. It is the process of personal interaction that captures our attention and makes us want to learn more about the characters. This dynamic holds more interest than the body count in a shoot ‘em up adventure saga.

Fiction gives the author a larger scope to present the human condition, because he (or she) is not limited by actual events. An individual’s inner discourse can be revealed in the first person format. Dialogue tells us how the characters perceive the world and interact with each other. We are what we say. Dialogue also supports the narrative flow. A film would quickly lose its audience if it consisted entirely of description.

A new motion picture of this genre is Starting Out in the Evening, directed by Andrew Wagner. SOitE examines the life of Leonard Schiller (portrayed by Frank Langella) an aging novelist who struggles with the knowledge of his impending demise and loss of artistic inspiration. His character is not demonstrative, so Langella has to present him in an understated manner. His facial expressions alone convey half his message. This is not easily done unless you have mastered the craft of acting, and in this performance, the veteran thespian is at the top of his game.

The story line incorporates a daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor), who struggles with turning 40 while remaining unmarried and childless. She dearly loves her father and enjoys a good relationship with him. Earlier in Ariel's life, Leonard devoted the majority of his time and focus to writing, so she is anxious to garner any scraps of attention while he is still alive.

After many years of struggle to succeed as a dancer, Ariel has resigned herself to living on the edges of her chosen vocation, by teaching yoga and Pilates.

The one area where Ariel and Leonard differ is men. The love of her life is Casey (Adrian Lester) who broke her heart once before when their relationship dissolved over the issue of children. When Ariel reconnects with Casey, her father is not shy about voicing his disapproval. He fears that a second breakup will plunge his daughter into an emotional tailspin like she experienced after the first affair.

Ariel and Casey are made for each other. In some scenes, Ariel glows so intently when she is with her man that you can feel the heat coming off the screen. He feels the same about her, and at Ariel’s 40th birthday party expresses how she completes his life.

But the subject of children is a stumbling block. She wants them. He doesn’t. In their second go round, they try to avoid this critical issue by opting to keep their affair “hot and light”, a strategy that is doomed to failure.

A fourth character is Heather (Lauren Ambrose) who contacts the writer, because he is the focus of her master’s thesis. Although Leonard is reserved and cautious, she charms and sometimes bullies her way into his life. He agrees to a series of interviews, which quickly transition their professional relationship into a personal one. Heather brings the freshness and enthusiasm of youth back into Leonard’s existence. In exchange he bestows upon her a lifetime of literary wisdom. The film's title, Starting Out in the Evening, reflects the interaction between these two characters.

But Heather’s probing questions force Leonard to reexamine his life and work at a time when he would rather forego such painful analysis. The tension this creates is one of the core dynamics of the movie.

One writer describes seeing a well crafted motion picture as “going down the rabbit hole”. Even though you are sitting in a darkened room, watching light pass through a series of celluloid images, you are taken to another place, where you become one with the characters and experience their most intimate emotions. It is cathartic and changes you. You are a different person for the rest of your life after seeing the film. The process adds one brick to the wall of experience that supplements your consciousness.

That is the magic of art. It alters us and allows us to see the world from a new perspective. SOitE reminds us that life is yin and yang. It is a cycle. We are born, we are young, we get old, and then we die. Each stage has a lesson to teach us. We wouldn’t have wisdom if we didn’t live long enough to acquire it. And we wouldn’t have the fearlessness and enthusiasm of youth if we knew everything that would go wrong with our lives.

No matter what point you are at in your life, Starting Out in the Evening will reacquaint you with the fact that your existence is precious and ephemeral. Enjoy the now and savor your time here on Earth. For, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, soon enough you will "go gentle into that good night".

Monday, November 26, 2007

First Person Arts

“Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~Mark Twain

Many new writers plunge into the world of literature with unbounded enthusiasm and blind confidence. Ignorance is bliss when you start writing, so at this point I am as ecstatic as St. Teresa. I don’t know what I am doing yet, but this provides an emotional buffer – because I don’t know when I make mistakes. However I have figured out a few things:

Don’t use the words “very” or “really” unless it is really very necessary to convey your message. Thanks, Mr. Twain, for the tip.

Don’t use any word twice or thrice in the same one or two paragraphs. It’s redundant, and makes your work less interesting. OK, I’ll cut you some slack on definite articles. Add Thesaurus.Com to your web favorites and use it often. And don’t use the word “thrice” unless Shakespeare comes to you in a dream and asks you to rewrite Hamlet.

Don’t worry about the first draft being perfect. As Larry the Cable Guy says, “Just get ‘er done.“ and complete a framework. This can later be enhanced and refined.

Writers need ideas to create their stories and then a format to present them. I can’t help you with the first one, but I’ve discovered a wonderful resource for the second – First Person Arts. Their website is First Person Arts. Their message is:

“History: First Person Arts was founded in 2000 as Blue Sky by Vicki Solot, in response to the burgeoning interest in memoir and documentary art forms. Solot appreciated the resonance of real stories and recognized their value as a means of bridging cultural ethnic divides. With the involvement of a visionary board, First Person Arts set out to support the development of new memoir and documentary work and to create opportunities for it to be seen and appreciated by many. In just four years, First Person Arts has showcased the work of more than 100 artists nationwide; We have reached across cultures and communities to attract a broad and diverse audience; and have played an important role in exploring and celebrating the richness of the mixed heritage and shared history of everyday Americans.”

“Our Mission: First Person Arts transforms the drama of real life into documentary art to foster appreciation for our unique and shared experience.”

The group’s name is well chosen, because they are looking for stories written in the first person – monologues - from real people about real events and thoughts. There may be a Second or Third Person Arts out there somewhere, but that’s a story for another day. And the Fourth Person Arts people bring time and extra dimensions into the picture, so perhaps we should leave them to the subatomic physicists.

I recently discovered O. Henry, the short story writer. His ideas came from human interaction. A woman’s face on a streetcar or a conversation overheard in a restaurant could provide enough spark for him to create an entire story. He couldn’t write by just sitting at his desk and imagining. People were an integral part of the process.

Good literature often borrows from real life. Reality gives these works believable structure. The reason that many stories fail is because the authors create worlds that don’t ring true. Readers are the touchstone and they’re hard to fool.

I believe that every person on this planet has an interesting story to tell. The key is to identify an engaging portion of it and then present it in a way that will captivate readers. First Person Arts provides an opportunity for writers and lay people to be heard, and to experience the creative process. In doing so, many “civilians” may discover their voice, and develop a desire to continue writing. I can’t think of a better gift to give another human being.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Jillian Ivey, whose job title is Communications and Marketing Coordinator. I was impressed with her knowledge, intellect, and energy. She had wisdom and insight that typically only come after spending half a century on this Earth. Any yet she is still in her twenties. Jillian has been in (and supported) theatre productions, done standup comedy, and written prose and poetry. In addition, she is an editor for Phillyist. Ms. Ivey is a modern Leonardo - or more correctly, Leonardette.

I enjoyed speaking with Jillian because there hasn’t been much opportunity for me to talk with other authors. I’ve spoken to a few Arthurs, but it’s just not the same. Writing is by nature a solitary process, like meditating or, well, playing solitaire. As a result, the human feedback loop is minimal. The exchange of ideas with Jillian was stimulating and uplifting. After talking to her, I felt more confident about pursuing a career as a wordsmith.

Whether you aspire to be a writer or not, the First Person Arts website is worth checking out. After all, writers and readers are both necessary to bring literature to life.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Monkey Prose Poetry Profile - Waxing GrassHoppeR

“There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.” ~Robert Graves

Poetry has always been a cipher to me, an unknown entity - both intimidating and alluring. Reading poetry looked harder than Chinese algebra. Therefore I have little experience with this art form. However, in the spirit of self improvement, I’ve decided to dive into the deep end of the poetry pool, and see if I can swim among the sonnets, stanzas, and similes.

First, I need to define what poetry is. The Wallkill Central School District (a favorite haunt of literati) defines poetry as: “a type of literature in which ideas and feelings are expressed in compact, imaginative, and often musical language. Poets arrange words in ways designed to touch readers’ senses, emotions, and minds. Most poems are written in lines that may contain patterns of rhyme and rhythm.” OK, I can understand that.

Second, I need to determine why many people anticipate reading poetry with the same dread as a trip to the dentist. I think it’s because we were beaten over the head with poetry in school. Teachers required us to memorize poems and dissect them like medical students’ cadavers. Very few educators conveyed the message that poetry could bring wonder, excitement, and new insights about life.

The word “poetry” brings back memories of learning verses by heart, and then reading them aloud - a standard protocol for the nuns at St. Peter’s Grammar School. While there, I renamed my learning institution God’s Gulag, a phrase I only dared to voice beyond earshot of The Penguins. The nuns would punish miscreant memorizers with a ruler to the knuckles. Therefore I was conditioned to associate poetry with pain.

These facts explain why many perceive reading poetry as an unpleasant task - something to be slogged through with gritted teeth, like doing homework or taking out the garbage. No wonder so many of us shy away from it!

Third, types of poetry should be discussed. The two categories are rhymers and roamers (free verse). Rhyming poetry includes music lyrics, so we all have been exposed to and enjoyed poetry. Free verse is just that – free. There is significantly more latitude to convey thoughts without the constraints of meter and rhyme. I prefer free verse – because it costs less. Ba-dum-BUMP! No seriously folks, it’s great to Regain Paradise! (John Milton must be turning over in his grave.)

In the course of writing this article I realized that the poetic process synthesizes a concept down to a few well chosen words. This produces works that are purified and polished like 24 carat gold or cut diamonds. Thus I’ve begun to enjoy poetry’s structure as well as its message. This activity appeals to my penchant for perfection. A typical Monkey Prose blog post might go through as many as 50 revisions before I publish it. I blame this on traumatic potty training.

My first foray into poetry involves a fellow blogger and wordsmith - Waxing GrassHoppeR. I’m guessing that’s not his real name. I can envision him at a black tie party. “Oh, GrassHoppeR . . . of the Philadelphia GrassHoppeRs?” Hmmm, I don’t think so.

You can read his profile at Waxing GrassHoppeR Profile. His poetry blog can be found at A Blade of Grass. The blog’s subtitle is “Everything speaks in its own way. The earth speaks. The plants and animals and insects and birds speak. Everything has a voice. I'm trying to listen to the words of the world around me.” That is poetry in itself.

Since I’m as qualified to critique poetry as I am to pilot the Space Shuttle, I can only give you my impressions of Waxing GrassHoppeR’s work, so here goes:

Star, Star:

One night when I was young I looked up into the stars.

One seemed to fall and shot across the sky.

I wondered, Where did it go?

Went looking for it but my world was too wee.

Sat down and cried alone in the trees.

Only found home when the sun rose.

I grew and my world grew with me.

I learned and read.

I traveled and worked.

I saw the beauty of the natural world and its life.

Saw the state of my fellow, virtue and vice.

I came to know people.

To love one of them.

Madly in love so I couldn't even tell.

Could only glance sparks like the twinkle of a star who can't know how my heart leaps out of my chest and I wondered if maybe the star was still and I was dancing in the night sky.

Loved like that.

One night when I was young I saw a star shoot.

I wondered, Where did it go?

Now I'm older I see that the brightest star fell through my hands as I watched.

Last night I was reading “A Good Dog” by John Katz. He described how he became simpatico with the universe through a star called Sirius. One night, it shined down on him with blazing intensity. Then the energy flow became two way. John communicated with The Dog Star like a high speed Internet connection. The author said the experience was profound and transcendent.

GrassHoppeR’s poem echoes the same sensation. He questions “I wondered if maybe the star was still and I was dancing in the night sky.” GrassHoppeR felt a need to connect with the natural world beyond him. Stars are obvious visual tools. Humans have looked at the stars and wondered ever since primitive man first appeared.

GrassHoppeR believes that we are the only creatures out of sync with the world. In a prose commentary after his poem, his states “everything else is balanced in nature and form except us... this just isn't right... everything else but man makes sense.” Global warming and pollution reinforce his conclusion.

In the poem, GrassHoppeR expresses:

One night when I was young I looked up into the stars.

One seemed to fall and shot across the sky.

I wondered, Where did it go?

Went looking for it but my world was too wee.

Sat down and cried alone in the trees.

He presents the idea that all of us, whether we know it or not, have an intrinsic need to connect with nature. It is necessary for us to feel whole. I believe that much of the alienation and depression modern humans experience is because we have broken our umbilical cord to the world. Without it we feel cut off and alone.


We fly our flags at half mast for dead soldiers...
Let's raise them up
to where they should be
and leave the banners in the muck.

The War in Iraq was my first thought when I read this poem. The US has lost over 3,000 soldiers, with very little to show for it.

Wars rarely solve political problems. Talking works much better, and is a lot cheaper. We don’t have to agree with another country to talk with them. Dialogue is the beginning of mutual understanding, and understanding can lead to solutions. Just look at what Jimmy Carter accomplished in North Korea and George Mitchell in Northern Ireland.

GrassHoppeR raises the idea that war is not something to be glorified. It should be a last resort. I have the greatest respect for soldiers who have given their lives for their countries. But it is the responsibility of world leaders to only put their soldiers into harm’s way when no other option is available.

Reflection and reconciliation should take precedence over victory when a war is concluded. The key questions should be “How can we prevent this from happening again?” and “How can we reconcile with our former enemy?”, not “Look how we kicked their asses!” GrassHoppeR’s poem captures this sentiment very well.

Stuck in a dory on a stormy sea...

... oh my oh me... what will I do when the stormy sea falls in on me... will it make my eyes like those of the fish thawing in the sink... will I turn pink... blue... will I see you... oh my poor little beat of a heart... boo who for me... boo who for you...

Here's water's wisdom... whether rain or sea or river or tears... water keeps moving... without pity for itself... like the world under water... as it is...

So if stuck in a dory on a stormy sea remember... nothing is forever... not even water or storms... all things move to one feather... one brush... one tide...

GrassHoppeR’s imagery is compelling. When he says “will it make my eyes like those of the fish thawing in the sink... will I turn pink... blue” he appears to be contemplating drowning. He is wondering if his body will assume the visage of a dead fish. I can see the fish in the sink when I read this poem, and smell it as well.

His comments on water illustrate a primary difference between man and his environment. We sometimes put our lives into neutral to contemplate things, while the juggernaut that is nature always keeps moving forward. If we could get more in touch with that flow, then perhaps we would feel more connected, and realize more peace.

Conclusion: I very much like Waxing GrassHoppeR’s poetry. I understand his voice. He elicits powerful imagery. It has increased my enjoyment of poetry, and motivated me to read more. As Kwai Chang Caine’s master told him in the TV Program Kung Fu, “Well done, GrassHoppeR!”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Save the Chimpanzees - Save the World

Emma and Jackson at Chimps Inc.

On Monday November 26, 2007 CBS Evening News will air a story about Emma and Jackson. They are chimpanzees at Chimps Inc., a primate care facility in Bend, Oregon.

Earlier this year, the pair were rescued from a Texas animal shelter that was placed under court supervision - for alleged neglect and abuse of its inhabitants. Now the previous owners want Emma and Jackson back. Chimps Inc. is opposed to returning them. A legal battle is taking place for custody. The survival of these two creatures may hang in the balance.

The United States has 70% of the world's lawyers, but only 5% of its population. Americans like to sue as much as they like Budweiser and ice cream. But a lawsuit's impact is more serious than a beer belly or high cholesterol. Litigation is expensive. Most of us can't afford to pursue a legal battle for long (no matter how just) because the Lawyer Meter never stops running. You can rack up thousands of dollars in legal bills faster than you can say Clarence Darrow.

This conflict is eating up a lot of Chimps Inc.'s banana money - resources that would be better spent feeding and caring for their primates.

I've known Lesley Day (President) and Paula Muellner (Executive Director) for quite a while. I have the highest confidence in their integrity and their ability to provide a loving and safe environment for the animals who reside at Chimps Inc. I encourage you to support them by making a donation. You can do so at Donate to Chimps Inc. Your help is very much appreciated!

"Saving two chimpanzees will not change the world, but it will change the world for those two chimpanzees." - Chimps Inc.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Monkey Prose Report Card on Best Buy – Grade: "C"

“Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.”
- Tony Alessandra

I won’t be going back to Best Buy any time soon. Why? Because they failed to meet a basic service requirement – resolve customer problems quickly and completely.

And so, dear readers, I'll tell you my tale of woe. I recently went to Best Buy Store No. 457, in Rockaway, NJ, and signed up for a Geek Squad home service call. My wife’s new laptop needed to have Windows Vista set up, and new software installed. But shortly after the Geek Squad representative left our house, Trudi’s computer crashed and I came face to face with the terrifying Blue Screen of Death. Aaaaaaaah!

Because my faith in the goodness of humanity was unassailed, I assumed that any store worth its salt would want to fix a service problem posthaste. I could not have been wronger! A phone call to The Geek Squad’s 800 number put me in touch with a woman who couldn’t have cared less unless she was in a coma. When a customer service rep’s tone of voice never changes, you know you’re in trouble. This girl raised the bar on passive aggressive behavior to new heights. If there was an Olympic Medal for “I Don’t Give a Damn”, this young lady would have been a slam dunk for the Gold. She informed me that a return service call might take up to two months because, well, “other people were already scheduled”. In other words, Best Buy’s policy on service was “If we don’t get it right the first time, we will fix the problem - but only when it’s convenient for us, not you ”. My response - as Ralph Cramden would say – was “Bang Zoom!”

OK, so the phone approach crashed and burned. Plan B was to visit the store and talk to someone in authority. Again my hopes were crushed - like a squirrel under the wheels of a Kenworth Truck. Shane, the Store Manager, displayed a compelling lack of desire to drive my problem to It’s All Better Street. No Christmas Card for him! After a healthy yawn to accent his disinterest, Shawn passed me off to Alan, the Geek Squad Manager. Alan “copped a tude” when I suggested that Geek Squad should send someone back to my house ASAP. He echoed the position of the Geek phone rep that “Hey, there are other people in line for service – so you’ll just have to wait.” When I informed Alan that I would not pay for an incomplete installation, he responded that I had to pay for it - whether the job was done correctly or not. And he refused to give me credit for returning the software. Grrrrrr! That’s two less Christmas Cards.

Plan C (a personal favorite) was to contact the CEO of the company. My letter to Bradbury H. Anderson was soon answered by Michael Arrighi, Geek Squad Public Defender, Executive Resolution Team. In my correspondence with Michael, he was polite, professional, and made a genuine effort to resolve my complaint. He even sent me a $50.00 gift certificate, to compensate me for my inconvenience. But Michael stopped short of promising that Best Buy would change their code of conduct. So - to this day – Best Buy’s policy remains: A customer is obligated to pay for a Geek Squad service or software installation, whether it is performed properly or not. If problems arise, Best Buy sets no time limit for when a job must be completed. And there is no mechanism for a dissatisfied customer to receive a refund (or any other compensation) for unacceptable service. Even monkeys could tell you this policy is flawed.

But in fairness to Best Buy, I also feel obligated to tell you what they do right:

Good Thing No. 1: The level of Geek Squad service is usually excellent. I’ve used them three times, and they’ve always finished the job properly (although not necessarily in one visit). Edward Donlin, the Geek Squad Rep who worked on our computer, came back three times (in the first week) until everything was functioning correctly. He made sure that I understood everything he did, and he adequately answered all my questions. But I suspect that the rapid response was because I complained to so many people in the organization. Otherwise I might still be waiting. This leads me to believe that other customers in my situation could endure long lead times to get service problems resolved.

Good Thing No. 2: Best Buy has excellent prices, which often can’t be beat - even by Internet retailers.

Good Thing No. 3: The store employees are well trained and professional. They are helpful when you need assistance, and are not too pushy about closing sales or hawking extended warranties.

The Internet has changed the dynamic of human interaction. In the past, if a customer had a negative experience with a store, they would tell (on average) 11 people. Now, because of the Web, that same person can tell 5,000 people in a short period of time. And bad news travels fast, so an e-complaint can snowball and reach even more people. It is therefore advisable for any company to establish customer service policies that keep pace with modern consumer expectations. And these expectations are rising steadily as people share more information and become better informed about the best available products and services.

Based on this information, the Monkey Prose Report Card awards a Grade of “C” to Best Buy. If you read my blog post about H&R Block, you will see another customer service scenario where a company did everything exceptionally well – and was awarded an A+.

Since the retailer being discussed here has “Best” in their name, they should be a leader in customer service for the electronics retailing market. Right now they are “Just OK” in this area, but with some enlightened changes, they could truly live up to their title and become the Best Buy in both products and services.

I welcome comments from Best Buy. I also invite readers to share their Best Buy experiences.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Monkey Prose Report Card on H+R Block – Grade: A+

"There are no traffic jams along the extra mile."
- Roger Staubach

In corporate culture, information and influence are concentrated at the top. As you travel up a company’s organizational chart, the executives acquire more “juice” and are more focused on customer satisfaction. So when you experience a product or service problem, sometimes the best course of action is to go directly to the CEO. Do not pass "GO" - Do not collect $200.

My latest customer service experience was with H&R Block, and involved my 2005 income tax returns. Earlier this year, I discovered that H&R Block made a mistake on these forms. This error made it necessary for my wife and I to pay additional taxes and interest. When I contacted John D’Agostino, a Senior Tax Adviser in the Morristown, NJ office, he invited us to come in (the same day) to discuss this matter. After verifying that H&R Block did make a miscalculation, he redid our taxes, and prepared our amended returns. John was professional, patient, and polite during this process. He was thorough in his explanation of the problem and the corrective action. We were very impressed!

During our conversation, I indicated to John that since our 2005 income tax returns contained mistakes, I believed that we should be issued a refund for the preparation fee. John replied that he was not authorized to do this, and referred my request to the H&R Block Regional Office. However something must have gotten “lost in the sauce”, and the higher ups never contacted me. But I didn’t get too upset because mis-communication often occurs when you go from one level of mid-management to another.

I then implemented Operation Go to the Top and sent a letter to Mark A. Ernst, Chairman, President, and CEO of H&R Block Inc. When writing this letter, I recalled the wisdom of Jerry Maguire“Help Me - Help You!”. I provided enough information so that Mr. Ernst had a clear understanding of what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what needed to be done to make things right.

Two weeks later I received a full refund for my 2005 income tax preparation fee, and a very gracious letter from Melissa Warren, of the H&R Block Regional/Executive Client Relations Office. A short time later, Melissa sent us an additional check for the interest that was owed on our taxes. Wow!

While I was upset that a mistake was made, I have enough experience in business (and life) to know that “stuff” happens. Every company makes mistakes. But what separates the white cowboy hats from the black ones is how a company responds to complaints. Is the company hostile and argumentative or do they make a sincere effort at resolution? One of my favorite quotes is:

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”
- Donald Porter, VP British Airways

In both business and personal relationships, you never really know how much integrity the other party has - until you see how they deal with problems. Based on our experience, H&R Block is definitely one of the good guys. Would I use them again? Yes! Would I recommend them to other people?

Another favorite phrase is:

"Treat every customer as if they sign your paycheck, because they do."
- Author Unknown

Monkey Prose awards a Grade of A+ to H&R Block for their exemplary customer service. I am confident that “putting the customer first” will guarantee H&R Block’s continued success in the future!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Monkey Prose is Mentioned in Wired Magazine

The November 2007 issue of Wired Magazine (page 30) features an excerpt from a Monkey Prose article - Toxic Cloud May Have a Silver Lining. This was a commentary on Creatures From the Black Lagoon by Guy Gugliotta, which appeared in the September 2007 issue of Wired.

The story was about researchers Don and Andrea Stierle, who discovered cancer killing microbes at a toxic waste site in Montana.

This is my first article to be published in print, and it is very exciting! I would like to thank my parents for pushing me to take those "Write for the Internet" classes back in the 1960's. At the time, I didn't see the point, since the World Wide Web wouldn't be invented for another 30 years. But Mom and Pop were visionaries, and they turned out to be right. Go figure!

Now, if I can only get my daughter Britton to invest in those Moon Real Estate Futures, then the family legacy of clairvoyant counseling will have been passed on.

Thank you Wired Magazine for publishing an excerpt from my blog, and for teaching me how to spell "excerpt"!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Canadian Commentary

Cartoon copyright 2005 Harry Bliss
Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc 12/20

“To agree to disagree, to harness diversity, to respect dissent, perhaps this is the real essence of Canada.”
- Robert L. Perry

The average American knows as much about Canada as the dark side of the moon. But I've recently started traveling there for business, so that gap in my geopolitical education has been filled. The more time I spend in Canada, the more I like it. If I had to describe our Northern Neighbor in one sentence, I would say “Canada is the United States – without the attitude and the guns.”

Michael Moore came to the same conclusion in his film “Bowling for Columbine”. In one scene, he traveled from Detroit (the Murder Capital of the US) to Windsor, Ontario, which is just on the other side of the Detroit River. In Motown, the atmosphere of fear and danger was palpable. Yet across the river, people didn’t even lock their doors. Moore also observed that even though Canada had more guns per capita, their murder rate was much lower. The obvious solution to America's violence problem is therefore to mandate that armed robberies and drive-bys can only be carried out by Canadian citizens. This will reduce their frequency to that of a solar eclipse.

A good word to initiate an understanding of Canadians is “nice”. But unfortunately, many Americans equate “nice” with "boring". In high school, “nice” guys were the ones that cool girls wouldn’t date - but who were acceptable candidates for copying homework. So this definition is far too limited to capture the essence of Canadianicity. (My new word – coming soon to a Wikipedia near you.)

More accurate adjectives for “Canadian” are “civilized”, “respectful”, and “moderate”. Eliminating the extremes of human behavior makes life less of a roller coaster, and substantially reduces stress. In Canada, I expect to have good interactions with people. I know I won't be the recipient of an emotional shotgun blast from someone having a bad day. I’m also confident that cars around me will use their turn signals and avoid tailgating. During my last trip, I can’t even recall any of my fellow drivers honking! Most Canadians think that Road Rage is a video game.

Another word that captures the essence of “Canadian” is “evolved”. It’s like Homo Sapiens Vs Neanderthal. (Guess which species the US represents?) Canadians have figured out how to interact with themselves and the world in a way that doesn’t make others feel angry or offended. I can’t think of a better mission statement for a nation. Winston Churchill said “That long (Canadian) frontier from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, guarded by only neighborly respect and honorable obligations, is an example to every country and a pattern for the future of the world.” And William Arthur Deacon observed “There has never been a war of Canadian origin, nor for a Canadian cause.”

But why is the culture of these Palefaces from Polar Bear Land so different from ours? I offer the following explanation:

Reason 1: Cold – It gets really cold in Canada. I’m talking about C-c-c-c-c-old! Last February I was in Montreal when it was –20 degrees F. And that was considered to be a heat wave! When I saw a dog frozen to a fire hydrant, I knew I had transitioned out of the Temperate Zone. It’s tough to start a war or act in an aggressive manner when you’re freezing! Instead of contemplating world domination, the only things you care about are a warm fire and hot cocoa.

So Global Warming also represents a threat to the world's political stability. If the Canadians thaw out enough, they may start expanding their borders – and take over the North Pole. And there goes Christmas!

Reason 2: European Ties – In its early history, Canada didn't engage in warfare with any European countries, so there was no residual animosity. They are part of the Commonwealth of Nations, so Great Britain is considered to be a big brother (or sister) rather than a schoolyard bully (the Americans’ perception during the Revolution). As a result, Canadian culture has more of a European essence than the United States - which felt obliged to start a new civilization from scratch.

Reason 3: Healthcare – 100% of Canadians have it. 40% of Americans don’t. And the Yanks who do have it - lose it if they get laid off or fired. Nothing is more stressful than worrying about paying for your kids’ braces or Grandma’s hip replacement. When your mind is occupied with these concerns, you're not thinking about how you can get along better with your fellow human beings.

No treatise on Canada would be complete without some history. Canada was started by Eskimos who got tired of losing their real estate every year to the spring thaw. After determining that wood is a better construction material than ice, they invited Europeans over because you can build log cabins a lot faster with steel tools than whalebone axes. The British and French taught the natives how to set up casinos - and separate their new neighbors from their money. A joint corporation was formed to process maple syrup and export it to the combative country below them. The sugar high made Americans so lethargic, they forgot about attacking Canada. And finally, Canadians invented ice hockey so there would be at least one sport where they could trounce the US.

Conclusion: If you get a chance to travel to Canada, I highly recommend it. But please remember to leave your attitude (and firearms) at home. The experience will broaden your perspective as much as a trip to Europe - at a fraction of the price!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Flight of the Conchords

"If it would not look too much like showing off, I would tell the reader where New Zealand is." - Mark Twain 1897

"If the people in New Zealand want to be part of our world, I believe they should hop off their islands and push 'em closer!" — Lewis Black (after a 22-hour plane trip to New Zealand)

Television Programming Rule No. 1 - Take an original idea, beat it to death, and then continue broadcasting it until the last ounce of advertising revenue has been extracted. Reality shows are the latest manifestation of this axiom. We've seen Survivor No. 1 through 750,000. The only place where they haven't positioned a show is New Zealand. And that's probably because the studio executives couldn't find it.

Now New Zealand has stepped into the limelight with the new HBO hit comedy Flight of the Conchords. The show stars Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement (playing themselves) as two innocent Kiwi musicians who move to The Big Apple, seeking fame and fortune for their novelty band. This is the freshest TV that I've seen in years. The comedy is original and intelligent. "Conchords" is for people who don't mind having to think before they laugh - a rare phenomenon in a medium where viewers are usually offered boobtube baby food.

Combined with a strong cast of characters, edgy plots, and campy music videos, this half hour program packs more entertainment than many of its one-hour contemporaries.

Supporting roles are:

Murray Hewitt (played by Rhys Darby) is the band's manager. He also works as a cultural attache' for the New Zealand Consulate. The band's meetings are held in his Consulate office. Murray's role calls during these gatherings are classic. See Murray's Band Meetings. He is optimistic and enthusiastic, but doesn't have any idea how the music industry works. Brett and Jemaine are equally clueless, so their joint efforts to achieve stardom are filled with hilarious misadventures.

Mel (Kristen Schaal) is the band's only fan. She is also a stalker, with Brett being the object of her lustful obsession. With her big eyes and cartoon voice, she is perfectly cast for this role. In one episode she pops up in front of the boys from a basement stairway. When Jemaine asked her what she was doing down there, she says "jogging". Kristen's scenes are comic genius. See Bret and Mel in Bathroom.

Dave (Arj Barker) runs a local store that sells just about everything. Dave presents himself as a babe magnet, but his real life is far less glamorous. He still lives with his parents, but denies it by claiming that they are "just a crazy old couple that he sublets his apartment to". Dave counsels the boys about American culture and women, often with disastrous results. See He May Be Did!

The Conchords' music videos are seamlessly woven into the story plots, and provide a melodic counterpoint. You can see some of them on YouTube:

* Ladies of the World

* Foux De Fa Fa

* Albi the Racist Dragon

There are a number of people behind the scenes who significantly contributed to Season One's success:

Stu Smiley developed the series and is Executive Producer. He also developed and executive produced Everybody Loves Raymond, which was nominated for 6 Emmys (and won twice) for Outstanding Comedy. That always looks good on the resume!

James Bobin is Executive Producer, Co-Creator, and and Director. "He won a British Academy of Film and Television Award for 'Best Comedy Series' in 2000, and has also been nominated for other awards by the Royal Television Society and the Monteux Television Festival. In the US he directed and co-wrote all 12 episodes of the critically acclaimed 2 seasons of 'Da Ali G Show' for HBO in 2003 and 2004. He was nominated for 'Best Director' Emmys for both seasons, as well as sharing writing nominations twice."

Troy Miller has been nominated for nine Best Director Emmy awards, and has won twice. "Miller has produced and directed all of the infamous short films that open the Oscar® telecast that featured Billy Crystal embedded within the footage of other films. Jon Stewart also used Miller to craft the opening for his most recent Oscar® opening that featured Actors George Clooney, Chris Rock, Halle Berry, Steve Martin and David Letterman."

FOC's first season ended on Sept. 2. For the next month, HBO On Demand featured all of the first season episodes, but then inexplicably removed them - while retaining programs of lesser quality. I am checking with The Hague to see if this action qualifies as a Crime Against Humanity. Most FOCers would say "Yes"!

There are very few TV programs that I would watch more than once, but "Flight of the Conchords" is on my short list. Trudi and I have seen many episodes 10 times or more, and still enjoy them. With each viewing, we pick up more nuanced nuggets of humor. I am convinced that this series will become a TV classic.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Toxic Cloud May Have a Silver Lining.

(At left) Berkeley Pit Lake in Butte, Montana. Photo by Chris Mueller

"We're all downstream."
- Ecologist's motto adopted by Margaret & Jim Drescher, Windhorse Farm, Nova Scotia

Ever since the first Paleolithic Ph.D applied for an NIH Grant, researchers have sought a "silver bullet" that would be effective against the legion of cancers afflicting humanity. Now hope may come from a most unlikely source - a toxic waste site.

The September 2007 issue of Wired Magazine features "Creatures From the Black Lagoon" by Guy Gugliotta - a former Washington Post science writer. This article chronicles how chemists Don and Andrea Stierle stumbled upon potentially useful microorganisms in an abandoned Montana copper mine. Berkeley Pit Lake was born after the open pit operation closed, and water was no longer being pumped out. Minerals leaching from the soil created a highly toxic lagoon. As a result, many an unfortunate creature breathed its last after dropping in for a drink.

But as Jeff Goldblum's character says in Jurassic Park, "Life, uh . . . finds a way." So resourceful BPL microbes fulfilled their Darwinian destiny - and adapted. The outcome was strains of bacteria and fungi that exist nowhere else in the world.

This discovery would have been reward enough for many scientists, but Don and Andrea then took their research in a new direction. Their lifelong passion has been to discover nautical plants and animals with pharmaceutical potential. So they did what any surf loving scientists would do when stuck in Montana - they brought the medical mountain to Muhammad (or Butte, as the locals call it). By subjecting their new bug buddies to the same assays they used with oceanic life, they discovered that some appeared to kill cancer cells. And that - as the white coats at Sloan Kettering will tell you - is a good thing.

The Stierles' work is preliminary, and requires further investigation. Hopefully Big Pharma will now get involved to determine if cancer fighting drugs can be developed from these candidates. I've come up with a few brand names for them: Tumor-Tox, Contamin-Oma, and Berkeley-Balm. And to give their campaign more zing, pharmaceutical sales reps could call on doctors' offices in HazMat suits! (Hey, I'm not married to the last idea - just spitballing here . . .)

Author Guy Gugliotta does a masterful job of presenting this story. His prose is clear and concise, which unfortunately is not the norm in science writing. Many technical journalists fall in love with their own special vocabulary, and forget that we mere mortals can't recite the periodic table by heart. In addition, Gugliotta's compelling imagery captured my imagination. While reading "Creatures From the Black Lagoon", I felt like I was watching a "Nature" TV program. The only thing missing was the sound track.

Gugliotta seamlessly moves his account forward, while covering such diverse topics as Butte's geography and economic history, the Stierles' academic credentials and research, NIH funding, and pharmaceutical drug discovery. The author's narrative flow made me believe that the entire story could have been written in one (really big) paragraph, without losing continuity or comprehension.

I live in New Jersey, whose unofficial nickname is "The Landfill of Opportunity". Thus I am painfully aware of how pollution can damage an environment. This story gives me hope that my state can also find something good in its toxic terrain.

You can find more about Berkeley Pit Lake at Pitwatch. I wish the Stierles continued success with their exciting work!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Intevolution - The Debate Continues

(At left) Scopes Trial newspaper cartoon, 1925 Collection of Richard Milner

“While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” - Mark Twain

The June 2007 issue of Natural History Magazine offers "Darwin in Court" - an excellent article by Richard Milner on the debate over evolution and intelligent design.

For those of you who haven't watched television or read a newspaper in the last 100 years, I will summarize. Evolutionists believe that life evolved gradually, through a process known as natural selection. Intelligent Designers believe that life was placed on Earth by a supernatural force (like God or Google) pretty much in its final form. That's the story in a nutshell, (which evolved from a nut without a shell).

Milner's article outlines the argument, lists new books, and details an important court case - Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Richard is an Associate of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Recent publications mentioned are:

"Intelligent Thought" by John Brockman - an excellent introduction to this controversy. IT is a collection of essays on Intelligent Design by some of the world's top scientists. Brockman, a respected editor of scientific literature, collaborated with the authors to make this information comprehensible to people (like moi) who will never be asked to join MENSA.

"40 Days and 40 Nights" by Matthew Chapman, who is a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin. Milner describes Matthew's work as "a tour de force, hilarious without sacrificing seriousness or purpose." Chapman, attended the Dover School District trial, which lasted 40 days and 40 nights. This Biblical coincidence was not lost on the author, who incorporated it into his title.

"Not in Our Classrooms" by Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch. Eugenie is the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education. This organization is focused on keeping religion (disguised as science) out of America's classrooms.

These books have been added to my (rapidly growing) "must read" list. I may need to get a second job to support my journalistic jones.

In his analysis of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, Milner focuses on the core issues: 1) Does Intelligent Design meet the definition of "science"? and 2) Does teaching it in public school classrooms violate the U.S. Constitution? The rulings of Presiding Judge John E. Jones III were that Intelligent Design was not science - and therefore requiring it to be included in a science curriculum violated the Establishment Clause of The First Amendment. This Clause forbids the U.S. Government from establishing or supporting religious activities. Since Judge Jones is a lifelong Republican, who was appointed by (born again Christian) President George W. Bush, I am guessing that he will be getting a few less Christmas cards from the GOP. But I applaud him for his judicial integrity.

In his final comments on the case, Judge Jones offered scathing criticism of the Dover School Board, the group responsible for introducing Intelligent Design into their classrooms:

"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise their real purpose. . ."


". . .The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources"

I enjoyed Richard's fluid prose, which facilitated my journey through the literary and legal landscape of this debate. Scientific writing is often harder to understand than Chinese algebra. My touchstone for this genre is "Can I read the article without moving my lips or getting a headache?" Milner passed this test with flying colors!

Richard also presented a fair and balanced profile of the IDers. He did not demonize them or describe them in condescending terms - something many of his fellow scientists have been guilty of. His article included a dialogue with a Christian associate. This person explained that not all Christians supported the IDers' view that Evolution and Intelligent Design were mutually exclusive. At a time when our world is so polarized, it was refreshing to find a writer who approached such a divisional issue with an open mind.

If you want to learn more about the Intevolution (my new word) argument - and what it means to John (or Jane) Q. Public, then I highly recommend "Darwin in Court". I also encourage you to visit the new Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It is a fun and fascinating way to learn more about where humans came from!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Newsweek Features Emma and Jackson at Chimps Incorporated

Newsweek recently featured a story about Emma and Jackson at Chimps Inc. in Bend, Oregon.

The chimps were brought to Chimps Inc. after their previous owners were taken to court for alleged abuse and neglect. Now the former owners want them back.

This conflict is being fought out in court - and it has raised an important question: Do chimpanzees (whose DNA differs from humans by less than 2%) have any rights, or are they simply property?

This situation harkens back to the Dred Scott Vs Sandford Case, which took place shortly before the American Civil War. At that time, the same question was asked about a slave (Dred Scott) who petitioned the US Government for his freedom. Unfortunately for Mr. Scott, the United States Supreme Court ruled that (as a slave), he was property and therefore had no rights under the US Constitution.

In today's world, the Dred Scott decision is considered to be misguided, at best, and shameful, at worst. I am hopeful that Emma's and Jackson's fate will be happier. It would be unfortunate if it took another 100 years for such wonderful creatures to be afforded some rights and dignity.

I know and have great respect for the people who run Chimps Incorporated. I am confident that all of the animals under their care are supported in a loving and responsible environment. It would be a terrible tragedy if Emma and Jackson were taken away from such a nurturing home.

I encourage you to contact Chimps Incorporated to offer whatever assistance that you can. Many thanks!

Karen Kruger is Featured Artist of the Month at the Highlands Photo Guild

"A photograph does not speak, it does not smell, it makes no sound, it does not move, it is just a two dimensional piece of paper, but a good photograph can do at least one if not all of the above!"
I recently posted a story about the Highlands Photo Guild in Milford, PA. This post mentioned talented photographer Karen Kruger. I am particularly impressed with her use of color in creating an emotional response. A sample of her work is shown here.

This month (Aug. 10 through Sept. 6) Karen is the featured artist at the Highlands Photo Guild. The press release for Karen gives the following information:

"KAREN KRUGER is the featured artist of the month at HPG. Her images showcase the shops, doorways, balconies, and windows of Southern Italy and Sardinia.

Some images are rendered as traditional photos while others are given a more painterly touch. All of them communicate the feel and allure of the locale.

Imagine what your life would be like if you passed through these doors on your way home each day, if you peeked out those windows each morning and if you bought your groceries in these shops.

Visitors to Italy sense that life is different there. Meals and family are savored, time slows down and daily tasks take on a greater meaning. Come experience the feel of it, no passport or jetlag necessary!"

Highlands Photo Guild
224 Broad Street
Milford, PA 18337
Phone: (570) 296-2440

Milford, PA is on the border or NJ and PA, near Rt. 84 and High Point State Park. You can find directions here: Milford, PA Map.

If you find yourself in the area, then it would be worth your while to visit the Highlands Photo Guild and view Karen's wonderful photos!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Intelligent Thought by John Brockman

"It will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of evolution may be guided by an intelligent design." - Oxford scholar, F.C.S. Schiller, 1897

“Today, the theory of evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority, whose objections are based not on reasoning but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles."
- James D. Watson.

Intelligent Design
advances the idea that our world was created by a supernatural being. ID proponents believe that this concept is a scientifically valid alternative to Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

In his book Intelligent Thought - Science Versus the Intelligent Design Movement, author John Brockman presents essays on ID by some of the world's top scientists. Contributors include:

Leonard Susskind - the Felix Bloch Professor of theoretical physics at Stanford. He is the author of The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and The Illusion of Intelligent Design.

Richard Dawkins - an evolutionary biologist, is Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. His book The Selfish Gene has generated much discussion among scientists and lay people.

Lisa Randall - is Professor of Physics at Harvard University. She is the author of Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions.

The overwhelming conclusion of the book's contributors is that ID is not science - for three fundamental reasons:

  • A primary rule of science is that natural causes must be attributed to natural phenomena. ID relies on supernatural causality, (i.e. God) which violates this rule. Once you abandon natural causation, you enter into the area of magic or metaphysics - neither of which is science.
  • Intelligent Design has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community. As a result, it has not been presented in peer-review journals. Such publication is de rigueur for any new theory to be validated.
  • ID is not subject to scientific methodology, so the accuracy of ID's claims cannot be independently authenticated.

The same conclusion was reached in 2005 by the United States District Court, for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in the famous case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District. The court determined that ID was not science, and that teaching it (as science) in the classroom violated The Establishment Clause of The First Amendment. This clause states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".

In his Introduction, Brockman notes an irony about presiding Judge John E. Jones III: "Readers can rely on the writings of the scientists in this volume (Brockman's book). They can also rely on the words of this lifelong Republican jurist, who was appointed to the court by the current President of the United States (himself a born-again Christian fundamentalist)."

A primary difference between Intelligent Design and the Theory of Evolution is in answering the question - "How did today's life forms get here?" ID advocates state that all life was created abruptly - by a supernatural designer. As as a result, today's flora and fauna have the same form as when they first appeared on Earth. In other words, evolution of species never occurred.

However an overwhelming majority of scientists support an opposing view - the Theory of Evolution, with natural selection and gradual adaptation as its driving forces.

Another tenet of ID is that - Where Evolution is discredited, Intelligent Design is confirmed. This logic is fundamentally flawed, as indicated below:

Item A is red

Item B is blue

If Item C is not red, then it must be blue.

Item C does not have to be blue. It could be yellow, black, white, green, or any other color of the light spectrum. Item C could also be a color that hasn't been discovered yet.

The Wedge Document is an internal memorandum of the Discovery Institute - one of the primary supporters of ID. The Wedge Document was leaked to the Internet in 1999, and was later authenticated by the Institute. Many scientists believe that this document spells out ID advocates' real agenda - to introduce religious doctrine into schools and science. The Wedge Document states "The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, these consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, out strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. . . Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialistic worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

Well known proponents of ID include:

Michael J. Behe - author of Darwin's Black Box (1996). One of the arguments of this book is that many biological systems are irreducibly complex at the molecular level. Therefore, they could not have gradually evolved to their current state.

Pervical Davis and Dean H. Kenyon - who authored Of Pandas and People. ID advocates are promoting this as a (required) high school biology text.

Former Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum - Wikipedia states "In 2001, Santorum tried unsuccessfully to insert language which came to be known as the Santorum Amendment into the No Child Left Behind bill that sought to promote the teaching of intelligent design while questioning the academic standing of evolution in public schools."

Scott Minnich - whose slogan Teach the Controversy has been praised and condemned by opposing sides. The scientific community's view is that unless intelligent design can be proven to be a valid scientific discipline, then it is inappropriate to compare intelligent design to evolution in a science class. This discussion is better suited for a course in philosophy or religion.

Phillip E. Johnson - a retired UC Berkley Law Professor, is considered by many to be The Father of Intelligent Design. He is the author of Darwin on Trial which argues that science should allow for supernatural explanations.

Intelligent Thought, gives the following bio for author John Brockman - "John Brockman, editor of many books including The Next Fifty Years, Curious Minds, What We Believe But Cannot Prove, and My Einstein, is also the author of By the Late John Brockman and The Third Culture. He is the founder and CEO of Brockman, Inc., a literary and software agency, and the publisher of the website Edge, the forum for leading scientists and thinkers to share their research with the general public."

Brockman's editorial skills contributed greatly to the success of this book. The essays that he presents are written in uncomplicated and focused prose. This makes them easy to understand -even for non-technical readers. The physicist Ernest Rutherford once said "If you can't explain a result in simple, nontechnical terms, then you really don't understand it."

In this post, I have tried to provide the basic elements of this controversy, and also to provide resources - so that readers can make an informed decision about what to believe. I invite your comments.