Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Day of the Year

I realized when I woke up this morning that today is the last day of 2012 -- the year when the world was supposed to end.  While the world did not exactly end, it somewhat did for a lot of people like those at Fukushima and other parts of Japan that were hit by earthquakes. Surely the world must have seemed to end for the parents of the children killed in a school at Newtown, Connecticut.

But despite all the killings, plane crashes, suicide bombers, tornadoes, tropical storms, earthquakes, and all the other bad news of 2012, I tend to look more for what went well or what events were positive.   Many come to mind.

One bit of news certainly worth celebrating is the removal of India by the World Health Organization (WHO) from the list of polio-endemic countries. As of this writing, only 3 countries (Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan) remain polio-endemic. In contrast, there were more than 125 countries in 1988.

Sometime in May scientists at California's Stanford University developed the first prototype of a bionic eye. The following month, the world's first stem-cell assisted vein transplant was undertaken by a team of Swedish surgeons on a 10-year old girl.

There were notable developments in the fields of culture as well. The Vatican, Oxford University and Bodleian libraries have agreed to make themselves available on line.  The Great English Bard, William Shakespeare must have turned with joy in his grave after a team of archaeologists announced the discovery of remains of the Curtain Theater, where some of Shakespeare's plays were first performed.  Edward Munch's famous painting "The Scream" sold at an auction for $119,922,500 (photo below). 

There might have been a lot of blood shed and lives lost in 2012 but there were many developments too that point to goodness, greatness, beauty and nobility.

As for me, the worst  in 2012 was my loss of faith.  On the on other hand, the best that happened to me was that I found faith again.

I celebrate that, during this last day of 2012.

-  Ariel Murphy

Sunday, December 30, 2012

But of Course You Can Dance

It was Friday night and my friends and I were out celebrating the start of weekend. I approached a friend and asked him to dance with me.

"Sorry, I don't dance," he said with an amused look on his face.

I asked why not.

"I don't have rhythm," he said as if it was the most natural thing to say.

Fixing my eye on him I asked: "Do you make love"?

Apparently caught by surprise, my friend paused for a heartbeat and answered "of course."

I smiled not a bit too smugly and reached for his hand.

"Then you have rhythm," I said.  "C'mon, let's dance."

- Ariel Murphy

Friday, December 28, 2012


I know that I am blessed, when in the course of one day even  without stepping out of the house, I get to enjoy the sights in the photos shown below:

- Ariel Murphy

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Turn the Other Cheek

I couldn’t believe how  anyone  could  have been  so rude.  My friend’s sister has been ignoring me for some time now. She wouldn’t even look at me. Never mind  if I had provoked her anger or had been obnoxious, I did not and was not.  Really! In fact I hardly saw her. Yet every time I did, she was just plain coarse.  I truly initially liked her and was even prepared to like her even more.
Not being used to uncalled for and certainly undeserved boorishness, I  withdrew and just kept quiet  every time the lady was around even if I was really hankering to let her know of a certain four-letter word that just sounded like a sonata to my ears.
At the very least, the lady’s brother was appalled at his sister’s behavior.  He said that she had lost friends within the last 10 years because of changes in her demeanor. 
 And then it dawned on me that the lady quite obviously has issues.
I told her brother that often the very people who are hard to love are the very ones who need it most.
What I plan to do next time I see the lady is to tell her “f---k  you”! And then give her a hug and tell her that I love her.
-       Ariel Murphy

Wednesday, December 26, 2012



And you thought you were able to get rid of that pesky mosquito buzzing by your ear.

The part of the mosquito's wing pictured above, is what makes the buzzing or whining sound. The comb-like half, shown in blue, scrapes against the part shown in yellow, whenever the mosquito flaps its wings. Illustration from "On a Possible Stridulating Organ in the Mosquito," in the public domain

- Ariel Murphy

Monday, December 24, 2012

Standing on Water

They say that as one grows older, the more jaded he or she becomes. Something new no longer elicits the same excitement and sense of wonder that it used to at an earlier time.
I wasn’t prepared to think of anything when today, for the first time in my life, I stood on top of a frozen lake.

Being Asian, having been born and raised in Southeast Asia and now a resident of tropical Hawaii, I am not used to snow. And that is despite both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, invariably get snow beginning about this time of the year. Yep we do have snow in Hawaii.

But now I am visiting Mitchell Hegman of Montana, who was responsible for this new experience.

Mitchell Hegman brought me to the edge of Lake Helena and asked me to walk on it.

I stepped gingerly on the lake bank and then planted the other foot on the ice. Well that one recalcitrant foot somehow managed to slip and I ended up doing a split worthy of a Dame Margot Fonteyn. That sure felt like whatever was left of my virginity was compromised.

Fortunately, after pleading with my aching pelvis and thighs I was able to gather myself up until, for the first time, I was finally and firmly standing atop a huge body of water – a frozen lake. Holy Moses! I walked on water!

And it did feel strangely good. Strange because the weight and value I had placed on the experience may not even matter to many. And it felt good because I could still feel good about the whole thing.

After the experience I concluded only one thing: The lake I stood on may have been frozen; I at least was not.

Ariel Murphy on frozen Lake Helena, 12/23/2012
  - Ariel Murphy

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Carols

While listening to Christmas carols the other day, thoughts of Christmases gone by came to my mind. I remember as a child my excitement every time the Christmas season drew near. My father would always decorate both the interior and the exterior of the house with festive multicolored lights and lanterns. My dad not only played Christmas carols all day long but even joined an all-male caroling group.

Through the years there haven‘t always been bright lights in my house during the Christmas season, especially the year Michael Murphy passed away. But the Christmas carols have always been there.

Christmas carols are ageless and, for a few days once a year, thread the past and the present in a seamless flood of warm memories. For a brief moment, Michael Murphy is alive hauling in a freshly cut fragrant tree inside our house during my first Christmas in Hawaii. I hear my dad practicing the second voice of “The First Noel.” I smell the faint whiff of vanilla and caramelizing sugar from the decadent, creamy ‘melts-in-your-mouth “Leche Flan” that my mom would always make for Christmas dinner.

As I was making a CD of Christmas carols for friends recently, I came across a Hawaiian version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” that I thought I’d include among my selections.

Here is the link:
- Ariel Murphy

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A bloody sunrise

At my boyfriend's house in Helena, Montana this morning, I woke up to a slow sunrise that blotted the sky a somewhat bloody red. Nevermind that I'm from Hawaii and not used to very low temperatures; I decided anyway to brave the 20 degrees outside and, still in my bedclothes, snatched my camera and hurriedly took the photo shown below.

The photo made me think of how America, which is one of the strongest bastions of democracy in the world, is turning out to be one of the most violent societies that currently exist. Statistics show that it has more gun-caused homicides than all other high-income (OECD) countries combined.

In the face of recent violence, notably the death of school children in Newtown, Connecticut, all some sectors of American society, notably the National Rifle Association, could say was: "Post armed guards in schools."


-- Ariel Murphy

Friday, December 21, 2012

Something Wrong

Among the developed economies of the world (OECD countries), America has the highest gun homicide rate, the highest number of guns per capita, and the highest rate of deaths due to gun assault. America, for that matter, has more homicides by gun than all other high income OECD countries combined.

And it doesn’t take a Newtown, Connecticut kind of carnage to tell us that there’s something definitely wrong with a society that places such a premium on guns as a tool for self-defense that parents do not even hesitate to expose their children to such a tool of violence.

Would Adam Lanza have gone on a shooting spree if his own mother (whom he later shot and killed) had not taught him how to shoot a rifle?

Former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarksjold once said: “He who wants to keep his garden tidy does not leave room for weeds.”

- Ariel Murphy

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Love makes miracles happen

A tete-a-tete with a friend I chanced upon at Uncle Robert's recently made a rather interesting turn when out of left field he said: "The solution to all our problems is getting Lucifer and God to reconcile." That is what we really should be praying for, he emphasized.

I shelved my own thoughts about good and evil and the seeming inherent dual nature of the Universe and decided to take my friend's perspective.

His idea cloyed to me like overwhelming perfume. It was so different yet so simple.

I gave my friend my full attention and asked what could possibly motivate Lucifer to humble himself before God.

"He knows his time is coming and he's not going to make it," my friend said.

I was skeptical about how anyone, even God, would react to a supplicant who is only after self-preservation.

"God is all-forgiving and loving," my friend pointed out.


- Posted with Aloha 
By Ariel Murphy

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


From the moment Laurel sat on the passenger seat of my car when I first met her at the Hilo airport, I felt right at home with her.  She was friendly, unassuming, transparent and just exuded good energies.

I felt myself increasingly drawn to Laurel and, on my way to and from work, would frequently stop by the house that she and her husband Rex bought. Before we knew it, we were confidantes. Many times, I cried off my pain and disappointments on Laurel's shoulders just as she did hers on mine.

Laurel  laughs boisterously and is more often than not always joyful. She puffs, huffs  and talks  like Ma Barker might have done but beneath the seemingly rough exterior is an authentic heart of gold. During the few times I've seen her really upset I've noticed how quickly  she resumed being her normal happy self as soon as she had shared the cause of her distress.

Studying Laurel,  I surmise that her resiliency is basically due to  her self-knowledge and acceptance; and love. 

She knows her strengths and acknowledges that by herself she cannot hope to overcome her weaknesses without drawing from her spiritual discipline. 

She is kind to everybody -- to me, to the workers she and Rex hired to help improve their property, and even to complete strangers. They have sheltered, fed and taken care of people they had only casually met on the street. 

Several days ago Laurel left Hawaii permanently to reside in Oregon, where her daughter will resume her schooling. 

Thank you Laurel. You are by no means a saint but  perhaps more than saints ever can, you have shown me how to love.

Laurel, 12/2012

- Ariel Murphy

Monday, December 17, 2012

Walls and Fences

Walls and fences have varied purposes.   We often use them to create or maintain privacy. They can also be built to protect, obstruct, divide, etc..... The list can be endless.

There are many kinds of walls. They can be of brick, cement, mortar, wood, plant, wire, cloth, etc. The most common, however, are walls made of air.

Those walls are invisible but palpable. You may not see them but you can certainly sense them, either sooner or later.

Air walls can be deceptive, especially when they're camouflaged by a smile. They may even seem like a vibrant rainbow.

You can walk right onto those air walls without even realizing it and crash.

If you end up with only a huge ugly lump on your forehead and a moonshine on your eye, consider yourself lucky.

Photo of unknown man from Photobucket

-- Ariel Murphy

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Styx of Our Hearts

In the frenzy of the partying, shopping and decorating that accompany the holidays, nobody had an inkling when  imperceptible  globules of dark essence oozed from every human on earth and somewhere between time and space converged into a single hazy shape. 

Its feet never touching the ground, the shadow slowly made its way to its destination. There the haze cleaved to a man. The haze  took over all the blood flowing in the man's veins and arteries; and where the heart and mind used to be there was only  a spit black chilling wasteland. 

As the world raced by, the sun spun wildly and for an ephemeral moment, the shadow and Adam Lanza were one. 

Newspaper headlines screamed a story of horrifying carnage that day of  December 14, 2012, only 10 days before Christmas.
In the leafy Connecticut suburb of Newtown,  20-year old loner Adam Lanza first killed his own mother and then went to his school and methodically and brutally shot  25 others, many of them 6-7 year old children still with their baby teeth. And then Adam took his own life. 

The sum of all our darkness  had  since then disintegrated back into  globules and returned to where they dwell -- deep in the styx of our hearts.

6-year old Emilie Alice Parker, one of many children killed by Adam Lanza. Photo from The Huffington Post.
- Ariel Murphy

Friday, December 14, 2012


A rancher had a horse that he loved like family. He fell in love with the animal from the moment it was born. He named it Velvet, after the colt's soft gentle eyes.  

The rancher raised Velvet like he would his own child until it grew to into a magnificent white steed.  He trained Velvet to jump, prance, kneel and even lay down at his command.  In every horse show, Velvet garnered top trophy. 

But one day,  in the prime of his life Velvet contracted EHV-1, a kind of equine herpes,  and died. The rancher was distraught. 

After months of grieving, the rancher decided to look for another horse.  He went to a nearby ranch, checked out the horses for sale, and decided he liked Chance enough to take him home. 

Chance had a mellow and playful disposition. He and the rancher got along well. 

But the hole in the rancher's heart made by Velvet's demise remained fresh. Although he treated Chance well, the rancher was unable to give Chance the same kind of affection that he lavished on Velvet.
Sensing the rancher's melancholia, Chance eventually  became a sad horse.  Chance just never stood a chance.

 -- Ariel Murphy

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Wedding Anniversary

Happy anniversary Michael Murphy! I'm trying to spread love and cheer like you always told me to. I'll see you again someday. In the meantime, here's a toast to you!

- Ariel

Seizing Opportunities

Multi-billionaire Warren Buffet was said to have invited one of his first employees to invest in his company when it was first starting out. The secretary's husband had just inherited money and was looking to invest. Had the secretary and her husband cast their lot with Buffet, they would be billionaires with a buffet of life enjoyments to choose from.

Yahoo in 2006 offered to buy Facebook for $1billion. At that time, MySpace was the ultimate social networking site and had 100 million members vis-a-vis Facebook's then 8 million members. When Yahoo's stock dove, Yahoo scaled down it's offer to $800 million and Mark Zuckerberg was told to "take the money and run."  To his credit, Zuckerberg stuck to his guns. Today, Facebook is said to be worth between $5-10 billion with 250 million  registered members.  Since his milestone decision, Zuckerberg has gained fame and a thinly-veiled movie about Facebook has been made.

Last night I turned down an invitation to have dinner at a good Italian restaurant. I stepped on the weigh scale this morning and with relief found my weight to be what I want it to be. I may have missed out on a gastronomic delight but I felt good about how I look.

These days many who care enough to monitor the ongoing talks  in Congress about the Fiscal Cliff wait with anxiety for the outcomes of the horse trading. Will our country's leaders end up leading us into the muck or will it seize a sterling opportunity to show the world that  democracy does indeed work for the people and that capitalism can shed its $$$$ face in favor of a human one?

Chances to do well arise in our lives like the sun comes up everyday.  Will we seize these opportunities or miss out on them?

Photo by Corbis
 - Ariel Murphy

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Social Solidarity and Trust

A friend and I were talking about how the economies of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland have not only grown dramatically over the years but continue to survive the current European financial crisis.

World Bank statistics show that between  1960 and 1986, except between 1975 and 1982, the US was leading these countries in per capita GDP growth. Since 2006 up to 2010, except for 2009 when the US overtook Sweden, per capita GDP growth in the US has lagged behind these countries.

In a paper entitled Nordic Capitalism,  written for the 2011 World Economic Forum in Davos, economist and professor Klas Ekkland debunked the notion held by many people that the Nordic countries have found a compromise between capitalism and socialism.

He said that while all four countries have high per capita incomes,  a  large public sector with high taxes, and inclusive welfare states, all four have adopted a tradition of "consensus-seeking policy solutions" that strongly emphasized labor and work ethics.

In another paper entitled Social Trust and  Radical Individualism,  written for the same Davos forum, historians and political experts Henrik Berggren  and Lars Trägårdh attributed the economic efficiency of the Nordic countries to  individual autonomy and social solidarity, which they defined as  "the  ability to subordinate individual interest to collective rationality."

Berggren and  Trägårdh said that "from an economic point of view, social trust and adherence to the rule of law translate into a great systemic advantage, which we fundamentally can describe in economic terms as “low transaction costs.”
Are there lessons to be learned from the Nordic variety of captialism?

Berggren and  Trägårdh have the following observations:

1. Nordic capitalism shows that individualism need not lead to fragmentation, distrust and short-term maximization of material interests.

2. Nordic capitalism also demonstrates the systemic advantage of having a positive view of the state, not just as an ally of the weak but as the promoter of ideals of equality and individual autonomy.

3. A strong state and individual autonomy are not a threat to civil society, but are instead its prerequisites. Citizens who join together not mainly to protect themselves from arbitrary abuse by vested state or business interests but rather to increase their potential for self-realization and personal independence are more likely to make positive contributions to society as a whole.

Perhaps we in the US can learn something from the Nordic experience.


- Ariel Murphy


Monday, December 10, 2012


I met an interesting young lady last night. Glittering dots and stars on her face did not detract from her striking good looks.
"I'm half Persian," Nina told me as I admiringly touched the long curly dark locks escaping from the beret she wore.
Dressed more for Hollywood Blvd where both the famous and infamous strut their stuff, Nina was alone when I met her at Uncle Robert's -- where flip flops are more de rigueur than haute couture.
 I turned my back on my companions who were singing to a ukulele player and drinking beer and honey whiskey as I focused intently on the tantalizing creature before me.
I asked her to speak "how are you" in  Farsi, which she did at the same fast speed  and flawless way she spoke English, although of course, she could have been "speaking in tongues" for all I knew.
 Her uncontrolled head movements first attracted me to 20-year old Nina She jerked her head a lot from side to side, even while talking non-stop.
At first I thought that she was on some kind of drug. Who after all can think and talk at that incredible speed. But my suspicions waned each time Nina lucidly answered my questions. And as I probed further, intrigued by this creature, Nina was consistent in what she told me about herself.
I gathered that she came from a respectable family and was biding her time until she can resume her schooling as a college sophomore.
Nina's attention wandered even while she continued talking about almost any topic under the sun. But my efforts to get her to focus on my questions and comments ultimately paid off. I found her to be very extraordinarily bright and profound. I wondered about her IQ level.
Later I learned from a psychologist-friend, who was with me, that there was no doubt, Nina suffers from ADHD (attention-deficit hyper activity disorder).
I wondered who, if any, was looking out for  young lovely Nina and others like her --  alone, psychologically challenged, and seemingly lost in the backwaters of Hawaii. 
 Photo of Nina published with permission
-- Ariel Murphy



Sunday, December 9, 2012


If I sound terse, it's because I'm having a hard time typing.

My tooth aches.

- Ariel Murphy

Friday, December 7, 2012

Our Fiscal Soul

While many of us hold our breaths waiting for the US Congress to  resolve the Fiscal Cliff issue,  I came across "Our Fiscal Soul and the Arithmetic of Protecting the Poor," a commentary by Jim Wallis that was published in the December 6, 2012 issue of  The Huffington Post.
Jim Wallis is a  public theologian, speaker, preacher and international commentator on religion, public life, faith, and politics. He has taught at Harvard's Divinity School and Kennedy School of Government on Faith, Politics, and Society. He has written eight books, one of which is "Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street."
Jim Wallis says:
 The discussion we are having about "the fiscal cliff" is really a debate about our fiscal soul. What kind of nation do we want to be? We do need a path to fiscal sustainability, but will it include all of us -- especially the most vulnerable? It's a foundational moral choice for the country, and one with dramatic domestic and deadly global implications. It is the most important principle for the faith community in this debate.
I had a recent conversation with an influential senator on these fiscal issues. I said to him, "You and I know the dozen or so senators, from both sides of the aisle, who could sit at your conference table here and find a path to fiscal sustainability, right?"
"Yes," he said, "we could likely name the senators who would be able to do that." I added, "And they could protect the principle and the policies that defend the poor and vulnerable, couldn't they?"
"Yes," he said, "We could do that too." "But," I asked, "Wouldn't then all the special interests come into this room to each protect their own expenditures; and the end result would be poor people being compromised, right?"
The senator looked us in the eyes and said, "That is exactly what will likely happen."
It will happen unless we have bipartisan agreement, at least by some on both political sides, to protect the poor and vulnerable in these fiscal decisions -- over the next several weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year, and then for the longer process ahead in 2013.
But for that to be viable, the arithmetic must work. Our principles won't survive unless we "find the arithmetic" to protect the poor and include the vulnerable in these crucial decisions about the nation's fiscal soul. And that moral arithmetic must ultimately be presented to the American people in clear moral values choices.

- Ariel Murphy               

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Ego

Underneath most hurt and disappointment is the ego. Think about it.  

Kick that ego to the curb. Forgive yourself and the other; and let go. Take a very deep breath and release it.  You're home free. You can even begin to dance like an idiot.

And if those don't work, come to Hawaii.

  - Ariel Murphy

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Senseless and Shameful

I am pretty sure that many were jubilant when in 1990 then President George H.W. Bush signed into law the American with Disabilities Act (ADB).  The law is the culmination of long years of hard work by the disability rights movement. After all people with disabilities constitute the largest minority group in the US.

The Disability Funders Network says that more than 20 million families, out of the 60.6 million families in the US have at least one member with a disability.  The statistics are expected to double over the next 20 years as veterans from the middle-east wars return home.

I am also sure that many were no less than  stupefied after the US Senate shot down the ratification of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which ironically was patterned after the ADB -- something that the US can trumpet, be proud of, and take leadership in. 

The Senate fell short of 5 votes of the two-thirds majority needed for ratification. 

A huge direct impact of the UN initiative on those with disabilities is protection. When a war veteran, for example, travels abroad he is assured of the  same rights and privileges as those he enjoys in the US. 

The argument of senators who voted against the treaty had something to do with supposedly "compromising US sovereignty." 

Referring to the UN, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said: “This unelected bureaucratic body would pass recommendations that would be forced upon the United States if we were a signatory."

Disabled veterans of the Iraq war. Source:
Huh?  What?     

 -- Ariel Murphy                    

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Flying Saucers

The geeks of Silicon Valley purportedly came up with an idea that could literally make flying saucers a reality. Not content with an internet that transmits information, they are now thinking of a drone-powered cyber space that will make it possible to deliver objects.

We've seen drones deployed in war-zone areas to observe situations that may be too dangerous or  are located in inaccessible terrain. They have also been used to strike deep inside enemy territory.

Unlike trigger-happy hawks, the geeks have a noble intention. They cited as an example, urgently needed medication and blood samples which, they say,  can be had faster than if they were  to go through surface delivery.

The non-combat use of drones just may be plausible considering that they are said to be less costly to build than airplanes and even roads. According to a case study, it will cost about $900,000 to set up a network of 150 drones and 50 base stations in Lesotho versus $1 million for a  one-lane road of 1.24 miles.

Imagine looking up at the sky and seeing blue skies or even a rainbow obscured by hundreds of drones.

Imagine seeing metal instead of a flock of geese headed south.

Imagine drone-poop dropping on your face.

Source: CNN


-- Ariel Murphy