As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania I became interested in psychology when I studied with Philip Rieff (“The Triumph of the Therapeutic,” “Freud: Mind of the Moralist”) and philosophy when I studied with Alexander Nehamas (“Nietzsche: Life As Literature”). After graduating UPenn in 1988 I took a Master of Arts degree in philosophy from the University of Connecticut, during which I concentrated on aesthetics, semiotics and the philosophy of mind.
I then worked for two years in New York City in Paul Simon’s office, at Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, and producing Russell Donnellon’s “Ursa Minor” CD. In 1991 I moved to Paris to work with Luc Besson on the screenplays for “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element,” Chantal Akerman on the screenplay for “A Couch in New York,” and with several other French writer/directors, as well as with singer Mylène Farmer on her hit song “My Soul is Slashed.”
While exploring Thailand in early 1994, I became fascinated by Buddhism, yoga, and meditation, which led me first to study parapsychology at Duke University and eventually take a second Master of Arts degree in religious studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara. At UCSB I studied the histories of mindfulness and yoga with Alan Wallace, David Gordon White, Barbara Holdrege and the late Ninian Smart.
In March of 2007 I completed my formal academic education with a Master of Arts degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University focusing on attachment theory, cognitive behavioral therapy, and the works of Jacques Lacan, Alice Miller, Carl Jung, D.W. Winnicott, Melanie Klein and many other theorists.
Besides the numerous occasions I have sat with His Holiness The Dalai Lama, I have been privileged to study Buddhism at Spirit Rock with Jack Kornfield, Rick Hanson, Fred Luskin, James Baraz, Phillip Moffitt, David Richo and Sharon Salzberg.
Currently, much of my free time is spent reading the seminars of Jacques Lacan and commentaries on those seminars. Otherwise, my favorite activities in Los Angeles include watching Gustavo Dudamel conduct the LA Philharmonic from the orchestra view (behind the stage) seats, practicing yoga with Jerome Mercier at Power Yoga East, riding my bike along the beach, going to jazz shows and visiting museums. If you are interested in the type of art I appreciate please visit The Opposite Of War is Art Instagram page to see photos I have taken of artworks.
Thanks to the Senior Scholar program I frequently attend classes at UCLA in the psychology, political science, philosophy, French, and comparative literature departments.
The Sunday New York Times has been my faithful portal into Western civilization (or lack thereof) during the past thirty-five years. On weekdays I consult the Guardian, Liberation, NPR and Politico. If you do the math, it is easy to reckon that I am, in fact, a leftie. When pressed I will assert that antiquated systems such as the electoral college and voting via chads as well as privately financed electoral campaigns must be retired; we will know that we have reached the next stage of the project currently referred to as “the United States of America” when we vote via our telephones and marauding gangs known as “democrats” and “republicans” are firmly ensconced in the dustbin of history.
My favorite podcasts are Adele Van Reeth’s “Les Chemins de la Philosophie,” Mike Gilliland and Euvie Ivanova’s “Future Thinkers,” “The Partially Examined Life” and most recently Eric Weinstein’s “The Portal.” On Audible I have recently listened to “Finite and Infinite Games,” by James Carse, “The Art of Thinking Clearly,” by Rolf Dobelli, “The Singularity of Being: Lacan and the Immortal Within” by Mari Ruti, “Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction” by A.C. Grayling, “Foucault: A Very Short Introduction” by Gary Gutting, “The Book of Not Knowing” by Peter Ralston, “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by Shoshana Zuboff, “Psychotherapy East and West” by Alan Watts,” “Like A Thief in Broad Daylight” by Slavoj Zizek, and “Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions” by scholar and poet Russell Brand.
Musically, although my iTunes library has over 200 gigabytes of music, Esperanza Spalding has been recently resounding most often throughout my home. During breaks I spin my old iPod to playlists of either Thelonious Monk, Van Morrison, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Diana Krall, Charlie Christian, Yes (for the car mostly), Grant Green, Kamasi Washington, Kate Bush, Lloyd Cole (vastly underrated), Led Zeppelin, Simple Minds (a guilty pleasure), Steely Dan and myriad 80’s bands such as The Lover Speaks, The Smiths, The Cure, New Order and more “one-hit wonders” than I care to admit (The Lover Speaks is actually a 3 hit wonder, as I discussed at length many years ago with their producer, Jimmy Iovine). When I jog I usually pound testosterone directly into my ears via The Gaslight Anthem, Thin Lizzy (Phil Lynott was the greatest crooner), UFO (with Michael Schenker), Night Ranger, Iron Maiden, My Chemical Romance, Rush and Led Zeppelin. My favorite songwriters are Richard Thompson, Patti Smith, Peter Gabriel, Ani DiFranco, Daniel Lanois, Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, The Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Sting, Bob Dylan, Hugh Christopher Brown and there are a handful of songs by Bruce Springsteen from his first two albums that are magical and iconic. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the surreal flavors that Adrian Belew contributed to the music of Frank Zappa, The Talking Heads, and, of course, King Crimson never fail to put a smile on my face.
Whenever anyone inquires as to my religion, I respond that I am a practicing Musician. I have played guitar for 42 years and there are always guitars in my office in case my clients also play. Whenever I take guitar lessons the first thing I tell the teacher is that I am trapped in minor pentatonic hell.
I am a feminist, believe that men and women should be paid equally for the same jobs, and have written about the #Metoo movement and how to end sexual harassment in the workplace.
I have never wittingly been within close proximity to 1. a surfboard 2. a video game or 3. heroin.
My cat’s name is Helen.
I happen to be one of those haughty jerks in Los Angeles who vociferously admits to not owning a television during the last thirty years… yet has somehow managed to binge-watch “Fleabag,” “Westworld,” “Billions,” “Orphan Black,” “Black Mirror,” “Succession,” “Veep,” “The Thick Of It,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Kominsky Method,” “Call My Agent,” “The Honorable Woman” and “This Is Us” (whenever I need a good cry).
My favorite films include (in no particular order): “Hell or High Water,” “I, Tonya,” “Birdman,” “Very Bad Things,” “Naked” by Mike Leigh, “Exotica” by Atom Egoyan, “Man Bites Dog,” “A Simple Plan,” “The Contender,” “Being There,” “In The Loop,” “My Name is Joe,” “Withnail and I,” “Carnal Knowledge,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf,” “The King of Comedy,” “The Mother and the Whore,” “Day for Night,” “Pierrot le fou,” “The Lords of Discipline,” “Dead Man,” and “Three Days of the Condor.”
Studying Lacan reintroduced me to Freud’s “Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious” and in my workshops I often use jokes to display the foibles of human consciousness. (I sometimes refer to what I do at Esalen and Kripalu as “Stand-up Buddhism.”) Netflix has so many great stand-up comedians but the ones that I have watched more than once include Dave Chappelle, Jen Kirkman, Bill Burr, Iliza Schlesinger, Nikki Glaser, Mike Birbiglia, Ryan Hamilton, Neal Brennan and Demetri Martin. I greatly admire Marc Maron’s “Thinky Pain” and the early Jim Jefferies material circa 2004. Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” was the smartest and most brutally riveting spectacle I witnessed last year.
I remain unpersuaded that the positives outweigh the negatives of “social media” (which seems to have devolved into a huge marketplace for Life Coaches to fill their sales funnels with our email addresses in the hope of selling us their online courses about 1. how to create sales funnels 2. how to become Life Coaches and 3. how to sell online courses – on sale today only for $497! – about how you too can become rich as a Life Coach who sells online courses). Thus, I have never tweeted or snapped and I reluctantly post on Instagram and Facebook.