2 0 0 8  T o a d  R e p o r t

July 2009


Here we are, six months into 2009, and the world is becoming more interesting by the minute.  So it seemed like a good time to reflect on the past year.  This year's topics are:

My Enabler: Amazon.com

California Politics

The Bigger Picture

Home Improvement

It Runs in the Family

Reconnection & German Translation

Photography, Music & Art

Todd’s List

My Enabler:  Amazon.com

My own existence has been brimming with interesting twists and turns, most notably on the writing front.  For the last few years, a single question has woven itself through all of my doings:  Here we all are, brilliant flashes of love and light blessed with an amazing and expansive consciousness; so what should we do with that consciousness?  How can we best employ our allotment of sentience, passion and insight?  I think my own journey to answering this question is what prods me forward in my research, meditation and writing.  For a snapshot of the results from those efforts so far, you can search “T.Collins Logan” on Amazon.com, which should lead you to three books and a CD.  There are two books on mysticism (The Vital Mystic and Essential Mysticism), a CD to help with meditation training (Deep Relaxation: One), and there is my latest book, True Love.

True Love is the compelling story of a flea’s persistent efforts to woo a St. Bernard.  The flea’s life is short, brutal, and full of existential angst, and the St. Bernard does not even notice the passionate devotion of the flea until it is too late to reciprocate.  So this is a tragedy, to be sure, but a tragedy full of the adventure and excitement that only such an inter-species relationship can provide.  Is this story a metaphor for humanity’s relationship with the Divine or the soul’s longing for mystical union?  Or is it just a fanciful contrivance of entertaining fiction?  It is more the latter, because the whole flea and dog thing is something I made up for this year’s Toad Report.  Actually, the full title is True Love:  Integral Lifework Theory & Practice, and it is instead a meaty overview of the holistic counseling I’ve been practicing since shortly after my arrival in San Diego.  In about 480 pages, I cover a lot of ground: the underlying theory that inspired this model, the details of the model itself (mainly, that there are twelve dimensions of nourishment we should regularly attend to), and lots of practical examples and exercises.  I even throw some poems in to spice things up.  Although many of the ideas True Love contains aren’t  revolutionary in themselves, I believe the way they come together into one model is pretty cool.  I’m hopeful that ongoing evolutions in healthcare and self-care will embrace the principles of Integral Lifework as at least a part of a broader, more holistic foundation.

My own contribution to the propagation of the Integral Lifework meme will be classes, seminars and appearances on the David Letterman show.  No, but seriously I do expect classes and seminars will generate more interest in the book, and I am already working on ideas for my next couple of publications.  I know from feedback I’ve already receive on True Love that I will need a version that is more accessible for the general public.  We shall see.  I suppose I wouldn’t mind if Bill Moyers invited me for an interview to get these concepts out to a wider audience.  In the meantime, feel free to buy a copy of True Love off of Amazon.com to further my chosen mission in life – as well as to generously inflate my sense of self-importance.


(Click on image for a link to the Amazon.com description page)


California Politics

As I’m sure you are aware, California has become fiscally insolvent.  With one of the largest economies on the globe, this is difficult to fathom, even taking the collapse of global markets into account.  On the surface, the explanation seems simple:  it’s just politics.  The same polarization that has paralyzed Washington DC has increasingly infected local governments as well, so that hardly anything constructive can be accomplished by politicians at any level of government.  But I think that, just as with the global economic downturn, there are deeper issues here as well.  I suspect that at the root of them is a pervasive sense of entitlement, self-importance and an almost obsessive self-centeredness.  Here are some gross generalizations of how this plays out across California’s socioeconomic spectrum:

A pattern becomes obvious:  nearly everyone in California is acting like an egocentric three-year-old.  A recent experience I had at a local park sort of sums up this sentiment for me.  I was enjoying a lovely, sunny morning, sauntering on a dirt trail through chaparral with a beatific smile on my face, when abruptly I felt a sharp pain in my heel.  I spun around to find a small terrier nipping at my jeans.  “No!” I said firmly, and the dog backed off, barking maniacally. 

I looked around for the dog’s human companion to find a middle-aged, well-dressed woman rushing to the scene, yelling frantically at her dog to calm him down.  It wasn’t working (for obvious reasons).  I offered frankly over the din:  “If you’re dog is going to behave like that, you should probably keep it on a leash.”  Of course, there are signs all over the park indicating that dogs should be kept on leashes at all times. 

The woman responded angrily.  “My dog never does this.  He’s a good dog.  You must have bad, negative energy.”  

I was a bit surprised, being a dog-lover and generally in good standing with most canines, so I searched the woman’s face for some hint that she was joking.  She wasn’t.  “So it’s my fault,”  I said blandly.

The woman strode purposefully past me as her dog bolted quickly up the trail and out of sight.  After calling frantically after him, she yelled back over her shoulder, “Because you have negative energy bad things will happen to you!” 

Admittedly without much thought, I responded, “Please remember to clean up after your dog.  I imagine he’s just as full of shit as you are.”  Needless to say, my heal really began to sting where her dog had bitten me.  I’m sure it was because of that negative remark.

Despite my lack of skillfulness in illuminating the darkness of this interaction at the time, the experience does shed light on the epidemic of self-righteous megalomania in California.  It doesn’t matter that dog poop spreads disease, or that local wildlife are put at risk by excited pets, or that a human vessel of negative energy may be punctured by the teeth of a neurotic dog.  All that matters is that “my” dog gets to do what “I” think is right in this space, place and moment that I claim as “mine.”  There is no accountability, no social contract that binds us to a common purpose, no compassion or cooperation that infuses such interactions with shared humanity.  There is only the imperative of “I/me/mine;” that is, I’ll do whatever I can get away with as long as there are no immediate negative consequences to me personally.  This seems a distinctly unevolved state of being, and it is pervasive.

The solution is, I believe, as obvious as the problem.  We need to start caring again.  About ourselves, about each other, about the places we live and work and the resources we utilize.  Our skillful and compassionate affection for all facets of life must be reawakened.  In essence, that is what my new book, True Love, is all about.  In fact, there is a whole chapter on how to tell people they are full of shit in a sensitive, caring and compassionate way.


The Bigger Picture

What interesting times we live in!  Pakistan is trying to suppress a Taliban revolution within its borders, while much of Afghanistan has returned to Taliban control.  The U.S. is drawing down troops in Iraq, allowing that social experiment to come to a head.  China is producing toxic toys and toxic milk with its particularly toxic form of capitalism, while at the same time incurring potentially toxic debt by lending hundreds of billions to a floundering U.S.A.  Iran’s hard-line Islamic revolution is experiencing a division that hints at another, more moderate revolution in the making.  North Korea is transitioning its dictatorship into the hands of an unproven youngest son, all the while threatening to start wars with anyone who insinuates it is as weak a country as it actually is.  Russia is manipulating oil supplies to bring Europe to heal and resist the encroachment of NATO into former Soviet Block countries.  And so on.

Meanwhile, back on the farm…the domestic scene isn’t much quieter.  Major industries collapsing, a banking system in disarray, health care costs rocketing out-of-control, record highs in unemployment and home foreclosures, etc.  No matter how many upticks surface among economic indicators, decades of overproduction, conspicuous consumption, aggressive profit taking, reckless speculation and generally living beyond our means have finally caught up with America.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to become President of the United States under such tumultuous circumstances.  How could any politician make good on their campaign promises with all of these variables in play?

Well, let's take a look at the data from  http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/:

The Obameter Scorecard

According to these stats, President Obama appears to be doing a pretty good job.  If this trend continues, Barack will have fulfilled the vast majority of his campaign promises by the end of his first term.  But is this a reasonable expectation?  Probably not.  After all, what if more variables are added to the mix between now and then?  It seems inevitable that…I don’t know...Venezuela will invade Columbia, aliens will land in Nevada to retrieve the technology hidden in Area 51, some sort of plague will wipe out genetically homogenous grain crops all around the globe, and the legalization of gay marriage will inspire Red States to secede from the Union.  Then there is always global climate change and that Manhattan-sized asteroid speeding toward Earth.  And, certainly, as Congressional Republicans work hard to regain seats in 2010, they have no interest in helping Obama or any other Democrats succeed in passing progressive reforms.

In any case, with our planet in such disarray it seems that change is inevitable, whether we elect candidates for change or not.  Maybe people have known this instinctively for a while, and as a result gravitate towards their preferred ideological outcomes ever more strongly with each passing year.  Perhaps a growing awareness of critical mass behind the forces of societal evolution and global reorganization is what drives us into increasingly polarized positions.  On some level, all of us can feel the tide rising.  As a result, those who are excited by the challenge rally to embrace it, while those who are terrified cling to outmoded ways of being for an illusion of safety.  Indeed, we live in interesting times.  The questions looming before us seem to be:  How much more interesting will these times get?  Will we adapt as a species?  Will we thrive in the end, or will we suffer?  It seems that every choice we make each and every day, as individuals and as a collective, will determine how these questions are to be answered.


Home Improvement

Improving other people’s homes is very satisfying.  Whether I’m fixing a plumbing leak, building a staircase, supervising a team of contractors on an extensive remodel, or engineering creative solutions to homeowner challenges, I really enjoy the outcome of my efforts as well as the process itself.  It’s fun to play with expensive power tools.  It’s fun to use my muscles and my brain at the same time.  It’s fun to take something that wasn’t functioning well and make it work smoothly.  It’s fun to see a grin of excitement when a thorn in someone’s domestic bliss has been removed.  So I have no complaints about this line of work, and often end my workday with a happily exhausted smile.

However, the more I labor to improve other people’s homes, the more I long to have my own to fiddle with.  I have a vision that I project before me of some rural land, crowded with trees, upon which a small house awaits my affectionate ministrations.  Nothing ostentatious, just a hearth to call my own – some rotting wood there, a rusted pipe here, a door that doesn’t quite keep out the breeze, the perfect space for an exterior deck…an endless list of things to repair or expand by my own hand.  The only luxuries that are part of this vision are a living room large enough for a Steinway grand piano, a picture window with a view of distant mountains, and enough quiet solitude that the domestic strife of my neighbors won’t intrude.  I have been holding this vision in my heart for some twenty-odd years.  Now, with real estate prices dipping for the first time in decades and interest rates low, it is tempting to consider this moment as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  But I have another vision that competes with the first, and that one seems equally close to fruition.

My other vision is living debt-free, with very low overhead and with as little impact as possible on the natural environment.  Right now my level of debt and subsistence overhead are very low, allowing me time to pursue my research, writing and many other interests without undue financial strain.  I can live simply and have energy and space in my world for the things I feel are most important – relationships, learning, creating, exploring and so much more that I could not experience or appreciate if I saddled myself with a mortgage.  Someday, if I keep holding these two visions before me, perhaps they will reconcile themselves and find a synthesis.  I look forward to that day, but I think it unwise to give up the hard-won freedoms I have now for the promise of a more pastoral lifestyle. 


(some stairs I rebuilt)


It Runs in the Family

My father has been regaling me with tales of his gaming adventures for years.  He’s exhaustively played through just about everything written for the PC, including online games like World of Warcraft, and for his sixty-eighth birthday he bought himself an XBox 360.  I myself learned years ago, when I first played Civilization on an old Mac, that I could easily become addicted to video games, and assiduously avoided them for years afterward.  As my father would say, game designers are expert at providing just enough reinforcement to keep us playing…until we're emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted.  So it was with some trepidation that I entered this world of temptation once more in 2008.

An acquaintance of mine, sure that I would relish the opportunity to escape into a milieu of medieval fantasy, gave me his copy of the PC game Oblivion.  I was very nervous at first, limiting myself to just an hour or so of play each day.  But I quickly rationalized that there would be no harm in playing longer and more often, and began logging some serious gaming hours.  It wasn’t until I began experiencing something like tendonitis in my wrists, a strange, pulsing pain in my mouse-finger, and general irritability whenever my game-play was interrupted that I recognized the signs of recurring addiction.  So I stopped playing for a while and focused on other things.  Instead, I updated the game with patches and add-ons, learned commands for the game's console interface, researched some quests that I hadn’t been able to complete, and otherwise liberated myself entirely from the obsessive clutches of Oblivion.  Ahem.

Now I only return to this imaginary world once or twice a week for perhaps an hour or two.  I think I have a good handle on my consumption, confident that I could in fact stop at any time.  Really, any time at all.  I mean…not today or tomorrow, I’d need to sort of work up to it.  But next week?  Sure.  I just need to look into a twelve-step program for Oblivion recovery first.  And before I do that, there’s this one quest in the game I’d like to complete…. 

But seriously, one of the things that makes Oblivion so compelling for me is the richness of the landscape and the freedom with which players are aloud to explore it.  Here is a screenshot that captures some of the lovely art:



Like any responsible addict, I would encourage you to give Oblivion a try as well.  I can’t wait for the on-line virtual reality version to become available (there are no plans for this that I know of, but a boy can dream…).  And of course the Shivering Isles game expansion just arrived in the mail.  I have no idea how that happened.  


Reconnection & German Translation

After years of half-hearted attempts to reconnect with some of my cohorts at Frankfurt American High School, I finally invested some real time and effort.  This was possible through websites like www.fahs.org and others.  It was great to catch up with folks and reflect on life in Frankfurt those many moons ago.  I had known that there were some people living in San Diego who had attended FAHS, but I didn’t realize just how many Frankfurt connections there are in this city.  There is even someone here who was part of the drama troupe that toured Europe performing Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (I played Reverend Hale), and we recently got together for coffee.  After 25+ years, it’s amazing how easy it is to find common ground again.  I also caught up with a couple of my instructors, and they have been just as witty, insightful and entertaining as I remembered them.  It’s been great to touch base with everyone, although, in a chagrining irony, I initiated these efforts just a month or so after a 25th reunion in Las Vegas of my graduating class had come and gone.  C'est la vie.

If you have interest, here is the link to a short retrospective with some photos of FAHS and our theatre productions:


One other interesting consequence of all this was my introduction to a local Schlaraffia chapter via my FAHS humanities teacher.  This is kind of like a bohemian fraternity, where guys get together to speak German, discuss art and culture, and generally have a good time.  It was fun to practice my German after decades of languishment, and at first I was a bit shy and hesitant.  However, the five pillars of the Schlaraffia are humor, culture, art, friendship…and drinking.  So after a few requisite glasses of cognac, I was delighted to discover my German-speaking faculties returning with confidence.  Although I haven’t made formally joining my local Schlaraffe a high priority, it was still fun and inspiring to see this kind of fraternity has endured for over 150 years.

As a side note to German speaking, I actually did some translating in 2008.  An acquaintance from the UU church I used to frequent asked if I could translate some correspondence to and from her relative, Albert Mosse.  I didn’t know at the time that he is somewhat of a historical figure, nor did I know that most of his letters would be written in archaic legalese from the late 1800s.  In fact, much of the substance of those letters pertains to his legal services to the Japanese government, which further abstracts his prose.  However, once I had accepted the challenge, I dove in with vigor.  Thankfully, he and many of those with whom he corresponded offered a dry but enduring sense of humor, as well as some personal advice and anecdotes, which relieved the tedium of my task.  The real challenge, of course, was capturing each writer’s personality and the phrasing of period language without forsaking the underlying meaning.  I have a new respect for people who can translate historical literature well.

“The honor, the validity of a person in society is substantially limited by their achievements in a profession.” – Albert Mosse


Photography, Music & Art

I am of course still shooting away with my Nikon D80, keeping my creative photographic juices flowing.  I had a couple of shows this past year and even sold a print or two.  If you haven’t visited my www.toadlandproductions.com site in a while, there are some fun new photos there.  Each year Mollie and I hit as many new art exhibits as we can.  There are a bunch of great museums in Balboa Park, of course, but we also managed to make it up to the galleries in Laguna Beach and even the Getty museum in L.A.  I’m always eager to view inspiring works of art or discover an art form or artist I haven’t seen before.  I’d also like to return to Europe – and Italy in particular – to be inspired by past masters as well.  I just need to work out how a gluten-intolerant traveler makes do in the land of pasta.


(interior of Getty) 

The diversity of styles and media now available in SoCal is astounding.  In terms of painting, there is a renaissance of Chinese art that uses masterful traditional techniques in new, unconstrained compositions.  There is an explosion of well-trained artists from Russia and Eastern Europe who convey the tumultuous transformations of their homeland with humor, whimsy and fairytale qualities of otherworldliness.  There are local artists taking risks with huge, loud, abstract multimedia and quiet, tiny oil-on-wood representational work.  And the digital world is of course taking photography in a whole new direction as well. The range of aesthetics is stunning, and I never tire of it.

Yet what also astounds me is the inexplicable commercial success of a handful of derivative imitators using run-of-the-mill commercial techniques.  You know, like a digital giclée of a humdrum pastel still life of flowers…that sort of thing.  By my tastes and valuation, what is compelling and interesting art and what sells well seldom intersect.  In fact, whenever I become fascinated with a piece of art, Mollie is quick to remind me that I am likely dooming it to zero commercial appeal.  Sadly, I seem to have “cursed” some of her own best work with my praise in this way, then shaken my head in disbelief at the direction popular demand for one of her less interesting paintings would pull her if she let it.

As for music, I was recently introduced to the Steinway grand of some friends who live nearby.  After just ten minutes of plunking into the luscious harmonics of that noble instrument, some creative embers deep within were heated to a comforting glow.  Around the same time, an acquaintance of mine invited me to a bluesy, folksy music fundraising gig, and those inner embers were fanned brighter still.  Then I watched the fanciful film Copying Beethoven on DVD, and my embers began to crackle and sputter.  It seems my circumstances are conspiring to reawaken my musical muse.  I find myself composing melodies in the car, hearing harmonies in my head, and imagining myself at a keyboard working it all out.  So…we shall see.


Todd’s List

Some things I really enjoyed in 2008 and the first half of 2009:


In parting, I’d like to leave you with an advertisement Mollie found in a local newspaper.  It pretty much sums up how society is evolving here in Southern California:




Wishing you all the best in the coming year....

 Till next,

- Todd