In Government:

George W. Bush, our most recent ex-President, has an autobiographical book out called Decision Points. Reviews across the board have voiced disapproval of and/or interest in Dubya’s familiar fondndess of expressing himself with encouraging, but non-specific slogans and clichéd catch-phrases: “We can do it!” “Good work.” “Let’s stay cool under pressure.” In the media whiplash of the promotional book tour supporting Decision Points, Bush is being mocked for failing to portray a more self-searching reverence when recounting his past execution of chief commands and responsibilities.

Meanwhile, as he recently told Oprah, number 43 blatantly confesses to having been an alcoholic in his new book; he mentions humiliating personal indiscretions that occurred as a result of his drinking problem in a remorseful, solemn tone. So, clearly, Bush feels that refreshingly human sort of doubt, that frailty we always looked for but never found in his speeches, in his private life, as it is in the personal, non-political stories filling Decision Points that the author takes blame for what he has come to believe was a “sin against God,” a big mistake — heavy drinking. According to the born again Christian now living with his wife Laura in Dallas near his new Presidential Library, President Bush made informed decisions which he details and explains, for history’s sake and also to encourage strong decision-making in the lives of his readers. I haven’t read the book, but I have read sections and found it to be chock full of that overly confident, folksy tone Bush is known for. In prose, our ex-President comes across as a football coach-type, hell-bent on leadership with a “winner takes all” mentality. It’s all very one-dimensional, forceful and motivating in character, save for when discussing his indiscretions with heavy drinking. Here, his doubt feels quite certain and his sense of shame is rich and religious. He is a true believer in his winnings and losses, and doesn’t feel personally guilty about much other than his former drinking problem and his failure to stay cool under pressure post-Katrina. According to a recent New Yorker article, Dubya’s book drew inspiration from the great U.S. Grant’s autobiographical writings. So, even if it’s not an exquisite text geared toward the intelligentsia (big surprise), Bush tried for something that will at least fit into the canon of Presidential non-fiction. President Bill Clinton has praised the book for its accurate and visceral depictions of what it’s like to be the President.

In Science:

When you were little, each night your elders would turn off the lights, say “Good Night,” and leave you to fall asleep shrouded in darkness. Generally, darkness made it seemingly easier to catch Zs, despite its ominous character as perceived by most children in one instance or another. At the same time, there were some kids who convinced their parents that a night light was in order. Assuaged, those timid souls slept in a dimly lit room at night, usually from fear of the dark. Of course, there are parents who introduce the idea of a night light by themselves, typically as a way to protect their children from panic about the boogie man.

As a child, I would constantly debate with myself, even test the opposing theories while sleeping in either darkness or a night light’s ambiance, in an attempt to concretely determine which level of light best facilitated a good night’s sleep. When staying over at a buddie’s house, upon discovering a pre-installed night light, I would wonder to myself if it was appropriate to request of a friend that the night light be turned off. I had come to believe that for optimal sleep, darkness was indeed the ultimate setting. This stance of mine, reached through many trials of field study slumber parties, provided for countless arguments which in the end I always surrendered to by virtue of the “my house, my rules” credo enforced upon me. Nevertheless, I grew up unsure that the purist way of sleeping (without light) actually proved superior as far as restfulness gained, even if night-lighters benefited from feeling marginally less afraid of the dark. Well, it turns out that living without fear is the winning method, neurologically speaking.

A study recently performed on hamsters at Ohio State University proves that total darkness during sleep, compared to dim illumination equivalent to that of a night light or television, is in fact the healthier choice. Biologically, sleeping in darkness nourishes the hippocampus, the brain’s long-term memory and spatial navigation center. By triggering the body’s sleep-wake chemical cycle with total darkness, the brain’s centrally located pineal gland generates adequate amounts of melatonin, thereby producing healthy new neurons in the hippocampus by virtue of activating its melatonin receptor sites. Melatonin, the neuronal chemical that causes drowsiness and lowers body temperature, has as of the past ten or fifteen years become a standard and inexpensive over-the-counter item. So, science would dictate that either sleeping in the dark or taking a melatonin supplement is ideal for hippocampus health.

In adulthood, society means for us to grow comfortable with the uncertainty of darkness, particularly when science sings its praises but I believe that while darkness works for me, one should sleep in whatever amount of light feels most comfortable on a given night. If I’m having a sleepover, someone compromises, of course. Anyway, in light of these findings, perhaps consider melatonin if you’re a night-lighter. Hippocampus health curbs the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. Or, you could always just turn off the lights when you sleep and refuse to be afraid of the dark.

In Media:

On Monday, November 22, 2010, Playboy Magazine re-published an old interview from February 1, 1985 by David Sheff. The interview’s subject is a man who is now CEO of Apple Computer, Inc. and the single largest shareholder of The Walt Disney Company. Steve Jobs reveals his main dialectical theory to Sheff in the engrossing interview focusing on the importance of innovation. The theory of “Apple vs. IBM,” which Jobs fixates upon throughout, is something we now know was prophetic of many things to come in the computer industry.

Even back in 1985, Apple (with its new product at the time, the Macintosh) had re-invented itself without any consternation or second thoughts about closing the doors on its older hardware and software offerings, Apple I and II. In 1985, Jobs argued that in the information age, his grass roots company of innovators and risk-takers poses a serious threat to the limiting factors and future sales of stroke-key based, inaccessible IBM-compatible computers. While Jobs discusses his shortcomings with the Apple II candidly, he also praises the inventiveness that comes along with trying new things, like the Mac. He seems focused on creating the most intuitive and creative alternatives to stroke-key, IBM-compatible computers without much worry about making mistakes along the way. His creative, open-box way of thinking, which has surely proven successful, is defined by its lack of concern with the customers at large and his defiance of an old, tired method. Jobs accesses his innovative concepts not by extensive reliance on previous technology or surveying a collective unit from his customer base, but by virtue of identifying himself as the ultimate customer. He designs for his own convenience, and his company has flourished in these times as the leading manufacturer of personal computers in the world because of such steadfast single-mindedness. It just goes to show: the more undiluted a vision, the more innovation becomes a reality. Stand up for your ideas, and at the same time, know that some of them won’t work.

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