Lost in transcription, or my apparent descent into madness.


So I wanted a transcript of my recent TEDx Talk (which features my drawing above, among others), because I never actually wrote the thing down. I used YouTube’s handy transcription feature, and here’s what it came up with — a ranting, profane wordscape that unhappily marries Dadaesque surrealism with Vogon epic poetry. While not one sentence is accurate, some if it may make more sense than my original spiel.

I’ve written before about losing things in translation, but this takes the cake. I’ve also written about taking cake.

Read at your own risk:

so I have keep in touch, me are one is know this is up

okay mindfulness
incredibly unquiet mind
if you’re familiar with the concept of the monkey mind you know
where you of pooling about your head as if from tree to tree
I at the Planet of the Apes all of it
a simian just talking and making mischief
my head constantly, some on horses not
rules on I love
I finds itself very often at odds with this idea of being here now
when we try to help people move forward in pop songs without making judgments
I my fucking confession is that I don’t know many words but
I’m a visual thinkers of it pictures so I made some
some drawings share with you up hopefully on
total you can see them from the back not this is a good time to take
your of us or switch up
okay on his a scott Fitzgerald
who who once called that the sign up his first win intelligence
is the ability to hold two opposing ideas
in their head and maintain the ability to function
and then I think any weapons to now I
I this is very much the core of mediation so in the end here
a hole into in different rooms at the same time
I’m so so when I struggle with mindfulness mediation
I think the vast Fitzgerald playing with hair loss paradise
we got we got 12 more minutes both cold
ah so
I love mediation and again the zulu nation is is when you find yourself
in the middle of a dispute 10 people solve problems are not making decisions
are not made in job to a judgment in not making assumptions
using its way from you mean mindful
is to think about us it’s not about you you
she that me when we
absolve ourselves from wessel up having to be the one who comes up with the
answers who comes up with the decisions
are as a meaningful opinion to insert into other people’s lives
a tremendous really up comes upon us
right so when you find yourself helping people was all hot a
their disputes the more we taking off at pressure
oversell happened to be the problem solver up well
I immediately upon flip like this between sadat
double he said that what he he won’t
everything he could about the participles he learnt their psychology
family history also a little bit other languages
he even learned when they slept so while one was leaving he could be negotiating
with the other one
I’m know jimmy carter and nor do I have a first-rate intelligence best of its
general spoke up
so I have a participant of I part but I turn to you
mediation doesn’t recognize this time
its poem but yeah with a few you to fall
dated reference he was a TV detective in the nineteen seventies
on who always stop the criminal by really playing down
he wouldn’t you know he was a a detective in sunny Los Angeles and
for some reason I was more on Pope
and always ask cool beans seemingly innocuous questions that criminals
thought they were off the hook
and very and he would say something like all just
one more thing and many would totally male
I arm so he played dumb in order to be manipulated to catch the crooks but I
would posit you that
when you resolve this disputes here to beat up
right we don’t know what we think we know about partisan
haha I very briefly love the first cases I ever saw
location I’ll were two women were identified as
Houston’s are living in poverty and low-income
objects in the cell past and
London was moving out and they were having an argument over
how to divide up the furniture now the mediator there well
could have said well I’ve seen this case thousand times before
let’s negotiate you get the so who gets the chair in the autumn and so on and so
or rather he asked very open-ended questions about
Huang what’s your relationship turned out that they were a same-sex couple
living in a time and a place where very very difficult with that
and underneath it all the dispute had nothing to do
whatsoever with perjury it was all about the relationship so rather than making
assumptions about who these folks were he
he often played love and really work he left
relationship I’ll okay
gonna tell you quite store in the cold war this is on the keepers Jul
I soviet premier during the height of the Cold War
when JFK was was president here so
he’d call K on on the special hotline at one Reichman came into the white house
any said mister president a I want peace
i’d I made an account for card
I’m not good with that fat so so
as protocol dictated this went through a very sophisticated translation system in
which Russiana and mericans love their work together to make sure that they got
the exact meaning right

useful as it was in preventing thermonuclear waris equally useful in our interpersonal relationships and it something I’m just sayin

we call reflection so lot when we hear someone say something
angrily are provocatively are the best thing to do is not to walk but to simply
when you actually understand what you said really upset because the apartments
a mess many people in conflict not only one solution a resolution they want tobe heard
want the best things you can do his work like Paul people saw
I’m a fan of the Velvet Underground
have a song called I’ll be your mirror
a of corruption
you to call
on although I posted a strong one
on Twitter and someone told me, look like Hitler
I he just have a heart muscle so
I want to go on the record and say there’s nothing about hitler that you want
there’s a neurological idea that suggesta
we don’t only smile because we’re happy

case are just fine look up bovine

curiosity he didn’t I am there’s a chance that you know what I’ve played

down but you know we are gonna be done
good way I will open you up to a lot more creative ideas with your clients
you know who this is
its Miles Davis. Hand over the phone.
Kilometers Davis!
So Miles Davis is reported to have said that
its not just about the notes and music it’s about the space in between windows
One of the hardest things that we grapple with him
conflict resolution is what we do with others absolute silence
was re temptation jumpin’ do something or
or say something
I felt my family in which half my family
for them normal conversation is interrupting
each other from Eastern Europe other half my family or Pennsylvania Dutch
which means that there’s like 30 seconds aged between sentences that’s like a
many of us struggle with this this idea of silence
what I suggest is less Collins in conflict resolution
your friends so if you’re working with partners who won
conflicts anyway impasse are want the best ways to stay in the moment to
simply do nothing
someone will fill the space and me of me
retired people reflecting
I’ll here at the Warren
just a from the movie Back to the Future
in which it serves as a time machines up
healed by the flux capacitor I so
you now in mediation is that we he
when people aren’t haha slow sip their lives when their own
often not their best they’re highly emotional arousal
angry they’re hers I hold myself when I have to call the cable company after
Mike, he goes out in the middle of the walking dead
and I call the cable company and put on hold.
up to be you now means be someone else at some other time
when we need disputes one the most effective forms that we can do
is ask people tell me more about what things were like
be for this action was to happen what it used to be like
song whose people time to have a little bit beyond where they are in that
particular moment to see if me
there was a time and place for the able to work things out
walking way but I’m
I am
now most other things have been talking about
on things that we do has mediators who are
find ourselves in the middle resolve disputes listen to both sides
on however much of what I said can also be used for
if you’re not the one who is mediating the conflict there is the
idea that job if you have two people were dancing
many people try to keep my head down to hasn’t quite worked with me
but I still like a metaphor so dance on the dance
up I fear
Michael Jackson was able to get all these reanimated corpses to dance
useful enough real video on
and those guys have no sense of rhythm and this is possible
if I had a dancing skills I would moonwalk office,
all those partners this lovely child carpet.



TEDx talkin’

Folks, here’s my (illustrated!) TEDx Talk  on Mindfulness in the Midst of Conflict at Columbia Teachers College.  I was lucky enough to be among a whole slew of insightful presenters who spieled about mindfulness in their various careers, side hustles, communities, and personal lives.

For the uninitiated, TEDx Talks are independently-managed events sanctioned by TED (Technology, Education and Design), a series of global conferences in which amazing people give short presentations on pretty much everything you can imagine.

whatever you do, don’t buy a discount baboon.



Many years ago I briefly worked as a case manager for a legal referral service in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My job was to listen to people’s legal troubles and align them with an affordable attorney.

One day, I got a call from a client — let’s call him Phil —  who had been trying, with no luck, to find an attorney with experience with “monkey cases.”  And he wasn’t talking about Clarence Darrow and the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Here’s more or less how the conversation went:

Me:  You want a lawyer with monkey experience?

Phil: Yes.

Me: Um. Let’s start from the beginning.

Phil: It’s about my pet baboon.

Me. Baboon.

Phil: Yes, baboon. His name is Ricky.

Me: Got it, Ricky’s a baboon.

Phil:  Uh-huh.

Me: Say, where do you buy a baboon in Allentown?

Phil: I bought him in Texas. At a monkey show. He was on sale, and baboons are pretty cheap anyway, because they’re hard to train.

Me. Go on.

Phil: So Ricky’s a good monkey. The neighborhood kids love him — he does backflips in my front yard. He’s pretty well-behaved as long as you don’t touch his stuff.

Me: Got it. Don’t touch the baboon’s stuff.

Phil: So me and my buddies were drinking beer watching the game. Ricky had a beer or two —

Me: The baboon was drinking?

Phil: Yeah but just a beer or two, anyway, my friend Hubcap decided to take Ricky’s toy basketball, and I said Hubcap — you know he hates it when you touch his stuff, so back off.  But Hubcap was pretty drunk and wanted to play with Ricky so he tried to grab the ball and all hell broke loose.

Me: What happened?

Phil: Ricky went berserk and jumped on Hubcap and bit him in the ass — really sunk his fangs right in there and wouldn’t let go. Have you ever seen a baboon’s fangs?

Me: Um, pictures —

Phil: They’re huge and sharp and you don’t want them chomping into you, and I jumped in and somehow pried Ricky away and shooed him into his cage.  My buddies and I insisted that we get Hubcap to the ER right quick, because he was bleeding pretty bad, but Hubcap said nah, just gimme a towel, I’ll be fine.  He was pretty soused at that point, so probably not feeling the pain.

Me: Yikes, is he okay?

Phil: No, he’s not okay. Nobody’s okay. He went home, slept it off, and his butt got infected real bad. He finally went to the hospital and they had to amputate his butt.

Me: Wait what, amputate his —

Phil: Butt. But just one cheek, so.  Now he’s suing me for the hospital bill and emotional distress and says Animal Control is going to put Ricky down, and I told him not to mess with Ricky and I offered to take him to the hospital and he refused and now I’ve lost a friend and I’m going to lose my baboon and my money and I need a lawyer.  Can you help?

And, scene.

Once I was convinced this was not a prank call from my man Tannenbaum, I felt so bad for this fellow. At that stage of my life, I hadn’t experienced a lot of loss, so I could only imagine the trifecta of losing a monkey, a friend, and serious coin in one fell swoop.  And his friend — no one expects to lose half their butt to a discount monkey. And who can blame the baboon — he just wanted to be left alone.

It took me awhile to find a lawyer who would help (or at least not hang up on me), but I eventually did. I have no idea what happened to Phil, Ricky, and Hubcap.  I would like to think Hubcap called off the lawsuit, that his insurance paid for the best prosthetic butt cheek ever, that Phil and Ricky made amends, and that Ricky is still entertaining the neighborhood kids and is maybe a bit better about sharing his things. Win, win, win. Win.

But that’s probably not what happened.  I sure do wish I had known about mediation back then. Also, I love the name Hubcap.

PS: I bought a discount elephant once. At a trunk show. Heyo.