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Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Blog, Essays, Featured, Personal | 3 comments

We Are Not Who We Seem

 

nolan-dalla

 

Someone approached me a few days ago.  His comment took me by surprise.

“You’re not at all what you seem to be,” he stated.  “You’re not at all what I expected.”

Huh?  I wasn’t sure how to take those comments exactly.  I’m not what I seem to be?  I’m not what he expected?  How’s that?

The man went on to explain he’d read my writings.  He’d watched some videos, where I often rant about various topics that piss me off.  He even mentioned that he’d seen me on the “Poker Night in America” television show, where I occasionally go off the deep end towards the end of the program.

Yet, in person, I was none of those outlandish things he expected.  Perhaps he was expecting some kind of crazed lunatic.  I guess I turned out to be a little boring to him.  I was certainly disappointing.

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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Blog, Essays, Featured, What's Left | 28 comments

The Difference Between Faith and Trust

 

christopher-hitchens-evidence

 

Faith and trust are often used interchangeably, as though they’re one and the same.

They are not one and the same.  In fact, FAITH and TRUST are two entirely different things.  One may even argue convincingly, faith and trust are contradictory.

Faith has been called “the substance of hope.”  Faith requires no evidence for belief nor practice.  The very nature of faith surmises that tangible evidence doesn’t exist.  Otherwise, there is a manifestation.  On the other hand, trust is based largely on evidence that is real according to the senses and to human reason.  Trust is the core conviction of judgment based on knowledge, instinct, and experience.

To further extend this point and the distinction between faith and trust, consider a common everyday experience:

Imagine walking down a city street.  At one point, you step onto a well-marked crosswalk.  In doing so, you unwittingly place enormous trust in other people.  You trust the drivers of cars and trucks, presumably complete strangers to you to behave safely.  They are expected to obey the traffic laws.  You trust these drivers will be skilled and sober enough to observe you walking in the middle of the street and will come to a stop, thus allowing you to pass safely.

Based on volumes of evidence — including traffic fatalities which happen frequently in crosswalks, railroad crossings, and the like — placing this trust may be ill-advised.  After all, you know nothing about these drivers.  They could be drunk or distracted or sending texts and quite possibly not see you.  Should that misfortune happen, the end result could be a serious injury, or perhaps even death.  Nonetheless, we all step out into crosswalks anyway, usually without even thinking about the risk we are taking.  This is because trust is a fundamental provision of daily life and living.  We have no choice than to trust other people.

Now in another scenario, let’s suppose you were to step into that same unlit crosswalk — but this time during the night.  Let’s assume that most drivers wouldn’t be able to see you crossing until perhaps it was too late, and then you’d be run over.  Nevertheless, your decision was made to cross this street in the night based on some wayward faith.  Your faith tells you, you’re protected, perhaps even invincible.  One can readily see by this fantasmal make-believe scenario that faith is an utter act of stupidity, if not outright madness.  Faith has become dangerous.  Not only does faith have no actual basis in truth, it also lacks a common utility.

Society would be much better off with more trust, and less faith.  The late writer and polemic Christopher Hitchens shared the following perspective.  He had little regard for faith, writing much to the rancor of conventional thinkers:

Faith is the surrender of the mind, it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other animals.  It’s our need to believe and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. … Out of all the virtues, all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.

Indeed, it’s peculiar that we regard faith as a virtue at all.

Faith is the abandonment of scientific principles.  Faith is the refutation of tangible evidence.  Faith, in all its many forms, is a wild jackal roaming the global Serengeti, steeped in the poverty of superfluous instinct, seemingly without cogitation or purpose.  In short, faith confuses things and makes the search for actual truth more ambiguous.  It clouds judgment.

Unfortunately, faith is too common.  The best example of faith in practice is religion and all its intended and unintended fall-out.  Billions of global citizens claim to be believers adhering to one faith versus another.  Certainly, we’re entitled to believe in spiritual Easter Bunnies and Magic Men and even Flying Spaghetti Monsters if we so choose to.  Everyone should have his or her right to believe in Tarot Cards or Santa Claus and have faith that flying reindeer will arrive once a year bearing a new plasma television.  But problems do occur when the faithful try to impose these illusory fantasies onto others, often by rule of law, or by force.  Even bigger problems occur when the faithful try to inhibit the actions of the faithless.  When this occurs, human advancement and scientific progress, so naturally intertwined, come to a screeching halt.

The hurdles of science are challenging enough without the added pitfalls of superstition.  Consider how faith has altered and often shaped human history, which continues to the present.  Consider the manner by which those claiming to be faithful incite biases against the discoveries of modern science.  Whether it’s believing in angels or denying evolution, faith is folly.  Faith is not only wrong — but also bad.  The very notion that we rest “in God’s hands,” enslaves greater human pursuits.  What’s the point of working tirelessly inside a laboratory trying to cure a disease if prayer actually works?  Why not toss all the test tubes away and just pray harder?  Why have trust (in science and mankind) when there’s faith (in the supernatural)?

Secular-humanism has been defined as “the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and the solving of human problems.”  To this end, we must trust in the insatiable desires of our most gifted and dedicated to continuing the ways of discovery which benefit us all, and those who follow.  Trust becomes a largely positive ideal not only giving life purpose but reaffirming human value.

This stark contrast between faith and trust illustrates the way religious believers and secular humanists look at the world and life differently.  While the faithful place their lives at the supposed goodwill of a theoretical supreme being, we secular-humanists are forced to rely on each other.  Accordingly, we are required to have trust in each other — which is actually the noblest of virtues.

Not faith, but trust.

 

Read more in my essay:  WHY WON’T RELIGION JUST LEAVE US ALONE?

 

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Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in Blog, Featured | 7 comments

The Story of Getting Conned by a Fake Rock Star

 

rock_and_roll

 

Randy Meisner imposter stories have been swirling around Las Vegas for quite some time now.

Off and on during the past 15 years, a clever con man who’s real name is Lewis Peter “Buddy” Morgan has been impersonating the former bass player who once played in the rock band, the Eagles.  The real Randy Meisner was even one of the co-founders of the group, way back in 1971.

The imposter certainly did his homework.  First, he picked a band sure to be well-known by most of the people he targets.  Just about everyone has at least heard of the Eagles.  Second, he impersonates the least-known member of the band, who left the group in the late 1970s.  Few people would be so bold (or stupid) as to steal the identities of his more widely-known bandmates — such as Don Henley, Joe Walsh, or Glenn Frey.  By contrast, Meisner is relatively easy to impersonate.  Third, other than old photos taken way back when the Eagles were together and churning out hit records, virtually no one knows what the real Randy Meisner looks like (especially now).  Finally, the imposter knows just enough about the group and its members to carry on a convincing conversation about what it was like to once be a “rock star.”

Meisner is certainly no Mick Jagger.  He’s not even a Bill Wyman.  But the real Randy Meisner did co-write a catalogue of classic hits, some of which are still familiar to this day.  He also sang lead vocals on several songs which made the pop charts.  Far more interesting however, are the behind-the-scenes stories that only someone of Meisner’s stature and level of access would know and be able to recall with credibility.  Indeed, if Meisner were to talk about what the Hotel California recording sessions were like, that would interesting to many people, including myself.  I mean, how often do you get to hear a firsthand account about how one of the most successful albums in rock history was created?

That’s the hook.

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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Blog, Featured, General Poker, Las Vegas, World Series of Poker | 8 comments

Day One as Director of Public Relations for Binion’s Horseshoe (Moneymaker Series Continues — Part 2)

 

benny-binion

Left to Right — Benny Behnen (Benny Binion’s grandson), Becky Binion-Behnen, and Nick Behnen (Photo Credit: AmericanMafia.com)

 

Writer’s Note:  This is the third in an extended series of articles about Chris Moneymaker’s victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker and what went on behind the scenes at Binion’s Horseshoe — before, during, and after that historic event. 

CLICK HERE — INTRODUCTION

CLICK HERE — PART 1 (BEFORE THE STORM)

 

Part 2:  Day One as Director of Public Relations for Binion’s Horseshoe

 

On my first day, I nearly got fired.

In fact, I was fired.  Then, I got re-hired.

George Fisher was in a panic.  He called me urgently into his office.  There was big trouble brewing, and I hadn’t even started working yet.  “Shit is hitting the fan,” he said.  What was the problem?  No one knew.  I’d find out soon enough.

I’d been “summoned.”  That meant I was to have what’s known in other menacing circles as a “sit down.”

The dreaded “sit down.”

Unbeknownst to me, I was scheduled to meet none other than Nick Behnen himself —  the dark and mysterious shadow of a figure who was whispered to actually run Binion’s Horseshoe behind the scenes.

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Posted by on Aug 8, 2012 in Blog, Featured, Personal, Picture 1, Politics | 4 comments

What I Saw: Photo Essay of the 1989 Romanian Revolution

 

Nolan Dalla in Bucharest Romania

Romanian Army forces during the 1989 Romanian Revolution

 

The Romanian Revolution took place in December 1989.  I lived in Romania at the time and was assigned to the American Embassy in Bucharest.

Few Americans or Westerners lived in Romania during that period.  It was one of the East Bloc’s most repressive regimes.  Media were not allowed into the country, and so there remains relatively little coverage of one of the most extraordinary political upheavals since World War II.

Romania was one of the final Eastern European Communist dictatorships to collapse, following a series of relatively peaceful revolutions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and East Germany — which had taken place during the preceding months.

However, aside from the aftermath of Yugoslavia’s demise in the early 1990s, Romania’s “revolution” was by far the most violent.  Thousands died in the bloody street battles between the dissidents aligned with the Romanian Army and dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s private military forces known as “Securitate.”  In fact, a series of demonstrations and riots plagued Romania over the next six months leading into the Summer of 1990.

I’ll be writing a series of narratives about these experiences in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of some photography (most of it mine, which is why it’s of lesser quality) which has not been seen before.  Most of these photos have been kept in my garage.  Keep in mind these photos were taken before digital cameras.  Moreover, film was very difficult to obtain in Romania at the time, which makes photographs (and especially video) of the revolution somewhat rare.

 

Nolan Dalla in Bucharest Romania with Romanian Army

Nolan (in white) with officers in the Romanian Army

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