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Mandalay Bay: Top O' The World, Ma! (PART ONE)

Aging Baby Boomer Runs Amok in Vegas

For me, Stephen Paddock’s 32nd floor rampage brought to mind Charles Whitman in 1966 atop a tower in Texas. Also, it felt like a 2017 version of Jimmy Cagney’s famous “Top o’ the world, Ma!” last act in White Heat. If the jig is up, go out with a bang! If girlfriend Danley’s allusion to deterioration is correct, things must have been closing in on 64-year-old Stephen Paddock. He was getting old, something I can attest affects one’s sense of self and the realities of one’s power. You face that reality with grace -- or you don’t. As some great philosopher put it, we understand life backwards but are doomed to live it forward. Despite all the protective money, his loner, control-fixated lifestyle may have become harder and harder to sustain. His absent, bank-robber father was described as a “psychopath” who made the FBI’s most wanted list, a dangerous man who was said to be good at escape and evasion. Paddock liked to keep moving among his houses and apartments and hotel rooms. He avoided real poker games with real human beings where social skills and the art of bluffing counted. Instead, he played for periods up to 14-hours one-on-one with machines.

Was Stephen Paddock mentally ill? To me, it’s a moot point in the age we live in. One, psychopathy doesn’t seem to be a “mental illness” so much as a human characteristic, having a mind that works without a conscience like the mind of a predatory tiger. And, two, with money, the vicissitudes of mental illness are easier to manage and conceal. A “safe place” is a commodity to be purchased, especially if one can move around freely place to place, keeping ahead of one’s social challenges. Stephen Paddock was an individual who understood what the existentialist Jean Paul Sartre meant when he famously said of his one-act play No Exit: “Hell is other people.”

Imagination As a Tool That Cuts Through Fog:

We live in an outrageously complex hi-tech world of such governmental and corporate secrecy, such incredible amounts of self-serving dishonesty and bullshit, that I wonder whether the only way to really see through the secrecy and bullshit -- the only way to really grasp the desperate, complex world we live in -- is to assume an essentially arrogant strategy of projecting the imagination into what has become the fog of life. For me, it’s a hybrid form of fiction and non-fiction. Facts are no longer potent when a charge of “fake news” can emasculate a story. In 1973, Norman Mailer coined the term factoid. In books like Armies Of The Night, he worked in the hybrid genre of “new journalism.” He’s the same literary trickster who ran for mayor of New York, sometimes drunk, under the campaign of “Cut the bullshit!” Truth is a shifting thing, for sure, but it’s still a transactional possibility, especially in the realm of literature and art. It doesn’t rely on facts or even reality; it involves the responsible imagination and things like pattern recognition and narrative. You trust such a writer or you don’t. Here’s the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa upon winning the Nobel Prize in 2010:



story | by Dr. Radut