FRANCESCO GIUSEPPI VERSACE was born in 1919 to Giuseppi and Carmela
Versace in a cold-water flat on 96th street on the East-Side of New York City. Frank’s
father died when Frank was 9-years-old, leaving him alone with his immigrant mother.
ZIA NINA managed to run a rooming-house on 72nd street on the Upper East-Side
where Frank grew up, went to school, and graduated MANHATTAN COLLEGE in
He met my mother, PAULA, in 1940, and we all lived together in Nonny’s rooming house.
All the time, Frank was a travelling salesman for an electric motor company in Dayton, Ohio;
and every morning, Frank would rise early, jump into his 1941 light-green Plymouth and
cross the Hudson River on his appointed rounds throughout his New Jersey and
Pennsylvania territories, returning at night--sometimes in-time for dinner and sometimes
not--followd by, what seemed to me at that young age, endless reports on his daily sales.
In 1949, my brother, JOE, was born and, two years later, Frank moved us to Newark, New
Jersey, and from there to Montclair, New Jersey, an idyllic suburb about a half- hour north
of Newark--where he continued his travellin’ ways, always providing for his mother, me,
Paula, and Joe--in these happy days of our lives.
in 1964, Frank travelled once more with--Paula and Joe--3000 miles cross-country to
LAKEWOOD, CALIFORNIA. What I never understood is exactly how Frank managed to
keep his 2-car caravan together over the highways and through the city streets of America.
But my father was a “travellin’ man” and, evidently, knew what he was doing.
Once in LAKEWOOD, Frank blossomed into his new surroundings--buying and running a
liquor store in Paramount (with the help of my now grown-up brother Joe and ever-
supportive Paula) and moving into his first real “California home”--a two-story dwelling on
Whitewood Avenue right behind the LAKEWOOD MALL. During this time , his liquor
store burned down, after which he became known--affectionately--among his many
Kawanis-club buddies as “the torch.” Personally, I never believed that Frank burned
it down since he seemed to be genuinely at-home interacting with his many and varied
clientelle, his ever-present “audience”: you see, Fank loved to talk--to anyone who would
listen, especially if that someone was from “back-East”--and if you were Italian to boot,
well,then, you had a new friend for life. Fank missed his New York-New Jersey roots and
all of his Italian friends that he grew up with. But all of his new California friends made him
feel at-home--and, so, he talked to them, too.
Tthe rest, as they say, is history, today being the final chapter in my father’s history here
on this earth. Fank remarried--after Paula died in 1988--to BERNICE, who stayed with him
for 18 years.
What does Frank’s life MEAN and what was the essence of this “travellin’ man”?
To me, Fank was an ENDURING man who worked all his life, always providing for
those he loved, while managing to serve his adopted hometown of LAKEWOOD as a
city-commissioner, as well as serving on numerous committees, and lastly, as an
enthusiastic and dedicated volunter for MEALS ON WHEELS, which he and Paula
started and which he and Bernice served for years.
In 1997, Fank was honored at L.A.’S MUSIC CENTER in a ceremony in the DOROTHY
CHANDELIER PAVILLION for service to LAKEWOOD. Frank was in his glory that day,
and his head shined with pride as he accepted his award and the congratulations of his
many LAKEWOOD friends.
Frank leaves behind me and my brother Joe, two grandsons--MARCO and NICO--and
nine-year-old great-grandaugher, FRANCA, and four-year old great-grandaughter, NIKE, all
of whom live in GERMANY. He was thrilled to meet FRANCA in 2007 when NICO
brought her for a visit and whom he commented upon that “she was always drawing.”
May Frank and Paula’s memory ENDURE, and may we all--one day--dance together
among the stars.
JUNE 25, 2009
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on ROMANTICISM & FEELING
in THE GREAT GATSBY
“Romanticism” is living in the extremes of emotion, specifically, sadness or joy, which are intense “sentiments”/feelings that are usually expressed in ecstasies of tears or laughter and which are judged as “excessive” and, therefore, “weak displays of emotion,” better known as“sentimentality”
and “something to be avoided.” Why?
Due to a basic fear of showing emotion, i.e., embarrassment over your deepest feelings.
What is wrong with sentimentality? Other than the misguided and wrong-headed popular notion that “anything sentimental” is
sickly, nauseating, mushy, drippy, hokey;
maudlin, mawkish, i.e., false and overdone.
So that, when you are driving alone in your car and a song from your past comes on the radio and, instantly, almost reflexively, you begin to cry, shout, laugh, scream--and just let it all out--is that “sentimental” or just
a normal and healthy physical reaction to a
mental and emotional recollection of your
past at its most meaningful? Both, and both are good and not to be discouraged.
When Daisy presses the rainbow colors of
Gatsby’s shirt-collection to her lips and cries into them; when she accuses Gatsby of being “a sentimental man” for keeping his uniform all these years; when Daisy cries
bitter and confused tears about her conflict- in-love over her husband and Gatsby; when anyone in this very romantic novel
shows any kind of emotion--is it “weakly
sentimental” or honestly felt and expressed?
Next, what is the most romantic of the art-forms? Music, especially, abstract music
(classical or modern) because it penetrates
to the depths of beauty and renders it real
and palpable to the desirous and believing
listener as enduring--art-forever.
Depth, time and emotion are the essences of art. And romanticism is either a lambent
or crushing form of eternity or an illusion of
ideal beauty made manifest.
“Her lambent voice sparkled playfully over the notes of her laughter.”
“Then he kissed her”: Gatsby, the “son of
God” touches his lips to the lips of Daisy,
“and she blossomed for him like a flower
and the incarnation was complete”--his
ideal was “made flesh and dwelt among” his most sacred dreams.
In this scene at the very end of the Second
Party, which Gatsby claims to Nick that
“She/Daisy didn’t like...She didn’t have a good time,” Gatsby goes on to tell his confidente, in trying to “repeat the past,” of that “...One autumn night” when he and the 18-year-old Daisy “had been walking down the street” and how he realized what he must do to climb “a ladder and mount to a
secret place above the trees” where he
“could...gulp down the incomparable milk of
wonder” and “wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath” so that “his mind would never romp again like the mind of
God.” That is, in making his dream come true, of consumating his longing for this
unattainable star, he would transform his
romantic ideal into the actual flesh and blood of its reality and, thus, lose the dream forever. Once he and we attain his/our dream, it is no longer a dream but a reality that is exposed to the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” and that, eventually, must die.
How to make the moment last? Besides freezing/transforming it into a work of art?
Die at the moment of greatest happiness was the Romantics eternal “consumation
devoutly to be wished.” But Gatsby is not
to be privy to this kind of ending; or is he?
He does die, not at the moment of his greatest happiness (when he kissed Daisy)
but at the moment of his most expectant
happiness, while he waits for Daisy--who never comes to him as he “knows” that she will--only to be shot in the back by a crazed, grieving and jilted husband (George
Wilson), who sends Gatsby to his place at
the side of God, Daisy, or the Green Light that he never lost hope in.
“I’ll take romance” begins a period love-song
of the time, and F. Scott Fitzgerald gave us
his most enduring images, feelings and thoughts about his most romantic possibil-
ities and, in doing so, lost them forever by realizing them in the art of his novel. Or has he immortalized them in his words that still ring true (or false) some nearly one hundred years later?
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Does “god” exist, or is there no “god”?
No one knows--one way or the other.
IF there is “no god,” then where did the idea
of “a god” come from? From the “mind of a
god” or from the mind of man? That is, IF there was/is no god, then man had to invent one. Why? To help him endure his suffering on earth and to help him believe that he has not been abandoned by his god,
that is, that man is not alone on this planet spinning in the ultimate darkness of space.
And so, enter RELIGION+S: all kinds and from everywhere: Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism; Scientology, Jehovas’ Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Science; et al. (and others). Take your pick and/or invent your own: The Church of Man,etc. (and so forth).
Pay for your ticket and come on in: faith is free and all that is necessary for endurance and salvation. If you can BELIEVE.
But what if you cannot--or will not--believe, for whatever reasons: reason and science, independence, tradition and your environment or downright ornriness?
Then, you have two choices, one really: to not believe in any kind of a god or gods
(a-theism=without belief in a god) OR
agnosticism=”I really don’t know, cannot decdie and, so, I am hedging my bets and trying to have my life both ways at once”:
not really a choice but, rather, a cop-out
(“not to decide is to decide not to decide”).
And what happens to your life if you choose a-theism? You are set free--of
dependence on an unseeable and unknowable god who will, one day, “come down and make everything all right.” And you become your own god with total responsibility and dependence on your own self and your reason, your free will to choose.
But at what price (since “nothing is free, nothing”)? At the price of the acceptance of the short-lived meaninglessness of your life--despite all your heroic efforts to give your life some kind of meaning; that is, when you die, you do not go to any kind of “an after-life”; you go into nothingness, the eternal “big-sleep” of the void from whence/ where you came “before you were born.”
By definition--because all life ends, permanently, forever and ever--life is a tragedy and what is lost is your brief time upon this glorious planet, this “garden of eden” where you felt the wind in your face and where you were ALIVE.
That kind of un-belief and an acceptance of the meaninglessness of your life--because you, I and all of us will, ultimately, be totally forgotten as if we had never lived and had never been here before--is hard to do. (Can you remember your great-grandparents? And so on and so forth).
But there is some good news: not the “good news of the Christian gospels” and the “word of god” but, rather, two alternate philosphies to help us cope with our agonized abandonment here on earth (whose time is also limited, in billions of years): the “ABSURD WORLD” philosophy of ALBERT CAMUS and the “WORLD OF NATURE.”
Camus (a French philospher and novelist) is
the most popular and poetic proponent of
“ATHEISTIC EXISTENTIALISM” (as opposed to the “CHRISTIAN EXISTEN-
TIALISM” of Jesus Christ): “exist-ential-ism”
means a philosophy of how and why we exist here on earth? Kind of a “handbook” of how to live your life--without any god to help or hinder you. CAMUS has two concepts that he translates into visual metaphors: “the WALL” and “the ROCK”--see attached diagrams.
But going beyond CAMUS’ totally realistic philosophy is NATURE and “The Tree of All Souls” and “the CHAIN”--also, see attached diagram.
Both philosophies are a-theistic (not even
the pan-theism: god-in-Nature of AVATAR).
There simply is NO GOD ANYWHERE;
rather there IS “a force,” “a natural spirit--in rocks and stones and trees,” an “organizing principle.” But not “a god” in sight.
Now, let us learn about these concepts--and see how we like them. But to do so, you must keep your mind open and, for a while, closed to all you have been taught and brought up to believe in. And if you
“don’t like” these options to “a god,” then, you can, of course, go back to where you feel comfortable, safe and secure. Or try to go back. FAITH is a gift or a crutch: how much do you really have when push comes to shove, i.e., when it comes time to die?
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On this, the night of remembering and longing for our past year, youth, life--NEW YEAR’S EVE--let us look at and feel the emotions of this combination of “return” and
“suffering” (the Greek roots of “nostalgia”).
Our pasts, no matter what and where and how they may have been, always look better looking back at them, endowed with both memory and embellishment because they are gone, never to return again. Back
“then,” we were more alert, more in-touch with our moments, younger; now, we are not as aware and involved as we once were: we are older and, with age, comes regret for those things that we shall never be and do again. Those parts of our lives are dead, as we shall all be when all of our pasts are gone and done with. And so, what we long for is ourselves, slowly “creeping in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time and all our yesterdays [that] have lighted fools (us) the way to dusty death?”
Whether these times turn out to be “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifyng nothing” or signifying everything
is yet to be determined. We are all still very much alive and, so, capable of making memories and more nostalgia every day.
So, look back tonight as the clock turns into a new year and, this year, into a new decade, and remember, really focus on and feel your self back into those moments gone but not forgotten: and you will feel the
sweet pain of loss while you raise a glass to the sweeter gain of what is to come--”tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.”
And remember that “NOW IS FOREVER.”
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MAN’S NEED FOR FAITH
A playwright of infinite reason once wrote:
“What a piece of work is a man!
how noble in reason? how infinite
in faculty? in form and moving,
how express and admirable?
in action, how like an angel?
in apprehension, how like a god?
the beauty of the world, the paragon
of animals; and yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust?”
Death renders even “paragons” mortal,
imperfect and very insecure. And it is
this visceral fear that motivates all men,
even and especially the most strident
atheist, the most questioning agnostic,
and the most devout believer to have--
“faith” in a phantom, a fantasy, a fairytale.
Man knows better but he always “feels the link of nature pull” that propels him towards his end and his eternal nothingness.
Is all that man knows to be fact, certainty,
final and finite so weak that it need be propped-up by a “leap of faith” into the abyss of philosophical suicide? Evidently so.
“If there were no god, man would have had to invent one.” And that is exactly what he did--from the cave-man cowering in his dark and cold hovel at night to those who fly into the blackness of space on the wings of their
miracles of reasoned engineering.
Today, we know and acknowledge that science is the only true way to measure our world. And science is based not on any kind of self-fulfilling belief in a supernatural
principle but on the hard, cold presence of
atoms in motion and at rest. 2
and man’s light shone forth into the darkness of superstition, magic, and faith.
But what does every dying and terrified being cry out on his death bed? “God, help me and, please, do not abandon me now.”
And it is this primal fear of abandonment, alone on a spinning piece of earth, air and water in a limitless void of nothingness that
blurts forth these prayers from off our lips
and out our agonizied hearts.
Why? Because after man has lived and tasted of sunshine, love and hope, he cannot admit to himself that “this is all there is”; that he, now and forever, must surrender and give up the joys of life and
just--let go--of all he has come to know, love and drawn breath from: people, places and things.
And, so, he jumps to “god” who does not hear him or answer him. What a dumb ass is a man? Why cannot he just--let go--shut his eyes and return to the place he was before he existed. He “rose from the
dead when he was born and he didn’t even notice it.” Now, he notices his impending doom and with a vengeance of apprehension.
It is man’s reason--his gift that makes him his own god--that is the problem here. It is
man’s hyper-awareness of his insignificant magnificence that forces him to betray that reason and devolve into a scared child about to confront the bogeyman of his own creation--his “god” who is not, has never been, nor ever will be there, here or anywhere.
It is the rare being who can say at his ultimate end: “I have lived and, now, I die.
It was good, but enough is enough.”
Which will you be at your end? The whining believer or the heroic tragedian? For at its base, life is a tragedy because we all die. The only salvation is that we have lived it to our fullest, every second of every day.
So that we can all say at the death of the tragic hero--
“Nothing is here for tears,
nothing to wail
Or knock the breast,
no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise, or blame,
nothing but well and fair
And what may quiet us in
a death so noble.”
And “may god help me if I believe.”
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It used to be that when one wrote a piece of prose, poetry, drama or essay, it concluded in a finished product by a singular writer that had to wait a significant length of time before it was made available to the masses as a published entity; today, that is not always the case.
We have “blogs,” i.e., web-logs, or fragmentary, intermittent and ongoing pieces of writing by multiple contributors.
Also, these “blogs” are instantaneously available, that is, “publishable” by everyone to everyone who cares to participate in this exchange of fleeting ideas.
Therefore, the process of “wrighting” (working with words on paper as in what a “playwright” does) has shifted from a highly conscious and deliberate act of artistic creation to an immediate act of communication. The internet has replaced the telephone with electronic word-works--
mere blurbs of words, mostly without intent, intensity or involvement on either end of this superficial spectrum.
With student-writers, the act, much less the art of writing, has disintegrated into emails, instant messaging and, now, “tweets” where
time and text are neglible and where the finished expression is not edited, proofread or in, any way, polished as a piece of creation to be proud of. These media are overloaded with neologistic shorthand and
typographical graphics; and where they are composed in traditional sentence structure and established diction, the goal is to get rid of them as quickly as possible so that the receiver on the other end may be instantly gratified--no matter how unintelligible and error-laden the curt communique is. Frequency has replaced fluency and the faster the better, never mind quality and concentration. It is as if we are burping on paper and without any kind of decorous
“excuse me” to, at least, cover up our
disrepectful and crass rudeness with words. -3-
This kind of indigenous disrespect for words and their arrangement in units of composition (the word, the phrase, the sentence, the paragraph, the essay, the book) has damaged both the appreciation for writing and reading: speed and concentration are now the guidelines that have replaced lingering over and savoring new constructs of words as the discovery of new shades and colors are absorbed and worked over assiduously by an accomplished painter.
And, now, anyone can be “published,” without qualifications, recommendations, authority or, even, any talent. Electronic and instantaneous strokes on a keyboard are sent out into an infinitely vast cyberspace to be perused, glanced at or totally ignored by a non-descript audience of mostly similarly minded or un-minded illiterates.
Electronic communication is the first in a system of ultra-democratic homogeneity
where substantive differences and discriminations between and among
“communicators” has been “equalized” to the point where everyone has an opinion and one that carries a certain weight because it can be reproduced and redirected by everyone with the price of a computer but without the authority of an earned degree in a field of study that one has devoted his life to.
Critical evaluation, much less critical thinking and questioning of all claims, is no longer necessary because “everyone’s opinions” are of equal worth in a hyper-world of hyper-words which are no longer of singular worth much less where “words alone are certain good” (William Butler
Eventually, there will be no more name-writers but just scribblers in a world of diminishing returns from diminished outputs.
Shakespeares will have been replaced by
“shake-down con men, women and children”
interested only in the moment and their attentuated words in hyper-space.
Writing as art will be a thing of the past as it is, currently, fading daily into memories of what valuable writing was; only the keboard-hackers will remain as remnant reminders of what used to be a supreme form of creation, peopled by the legendary writers of our fading tradition.
So, everyone will write, no one will know what he is doing, and none of us will be any wiser. We will all be equal, the same, and inferior without ever knowing that we are. But we will all “feel good” about ourselves and our pathetic and diminutive communications. The masses will have inherited the earth, and all genuine progress and achievement will be lost in the hordes of wanna-bes but never-can-bes.
The sounds of the breying herd will have drowned out the clarion calls of the enlightened, the established and the academic elite.
Mass equality will have destroyed individualized quality by default and by
The next step is robotic-writing where cyborgs will replace whatever there is left of human intelligence in paradigms of mass-produced and mass-transited words to a world that will no longer be able to read because it has not been “in-style” to read and to think--as we all used to do in the
Our popular movies have been moving in those directions already to the point where we now have titles including “Artificial Intelligence” and “Avatar” and “Alien.” And we are becoming the “aliens” from a quaint and distant culture that once valued genuine reason, discipline and diligence over instant programs of electronic flotsam and jetsam.
So, just keep “tweeting” and the rapidly approaching future-shock of what is real and what is not will have overtaken us.
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TRICKS OF THE TRADE
1. Take the student seriously, that is, make
him believe that what he has to say is
important and that what he cares enough to write about is even more important.
=do this by LISTENING to him when-
ever he chooses to participate in a
class discussion and by FINDING
something of value in what he says,
even and, especially, when he isn’t
quite sure of himself: i.e., focus for the
student and, then, he will learn to focus
=do this by FINDING as many well-used WORDS and effective PHRASES in a student’s piece of writing as are really there--and there are always some.
In sum, REVEAL to the student those
qualities and skills that he already possesses but does not realize; then, CREATE those that are not there.
2. PRIMING THE PUMP
Is necessary to break-down the walls of resistance to “creative thinking” (that is “questioning everything”) that have been building-up over the student’s years of frustration at “not being able
to ‘get it,’ i.e., what a particular teacher
“wants,” so that, now, when you get
him, his creative juices are either all
stopped-up or all used-up. It is my job
to get them flowing again--by any or
all of the following:
A) reading parts of STUDENT
PAPERS aloud in-class and pointing-out the reasons WHY you are reading these
B) in reading, correcting and commenting on PAPERS, “add the
personal touch,” that is, a personal
question to the writer that lets him
know that you take him seriously and
that he has ENGAGED you, his reader.
C) use your own examples of writing to:
clarify a point in a topic AND to show
the student what can be done with
WORDS in the hands of one who loves
them, i.e., show the student that YOU
can do what you ask them to do--
practice what you preach.
3. FEEDING THE MIND
continue “pouring ideas” into their
ever-absorbant heads--to keep them
interested, involved and reacting in
spoken and written words. You
must demonstrate that you are a
reliable source of authority and evalua-
tion of “what is interesting and what is
boring”: that which does not make you
think. Everything is open to question,
to challenge, to interpretation: you must,
first, create hungry minds; then, you
must always leave them asking for
more. The only question worth asking,
most times, is WHY.
To conduct this “feeding frenzy,” you
need “good food”: good texts and topics
that can take some chewing on, that has
depth of meaning. And texts that you
know very well, that you have lived
with all your life, so that at this point
in your evolution as a “teacher,”
you can communicate with a high degree of familiarity and effectiveness.
Make all texts come to life, by “what-
ever mean necessary” (from reading
and commenting aloud to intercutting
films representations with student
reactions: that is, from reading aloud
from FAULKNER to watching OTHELLO struggle from the page onto
Also, tell all the “stories” that you know
of about the personal lives of the writers
to make them flesh-and-bone humans--
just like them--only endowed with
special talents of creative energy and
inexhaustible amounts of discipline.
4. THE LOVE FACTOR
The most seductive part of teaching is
the responses that you get from the
students , i.e., beyond the critically
obscene and pornographic. You, as
TEACHER, are giving to your students,
all the time and every time you inter-
act with them, pieces of yourself
that you have developed over the
course of your life’s experiences and
readings; in short, you teach because
you love them (well, almost all of them). And they--if they are not brain-dead--
respond in kind, i.e., they love you back.
Now, being “loved back” by hundreds of
students per semester (not to mention
those that stretch back endlessly into your past) is a whole lot of lovin’ goin’ on--and, therefore, is dangerous in that if
a teacher CHOOSES to “go for the love”
alone (at the expense of his students’ best interests), he can become a mere
performer for approval.
Therefore, all exchanges of love (i.e., all
those in the open forum of the class-
room) must be made with an awareness
that what is exchanged is priceless, but
only part of the job: teachers and students cannot live on love alone
but, rather, on mutual respect for things
exchanged: a teacher’s effect on a
student’s mind, and vice versa.
5. THE “SOMETHING SPECIAL” FACTOR
If you have 100 different students per
semester and you can stil think, there is
nothing like “remembering their names,”
which says to the student--”I must be
something special”--as, indeed, he is
and for whatever reasons.
6. OBSESS on your subject,
FOCUS on your students, and
UNITE the two.
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On almost all television and radio outlets, there is no longer any such thing as “news
reporting”; there are only “events and non-events that entertain”--otherwise, the American viewing public will not watch it.
Watch any network or cable channel (radio is even worse) and what you see and hear are supposed “newsworthy stories” selected, programmed and edited to do one thing only: to catch the viewer’s eye, first, and, then, his ear with sensational visuals and manipulative language-over and/or a television “news-reader” (a.k.a., reporter or news-anchor) who pretends to “report” the event but who is, actually, selling his particular scene and his general show.
Add to that format the intense political agendas that represent the particular owner’s public policies, and what you have is a blatant attempt to capture a “target-audience” for ratings and, the bottom-line, revenues that translate into advertising
sponsors who pay large sums for exposure
of their, most often, useless products.
In all, a fake production for something that was, orginally, meant to be serious informa-
tion for serious viewers that has, for a long time already, morphed into “info-tainment.”
Why? And how? And so what?
There is in the American public-viewer an increasing desire and addictive need to be
entertained with everything he sees and hears so that he is not “bored,” god and the networks forbid, for a second of his very boring and ordinary life that he has been told and shown is “boring” and “ordinary.”
The American media--radio, television, film, print and, now, electronic (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, et al.) venues--has so manipulated and controlled our consumer-fed fantasies to a degree where EVERY ONE wants/needs to believe that he is “so important” that he can never be “discon-
nected” from those seeking him out over
phone-lines and wireless tentacles that can
search him out wherever he is. We even walk around with plugs (“blue-tooths”) in our ears, looking like wannabe Trekies.
Americans, on the whole, are ordinary and common-sense, hard-working, family-valued people who have been sold the idea that “everyone can have his own reality show,” as ordinary and common as it is.
The airwaves are filled with such irrelevant and cheaply produced programs that fill the already empty spaces in significant, well-designed and literately written real news-reporting (like the BBC and JIM LEHRER NEWS HOURS) and substantive
entertainment shows (from artistic performances to creative dramas and comedies).
In our “search for meaning,” we have found and enshrined non-meaning and encapsula-
ed it in ready-to-use diversionary interludes, easily available--loaded and down-loaded--
to apply to the most common among us.
There would be nothing destructive about this “public entertainment” for and by the masses--IF it were acknowledged as such, that is, as empty and meaningless time-fillers until something real and relevant comes along.
But this is not the case in our American
un-culture because, more and more, we cannot tell the difference between what is quality programming and what is mechan- ically produced, packaged and sold “empty-
tainment” for a voluntarily duped public.
We get what we do not deserve because, once shown the difference with some truly engaging and well-produced material, we can tell the difference--but we just can’t find it (outside of the public-broadcasting channels and public-radio stations and some well-researched, well-informed, and well-written print organizations).
We are not all lowest common-denominator
--and we need real reality and inspiration.
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an example of a “culture differrence”
What passes for current entertainment--sucks: big time,
big budget and big bucks. Movies, television, and video games are either geared to middle-school retards or to
“search-and-destroy” super-soldiers in jeans. The entertainment content has been reduced to sex, violence, inane plots and special effects. Today’s stars
are either “hunks” or “babes” with no relation to reality, and their appeal is measured in size and skin exposed. Furthermore, all “entertainment” is over-exposed and sold to us with sensational and shocking advertising, all designed to extort money from our pockets in exchange for emptying our heads of any substantive thinking: if it titilates, turns us on or grosses us out, it’s usually “a hit.”
Our entertainment landscape is a wasteland, strewn with body-parts (both pulsatingly alive or stiffly dead),
blood (in glowing shades), sex (in pornograhic detail), and slaughter (from evisceration to decapitation)--a graveyard of the dead and of the mind.
Movies of any value, measured in mega-millions at the box-office, are always extravaganzas of spectacle, action and special-effects. It can also be said that the really “big” movies today are only video-games on steroids. For example, THE HULK is a comic-book
character beyond belief whose only noticeable skill is to super-inflate while turning green--more humorously done by Kermit the Frog. Then, there are all the sequels to INDIANA JONES AND THE ENDLESS HIDDEN TREASURES, DIE HARD and DIE HARDER, and the never-say-die MUMMY MYSTERIES. Even the largest grossing film of “all time,” BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT,” is a stunt-reel edited to fast-forward the adrenelin whenever a thought interrupts the narrative
sequence, less the restless mob in the audience lose their place and are, god forbid, bored for a nano-second.
High velocity editing, ultra explosions, unbelievable feats of derring-do, plus gorgeous movie-stars turn the Hollywood Walk of Fame into a scuffed-up sidewalk, reminders of the true greats and their equally classic
cinema vehicles, like GONE WITH THE WIND, CASABLANCA, and CITIZEN KANE, in additon to THE GODFATHER; 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY; BLADE RUNNER; and BONNIE AND CLYDE--the last three of which are examples of special-effects and violence WITH an engaging and meaningful story and strong, believable characters.
Television--the original “wasteland” where “vaudeville went to die”--has morphed into a mind-boggling series of
unreal reality shows (BIG BROTHER and FLAVOR OF LOVE), competition face-offs (AMERICAN IDOL and YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE), banal situation comedies (WILL AND GRACE, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND and FULL HOUSE), greedy game shows (WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE), mundane and outrageous talk shows (DR. PHIL and JERRY SPRINGER), maudlin soaps (ALL MY CHILDREN), courtroom spoofs(PEOPLE’S COURT), celebrity and lifestyle exposes (ACCESS HOLLYWOOD and LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS), not to mention the network primetime info-tainment revues--a.k.a. news shows--both local and national (CHANNELS 2,4 & 7). Boring shows for bored and boring people.
Add to this list of mindless abortions, the infinitely interrupting and overwhelmingly annoying commercials,
some of which, however, are better than the programs they sell, and you have a recipe for comatose depression and the land of HD disaster.
It is a cliche that “all video games are extremely violent and with no redeeming social-value whatsover.” Further, they dull young people to the real effects of random mayhem and destruction. But cliches started out as truths before they became sterotypes. Also, constant playing of these games has created and will further create a generation of carpal-tunnel, crippled thumbs, as well as tunnnel-visioned, unthinking students. The grand-daddy of the most popular video games is GRAND THEFT AUTO where car-wrecks, shootings, and stabbings fill blood-spurting sequences. And it has
four editions, so far. Then, there are the lesser known but equally carnivorous BIOSHOCK and BLAST WORKS
where shell-pounding battles between the forces of “good versus evil” allow you to “destroy your opponent” and “absorb their parts and use them to make you bigger and stronger.” Entertainment for future serial-killers and
thrill-seekers, sick and demented but oh, so, high-tech--and yours for only $50 and up plus a $300 player.
Greed has replaced imagination and vision in our popular entertainment models today. Gone are significant and long-lasing values, true heroes and heroines, stories that have meaningful themes and writing that has any value at all. But, maybe, these make-believe nightmares
can lessen their having to be expressed and worked-out in the real time and real space of our absurd and annihilating wars, domestic crises, and by our hypocritical and ineffective un-leaders. But and until our
“leaders of tomorrow,” the “enterainment generation of today,” get these viral videos out of their programmed systems, the future does not look very bright--except for the flashing image that has taken control of young people’s minds, not allowing them time to reflect, evaluate, problem-solve, in short, to think versus react.
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THE MEDIA & ITS ENTERTAINMENT
Real news has died; the only “news,” today, is INFO-TAINMENT. Any event, story, issue from IRAQ and
AFGHANISTAN to CELEBRITY GOSSIP is considered “entertainment.” Why? Because our media have presented serious and tragic information as “interesting”
sounds and visuals--selected, managed and manipulated--to serve a singular purpose: to “enter” and
“contain,” that is, to please, distract and amuse its increasingly bored and un-thinking audiences who have accepted this intellectually mutated and mutilated “new-news” and who are buying its sponsors’ products, thus perpetuating the 24/7 news-cycle as "fun and video games" for their programmed minds. NETWORK and CABLE “new-news” indulge and flood their airwaves with this manufactured info-tainment fodder that passes for real news and journalism and that is satirized by admittedly “fake news shows” on the comedy channels--which, now, include FOX and CNN; the only remaining venue with objective accuracy and unbiased integrity is PUBLIC TELEVISION and RADIO, which is always struggling to remain fiscally viable in competition with corportate sponsorship and ratings support.
The only true hope that we “can believe in” anymore is not to be found in any of our current leaders, domestic or worlwide, but in the youth of today who, with a lot of help and a minimum of infection from their adult leaders, may and must emerge to correct our societal slide from the collective unconscious of our human race to its collective conscious and thinking response to the world around us, minus the addictive-destructive influence of a totally corrupted media, government, and corporate controlled society. We must restructure our paradigms of belief or sink into our mediocrity.
Otherwise, we might as well prepare to leave this planet and begin to chip away at a new place of residence where we can start all over again--but with hindsight.
Not that our Earth cannot be purged and replenished:
there are huge spaces for enlightened development and
the realigning of our climate, cities and farms, institutions of governance and, most of all, our people who have been lied to, exploited and, essentially, abandoned to their own devices. Presently, we are sinking more than swimming, and it is only a matter of time and relative dissatisfaction until the people disaffect entirely and rise up en-masse against the powers that are--purposefully--keeping them underwater and wholly dependent on them for any life-saving rings of buoyed up “rescue plans”
that, merely and temporarily, bail-out the offenders who, then, re-arm themselves to drown us again and again, choking on their own venal greed in the process--and so on and down and so forth. Everyone dies.
What to do in this very mean time?
Turn off the t.v.’s and the consumption-mentality and
talk with, not to and down to, our children, our youth and our salvation for tomorrow: educate, train, and arm them with weapons of reason, respect and patience to re-form and re-build our government, our media, and our social contract with each other as, if not equal in status, then, equal in an informed humanity and a genuine caring for the other.
Generate and nurture true understanding and tolerance; if outright acceptance is too much to strive for, acknow-
lege our differences and appreciate our similarities.
Historically, empires have risen and fallen, and -isms
have emerged and retreated back into the landscapes from which they came: Rome’s secular state fell to Christianity and sectarian competition, and the Soviet Union’s dream of communism and an “equal and just society” fell with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Today, capitalism is at its crossroads and moment of truth, and the dream of America is hanging in the balance as new immigrant groups flourish in the “land of the un-free and the home of the bigot.” Partisanship is distorting rationality and moderation and, once more, dividing this country into recalcitrant parts. And the media whores are pimping their wares on our national stage.
And we, the adults and the children of our futrure, are hanging on for dear life, while absorbing the futile scenes around us--and deciding what to do or to not do.
When each of us becomes uncomfortable enough and approaches desperation, we will act. Until then, don’t just sit there in-silence: talk to and with each other and
those others will talk to more others and our words will grow and, eventually, activate change--not as it tried to do but failed in the ideal and naive Sixties; this time change will, actually, succeed because you, the hope of our and the world’s future, are more informed, sophisti-
cated and schooled in the arts of discovery, understanding, discussion and communiction; you are not about to rush off to another wasteful war when you can grow change over your new electronic networks, rationally with thoughts, words and feelings communicated in real-time, not with
shouts and cries of division and hate. We have tried that, and it doesn’t work.
Just beware of one thing: the debilitating and corrupting influence of your older, but not wiser, generation who
were, also, like you once--open-minded, enthusiatic for reform, and genuinely believing in what they knew they had to do. But something happened: they grew-up and cocooned themselves into the status-quo of “business as usual,” and they became “the enemy” that they once were so dedicated and united against. And they became comfortable and lazy in their material world--and forgot about what they were and did not recognize what they had become. Look at your parents, youth, then leave the room.
It is not emotion or reason alone that shall win the day but emotion and reason together, hope and action, idealism and reality, direction and compromise-- you and your other, talking and working together for, if not a new world, then a better and lasting one.
Finally, teach YOUR children well because reform and salvation of our society is an ongoing thing, from generation to generation: expunge all bigotry and discrimination against others from your home; encourage thinking, discussion and compromise;
outlaw all violence from the walls of your house--violence of thought and deed; nurture with love and active support and encouragement and soothe the wounds of aggression and racist hate with understanding and forgiveness; do not listen to fear-mongers and
politically-challenged public and private figures; rather seek out those whom you can admire, respect and follow and let your children point these figures out to you, wherever they may be--and challenge each other.
I am a teacher and have been, going on fifty years now; and I believe in the acquisition of knowledge, the efficacy of thought, and the power of words to enlighten, then, to move and, then, to continue, ever re-building.
I also believe in the hope of all futures, you, the youth,
the stewards of all new ideas and the channels for their implementation.
I and you shall all die one day, and all we will have to show that we have been here and lived at all is what we pass on to the new youth and future generations to, if not remember us by, then to continue and improve on what we have tried to do but could not because we grew pessimistic, cynical, tired, disillusioned, and old.
Life is a chain of recycled efforts in new and reinvented people who can learn from their pasts--if they know of and believe in learning, improvement and true progess,
not the negative progress of too much of our techno-
cratic world, chopped-up and compartmentalized by inane bureaucrats and sycophantic and insignificant
So, I quote you a line from ABBIE HOFFMAN, an enter-taining and infuriating political-organizer of the YIPPIE MOVEMENT of the SIXTIES. Before standing trial for trumped-up and paranoid charges by the NIXON posse
of trying to “undermine the government” (which he defiantly and definitely did), he gave a rousing speech to
his son and other young people in the courtroom about why it was they who, now, had to pursue and continue his work: “GO OUT AND SAVE YOUR COUNTRY,” he said--and, then, he was found "not guilty."
Now, YOU go out and save YOUR country. It needs
help and you are it, whether you want to or not.
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INHERIT THE LANGUAGE; INHERIT THE EARTH
The first speakers of “the word” were the leaders of the
tribes that invented “the word”: the priests, the chiefs, the
prophets, the shamans--the educated elite. From there,
onward to the Greeks who elevated “the word” into high
art, flowing from the mouths of the poets, the seers,
the playwrights, the teachers and the philosophers--once
more, the educated elite. And, thence, to find flower in
the literary art of the world and its ages--from the
Romans to the Renaissance to the Elizabethans to the
literature of Europe and the New World. From Homer to
Dante to Shakespeare, the speakers of “the word” have
always been the educated elite, aside from generic folk-
writers who have given expression to the “natural/
untutored” languages of their environments. But these
have never been the mainstream of the “spoken-word,”
only its primitive limners.
Today, within the last ten to twenty years, there has
been a movement afoot to pass-off the natural “word of
the street” as the “new poetry.” Here, within the “hip-hop”
cultures of the modern urban ghetto/the city-at-large--the
gang-bangers, the drug-dealers, the petty criminals, the
pimps, the brash new entrepreneurs of the culture cults,
in addition to a huge following of both white and non-
white youth--have emerged the uneducated and
deprived “new artists” who have turned the word “elite”
upside down from the privileged and educated classes,
the inheritors of our, heretofore, art and culture to mean
this week’s most popular “artist” that has sold the most
CD’s and made the most headlines, usually infamously.
Granted, this “new poetry” does have rhythm, image,
metaphor and energy that encapsulates the meaning of
the mean streets it recreates and reinterprets; but its
language and diction is impoverished at best and
corruptly degrading at worst, not its “hos” and “sluts” but
its conception of “the word” itself as the base vulgarity
and stolen property of the uneducated and dishonest
“new poet of the new world”: in a singular, monotonous
beat of the times, he tries to poeticize but is only able to
shout-out the crime-rhymes at the end of his lines that
are “rapped” in obscenities and wrapped inside of
pretentious philosophies. The monsylllabic “yo” and
“bro” have tried to replace the polysyllabic concepts and
abstractions and realities of the accomplished poets of
the ages who were schooled and disciplined within the
framework of traditions and the forms of varied structures
that took centuries to evolve and, even, more time to
master. Poetry was not instantaneous extemporaneous
exhortations, but worked-at imagnative creation of
studied verses and the exact right word in the exact right
Not every Snoop Dog and Pee Diddy is worthy of citation
and quotation with a Homer, a Dante and a
Shakespeare; not everyone can be a poet, a true and
educated student of words, art and tradition. It takes
a lifetime of work, study and dedicated practice.
The final proof will be the longevity of the “new poetry’s”
endurance: that is, in one hundred years, who will even
remember, much less be able to quote lines of the
“hopped-up rap” that, for a brief time, passed itself off
as the real thing--”words, alone, [that] are certain good”?
(William Butler Yeats, 19th-20th century Irish poet).
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Read the daily op-ed section of any reputable daily newspaper, and you will find a sampling of stories and issues that repeat themselves in theme and relevance.
For instance, today’s issue of the NY TIMES (7/21/09).
-Our latest Supreme Court nominee’s avoiding
the truth in her dodging of attack-questions from her
“special interest” opposition-group, namely, the good
old Southern racist Republicans who try to go beyond
“political correctness” to political control.
-Congress’ potential buckling under to the latest anti-gun
control bill (the Thune Bill introduced by Senator John
Thune, Republican of South Dakota, that would nullify
gun laws of almost every state, subjecting police officers
to greater risk and further increasing the reality of gun-
violence) under the powerful “special-interest” gun
lobby, the NRA, in the name of “the people’s right to
bear arms” and big gun business’ right to make a profit
at the expense of disposable human lives.
-Iran’s historic quest for a legitimate and free government
in a country and a civilization (Persia)--that predates
even China, much less a fledgling America--made into
a self-denigrating and destructive Islamic Revolution
under the tyrannical control of a self-annointed “special-
interest” group of power-hungry “holy men.”
-And our own issue-de-jour: health care for the masses
(as every other first-world country and some third-world,
countries, like Cuba, have in place and in working order)
beleagured, embattled and outrightly undermined by
a/the major “special-interest” group in America: the
huge insurance and drug companies who mismange
our care in the name of obscene profits at the expense,
suffering and desperation of those 47 million who,
currently, have no health care, whatsoever.
What is a “special-interest” group? Any self-serving,
organized faction on a national scale whose sole goal
is to maintain and to increase the profits of its members:
from the NRA, HMO, and DRUG lobbies to the
outright obstructionists in American politics (the die-hard old Republican Party and their hangers-on plus their
know-nothing newcomers) and, ultimately, to all foreign
governments and their “policy-makers”--all out for their
own interests but at the expense of others’ interests,
the disenfranchised and powerless of the earth.
Opposed to them are positive and creative “special-interest” groups, such as those dedicated to helping
others in-need (the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, poverty and health-care organizations, plus visionary scientists’ stem-cell research for death-dealing diseases, plus human rights’ activists all around the world--not just in “our world”).
These are the realities and ways of the world today and from time-immemorial. But WHY? A host of reasons:
competition, greed, survival, exploitation, dominance,
ignorance/knowledge and imperfection, that is, the flawed human species--you and me.
Therefore, inexorably and ineluctably, counter-cultures have arisen throughout history and throughout the world:
movements thru revolutions that attempted to “speak truth to power” and to render “power to the people.” Some succeeded (the American Revolution, foremost), but most failed (the French, Russian and Cuban Revolutions). Our latest “revolution” of the 1960’s--
struggles for Civil Rights, human rights (feminist and homosexual, et al.), anti-war demonstrations and movements for freedom of expression--had mixed but lasting results that have been refined and re-applied by today’s more sophisticated and effective youth-culture of the internet and universal electronic communications. History repeats itself and keeps on trying: that’s the good news.
The bad news, the reality of the human condition is its
natural evolution from the creation of life to its inevitable dead-end entropy and eventual self-destruction; it is just a matter of time before all our man-made institutions and constructs--both physical and virtual--implode and erupt; or “This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”
Only in death is there lasting equality.
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HOW CAN I AFFECT CHANGE?
ACTIVISM vs. APATHY
Only leaders in a spotlight can do anything about anything; and, most of the time, they get mesmerized and fried by the limelight.
Where does that leave you and me?--Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. Average American Citizen and, more to the point, Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. Underclass (i.e., the ubiquitous poor)? What can we possibly do if the power-elite cannot do anything to affect constructive and equitable change, i.e., understanding and helping “the other.”
Americans are--by their privileged position in this world of war, sub-survival and general and pervasive abuse--not a generous lot, by and large. Americans are selfish, greedy, fat, lazy and unthinking: for the most part, they are concerned only with themselves and their loved-ones (and, sometimes, the “loved-ones” become instant “un-loved ones” when money and support is concerned). And most of us will argue that that is as it, not only is, but also the way it should be: take care of yourself, first, and
the others will or will not take care of
themselves. What else can we do? This is the way of the world since the beginnings of time--the haves, the have-nots and the
wanna-be’s but cannot’s or will-not’s. We are what we sow, but we are also what we
rape and exploit in the name of greed and
money for money’s sake. How much is enough--money, beauty, comfort, thinness?
Now, I am not asking you to give your money away (unless you can and can get a good tax-break by doing so), but I am suggesting that “you, I and the other guy” just talk to one another; if that kind of a conversation is not possible, then LISTEN to “the other” when he makes a rational and a convincing case for reform.
For instance, listen to the immigrant and ask yourself, “What if I were in his shoes?” Which you and all of us once were, unless your name is “Native-American-Been-Here- Originally-Before-All-of-You-Thieves-Came-and-Took-Everything-We-Had” and made
heap big white-man profit on it.
Listen to the black man who never did anything to the white man except build his country for him in exchange for his master’s hatred and violence against him.
Listen to those who sound different from you because they were not born here or because they were not fortunate enough to be educated here or anywhere. And listen
to those who ARE as fortunate as you are but who still sound different.
That is, open your mind, shut your mouth and listen to “the other” for once in your spoiled and overprivileged life. Then, go about your business of living and making a living and try not to hurt “the other” by exploiting him however you can. You don’t have to, actually, DO anything; just listen and try to understand--as much as it must frustrate you to see that “the other” is different from you but that he is still a human being, a brother, a sister, and a
relative of yours in your family-of-man.
Tolerance is merely another way of saying that you will put-up with someone you really don’t like and approve of.
Acceptance is too much to ask, really, given our natural instincts for survival and prosperous selfishness.
But listening and understanding is the middle-ground and the half-way mark to
that final acceptance, much less that
saintly commitment to try to help “the other.”
When you get ready to die, you just might flash back on someone or someones that you could have helped but whom you chose not to because you were selfish--and you might not feel good about it, good enough to have it help you into the next world of--nothingness because you gave nothing when you had a chance to.
If you can go it alone at your end, then good luck to you; but if you are truly “human,” then you will need all the help you can get.
Until then, put away your childish apathy, or your pretended apathy, and see clearly, now, as an adult who is active--if not in his deeds but, first and foremost, in his mind’s eye. And speak-up: speak your truth and concern to the powers that be because--
ONLY YOU CAN AFFECT CHANGE.
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LOVE AND DEATH
LITERATURE AND IN LIFE
There are only two ultimate themes in all of literature and in all of life: love which creates and death which destroys (“recycles,” at best).
Take our last class on LANGSTON HUGHES and religion: whatever was in the writer’s mind, what came out were his feelings and ideas about the value and efficacy of religion. Whether you agree with what he said or not makes little difference; what matters is whether you “believe” or not in a higher power, a god, an organizing principle, anything beyond our mortal selves that can give life meaning--for instance, love?
Tonight’s class concerns the only real question worth asking and persuing: what happens when we die? There are two basic choices: some kind of an “after-life” or nothing, that is, the “big sleep” of eternal and
infinite nothingness: in effect, we go back to
the “place we were before we were born.”
Does anyone remember? And so, too, will you never “remember” or reawaken from your death.
Therefore, what has religion to do with death? Everything and nothing: everything in that a genuine “belief” in something “after death” can ease the final terror of death.
But if what if you are not a “believer” in any kind of an “after-life”? What if you are an
“atheistic existentialist”? Not someone who dines with the devil and eats babies; but, rather, someone like a HEMINGWAY or a CAMUS of, it is estimated, upwards of 70% of the world’s population but who, for fear of social, political and religion condemnation and renunciation (“excommunication,” if you will, from the traditionally religious part of the human community) cannot claim their un-belief: that is, perhaps, the final cultural divide in civilized society--the “god-fearing”
and the godless: the very name sounds evil.
But what have you got here in this heathen view? A workable philosophy of total and ultimate personal responsibility for the very essence of our existence without any reliance on a “super-power” to explain us to and save us from ourselves and our deaths.
And if life IS meaningless, which the fact of death seems to say it is, then why bother living at all? Wouldn’t the “most intelligent” response to this fatal emptiness of life be to commit suicide? Rationally, yes. And here is where “atheistic existentialism” turns meaningless into meaning: by creating more and more absurd non-meaning in our daily “rock rolling,” we create the meaning of defiance. STOP here and think about it: if everything that we do is meaningless in the long-run because we all die, then quantity rules the day over quality since there is no quality, by definition. Yes, no, maybe? And so the more absurdity, the better and
the more meaningless life, the better.
Hence, a philosophy that, finally, outwits death, the eventual and ultimate victor.
So--push your rock up your life-path every day that you get out of bed to repeat your absurd ritual because you will never reach the top of your hill, much less position your
struggle to rest there. Or as CAMUS says in his poetic “MYTH OF SISYPHUS”: the struggle is all, and one must believe that Sisyphus is happy.
There’s that word again: “believe.” But, here, with a difference: you believe only in your imperfect and mortal self and, so, your choices are your reasons for existing--and you and only you are in-charge, totally in-charge. Except for one thing: chance, accident or “facticity” (as SARTRE, the other modern atheistic existentialist, names the force over which we have no control and which is the ultimate absurdity, by definition and by everyone’s experience).
And that is the bottom-line of all bottom-lines and with which you can agree or disagree; which is your choice--and why?
Do you have a better, more rational and workable system? If so, please write me about it. You, too, can be a philosopher.
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MOVIE REVIEW of--
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, a.k.a.
To begin with, I have never liked any of
QUENTIN TARANTINO’s films,and I liked this one least of all. Why? Because, like all of his other films, he is dishonest: that is, he pretends to be “comically violent” when he is mixing comic elements with genuine and exaggerated violence--or doesn’t he know the difference any more?
Granted, some of the characters--like the lead that BRAD PITT plays who sets the tone for a self-satirizing Southern hillbilly and his group of associated misfits, the “Nazi-Hunters”--are incongruous and, therefore, truly comic.
And the German S.S. villain is a cross betweeen Captain Schultz of HOGAN’S HEROES/STALAG 17 and a sociopath; the rest are buffoons.
How could such outrageous characters be taken seriously? With the accompanying action--graphic and sadistically indulgent
violence, not all for “fun-killing’s sake” (TARANTINO’s usual explanation for his mixed-up films) but, rather, very serious in the holocaust of the final scene when an auditorium of Nazis are burned alive while being machine-gunned to death from the balcony as a maniacal and suicidal jewess is screaming from the screen that they are going to be killed “by a jew,” I could not help but take it as a very sincere, and sick, expression of a conflagrational revenge for the horrors of what the Nazis did: burn and be burned.
I am not jewish, but I could feel the blood-lust revenge and hate coming through the frames as they continued to burn and explode--64 years after the Nazis were, literally, sent to hell. Wasn’t once enough?
SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER was funny; BASTERDS is not. 9/07/09
This Ballywood combination documentary-
movie is a vibrant panoply of color, motion, and setting that reveals, instructs and-- always--entertains. The sights jump up and off the screen to reveal phantasmagoric
images of juxtaposed squalor and luxury amid the rat-infested streets and garbage- mountains of one of India’s rapidly developing cities of high-rising buildings and
booming economies. What maintains the
upbeat of this potentially depressing depravity is its enduring little urchins--the “slumdogs”--that run, jump and cajole their way through, up and around the dumps that they live in and off of. With an exhilirating ebullience, they imbue this pictorial adventure with outrageous humor by, literally, choosing to fall into the shit that lies beneath them in one of the outhouses atop a heaping mound; and after emerging from the cesspool imbued with a yellowish-brown effluence, the young jumper pushes his way through a gathering crowd to try to con valuable autographs from a local celeb.
The plot is engaging though improbable; and the even more improbable love-story between a young “dog” and his befriended, little orphaned girl, standing in the rain one night as he seeks shelter in a sewer with his hostile brother, is the ultimate romantic illusion that the film makes you believe and revel in at its accidental “millionaire” ending.
In this Hollywood-style happy ending where love conquers all, even the overpowering odds of basest poverty and searing corruption, is a vision of great
faith and invention that makes me believe in the impossible’s coming true while knowing that it never will. We are along for the ride, enjoying every up and down minute of it, while marvelling at these all too real little “slumdogs” and cheering for their success. The “millionaires” in this upside-down movie shift between the deserving and the shiftless and where ending-up on top of the heap is a matter of relative struggle--and instinctual survival. 1/18/2009
D O U B T
The institution of the Catholic Church is bad: it is courrupt, it is in and of the past, it is wrong. And this
little film presents just one small part of that archaic anachronism, as it existed in a New York parish one year after JFK’s assassination. And that part is, by now, hopefully, the redundant exposure of the sex crimes of its imprisoned male clergy.
The idea of a pastoral protectorate made up of totally repressed and, for the most part, homosexual men
(whether out of the rectory or still behind its closed doors) is and always has been untenable if not outright
ludicrous. No other religious organziation has such a benighted concept of a celibate army locked up together, trying to do the Lord’s work: not the Jews, not the Protestants, not the Muslims. And so, that fact is a given to the interest and quasi-tension of this film before we even take our seats in the theatre. What, then, is there to advance our suspension of belief that there is, in fact, any doubt at all here and that what we are witnessing is no more than a fait accompli and a cliche? Only some effective performances by the actors who flesh-out these dead stereotypes. But, and today, that is also almost another given in any movie that is deemed significant enough to warrant attention.
What is new here, anything? Only one thing: that the actual or merely suspected “crimes” of the good Father
Flynn are for a good cause: that is, the film strongly implies that he is gay and that one, if not both, of his favorite boys are also gay; and that all he is doing is trying to help these misbegotten children of this time and this place by showing some concerned love for and providing some comfort to them--whether he touched them or not. This interpretation of the “priest scandal within the Catholic Church” not only explains it, again, but, this time, puts a human face onto those “perverted pedophiles.” What other choices do they have? Masturbation, intra-fraternal fornication, or neutalization of this basic human instinct by the omnipresent and parallel nuns’ sorority whose duty it is to “look after and care for their brothers in the Lord.” And these sisters-in-lust do not look entirely peaceful, either.
Outside of that twist and take on this hackneyed issue,
there is nothing presented here that we do not already know, have not already lived through and, now, have moved on from.
There is no doubt that this Church is what it is; and what it may be in the future is another movie--still in-development. 1/18/09
THE READER/DER VORLESER
by Bernhard Schlink, 1996
This was an interesting film. What was it about? A lot of things: love, murder/genocide, revenge and redemption,
discovery of the wonders of the world via books and music (in the chapel), romance, young love, mental challenges, responsibility--but and above all else, and for me and my knowledge of why this film was “very German,” it was about that almost instinctual quality of their culture: GUILT.
After WWI, the Treaty of Versailles insisted, to much international disagreement and debate, to keep the infamous “German Guilt Clause” in and to make the defeated country sign, acknowledge and incorporate it into their DNA. And so, everyone after 1918 (HANNAH SCHMIDTS was born in 1922) inherited this particularly
”Deutsche shult/guilt” as part and parcel of their shameful heritage.
HANNA was too “ashamed” of her illiteracy to admit in open court and in front of the world, at that point, that she was unable to read, much less write. And so, she chose to remain silent and take on the total “guilt” for her crimes; she was, if not borderline defeated, then simple-minded and accepting--though extraordinarily kind-and not capable of evaluating her just share in the crime; so, she took it all, rather than publicly “shame” herself.
She also says to MICHAEL in the tub, interrupting him in mid-LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER: “That is disgusting, you ought to be 'ashamed' of yourself. Go on.”
And MICHAEL, who always loved her, was, in the beginning, torn between his lust and his “shame” for his secret behavior in front of his rather distant parents. But he got over it. And when she just left, without even saying goodbye and without telling him that she “loved him” the way he loved her, he was hurt and traumatized for life, hence, his withdrawn reticence and his never
”coming out to anyone.” And so, rather than save her from herself in the trial, thereby, “shaming” her to her core--the one thing that she knew enough not to even try to deal with--he chose (as she did in the crime) to be silent; and, thus, he sent her to a life-in-prison (only a different one from the “prison” which she had existed in up until that point). It is only after she dies that he realizes what he has done and tries to gain redemption in his interview with the stern jewess on Park Avenue. He is, or should be, very “ashamed” of himself.
Also, there is commentary on books and “learning” from them versus “learning in the camps,” which is “nothing, not a university,” as the unforgiving daughter survivor of the camps tells MICHEAL in the end. And the Heildelberg professor, in his “selective” seminar, tells MICHAEL when he tries to tell him the “information” he has that can save HANNA in her sentencing that “if we haven't learned anything from [our history], then what's the point?”
And THE ODYSSEY is a “journey” that MICHAEL has no idea that he is on until he, too, “comes home” (as ODYSSEUS did to ITHACA after his wanderings) to the graveyard and, if not “reads,” then tells the story of his wanderings and what he has “learned” (to his daughter, as ODYSSEUS does to his son, TELEMECHUS)
from a kind older woman who taught him the actions of love-making and, then, taught him the essence of love (on her limited level): desire--to learn, to love and to make-up for her “guilt” by just surviving and living the best that she is capable of.
And the story that HANNA loved the most and that she learned to read with and to, eventually, write, is the story of Chekov's “THE LADY AND HER PET DOG”--
“a tale of adultery and discovery of true love,” in which Chekov does not analyze or moralize but, simply, tries to “understand” the two lovers.
And though it is difficult to “understand” MICHAEL and to forgive him for abandoning this poor woman--his one true love that has always stayed with him through his unsuccessful marriage and almost failed relationship with his daughter (probably the only person after HANNA that he ever truly loved, including himself)--the writer and the fimmaker have, at least, shown MICHAEL to us and let our
limited understanding of life and our benign experiences
(in contrast to HANNA and her horrors) attempt to explain him to ourselves.
Perhaps, the difference between “morality” and the “law,” as the professor lectures his students, explains the mind-part of MICHAEL's self; but his heart is a mystery, to me, at least.
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(an example of a hortatory argument)
If I lend you two bushels of corn and you
plant those two bushels of corn; and, then,
you harvest forty bushels and pay me back
the original two I lent you PLUS another two bushels as “gain” for a total of four
bushels, you have, in effect, charged me
5 % profit/interest by providing me with the corn in the first place.
In the first millenium and in the pre-millenium, this was a common and a legal
process among farmers and, also, livestock-
owners, that is, any living thing that could multiply and breed and, therefore, increase naturally by the laws of cultivation and nature.
Then, someone, after the invention of coins,
came along with the idea of lending those “tokens” of value and of charging “interest”
on them as part of the repayment.
This lending of “base” (lead) and “rare” (gold
and silver) metals at “rates of interest”
was immediately outlawed by all the religions and their churches as an “unnatural
USE” of making inorganic commodities “breed” and “grow,” against the laws of god, nature, and work. Thus “money-lending” became a “sin”--and an immediate, efficient, timely, and successful method for increasing gain.
The Jews were forced into practicing this new art (one step above alchemy) because other avenues of gain were closed to them out of prejudice. Therefore, slowly and through various incentives and pressures from both within and from without their culture, they became “money-lenders” to the
Christians. And, thus, was born the ancient
“crime” of USURY that has come down to us today in the form of “legally” excessive and exorbitantly blatant rates of interest, such as charged us by our friendly lenders--
of whatever religious persuasion: banks, credit-card companies, and those other
complex financial institutions that recently choked on their own greed and almost brought this country and the world money-markets to the brink of collapse, to a crashing halt, and into the chaos of NO CREDIT, the lifeblood of commerce.
If there is one sin that stands out from the original “Seven Deadly Sins” (pride, envy, lust, anger, gluttony, greed and sloth), it is
“Radix malorum est cupiditas.”
(Root of all evil is cupidity/greed)
“Greed is good. Greed is right.
Greed works.” (from Oliver Stone’s
film of WALL STREET)
Now, add the term “for-profit”: for-profit financial services, for-profit corporations, for-profit HMO’s, for-profit insurance companies and, ultimately, for-profit government.
And, so, Michael Moore, both in the docu-
mentary of CORPORATION and in his
own film of SICKO, poses the bottom-line
“How much is enough? Is there ever
such a thing as ‘enough’?”
And the answer that he gives is the only true answer to that question:
“No, enough is never enough.”
There is no such thing as ‘enough.’ “
Greed rules, greed consumes, greed destroys.
Then, ask yourself which things should be “for-profit” and “how much of a profit” in a modern civilized society: food, shelter, clothing, health-care and security? Which
should be supplied for free as “rights” or subsidized by the government at lower
And how much profit is enough--fair, equal and ethically moral?
Then--mobilize your conscience, vote and
activate for change.
USURY and our being used and abused by the corrupt “money-lenders” of our society
will never change unless we change first--
our awareness, our mind-sets and attitudes,
and our behavior.
How much abuse is enough? How much can you take? And how much will it take to make you say, “enough is enough” and “this will not stand”?
Refuse to play the game,
refuse to participate in exploitation,
refuse to patronize rot.
Don’t let them disrespect you; stand-up and be counted because “usury” is only letting yourself be used.
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Tied to the hospital bed
Taught between the guard-rails
We two sons
(One younger and one older by nine years)
Stand above him
As his body tenses and
His face contorts beneath the
Plastic strapped-on oxygen mask.
His fingers squeeze the bed-side gates
Searching for a hand, a finger
Something human to hold on to.
Terror spreads across his face
Resembling some kind of
Science experiment gone bad.
He struggles for his last breath.
Then, he goes limp,
Not letting go
But still searching frantically
For something, anything
That will help him, now,
In his moment of surpreme agony.
We two sons
Look down at him
Where the living stand;
Then, at each other
In a combination of
The laughter of loss.
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All my life
And mostly unbeknownst to me
I have been learning
HOW TO DIE:
to let the pain of parting
forever come unto me--
slowly, gently, quietly;
to push through
the doubt and the fear
the death of the light.
and to not be afraid
to be ready
to be peaceful
to be no more.
I have immortal longings in me
That--in one moment--
Shall shine through.
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EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER
B/W photo: her president-brother reaches out
across a room of 1961 onlooking politicos,
hands-off to his sister
the pen that signed the paper:
the First Committee on Mental Retardation.
Next: From there, she was off,
Running to save the disabled youngsters
Of the world
Creating THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS
Along her way--
Next: she helped retarded youth of all colors
into and out of her backyard pool of
“Camp Shriver” in 1962;
Next: raised the hand of a Kenyan mile-champion
at Soldiers’ Field in Chicago in 1968;
Next: kibbitzed with Muhammad Ali
at the unveiling of
the SPECIAL OLYMPICS stamp in 1979;
Next: welcomed an Austrian Mr. World
Republican governor into her family
as her son-in-law in 2003.
Golden blonde hair set in wisps
Around her drawn and craggy long-face
Radiating lights of--
Serving those different among us:
To run faster
To jump higher
To fall down and
* see CNN.com BREAKING NEWS, Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"Eunice Kennedy Shriver Dies"
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THE INEVITABILITY OF NOW
(in response to an op-ed by David Brooks,
“The Power of Posterity
in the NYTIMES,
July 28, 2009)
It is a truism that the hope we place in our future gener-
tions gives meaning and direction to our dead-end lives. Without any children to pass on our ideals, goals and grand designs to, we would be forced to live in our ephemeral present without any sustained significance.
Our lives unravel themselves over a period of from 70 to
80 years on the average, which is about the time for four generations worth of “you” to pass--from you to your children to your grandchildren to your great-grandchildren if you are lucky. And, then, we are forgotten, as if we had never been here, had never lived.
What if--there were no more future, that is, world populations decreased faster than they increased (for what-ever reasons: disease, wars, famine, the envioronment’s not being able to sustain any more growth--the sun “went out” on one side of the planet,
The first belief to go would be the life-after-death faiths
(Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism): they would either be extinguished like flames that lack oxygen--no one could believe anymore because there would be nothing left to believe in. Or they could be infused with a new anxious energy to be first-in-line for a fastly approaching and universal eternity.
In short, everything becomes shrunk into the here-and-now; this life becomes the only moment that anyone will ever have, now and foreverafter, because there is no foreverafter.
This “nowness” would erase all of our illusions that,
“someday,” man will rise out of the mud and above his animal instincts and populate the stars. To what end? To merely extend his cosmos of battle and to populate his killing fields with more dead bodies?
The end of the world is a grim and nihilistic vision but, perhaps, better sooner than “never.” A life fully-lived, moment by moment, in the full force of a “now-is-forever”
reality--free from all grasping after future solace--in a world-community which is doomed to extinction, sooner than later, might be worth more than what we now delude ourselves about in order to pull meaning from what we will “pass on”: more debris and destruction.
Life hasn’t worked-out to our best desires--”so far.” And we--daily--busily work, pay our bills, raise our children, pray in our churches and “hope for the best”; and some even convince themselves that the “struggle is all,” like Sisyphus pushing his rock endlessly up his mountain, only to--knowingly--have it roll back down whenever he, actually, reaches the top (more often, before). And he walks down his mountain in full defiant awareness to reclaim his endless burden. The gods are cruel, and they have invented “this game” out of sheer boredom, sadism or “some reason beyond our feeble minds.”
Explain it anyway that you want to; it all comes to the same end--push your rock and, then, die--if you’re lucky.
If your are not lucky enough to die sooner than later-- what all of us in our trembling little hearts want, despite our protestations to the contrary: to hang-on as long as we are kept alive to hang-on--then, you are, really damned to a life too-long endured and too-little lived.
If there were no future, which, in reality, there isn’t for any of us, this would be how our world ends: in a steady, calm and rational fading-out of hopeless-hopes, pipe-dreams and wishful imaginings.
Death, now, becomes the goal in a way that has, hereto-fore, never been really acknowledged, much less accepted. We are, now, forced to face our lives for what they are and for what each of us can make them.
But why not just kill yourself, now, and save yourself the agony and suffering of anticipating your upcoming death
in a real time-frame--the same time-frame that you knew before but refused to accept? Because you want to be there for your children who will also die with you.
It would be as if your god or your “director of activities” had given you a gift: the time that you and your fellow-humans have left to live to the best of your abilities.
Maybe, all hell would break loose in a fury of a wilfull onslaught of armegeddon, and the world would end with a “bang.” Or maybe, we could, finally, “get it right.”
read the full article at the NY times webpage
July 28, 2009
The Power of Posterity
By DAVID BROOKS
Every day, I check a blog called Marginal Revolution, which is famous for its erudite authors, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, and its intelligent contributors. Last week, one of those contributors asked a question that is fantastical but thought-provoking: What would happen if a freak solar event sterilized the people on the half of the earth that happened to be facing the sun?
read the full article at the NY times webpage
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... is like a hovering mist
that sprays your eyes
with droplets of
fading in-and-out memories--
until one drop strikes and
the rescued moment
in strobe-like flashes,
receding into the
gardens of your life:
a college dance in the spring of youth,
a blinding birth at the entrance to manhood,
a lightning crash in wheels going round
and the descent into frenzied despair,
re-birth in a new mate for life--
All sentiment-dripping and
Sprays of mist
Onto the withering flowers of your life.
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We become excited and, then, involved in some new event--like the weather, the latest news issue, even landing on the moon. After a while, we lose interest and look for the next new point-of-engagement. Or we just drift from unaware moment to unaware moment, still looking for something new, even if unconsciously. That is, our human minds seem to be so constructed that their cells attract to new things, much as moths are attracted to light--instinctually and reflexively--and, then, flit from one incandescent source to another, much as fireflies simulate in the spring night air.
Why? Humans are animals endowed with higher intelligences (on a varying scale) than those animals on the lower rungs of the evolutionary ladder. Those intelligences--our curiosities (whether we realize them or not)--must be fed as we must be fed with food, drink, sleep and sex to not only survive but also to
maintain and, in most cases, thrive. Even a slug in slow-motion in a garden of delights moves form one spot to another with the lowest or total absence of any consciousness at all. Therefore, as one increases in awareness, one also increases his need to be involved with new and higher points-of-interest.
Take the average student: he is a student either by choice or chance--or by enforcement. He pays or does not pay attention to certain topics, and he is engaged with those lessons that appeal to his taste, comfort and aptitudes. Know it or not, he is moving from one point-of-interest to another more interesting point--of-interest.
It is only when his “moving around” becomes a conscious choice that he moves from being a passive-active student to a fully engaged one, now searching for better and more intense points-of-interest.
Now, take a highly formed mind, say, a scientist’s or a philosopher’s--and the power, intensity and frequency of “moving around” increases accordingly and approaches “firefly speed.”
Finally, the other side of “flitting” is deep-focus, the ability and the need to dive down into a single point-of-light--and stay there--until your cells exhaust themselves by being satiated to your individual capacities.
But what happens then? Either you lose yourself there in that black-hole, or you move on to your next canyon.
Why can’t you rest in that place where you have just dived down into? Why will man become “bored,” eventually, with anything, even gods walking on water?
Call it man’s innate need to keep moving, onward and upward, until the expiration of his consciousness:
Leonardo DaVinci’s supposed last-breath comment on his death-bed--”I learn, I still learn.” Call it man’s need for new challenges, entertainment and new women: we are wired that way. Or call it “going with the flow,” wherever it takes us, willy-nilly and by no conscious choice at all:
drifting on contentment; drifting on drugs, sex and rock ‘n
roll; or just zoning-out in your environment of random rushes of “firefly activity,” where you are seeing the scene or you are merely in the scene.
The goal here is to morph-out from a buzzing firefly, bouncing around like the original computer-game,
Pong, but without the controlling paddle of the game-player. That is, remote-controlled fireflying, deliberately choosing which places to alight upon and peruse until taking off and droning on for new targets.
Or--there is always an “or”--and one “or” was in the mind of John Keats, the most sensual Romantic poet of them all, who posited his theory of “negative cabability”: that is, the “[ability to remain in uncertainty without the deliberate reaching after fact”]. To be the flower, to be the firefly, to be in-the-moment. Keats was the origninal “tripper” without mind-enhancing substances (as his kindred spirit, Coleridge, had), and he died doing it: he had “immortal longings” in him that he never was able to satisfy; that, and a deadly case of tuberculosis at the age of 26 ended his positive “tripping.
Developing “negative capability” is a very difficult thing to do, especially if one has the illusion that he is in-control of his daily existence, much less a “control-freak” (as most of us are but rarely admit because our society “frowns” upon such individuals while behaving with the definite choice of trying to excercise total control).
Try to just let go of something that is really bothering you and remain in the situation without “reaching after
[the comforting and satisfying resolution of] fact.” One must have a developed ability to just “forget about it” or
have his handy mind-numbing substance at the ready, be
it ordinary distraction or extraordinary marijuana.
The choice to be a non-directed firefly or a firefly on- instruments has its good and bad points. What has no point-of-interest at all is sluggish non-direction.
Fireflies above and slugs below: both fulfill functions in Nature’s design. Maybe, it is--in the final analysis--only a matter of speed and point-of-view.
Are you a firefly or a slug, or are you a firefly and a slug?
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From the moon, Earth appears as a fragile blue and white ball just hanging there, suspended in blackest space, alone and abandoned and inhabited by a backward race called “humans.”
All humans consider themselves the most important thing in their own private worlds and their world the only important thing in their universe. This belief is as it should be, for we have only one limited life and, after that is over, there is nothing that can be objectively pointed to as fact. Naturally, we take ourselves seriously because if we didn’t, who would? Not “someone out there.”
But from the moon, there is “something out there” that cannot be denied by those 24 men who have walked on the moon: an organizing principle, call it god or Nature, that makes us humans look ridiculously insignificant and all of our “sound and fury, signify nothing.”
But we are earthbound. And all our aggressive ant-like
behavior, cosmically speaking, is as significant as a grain of sand on all the beaches in all the worlds.
On the other side of the moon, however, on the dark side, there is “a world in a grain of sand ... and ... infinity ... in an hour.” That is, we are all connected in a chain going back to Earth’s first man and woman and, as links in a chain, we are, also, interconnected so that any single link, any human being (living, dead or not yet born) affects the interdependence of all the links in that chain. Break the chain and meaningless ensues.
And when we die and are forgotten, eventually and entirely, and no one remembers our name and we might as well have not been here at all, we are still part of that ageless chain--all that has been, is and will be.
And so, we are important and significant and count for everything. “You in everyone” is what we are and what we leave behind. The next passing-on to another link in the endless chain is what each one of us is. Forever is an incomprehensible concept from our perspective on
the Earthside of the moon, but we intuit that it is a long, long, long time.
One’s perspective, one’s point-of-view, where one is, literally, standing and seeing determines his worth at any given moment. We know that we exist because we think, because we are conscious and aware that we can feel and react to sensations; as far as we know, we are the only sentient beings in the universe.
Therefore, we are everything and nothing at the same time. And, so, to take oneself “seriously” needs to be balanced with taking oneself with a grain of sand and not become caught-up in the whole thing, our individual lives and their effects on all around us.
Enter crying, live laughing, and exit gratefully: to be born is to die and to die is to become another link in that chain that is a ribbon of stars in the night sky. And, sometimes, they twinkle.
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It used to be that we had spread out over all inhabitable land-spaces in America until we have now created our current crisis in “overly populated” areas--cities, ghettoes and slums.
Then, we started launching satellites, space-stations and assorted debris until our troposphere became a dense ring of floating “space junk,” with the potential danger of collision with future space-garbage.
Now, we have something called “ocean sprawl” where our vast and mighty oceans have become overcrowded and overfished and overpolluted to the point where our government is beginning to “look into it.” Good luck.
Add to these three mega planetary rapes, our everyday overflowing landfills for our “bag-a-day per capita” production of our personal garbage, and we can see the
problem: man is a waste-producing machine that progresses at a geometirc rate of increase daily--with no end in sight to his refusal to curb his refuse-producing capacity. What can we do? Shoot our shit out into space in orbitting garbage dumps, bury it under our violated and polluted earth-layer, or sink it to the bottom of our sick seas?
It is obvious that man will eventually ruin his birthplace and birthright, his Garden-Of-Eden “little green-and-blue ball just ‘afloating out there around the sun” (Geroge Carlin) by overusing it with no conscious consideration for the stewardship of the Earth that he has been entrusted with; by chance or by design, we have blown it. Global-warming and global-wrecking are our destiny?
So, what can we do? Leave the planet. “Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away” (more George Carlin).
And another whacked-out poet, e.e. cummings, many years earlier, said something similar: “[there’s a wonderful world out there, let’s go].”
But what they both failed to mention, much less explain,
was how we would get there and what we would do once we got there. And how we would stay there.
Who would go first, the explorers and our advance-guard? Who would govern the mission for New Earth-colonies--”the great Satan” (America) or a new “world-government”? Otherwise, our weary nations would be launched into another “land-rush” and futher occupations for political, military and economic dominance. And who would decide, select and execute our missions to
Mars and beyond? And, perhaps, most importantly, could we have mall-outlets and McDonald-chains under
our atmospheric and oxygen bubble that would enclose
our new residents in their sealed-off and sealed-in self-contained zones? And who would provide “security”--from god knows what kinds of alien, as well as New Earth, life-forms? And those are only some problems, for starters. All-in-all, too complex and impractical a dream for any but our most high-tech and special-affected sci-fi visions, now playing in your Earth neighborhood theatre.
Granted that it is difficult, almost unimaginable to little, parochial minds like ours, to contemplate, much less plan and carry out such grand designs; but today--on the 40th Anniversary of our fist landing on the moon (July 20,
1969)--the idea has arisen again, like the earth-rises as seen over the horizons of the moon when our two astronauts walked the lunar landscape way back then.
But since then, we have been “distracted” and obsessed with our plethora of Earth-issues: like terrorists’ attacks;
wars of “independence and freedom” for benighted and developing countries (especially if they have oil); financial
meltdowns (rather wholesale robberies by our organized- crime syndicate of endlessly greedy investment bankers); plus our very own personal and conspicuous over-consumption of “stuff, stuff and more stuff,” most of which is entirely unnecessary but which is driven by out-of-control corporations and the media whores that they control). Earthlings are very well-trained and programmed, greedy little consumers who salivate at the sound and sight of a new tech-toy twittering on their electronic horizon or the smell of a Whopper double-cheesburger (with bacon and mushrooms) or the salacious sight of overly revealed flesh hanging out of a black thong and red bustier.
We can’t help it: we are an Earth-bound and not-yet-fully- evolved species, hopefully, a sub-species to a more advanced alien race (as in superior to the “human race,” lest anyone be offfended) of intelligent and restrained beings. And we need their help.
Or else--”we are [totally] fucked” (Geroge Carlin, again).
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Corporations, businesses and,
Bankers stole this country blind
And government bailed them out
Because they were “too big to fail.”
This paradigm points to a
The bigger the thief,
The more he is necessary
To the hearbeat of our existence;
When credit dries up,
The patient dies.
Our bottom-line here?
Greed is good for them,
But not for us;
We pay them to rob us
Then, we save them
When they can no longer rob us.
The ways of the world
Perhaps, beyond repair.
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Nine-years-old and curious
I visited the Statue of Liberty
With my New York City grandmother
One sunny summer’s day.
I started to climb the long, narrow
Stairway to the top.
My little body barely fit between
The rails and my feet skipped
On the slippery steel steps.
Half way up,
I became afraid, held on tight,
And went back down the double-spiral stairs
To the bottom
Where my grandmother awaited me.
A few words of encouragement
Turned me back around
And up, I went, again.
At the same spot,
The same fear gripped me
And I descended once more.
This time, my grandmother did not
Send me back up
Where I dared not go.
Ever since that day,
I have been afraid
Of heights and
Closed-in claustrophobic spaces.
Lady Liberty taught me a lesson
Some sixty years ago
And I have remembered it
To this July 4th Day.
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When they were young
So very young and
Needy, vulnerable and all open--
Father was a pillar to cling to.
Then, they grew and
Saw and learned and,
Slowly, unsurely, became
Their own persons--
And Father was not there anymore.
Now, they are grown,
Adult, independent, all
Their own men who
Still need to look up to
A Father who, even though
He wasn’t there, was there--
In their minds to be
Challenged, emulated, surpassed.
All is as it should be:
Fathers and sons.
Sons and fathers--
And may the best men win!
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“Paint covers surface equals art.”
How paint covers surface equals
Some traced life in
Representational figures onto
Canvases that all could understand.
What they saw
Into what they felt:
Unrecognizeable shapes and colors
Raging in their heads.
Accidentally dripped and
Drizzled lines of paint into
Dense webs of meshed drops
And blotches off the ends of brushes
Reflecting the chaotic cries of
His disconnected demons into
Violent and tangled outbursts--
Inside the frames of order.
Outside the frame,
His lines crashed,
Ending his visions.
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TO BE TRAGEDY
TO BE MELODRAMA
Shakespeare’s four great tragedies--HAMLET, OTHELLO, LEAR, and MACBETH--are each a classic icon of high drama. The greatest critics--Coleridge, A.C. Bradley and even Freud himself--have all delved into the depths of these plays for almost limitless profundities.
Reading and looking at only the plots of these tragedies, one notices the heavy piles of melodrama and their pot-boiler endings littering the stage and flaring up over the exquisite pain of their lines of lavish language.
The finale of HAMLET is a literal funeral where the stage is strewn with bodies:
Claudius (the original and sole target of the Young Prince’s “dulled revenge” and “blunted purpose”); Gertrude (the fated Queen and lusty mother to the Prince); Laertes (rival to Hamlet’s one, true love, his
sister); the “fair” Ophelia (the “distracted” and “dutiful” daughter); of the King’s Councillor, the “rash intruding” pontificator of “words, words, words,” Polonius; and the Prince’s bumbling schoolmates from Wittenberg, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. All are led to their futile slaughter by the “delaying” Prince of Denmark who could not make up his mind--about everything and anything. And contrary to Milton’s apologia for all truly tragic tales from his play in verse, SAMSON AGONISTES, there is much “here for tears” and even more “to wail and knock the breast” plus an excess of “weakness, contempt, dispraise and blame,”
anything but “well and fair” and what may not “quiet us in” so many deaths “ignoble.”
And similar observations can be made about OTHELLO’s sordid and wilful waste of his innocent wife DESDEMONA whom he makes into a betrayed “whore.” The ending of this play of jealousy and evil leaves its voyeurs with a dirty feeling of having witnessed the lustful carnage of a
sacrificial victim to the monstrous ego of
the dreadful Moor. And his anti-climactic suicide does not redeem either him or the play from its spectacle of indulgent and lascivous emotional squalor.
LEAR’s fate is only a bit more uplifting than HAMLET’s or OTHELLO’s but not much since the fallen and un-kingly old man spends the majority of his time on stage as
a threadbare beggar huddling in the frozen rocks and rubble of his abandoned dreams,
led around by his witty and ironic FOOL: a pathetic old fool himself, trying to die while insane and unaware of his moment of
recognition and frustrated reversal when the body of his dead daughter CORDELIA is laid in his feeble arms.
MACBETH’s ghost story is a Halloween fable full of witches and “sound and fury
signifying” everything in some truly lofty language but little else of plausible interest.
All of Shakespeare’s great and small tragedies carry themselves on the sounds and sense of their music, not on the
compulsion of their improbable plots. The characters and their scenes “boil and bubble” with the “toil and trouble” of overblown events and excessive exaggerations.
It is only the language that saves them. These plays are the high-drama of words on high-wires that compel us with the “color of [their] countries.” It is Shakespeare’s “words, words, words” that make all worthwhile and “nothing but well and fair/And what may” soothe us in a world so chaotic.
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