Archive for September, 2015

WHERE IS AMERICA ANYMORE?

“Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together

I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.”

So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies

And walked off to look for America.

 

“Kathy,” I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh

“Michigan seems like a dream to me now.

It took me four days to hitch-hike from Saginaw

I’ve come to look for America.”

 

Laughing on the bus

Playing games with the faces

She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy.

I said, “Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera!”

 

“Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat.”

“We smoked the last one an hour ago.”

So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine

And the moon rose over an open field.

 

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping

“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.

Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike

They’ve all come to look for America

All come to look for America

All come to look for America.”

 

Paul Simon

1968

WHY SHOULD WE HOLD THE IMMIGRANTS RESPONSIBLE?

My best friend ever, Mr. Vogel, was an immigrant from Germany.  He was born in 1900, and died in 1984.  He survived military service on the infamous Western Front–then came to the United States, married an American woman, and worked as a cabinetmaker until his retirement.  As you can probably imagine, Mr. Vogel had a lot of fascinating, personal stories to tell.  He lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before moving to the rural outskirts of Mobile, Alabama (that area now a part of the city).

Mr. Vogel once told me about how, when he lived in the German section of Milwaukee, the local newspaper was printed in German.  But he wanted to read only the English-language newspaper.  “Why?” other German immigrants asked him.  “Because I want to learn English,” he replied.  Mr. Vogel was an ideal immigrant–he insisted on learning the language of his new country, understanding the culture of his new country, and even taking an active part in the governmental process of his new country.

I was thinking of this story earlier–and I began to wonder: What about those other German immigrants who chose to read the German-language newspaper instead?

It is said that immigrants to the United States today are not like those of the past–that they are less inclined to learn English, to understand our culture, or to care at all about our governmental process.  But are they?  Are they really any different from most immigrants of the past?

Remember our European ancestors–immigrants to this land beginning over 500 years ago?  Did they have any interest in learning the languages of the Native Americans?  Did they make any attempt to understand the Native American cultures?  Did they care at all about the Native American governmental processes?  Of course not.  Generally speaking, our European ancestors–immigrants to this land beginning over 500 years ago–had a shared superiority complex.  And they we still do.

But back to immigrants of today: How different are they, really?  Are they really less inclined to assimilate into our culture–or do we just assume this, and treat them accordingly?

I remember the Mariel Boatlift of 1980.  Thousands of Cubans, released by Castro, showed up on South Florida shores.  Soon Spanish began to trump English in South Florida–and South Floridians blamed the Cuban refugees.  But were they to blame–or was the State of Florida to blame?

And now Spanish is offered as an alternative language by just about every American corporation–and even by the U.S. Government.  But again, are Spanish-speaking immigrants to blame–or are American corporations and the U.S. Government to blame?

Most recently, President Obama gave temporary citizenship to 5 million illegal immigrants from south of the U.S.-Mexico border.  Not only was this act unfair to natural-born American citizens, but naturalized American citizens as well (immigrants who had taken the legal steps to become citizens of the United States).

Yet instead of taking action against President Obama for this blatant abuse of power (arguably an impeachable offense), a large number of U.S. politicians and their constituents is determined to simply deport these 5 million people.  Why? Are they to blame for what the President of the United States has done? Wouldn’t it be much more “American” of us to guide these 5 million people through the legal naturalization process?

I’ve had very few negative experiences with immigrants–most of my negative experiences have been with natural-born American citizens whose families had been here for generations.

And I’m certainly no expert on immigration issues.

Yet I know this question is valid:

When our government–at the federal, state, and local levels–makes unwise concessions toward immigrants, legal or illegal, why should we hold the immigrants responsible?

EASY ON THE EYES #18

Suzy Parker 1Suzy Parker 2Suzy Parker 3Suzy Parker 4Suzy Parker 5Suzy Parker 6Suzy Parker 7Suzy Parker 8Suzy Parker 9Suzy Parker 10Suzy Parker 11Suzy Parker 12Suzy Parker 13Suzy Parker 14Suzy Parker 15Suzy Parker 16Suzy Parker 17Suzy Parker 18Suzy Parker 19Suzy Parker 20Suzy Parker 21Suzy Parker 22Suzy Parker 23Suzy Parker 24Suzy Parker 25Suzy Parker 26Suzy Parker 27Suzy Parker 28Suzy Parker 29Suzy Parker 30Suzy Parker 31Suzy Parker 32Suzy Parker 33Suzy Parker 34Suzy Parker 35Suzy Parker 36Suzy Parker 37Suzy Parker 38Suzy Parker 39Suzy Parker 40Suzy Parker 41Suzy Parker 42

Maisons Chanel et Louis Vuitton. Automne-Hiver 1960. Mannequin : Suzy Parker. Photographie d'Henry Clarke (1918-1996), publiée dans British Vogue, décembre 1960, p.101. Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris. Dimensions : 6 x 6

Maisons Chanel et Louis Vuitton. Automne-Hiver 1960. Mannequin : Suzy Parker. Photographie d’Henry Clarke (1918-1996), publiée dans British Vogue, décembre 1960, p.101. Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris. Dimensions : 6 x 6

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UNITED STATES - JULY 03:  Fashion model Suzy Parker.  (Photo by Allan Grant/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – JULY 03: Fashion model Suzy Parker. (Photo by Allan Grant/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Suzy Parker 64

FEAR NOT TOMORROW, THE CREATOR IS ALREADY THERE

I saw it on a sign outside a church the other day.  It actually read, “FEAR NOT TOMORROW, GOD IS ALREADY THERE.”  And it gave me great consolation.

FEAR NOT TOMORROW, THE CREATOR IS ALREADY THERE.

DEALING WITH THE GODDAMNED DIGITAL AGE PART 1: MOBILE, ALABAMA

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

Matthew 23:24

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

2 Corinthians 11:14-15

These are the days of miracle and wonder and don’t cry baby, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.

Paul Simon

In 1910, in a nun’s nightmare . . . drivers talk on tiny telephones, and tap on tiny typewriters while driving–killing themselves, other drivers, and pedestrians, as a result.

me

Let me begin this post by assuring readers that in using the term, Goddamned, in its title, I am not, from any religious perspective, “using the Lord’s name in vain.” No, I am not using the name, God, lightly or meaninglessly at all–I am quite serious in using it.  Because if anything is damned by God, the Digital Age is; if anything is swallowing a camel, while straining at a gnat, the Digital Age is; if anything is Satan disguised as an angel of light, the Digital Age is; if anything is miracle and wonder which ultimately end the world with a whimper, the Digital Age is; if anything is industrial-scale slaughter on the world’s highways, the Digital Age is.

Yet I use Digital-Age technology to condemn the Digital Age.  Hypocrisy–or good-old-fashioned poetic justice?  I think the latter.  But you decide for yourself.

This Digital-Age technology–it’s like it wasn’t supposed to happen.  It’s like some traveler from the future, from another dimension, or from another solar system or galaxy caused it.  I grew up in the Space Age.  And that was the direction in which technology was moving–toward space exploration.  Then something went wrong.

One day, in my fourth-grade class, the teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we grew up.  I said I wanted to be a starship captain.  No one laughed–this seemed quite feasible.  Another boy said he’d like to be a trucker.  And the teacher commented that he’d probably be driving an airborne truck–that there would probably be flying cars and trucks by then.  And no one laughed.  This really did seem quite feasible to most adults, as well as children.

Even after the last manned moon landing, the Space Age continued–with the space shuttle program, and eventually an orbiting space station (all this Space-Age technological development despite the costly arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union).

Then NASA scrapped the space shuttle program–so U.S. astronauts would now have to rely on Ultranationalist Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime for transportation to and from the International Space Station.

Yet Space-Age technology wasn’t discontinued so much as it was replaced–by Digital-Age technology.  And a human species looking toward interstellar escape from its crowded, polluted cage found itself even more confined to its crowded, polluted cage–with the added torment of ever-increasing social chaos.  The Space Age, which was to free humanity, was replaced with the Digital Age, which further confined humanity.  Something went wrong–and this was it.

It wasn’t called the Digital Age in the beginning–it was called the Age of Information or the Information Age.  And it wasn’t such a monster, in the beginning either.

My brother Mike spoke favorably of compact discs in the early 1980s.  This was Digital-Age technology.  But compact discs were expensive then–compact disc players far more expensive.  We were fine with records and tapes.

Personal computers, in the late 1970s and 1980s, also used Digital-Age technology.  But I never had one of these–most people didn’t.  We didn’t need these.  We have to have personal computers these days, and this takes the fun out of them.  Before the Internet, we didn’t have to.  So computers were fun, and cool.  And we enjoyed watching movies centering around these fun, cool devices, like Electric Dreams and Wargames.

And we enjoyed playing the new computer games (later called video games)–away from home.  These used Digital-Age technology.  My favorites were Phoenix, Robotron, Time Pilot, Ms. Pac Man, and sometimes Defender.  My brother-in-law Tom introduced me to these games.  And my friend Joseph invited me to go along with him and his family and friends to play them.  We used to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s to play them.  The children would eat the pizza–we teenagers would play video games.

One evening there I really stole the show playing Robotron.  On one quarter, one game, I began racking up points fast.  And the other teenagers noticed, stood back and watched as I beat the high score.  I felt great–and was so excited that, when I got home, my dad asked what was wrong with me–asked if I’d been smoking marijuana, or something, in a strongly disapproving tone.  He rarely allowed me to be exuberant about anything.

We wouldn’t play video games at home–we’d play video games at places like Chuck E. Cheese’s, and at video arcades.  It was a social thing.  We didn’t sit home alone playing these–we got out among other people.

And something else: These games didn’t incite violence.  If we shot at anything, we shot at robots, warplanes, or spaceships.  We didn’t get points for killing other humans–we got points for saving them.  This was the case with Robotron.  This was even the case with Terminator 2: Judgment Day–we lost points if we shot other humans.

I remembered this with great concern as I saw one of my nephews playing Mortal Combat and other such games, years later.  You weren’t supposed to kill other humans–but these goddamned games rewarded you for killing other humans. And they still do.

The video game, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, followed the 1991 film.  By this time, Robotron had been removed from most video arcades, lobbies, and rooms–along with Phoenix, Time Pilot, and Defender.  (Sometime in the mid 1990s, I found a long-removed Time Pilot game outside a warehouse.  I asked about purchasing it.  I was told I could buy it for $400–but also told that if when the computer console broke down, I wouldn’t be able to order replacement parts because they were no longer manufactured.  I had $400, but chose not to purchase it for that reason.  Maybe I should have–I might have worn played it out in a day, or in a decade.)

By 1990, I learned of word processing in my Advanced Fiction Writing class.  This was Digital-Age technology.  My instructor had a word processor–some of the other students had word processors.  I couldn’t afford a word processor–I used my recently-deceased brother Mike’s electronic typewriter.  Yet this worked well for me.

The Internet was still a novelty in the early 1990s–most people weren’t online then.  As I recall, even the names Internet and Worldwide Web were used interchangeably.  Singles groups were still the thing, singles bars were still the thing–there was even telephone dating (although no one called it that).  I met a lot of single women through the Mobile Singles Line.  Mobile was one of many cities nationwide that had a singles phone line that was part of Call America Systems in Florida.  Most singles lines charged you by the minute–they were ripoffs.  The Mobile Singles Line–like all singles lines run by Call America Systems–had a flat weekly, monthly, or bimonthly fee ($20, $30, or $40 respectively).  I could call as many times as I liked, leave messages for as many women as I liked, and listen to as many messages as I liked.  Unlike the Pensacola Singles Line, the Mobile Singles Line always worked for me–I met a woman I’d end up dating, every time I signed up.  I couldn’t see the women over the phone, of course–but I could hear their voices, and I could make sure they were who what they said they were.

And letter-writing was still in style–I wrote single women all over the world, women whose addresses I’d received from International Pen Friends, a Dublin-based pen pal organization that would share addresses of members (with their consent, of course) for a reasonable fee.

In the mid 1990s, I finally obtained a compact disc (CD) player (a portable stereo with a dual cassette drive, radio, and CD player).  I even remember my first CD–Ray Stevens’ Greatest Hits (“The Streak” and “It’s Me Again, Margaret” were are my favorites–hilarious, timeless).  From there, I began building my CD collection.

And my parents got me a word processor on sale.  It was a wonderful device–no Internet connection, I didn’t need one.  It was wonderful being able to write and revise almost simultaneously.  And the Tetris game on one of the disks was a lot of fun too.

During this time I had a friend named Joe.  Joe was a very private person, with some interesting takes on life.  He was the only person I’ve ever known who didn’t have a telephone–he didn’t want to be bothered with constant phone calls. He laughingly told about how one of the guys where he worked had just gotten Internet service–how he was bragging about having AOL.  For a lot of people, Internet access was just a status symbol then–at least that’s how they came across to others.

And though Joe had a television, he rarely watched it–he spent most of his free time reading books.  He once said that television was the worst thing ever invented.  I hadn’t thought of that before, but I realized he was right.  Television did so much more harm than good (as it still does).  Yet looking back, television was the first worst thing ever invented–the Internet would become the next.  And cellphones and other such mobile devices would follow–in the most nightmarish way.

WE HAVE MADE MACHINES IN OUR IMAGE; NOW MACHINES ARE MAKING US IN THEIRS

WE HAVE MADE MACHINES IN OUR IMAGE; NOW MACHINES ARE MAKING US IN THEIRS.

EASY ON THE EYES #17

Alice Jans 1Alice Jans 2Andrea Leeds 1Andrea Leeds 2Anita Ekberg 1Anita Ekberg 2Anita Ekberg 3Anita Ekberg 4Antonella LualdiAva GardnerBarbara EdenBarbara NicholsBettie Page 1Bettie Page 2Bettie Page 3Bettie Page 4Bonnie LoganCatherine DeneuveClaire GaynorClaudia CardinaleColleen Farrington 1Colleen Farrington 2Eva Lynd 1Eva Lynd 2identity unknown 1identity unknown 2identity unknown 3identity unknown 4Joan CollinsJody Fair 1Jody Fair 2Jody Fair 3Jody Fair 4Jody Fair 5Julie NewmarKim NovakLisa FonssagrivesMylene DemongeotNatalie WoodOlga GrahameRita HayworthRosita MorenoRossella ComoTina Louise 1Tina Louise 2Tina Louise 3Tina Louise 4Tina Louise 5Zahra Norbo

NO SAINTHOOD FOR THIS SON OF A BITCH

no-sainthood-for-junipero-serra-mission-dolores-8-638x403

http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2015/05/07/3655996/native-americans-say-man-enslaved-pope-francis-wants-call-saint/

Serra wielded this kind of political power because his missions served economic and political purposes as well as religious ends.  The number of civilian colonists in Alta California never exceeded 3,200, and the missions with their Indian populations were critical to keeping the region within Spain’s political orbit. Economically, the missions produced all of the colony’s cattle and grain, and by the 1780’s were even producing surpluses sufficient to trade with Mexico for luxury goods.

Despite the frequent conflicts between military and religious authority, for Alta California’s Indians the missions and their Franciscan administrators were part and parcel of an enormously destructive colonization process.  The Spanish, largely through disease, were responsible for a population decline from about 300,000 Indians in 1769 to about 200,000 by 1821.  The strenuous work regime and high population density within the missions themselves also caused high death rates among the mission Indians.  By law, all baptized Indians subjected themselves completely to the authority of the Franciscans; they could be whipped, shackled or imprisoned for disobedience, and hunted down if they fled the mission grounds.  Indian recruits, who were often forced to convert nearly at gunpoint, could be expected to survive mission life for only about ten years.  As one Friar noted, the Indians “live well free but as soon as we reduce them to a Christian and community life… they fatten, sicken, and die.”

Junipero Serra is still a well-known figure in California, a virtual icon of the colonial era whose statue stands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and in the U.S. Capitol.  In 1987 Pope John Paul II beatified Serra, the second of three steps necessary for the Church’s bestowal of formal sainthood.  Many Indians and academics condemned this decision, pointing to the harsh conditions of mission life and Serra’s own justification of beatings.  (In 1780, Serra wrote: “that spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians, with blows appears to be as old as the conquest of [the Americas]; so general in fact that the saints do not seem to be any exception to the rule.”)

http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/s_z/serra.htm

IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE ANSWER, DON’T ASK THE QUESTION

How are you doing?

You ask that question every day, don’t you?

And you expect the person you ask to say he or she is doing well.

But what if he or she is not doing well, and doesn’t want to lie?

Do you brush the person off, and then label him or her as a complainer?

Or do you listen anyway, not giving unsolicited advice, not scolding?

Do you listen anyway, understanding the value of listening–that listening to a person is the best thing you can do for a person?

When you ask someone how he or she is doing, don’t blame him or her if you get the honest answer you don’t expect.

If you can’t handle the answer, don’t ask the question.

DRUNKEN POST #40

You know it’s been a long time since I’ve had any alcohol when I can remember the last month I had any alcohol–and thereby find out what number this drunken post is to be via my archives!

How’s that for a run-on sentence?

(If you’re viewing this post via a mobile device while driving, walking, or bicycling, please put it down–it can wait.)

While listening to “Baba O’Riley” by The Who, drinking Irish coffee in my living room earlier, I thought of a particular wild-though-harmless drunken escapade at Auburn University (I wasn’t driving–freshman weren’t allowed a car on campus)–and I thought of how I set myself up for a crash, while attending Auburn by having my expectations too high.  And I share this personal information as a warning–especially for teenagers and twenty-somethings.

After graduating from Murphy High School in Mobile, in 1984, I decided to attend Auburn University.  That’s where I had attended my first college football game, where I had danced with a girl for the first time, and where my sister Elaine had met my brother-in-law Jeff.  And I very proudly told everyone in the high-school graduate reception line at my church that I was going to Auburn.  There was no problem with that, at all.

The problem was that I had three unrealistic goals for myself, beginning with my first quarter at Auburn University–summer of 1984.

I expected to be a straight-“A” student, from the beginning.

I expected to join a fraternity in my freshman year.

And I expected to have a girlfriend in my freshman year.

Let’s take a look at these:

The only one of these goals that was in my control at all was to make straight-“A”s from the beginning.  Yet I had never been a straight-“A” student in high school.  And this was college–even more difficult.

So I didn’t make straight-“A”s in my freshman year at Auburn.

Joining a fraternity was not in my control at all–I had to be accepted into a fraternity.  I went to rush events for more than one fraternity, though the most promising was the Farmhouse.  The Farmhouse was a non-alcohol fraternity.  A typical social fraternity with that one difference–no alcohol allowed at social events.  That was cool, I didn’t regularly drink anyway.  And I had a good chance at being accepted–my now-brother-in-law Jeff’s best friend was a member of the Farmhouse.  I attended the rush party, and made a very good impression.  But I wasn’t accepted into the fraternity.  I found out why, later–I was seriously considered, but one of the Farmhouse brothers’ actual brother was rushing, and he was accepted instead of me (they could only accept so many pledges at a time).  Looking back, I’m not really sorry I wasn’t accepted into a fraternity–being the non-conformist that I am.  But I didn’t realize I was such a non-conformist then.

So I didn’t join a fraternity in my freshman year at Auburn.

And having a girlfriend?  That was even less in my control than joining a fraternity.  I didn’t even get a date that year.  I tried to attract girls the best I could, but they simply weren’t interested.  Maybe I tried too hard, maybe not hard enough–but of course there was no way I could control the hearts of young women.  There is no way anyone can control the heart of anyone else–there never has been.

So I didn’t have a girlfriend in my freshman year at Auburn.

Still, the summer of 1985 was the best summer of my life.

In a previous post–an answer to one of Gregory Stock’s questions from “The Book of Questions: Love and Sex”–I described a girl named Melanie.  I didn’t love Melanie, of course (I hadn’t gotten to know her well enough), but I was really in love with Melanie.  And on her last night in Mobile, I ended up in the backseat of my car with Melanie.  And we made-out, big time–but she simply wouldn’t let me have sex with her, despite my verbal expression of desire.  Her reason?  She was too old for me.  It was really ridiculous–she was only five years older than I, but that was her reason.  And I certainly wouldn’t force myself on her–I cared about her.  But I did cry like a baby–and this ruined any future chances with her.

And I returned to Auburn University in the fall of 1985–broken-hearted as hell. And I missed class after class–I couldn’t concentrate.

I did find a following of freshman disciples who looked up to me, a sophomore now–but that wasn’t enough.  I was determined to find a girlfriend right then.  I told my mom, over a payphone at the dorm, that I would leave Auburn if I didn’t find a girlfriend in a week.  She told me that wasn’t realistic, but I wouldn’t listen. And of course I didn’t find a girlfriend in a week.  And I can still see the faces of my freshman friends in a window of the dorm as I left–they would miss me.  Yet it would be over twenty-five years before I would miss them.

And in November, 1985, I ended-up in a psychiatric hospital in my Mobile hometown, having torn up my parents’ kitchen while they were at work (never knowing why I did that).  That was my crash, my breakdown–the time when my mental illness surfaced.  And thirty years later, I still haven’t recovered from it.

Yet I know I set myself up for it–with three unrealistic expectations:

To be a straight-“A” student.

To join a fraternity.

To have a girlfriend.

All in my freshman year.

And I would give my life to be back there, at Auburn University, in the fall of 1985–to be able to stay there, with the knowledge of what I’ve learned.  I’d be an “A” & “B”–with an occasional “C”–student.  And I’d have some good friends.  And I’d have a girlfriend before I knew it–might even end up marrying her.  And to hell with a damned fraternity–I’d know I didn’t need one.

It’s good to have goals–but your goals must be realistic.

Please keep that in mind, whatever your age.


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