Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Memorial Day 2011

Billy, Eddie and Bobby:
Within the space of twelve houses in my tiny Mt. Carmel  neighborhood, three of my childhood pals were killed in Viet Nam, two of them brothers.

Billy Sanderson lived next door to me in the house behind mine, when I was growing up in Mt. Carmel, Connecticut.  

His parents had five children, the biggest house in the neighborhood, and a live-in maid.  No one else in our ordinary,  WW I and II  lower middle-class neighborhood had a live-in maid, or even an occasional housekeeper.  Billy's family  also had the first color TV set I ever saw. It was probably 1953-ish.

On Sundays my brother and I would go over to the Sandersons' to catch a ride to Sunday School.  Both our families attended the same church.  Billy was always reading the Sunday comics --in color --on the livingroom carpet when we arrived. 

He had to be called (yelled at) three or four times before he would leave the comics and head for the car.  Boy---could he concentrate.  He never even heard the screaming: "Billy, C'mon. Now!"

When I was about ten or eleven the Sandersons, who "had money," bought a motel in Aspen Colorado which they named the Aspenhof and moved away.

I never saw them again.

After  I went to college in 1964 my mother wrote me that Billy had been killed in the Viet Nam War, going back for his third or fourth Purple Heart.  He liked the military.

I'm not sure that Eddie and Bobby Hammerbacher, four houses down the street in the opposite direction from the Sandersons, liked the military.

They were handsome, athletic kids with no interest in or money for an academic future after high school.

The Draft sucked them both up,  I imagine, or maybe they enlisted. Or  maybe I'm wrong and they liked the military. 

They were both killed in Viet Nam, the only sons in that family.

We know now from the memoirs of then Secretary of State Robert McNamara, published when he was approaching 90,  that a lot of the Viet Nam War was unnecessary----and a lie.

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

* Family Guy: I want to eat your cancer

"I want to eat your cancer,"  Heart Shaped Box,

There are many reasons to reject the cartoon Family Guy, not the least of which is its scatological nature.  This was seen in a re-run I viewed yesterday in which the tiny football-headed English-accented-tot, Stewy Griffin, gets locked in a bank vault with the family dog, Brian, who, incidentally,  speaks English, stands erect,  and drives a car. Stewy requires Brian to "eat my pooh" when he soils his diaper.

Had I surfed to another channel at this point because of my weak stomach, I would have missed a brilliant and touching discussion about the meaning of life when Brian reveals that he has a gun in his safe deposit box because, unlike other dogs who are born with a purpose built into their DNA, he has been unable to find a purpose in life, and wants the security of knowing he can end it . (Perhaps this is an argument against literacy, at least in dogs.)

The outcome, which I won't spoil, is neither sentimental nor trite---but it is touching.

I'm afraid I must confess that despite its scatology,  Family Guy meets my criterion for Art.

Sorry TV censors.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

* Big Brother and Super Sister


Yesterday's New York Times carried a front page article saying experts are baffled in the decline in crime to a 4o year low during a recession when crime would be expected to rise. I am not at all baffled since we have turned 200 million Americans , including six-year-olds, into walking Sherlock Holmeses and Big Brothers and Super Sisters, capable of spying on every activity on the planet and instantly uploading it to an international audience.

Criminals are on the lamb.

Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts

Published: May 23, 2011

The number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year, to what appeared to be the lowest rate in nearly 40 years, a development that was considered puzzling partly because it ran counter to the prevailing expectation that crime would increase during a recession.

Monday, May 23, 2011

* Proofreading: The never-ending pursuit of typos

To Whom It May Concern:
I always appreciate having someone point out typos in my work, and I just found three in your Yale time-line:  
 old-est [sic]; 
 m.F.A.[sic] ; 
and b.a [sic].

See attachment  (below) for location.

Paul Keane
M. Div. '80


Silliman was a founder in 1818 of the American Journal of Science, one of the old- est [sic] scientific 


as Rudolph Zallinger’s (B.F.A. 1942, m.F.A. [sic] 1971) Pulitzer award-winning mural

The first university arts institution, the School of the Fine Arts, opens. Established through the generosity of Augustus Russell Street (b.a.[sic]1812)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

* His Story: Swimming in Blood

With supreme indifference to human narratives of morality or evolution, events wither and flourish, bathed in the male blood we call "history".

The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn.
-- Earl Warren

That men do not learn very much from history is the most important of all
the lessons that history has to teach.
-- Aldous Huxley

We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
-- Georg Hegel

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  
--George Santayana

No one is going to rename "history," "herstory".  

The entire 5000 years of recorded human behavior can be summed up in one phrase: 
Men wielding power to gain advantage.

It's about MEN!  It always has been about MEN.

After finishing Adam Goodheart's thrilling history of the first year of the Civil War which he entitled  1861 The Year of the Civil War Awakening, I am struck by the absolute indifference of historical events  to the wishes of human beings.

A bullet, a tiny piece of metal the size of half my pinky finger, removes Abraham Lincoln from the planet in 1865 and ends the hopes of Reconstruction.

A similar piece of metal removes James Garfield from the planet in 1881 and ends for a second time, hopes of civil rights for black citizens, a cause he had championed in his inaugural address the year before. (Goodheart, 376+)

A now familiar piece of metal removes John F. Kennedy from the planet in 1963 and gives his sucessor Lyndon B. Johnson, the ability to pass The Civil Rights Act of 1964 in his memory.

Again, this tiny piece of metal hurled through the air in 1968, removes Martin Luther King, Jr. from the planet and his death sparks passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Almost a familiar event , this tiny piece of metal now in the same year, 1968, removes Robert F. Kennedy from the planet, ending hopes of a swift de-escalation of, and end to, the Viet Nam War.

With supreme indifference to human narratives of morality or evolution, events wither and flourish, bathed in the male blood we call "history"

* Toodle-loo: TTFN (Ta Ta for Now)

Genetic Roulette: Divine Dice? 

I wanted to say good-bye.  There's about ten more hours to do so, maybe nine. I won't be going in your direction. 

 It's been great being born a white male in the richest country on earth, where war is waged by the poor and disadvantaged, mostly with skin a different color than mine; and, where the doors of power and privilege are automatically opened for those of my gender.

 I lucked out.  Genetic roulette.

I haven't packed any clothes. I assume there are no clothes in the Beyond just as there are no sex organs to cover up.

And not being a socialite, I'm a bit nervous about the company I'll be in: Bertrand Russell, Abraham Lincoln,  Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Picasso.

All these folks and millions more who disobeyed the Good Book.   

Lincoln and Stowe, especially, since that Holy Volume  specifically includes slavery as an acceptable practice.  

And what about Bertrand Russell, who advocated taking pleasure in the flesh?  And Picasso who did so?  

And then the great heretic, Ralph Waldo Emerson who tried to liberate religion from the hermeneutical tentacles of the past?

My God.  

What ever will I have to say to them  in the way of small-talk around the fireside

----or INSIDE it?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

* IMF (International Momentary Fun): Holden Caulfield and DSK

Y' innerested ?

 Something is missing from the allegations that Dominique Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom of a $3000 a night hotel suite last Saturday, naked, and in full erotic mode, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting maid who happened in to the suite to "clean".

What's missing is Maurice.

Maurice is the "elevbator guy" in J . D. Salinger's classic novel The Catcher in the Rye.

Holden Caulfield is returning to the Edmont Hotel (a fourth-rate, 1949, Manhattan hotel) where he is hiding out for three days until his parents get the news and digest it that he has been thrown out of his third prep school in three years:

Then all of a sudden I got in this big mess.

The first thing when I got in the elevator, the elevator guy said to me, "Innarested in having a good time, fella? Or is it too late for you?  . . . Innarested in a  little tail tonight."
(Salinger, p. 95)

Admittedly, the French hotel DSK was frequenting was a far cry from the Edmont.  And Maurice, the elevator guy, is a far cry from the politically correct personnel of  any establishment in 2011.

However, the same dynamic might have been operating  last Saturday, only on a more expensive level.  And both parties may be telling the truth: DSK in full-rut mode, may have been prepared for the person entering his room to be someone  whose services he had paid for previously  through a hotel "liason" (aka pimp). While the maid entering the room may have innocently intervened before the  paid  person "arranged for" had a chance to appear.

How else can one explain this nude character running around the room in full mounting position, like Peter Griffin, the slob in Family Guy?
It just doesn't make sense, unless he was on cocaine, or simply berserk.
The allegations  include "forcing her to engage in oral sex."
Can anyone FORCE that---- without the risk of becoming the new Mr. Bobbit ?
There's something missing here. ( No pun intended.)

My hunch is, there's a Maurice somewhere lurking in the shadows.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

* Off With His Head: Hail to the [ IMF ] Chief.

Democracy and Perp-Walk Sadism: Beware the Retribution of Egalitarians

America has successfully discovered how to behead its king every four (or eight) years without killing him. Instead of a guillotine, it uses a ballot box.  Instead of watching a decapitated  head falling into a bloodied basket, Americans watch a decapitated president pass his official head to a newly elected president while simultaneously regenerting a new civilian head to replace to severed presidential one.

Americans enjoy this sport. 

Sometimes they let the president keep his head for eight years instead of four before they sever it from the presidential neck. Unlike kings, all American presidents actually sign-up for this voluntary guillotining, whether it comes sooner (4 years)  or later (8 years) .

At the moment we have one president (Obama) with an actual presidential head, and three surviving decapitaed presidents with civilian heads.: Bush, Clinton and Bush.

The Oedipal pleasure we sons (and daughters) of liberty take in beheading our fathers has emerged in a rather bloodthirsty manner these last few days in the journalistic debate over the "perp-walk "  required of another  king, the president of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who stands  accused of raping a hotel maid in a  $3000 a day Manhattan hotel suite on Sunday. 

 A "perp-walk"  is the indicted perpetrator's public disgrace as he walks into court in handcuffs.

Aristotle might say that the pleasure we seem to be tasking in Mr. Strauss-Kahn's sudden fall from power (he was  named in one survey as among the forty most powerful people in the world) is actually "pity and fear" which will result in a cathartic cleansing of our psyche as we  exclaim an enormous "Whew,  that will never happen to US!".

The data (Governors Spitzer and Sanford; Senator Craig; President Clinton; Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, Sen. Gary Hart,  Sen. John Edwards,  etc. ) suggest that prominent males  being accused of sexual impropriety is becomng more frequent than it has in the past: but it is doubtful it will ever become epidemic, and  thereby a threat to that hypothetical "US".

What seems to be happening with Mr. Strauss-Kahn is not the vicarious democratic pleasure of watching a man lose his official head as he simultaneously regenerates a civilian-replacement. No, what seems to be happening with our glee at his "perp-walk" is our regression to pre-democratic appetites, appetites which demand the sadistic pleasure of watching the alleged perpetrator's head actually roll, a regression to the anti-aristocratic impulses which fueled our own  Revolution and the French Revolution , two centuries ago.

It  is not the fact that Strauss-Kahn is French which agitates our blood-lust, it is that he behaves as an aristocrat, as one who believes himself above common man (and woman) .

His fate is sealed , sadistic perp-walk or not.

No head can regenerate once cut off an aristocrat.

Regeneration is the gift of democracy, or at least it has been  for the last 235 years.

Degeneration has been the fate of aristocracy for the same span of time:

There are but  two monarchies left in the world  out of forty-nine which existed a century ago.

The King is dead: Hail to the [ IMF ] Chief.

Off with his head!

  And they LAUGH at Freud?!

* Chappaquiddick and Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Does Money Talk?

Let's assume that the arrest of the president of the International Monetary Fund on charges of raping a maid in a Manhattan hotel are NOT a political entrapment by his rivals for the presidency of France.

Let's assume that he, like Senator Edward Kennedy in the drunk-driving death of Mary Jo Kopechne,  is guilty, even though it is contrary to American justice to make such a presumption before proof of guilt is established..

At the time of the Chappaquiddick incident, (when Mr. Kennedy drove his car off a wooden bridge on the Chappaquiddick section of Martha's Vineyard after a night of partying in which he apparently did not realize the young woman, Mary Joe Kopechne, had previously entered his car and passed out on the floor of the back seat, and therefore did not realize she was in need of rescuing when he abandoned his half-submerged car and walked to the nearby hotel) it was whispered that Kennedy-lawyers were approaching the Kopechne family behind-the-scenes to insure that a lawsuit for Civil damages was never filed.

Translation: to offer millions of dollars of hush money to the bereaved family to protect Mr. Kennedy's career. (which, given his subsequent service to the country in the Senate, was certainly worth protecting)

I have never seen reports of whether such hush money was ever offered, existed, or paid.

Given the similarity not in the nature of the alleged crimes (Kennedy was charged with "leaving the scene of an accident) but in the international attention brought to the allegations because of their respective fames, one must wonder now whether the lawyers of Dominque Strauss-Kahn are not doing some kind of logistcal dance to make themselves "available" to the lawyers of the accuser in the hotel rape.

Would it not be attractive for a two million dollar trust fund to be established for the family of the accuser by an anonymous third party?

Perhaps the accuser's story might change in ways which would be beneficial to the accused. perhaps a lapse of memory? Or contradictory statements?

I am not a lawyer, and not very citified, so I do not know how such things might be arranged. And of course, the Kennedy lawyers had hundreds of millions of dollars, the Strauss Kahn lawyers may only have a few million.

I know one thing for sure, there was absolute silence from the Kopechne family after the initial weeks following Chappaquiddick.

Sometimes money doesn't talk.

Friday, May 6, 2011

* Mother's Day, 2011: "Read the dictionary!"

When I was a boy growing up, my mother often advised, "Read the dictionary!" These words were followed by her memory of a boy in her high school classes who was always reading the dictionary and "who grew up to be a judge."

Moral of the story?

Listen to mother-----at least my mother.