Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Culture

February 25, 2015

Real People: Thinking Caucasian Little Boy Questioning Wonder

This Teacher Doesn’t Make It Easy!

 

If my son knew the material,

he could tell me which material the test covered.

But he doesn’t.  Which, of course, he wouldn’t,

seeing as how he needs to learn… it.

But so far I’m fairly certain that it’s biology.

Perhaps a little about cell morphology.

A question about ‘telomeres’  (put me onto chromozones)

and the word ‘pedigree’, plus the terms ‘incomplete’ and ‘non-complete’ dominance,

I see cramped like coded messages inside of little yarn balls of inked drawings

would seem to anchor us in Genetics.  Hoorah!

So we turn to that chapter,

but only portions of it seem to be the portions of it he remembers,

that is, the portions of it he has to study,

at least, as my son sees it.

This teacher doesn‘t make it easy!

 

The teacher gives some of the material in a handout,

some in varied sections of the textbook,

a portion of the material they have all read together,

…some seemingly as short as a paragraph –

while other information he delivered as a lecture in class.

Then there’s the information from the various tests,

which, unfortunately, had to be turned back…

-“What’s the point of a test, if we can’t study what you got wrong?”

-“Dad.  Why do you have to go off on all sorts of things that don’t matter?”

And there’re quizzes, versus major tests, for which the rules are somewhat different.

On the major exams, if you perform poorly, you can re-take the test.

But meanwhile, the class moves on.

-“So which are we working on?!” I exclaim.  “The past, or the present?”

-“Dad, please!  Just settle down.”

 

All the while, we’re in a rush, of course.  Not mine, but his.

There’s chats, meetings and activities

continually being updated by texts from his friends, he takes as we study.

-“Dad!  Dad.  Why do you have to go off on all sorts of things that don’t matter?”

-“Because I’m explaining this to you while you have your head in a phone!’

-“We don’t have time now to read the whole chapter!

Just help me to answer these 10 questions.  Number one:

Some person’s son has a different blood type from either of his parents.  Is this possible?”

-“Oh yeah.  Certainly.”

‘Maybe even probable?’  I mumble.

 

Photo from Google Images

 

February 15, 2015

Editor’s Note:  I have decided to try writing my essays as poems.  This can take a bit longer.  The form of this first essay was suggested to me by a friend.  It is a Pantoum.  Hopefully the repeating lines will add to the rhetorical punch.

Bacon and eggs Gov

How Governmental Succor Undermines Home and Family

 

It’s like he’s being recruited by a gang!

This morning I fixed an onion, sausage omelet, buttered whole grains toast, and slices of orange with tea for breakfast.

And my son refused it!  He stared at it.  “I can’t eat this,” he said.

My wife and I beamed, welcoming him.  Oh! the love of home, hearth and family.   “You have to have breakfast, son.”

 

This morning I fixed an onion, sausage omelet, buttered whole grains toast, and slices of orange with tea for breakfast.

At school my son could get a bacon, egg and cheese pizza plus fruit, milk, or three to four different kinds of cereal, breakfast bars or bagels off the rack.

My wife and I beamed, welcoming him.  Oh! the love of home, hearth and family.   “You have to have breakfast, son.”

“I can get it at school.”

 

At school my son could get a bacon, egg and cheese pizza, plus fruit, milk, or three to four different kinds of cereal, breakfast bars or bagels off the rack.

“Or you could eat right here.”

“I can get it at school.”

“They let us go to the school cafeteria if we have first period study hall,” he said.

 

“Or you could eat right here.”

How is it that a bureaucrat, untucked as his dingy sheer shirt, as he reaches for the ring binder to retrieve this morning’s mandated breakfast menu, can charm our intelligent son?

“They let us go to the school cafeteria if we have first period study hall,” he said.

“Is this how the government serves us?”  I asked the ceiling fixture.

 

How is it that a bureaucrat, untucked as his dingy sheer shirt, as he reaches for the ring binder to retrieve this morning’s mandated breakfast menu, can charm our intelligent son?

To return our hard-earned money to us as fast food pork?

“Is this how the government serves us?”  I asked the ceiling fixture.

Subsidizing my son’s rash dash to be as late as he pleases?

 

To return our hard-earned money to us as fast food pork?

Offering all sorts of empty convenience

Subsidizing my son’s rash dash to be as late as he pleases?

with no more, “Good morning.”

But, “Don’t talk to me, please dad.  I’m in a hurry.”

 

Photos from Google Images

Culture

January 10, 2015

2014 Best American Poetry

 

How to Read a Poem?

(You may need help.)

 The current state of Poetry is that there are a spate of aspirants and a dearth of audience.  There is also a spate of hierarchy and a dearth of quality.  You needn’t read much further to deduce this latter than the current “Best American Poetry 2014”.  I’m two thirds the way through my reading of it, and I’ve come across four poems I’d read again, none especially timeless, and yet, nearly to a person their bios detail honors, awards, recipientships, publications, fellowships, and prestigious academic positions up the yin yang.  The introductions and bios run for pages and pages.  Topically, the poems run the same playlist as People Magazine, Facebook and the tabloids.

So.  Here we have me, just one person – some tiny little non-entity, who writes poetry with some small success with a nearly non-existent audience, from a fly-over state, – versus, them, who apparently write poetry with great success and a virtually non-existent audience also!  And I find them seriously lame.  But who is to know?

In many ways the situation of Poetry has parallels with the situation of Jazz.  Each suffers a dearth of (earthly) success, but a spate of aspirants.  And the reaction of the general public, to each, is to toss up their hands.  However, each, as the years pass, spawn their aspirants and their fanatics.

I mention Jazz because of this piece by Adam Gopnik, (which I am just going to crib shamelessly from the New Yorker), discussing the work of the American Thinker and Sociologist, Howard Becker:

 

“Tristano taught simple ways of solving puzzles that come up in improvising – for instance, ways of adding flatted fifths and minor ninths to otherwise too familiar chord sequences.  “He showed how to create an essentially unlimited set of possibilities to work with as I played through an evening in a bar,” Becker recalls.  Jazz solos, he learned from his models, were concocted almost entirely “from a small collection of ‘crips,’ short phrases that can be combined in a million ways, subjected to all possible variations.”  The lesson that social performance, even of the highest kind, was more a string of crips than an outpouring of confessions remained at the root of Becker’s understanding of the way the world works.”

Noodle as Editor

Perhaps the reason the majority of poems in the 2014 Anthology seem lame to me, is because I don’t understand what these Poets are doing.  One Poet, Tony Hoagland, whose poem, “Write Whiter” was included in the Anthology, and who has always seemed to me to be preternaturally discerning, wrote this about his poem in his bio:

 

“I don’t consider “Write Whiter” a great poem, nor an exceptional example of TH’s volcanic talent.  Someone easily could have written it.  However, it defines, like a station of the cross, a place in the conversation we are having; its ticket needed to be punched, and so I punched it.”  (italics mine)

 

Perhaps what these poets are doing is playing crips of tunes cribbed from People Magazine and the other ‘Glossie’ Media.  Not being cognizant of the crips – or perhaps being too cognizant of the crips and the source material as heavily clichéd, trite and intellectually shamless leaves me passe’ (to say the least).  Neither their ‘crips’, nor their placement of them, hold the charm for me apparently as they do for their true believers.

But what aggravates me no end is of the beautiful sound, rhythm and meaning which is either abandoned or not even considered in order that the included poem and poet become an included part of the current ‘conversation’.   Most of the beauty (and enjoyment) of poetry is tossed aside, in order to make the secret handshake, pay the coin of the realm, and be taken in by this secretive league of poetry Brahmin.  I’m all for social organizations, but not when their bent is to go about ruining art.

Hey!  I get indignant.

 

Or – perhaps I don’t understand what Art is?  (This realization really chills me…)

 

(Hey!  You don’t care.)  (smiley face)

 

…and I just like Beauty.

 

Culture

December 30, 2014

Putin

The Russians Get There First

Leafing through this month’s Commentary magazine, I came across James Kirchick’s review of Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia by Peter Pomerantsev, a television producer who was attendant to much of the political doings in Russia during the first ten years of this century.  Apparently the thrust of this book is to chart the accomplishments of Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s political general.

Kirchick writes: “He is the “political technologist” responsible for the concept of “sovereign” or “managed” democracy – a post-modern apparatus of fake parties, fake parliaments, and fake dissidents.”  … “The man’s “genius,” Pomerantsev writes, is to “use the language of rights and representation to validate tyranny.”  …”Pomerantsev writes, “The Kremlin’s idea is to own all forms of political discourse, to not let any independent movements develop outside of its walls.”  The state throws support to transgressive artists while simultaneously funding the Orthodox Church, whose leaders protest those very artists’ exhibitions.”  …”The Russia Pomerantsev paints is a morally corrupt bizarro world that actively discourages integrity of any kind.”

Photo from Google Images

Culture

December 21, 2014

audience4

The Audience is a Mob

One of my favorite Sammy Glickisms is, “Talent can get you just so far,” he said.  “Then you got to start using your head.”

One of the things I seem to have to keep learning, and re-learning, throughout my life, is that people take themselves seriously.  This isn’t easy, and isn’t easy especially for a writer to do.  No matter what is said about a character inhabiting a writer’s head and taking over control of their pen – we all know who is calling the shots.  Writers may play about with psychosis, but in the end, it’s still their psychosis.   (This might be one reason I’m often amused by the claim that reading fiction broadens one’s horizons.  Fiction, or any work of art for that matter, is probably the most totalitarian thing out there, with perhaps the most limited view of life available – currently in print.)  Writers do with characters as they please.  They do not need to take their characters ‘seriously’.   That is, the characters have no power over them.

 

On the show, “I Love Lucy”, (which is problematic, by the way), Ethel and Fred and Lucy and Ricky all have their flare-ups, their fights and wars.  But, in the end, another portion of their nature appears, goes to work, and resolves the situation amicably.  This is what can happen when people don’t take themselves too seriously – another portion of their personality can go to work.   In real life however, real people take themselves real seriously.  One clash with your real neighbor, and that could be the end of things.  Two clashes, and it’s probably a cold war.  Three, and “we will see you in court”.

audience6

Why do I say all this?

Well, it’s because that as a writer, and especially as a playwright, who with maturation has the opportunity to experience an audience and mull their reactions – you begin to see that you are strung between two poles.  On the one hand is the situation of you as the talent and as the creator, whose delight is to take characters and run them through their paces, place them in situations, raise the stakes, swing for the fences!  No subject is out of bounds.  No outcome is beyond the pale.  No emotion is suppressed.   No remark need go unmade.  All is made up and needn’t be taken seriously.  But what if this did happen?  That is always the question posed.

On the other hand, there is the audience who are very real, and whom each and every one take quite seriously.  You not only have to capture their interest…  that is, change their focus from their own very serious concerns to immersing themselves in your own conceit.  This is damn hard in and of itself.   But you also must be very careful not to press any of their buttons, that is, to challenge their personal ideology – or they will close you out.  You will lose their participation.

Well, Whitman noted “I contain multitudes”.  And Lincoln remarked, “you cannot please all of the people, all of the time”.  So if everyone is a crowd, and you can’t please everyone- where does this leave the poor playwright?

The trick is it seems, is to find something a sizeable crowd either hates or loves to the exception of whatever else transpires, and trumpet that boldly and with a sense of urgency.  It could be that, “Racism is a profound evil.”, or “Poor people deserve respect.” or, “Don’t be a prude.” or any number of the current shibboleths that hold sway over the makeup of the current theater audience.   In other words, you must use every trick and caboodle at your disposal for turning the theater audience into a mob; a nice mob – you don’t want them trashing the place for goodness sakes – but a mob, nevertheless.

audience1

I experienced an excellent demonstration of this.  At the party following a production of my own, a good friend of mine, using the actors cast, put on a roast of a scene in the play, “Saving Harry”.  He took the scene, which involved salesmen at a large metropolitan dealership, and transposed it to hicks in the rural South.  I loved that scene.  It was a favorite of mine.  And I think the audience enjoyed it also.  But their reaction was fairly muted, throughout the production.

Transposed, the same scene was hilarious.  It got a huge reaction!  And I added a lot of the laughter myself.  I enjoyed it very much.  But what it did was to change the audience from individuals who could think and consider – into a broadside against rural hicks, creating a roaring, rolling mob of ridicule.  And I roared myself.  There’s no getting around it.  But it stands in my life as a very firm lesson.  The audience is a mob.

Why do I take the time to remark on all this?  It’s all just theater, right?

Well, as Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage…”

Photos from Google Images

Culture

December 17, 2014

amish beards2

My Amish Beard

 When I reached sixty-five, and I began working out of my home office, I gradually stopped shaving.  Shaving is a bother.  It adds another task to the day.  And once you have failed to shave for a few days, (okay, a week or so), your beard becomes like a lawn which has outgrown the mower.  The shafts of the grass get long and tough.  And you need the weed whacker.  The razor no longer cuts it.  Snipers are a rough tool.  And electric devices either bog down in the thick hairs or begin tugging and yanking.

My beard trimmer bogged down.  So I tried the new razor I bought.  I began with the moustache, but quit after the work bogged down too.   All of which left me looking like a Mennonite.

amish beards3

Now I’ve always felt this was such an odd way to wear a beard, that the people who did so must be quite odd themselves.  But, really, I feel about the same.  And though the wife calls me Enoch, from time to time, she likes it!  She never liked being poked by my moustache hairs.  She says she always enjoyed the shape of my mouth.

And these beards are handy in wintery Ohio as a pair of mittens, when on my walks.  So I did a little research.

Apparently, the first Amish were persecuted in old Germany by the military types whose fashion then was to wear elaborate mustaches.  So the Amish declared themselves by refusing to grow mustaches.   The carry-over of this habit continues to this day.  In addition, the beard is allowed to grow longer once a man marries.  Hmmmm…  I’m married.

amish beards1

Photos from Google Images


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