Blog # 528  CHOICES: THE COOLER SIDE OF THE PILLOW (2)

 

The dynamics of human life would appear to be an eternal procession of selected choices, widely ranging from the facile bedtime decision to turn the pillow to the cooler side for comfort, to the existential decision, to be or not to be. It is volitional decision making, as contrasted with autonomic functions (ex., breathing, digesting, eliminating) and Pavlovian (pre-programmed) responses to stimuli, that is the present object of concern.

Elie Wiesel, whom we, at plinyblog, have elected to call, the lyrical, “Greek chorus” of the horrific, non-fictional tragedy, known as “The Holocaust,” knowledgeably said: “Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victims. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” We will return to the subject of this vital, empirical observation, following a general, less esoteric discussion on “choice.”

The exercise of the universal franchise of choice in most mundane matters, such as morning and evening routines, observably, are merely matters of acquired habitual behavior, evolved routine choices, depending upon the practical circumstances of family or house-mates, regarding bedtime, work schedules or merely, happenstance. Such schedules, which include, matters such as, brushing teeth, shaving or applying facial make-up, ordinarily morph into consistent, semi-mindless habits or routines, disturbed only by nuanced circumstances. By major contrast, the reasoned and conscious exercise of volitional choice is never as facile as, sleepily, turning the pillow to its cooler side or routine behavior.

The principled right to universal free choice is assured by specific delineation in our Constitution and system of laws. The declared equal entitlement of all citizens to the exercise of their personal rights of action, as described in the Bill of Rights, is limited only by societal considerations of health and safety, and non-infringement of the rights of others. The exercise of the individual’s specific choices, is more complex, residing in his personally nuanced motivation, underlying such assured rights.

It is to be borne in mind that, predictably, there are psychological and factual considerations affecting the exercise of volition. Factors which would affect or impinge upon that exercise may consist of, parental upbringing, race, economic status, education, cultural and religious teachings, societal factors, intelligence and capabilities, mental health, health or disability, bodily (brain) chemistry, and perhaps above all, past experience, actual or perceived. It is elemental to assume that man’s choices are affected by such modulating factors, and that free choice, (“free will”) in addition, encapsulates such freedom in the context of the similar rights and choices of similarly entitled others.

Individual liberty is affected, as well, by practical considerations of family and national duty, events (like Covid-19), personal relationships, nuanced perception and the influence of others.  Assertive or timid personalities may differ in (choice) reaction to stimuli, but, living in society requires uniform acceptance of its approved code of morality and of the identical rights of others. Any government, person or group, which discriminates against or limits the natural or granted rights of the individual, is never morally or legally acceptable since, among other considerations, it unjustly interferes with the exercise of universal free will and individual life choices; such restraint is un-American and morally and legally, forbidden.

In the case of unjust practices, such as bigotry, personal or institutional, it is legal and relevantly appropriate, for American citizens, pursuant to the written provisions of the U.S, Constitution, to peacefully and legally exercise their legal choice to protest, such as in the “Black lives Matter” movement. For decades, law-abiding and morally inspired, American citizens have anxiously witnessed a steady, fearful, militarization and arming of municipal police departments, and in the criminal and Nazi-style mode, police acts of homicide practiced, criminally and in a Nazi-style mode, against unarmed, peaceful American citizens, motivated by the sole neurotic basis of their skin color. The realization that the police, are perceived to represent the establishment and the will of society in such cases is disturbing.

It is inconceivable to realize that rational American citizens, will tolerate or celebrate a Nation in which fellow Americans who happen to be born with darker colored skin, are treated in an inhuman manner, similar to the Jews in Europe; as well as, earlier in our history, by our government, with respect to our continent’s peaceful Native Americans. Sad to say, the deadly pathology of racist bigotry (among a plenitude of miscreant behavior) appears to be a feature of the repulsive persona of the current President of the United States; a Nation fundamentally dedicated to the moral principle of liberty and the equality for all.

The responsible choice of Americans is to, at long last, rid the Nation of the immoral and repulsive phenomenon of bigotry. Thousands of responsible, law-abiding Americans, of every color ethnos and circumstance, have appropriately joined in the huge public and peaceful demonstrations, against institutional prejudice, including, particularly, immoral black homicide. They are acting appropriately and as good and responsibly moral citizens in availing themselves of their Constitutional right to peaceably, protest prejudice and unequal treatment.

Elie Wiesel, (if he were alive) would join us in the applause of and earnest support for, those true and dedicated citizens who love our country enough to come out and protest against the systemic prejudice, practiced against black and brown fellow Americans, (“Black Lives Matter”) and in favor of the enshrined principle of equality, on which our Nation was fundamentally established.

Our egotistic and un-American President, in keeping with his perverse totalitarian inclinations, has, in autocratic fashion, chosen to illegally and shamefully, send armed soldiers to confront those patriotic, and admirable protesting citizens. He must be voted out of office if we are to have a return to the eternal promise of a principled and traditional America.

-p.

Blog # 527 DISMAL  CAROUSEL poesie (“Wuka-Wuka”)* [Redux]

Suffer no fear of tropical storms,
They do relent, rebalance, reset.
Have no fear in the long, black night
It’s only day without the day.
But do dread, the awful sound of wuka-wuka!

Do not fear the mighty blow,
All wind dies down before too long.
There is no fear for heat and cold,
It all just moderates in time.
But beware the wuka- wuka sound!

You mustn’t fear black smoke too much,
Firemen are surely on the way.
Nor panic from excessive speed,
Reduce will follow shortly on.
But, so much fear in wuka-wuka! wuka wuka !

Never fear a try at love,
Yet another may do the trick.
Do not fear to fail at goals,
New starts will show before too long.
Only wuka-wuka sounds are dire!

Do not fear the surgeon’s knife,
The goal’s to free you from disease.
Never fear the longest road,
The end’s in sight before too long.
But you must escape the wuka sound!

You must avoid the dread carousel,
Grim wheel that turns, just gyres and turns
No music here, all wooden gears,
That speak in fearsome wuka sounds.
Do fear those clacking wuka sounds.

Foul beasts are seen to stand and glare
From on the platform of that wheel.
With vicious smile and carnal teeth,
I could stretch to see but few.
Of this wuka-wuka menagerie
.
Better hope it will pass by.
The wuka-wuka at your face.
All would be lost, all good be gone,
Your fate: to see the beasts up close.
Wuka-wuka, wuka!

The first beast is called the “Trail of Tears”
One,” Armenian Deadly March”
A white one bears the name, ”Jim Crow”
“Dresden” is the German beast
“Appomattox,” another horse
Next to a black one, called “Babi Yar”
A Yak who answers to “My Lai.”
Behind an ancient hound, “pogrom”
“Nagasaki” is the reddish beast, before
Twin ogres, “Isabella and Ferdinand”
“Hutu-Tutsi” both on the side
And to the right of one, “Nanking”
Wuka-wuka, and then wuka wuka, ever it clacks.

To the smiling skull atop the pole,
Above the center of the wheel
I screamed: ”Please, please answer me!”
“When will it stop?”
The faint reply was wuka- wuka, wuka-wuka

-p

Leonard N. Shapiro 11/16/16

*This is the second of two reprised poesies, to remind us that human tragedy inevitably follows whenever evil persona prevails. We need to consider the reality of National disaster unless we vote against the candidate ,inspired by autocrats and autocratic rule, Donald Trump 8/3/20

Blog # 526 NAMASTE [*Redux of 172]

 

Attend it close, excluding all
So as to sense and mindfully hear
The cardiac beat of planet Earth
Those pulses soft in depths profound
Life’s vital tattoo, its organic sound
In synchrony to man’s own heart
In star- set universal time.

If you would hear, go out of mind
Attend the Earth, embrace its sound
Enfin, -do you mark that base tattoo?
That all may hear and apprehend-
It ticks the steady tune of life
With the eternal measured strikes
That beat, indeed, from babe to crone
And then, from crone to dust, so soft.

My sight is only for your Self
And not your lovely eyes or limbs
It is perforce, your heart I seek
That beats along with that of mine
Both timed unto that earthly drum.

What I would see and do salute
My planetary heart and earthly self:
Is pure, ethereal love of you.

-p.

Leonard N. Shapiro, N.Y. 2018)

*This poesie is reposted to serve as a brief moment of healing, at this time of great stress.

Blog # 525  AMERICA’S EXISTENTIAL REFERENDUM: Editorial

Our Republican Democracy, created by our celebrated Forefathers, the new and radical dream of citizens living a principled and secure existence in individual equality, liberty, and the freedom to pursue their personal aspirations, has demonstrably been threatened, like never before. Excluding the period of the Civil War and the subsequent, shameful, era of Reconstruction, it has not been under such existential, threat.

The two elected terms of President, Barack H. Obama, a paragon of capability, rectitude and dedicated intelligence, gave us some temporary assurance that the American voter had matured in judgment and appreciation for what is universally understood to be “The American Way.” Under his administration, the Nation prospered and continued on its steady progress on the path to the rectification of its historical shortcomings, in civil rights, in reforms concerning economic and tax equity, educational opportunity, health care, empathic programs for the needy, and an enlightened appreciation of education and science, including the recognition of the dire scientific warnings of global warming.

The shocking elevation to the Oval Office of Donald J. Trump, an undereducated, ignorant and egotistical,  former second rate, T.V. game show host and real estate gonif, was the unfortunate result of an unholy confluence of, educated voters who did not like Hillary Clinton, and so,  did not vote, Trump’s demagogic, pie in the sky, false, promises to the undereducated, reductionist and discontented portion of the population, and the unlimited, enormous financial backing of anti-regulation, sociopathic, big industry,  (shamefully,  enabled by the undemocratic decision of SCOTUS, in  “Citizens United”). The unexpected election outcome turned out to be disastrous, not only to our Nation’s continuing success and its traditional status, as the powerful and just leader of the free world, but, as it came to be revealed, the existence of the Democratic Republic itself.

We will not yet again, breathlessly, detail the facts of his publicized, immoral, and embarrassing behavior of this miscreant President. His neurotic arrogance, his bigotry regarding minorities and women, his cruel and repressive immigration policy, on behalf of a Nation composed completely of immigrants and their descendants, featuring the breaking up of families and the caging of the separated, young children, his revealed bribes, to cover up his many wrongful assignations with prostitutes, his serial mendacity, his  attacks on the media and free press, his disparagement of science and learning, his resultant denial of scientifically established global warming, as well as the advent of the present pandemic, the latter, resulting in an enormous number of the infected and the consequent, substantial loss of life, his blatant violation of the Constitution’s emoluments prohibition,  illegally, enriching himself and family from his office, his complete ignorance of history, foreign affairs and treaty agreements, making our country the laughingstock of the world, his blind,  his egotistic friendship with our traditional enemies, contrasted with his enmity for NATO and our historical friends and allies, his anti-environmental stance, including his refusal to sign the International Accords, and denial of global warming, his recent pardoning and commuting sentences for criminals, with whose crimes he was, in fact, evidently implicit. The foregoing is not a complete list, but there is need to get to our salient theme.

The existence of a miscreant, like Trump, incapable of office but capable of the performance of such wrongful acts, would certainly provide more than ample justification, to vote against him, and for his opponent, Joseph Biden, (who, in contrast to Donald J. Trump, has the requisite attributes, moral responsibility, and respectability, intelligence, experience as Vice -President, (under that exemplar of good governance, Barack H.  Obama, and as a legislator), together with a sincere empathy for the needy citizen. But we digress; our titled theme, speaks, not in terms of a Presidential election, but an existential American referendum.

The defeat of the autocratic self-worshipping, Donald Trump, is no less than consequentially imperative, for reasons we deem, by comparison, yet more profound, than the preferable election, of his far superior, opponent, Joseph Biden. In our view, this is not simply, another quadrennial, popular selection of an American President; at stake, this time, frighteningly, is no less than the fundamental survival, of the now, singularly, precarious, democratic American way of life, itself.

Any cursory student of World History is familiar with the etiology, the presenting symptoms, and actualized presentment, of the grim pathology of autocratic fascism. We need to look no further back in history, for example, to the 1930’s Weimar Republic of Germany. After a demonstrated history of centuries of xenophobic warfare, Germany was able to morally evolve, at last, to a legitimate democratic government. The “Weimar Republic” featured, a publically elected head of State (the Chancellor) a Parliament (the Reichstag), and a Judiciary. Newspapers and radio were independent and free.

Germany, at the time of the Weimar Republic, found itself in severe financial straits, due to the worldwide (“The Great”) depression, and, relatedly, began to experience  severe unemployment. As shown by 20th Century history, a previously, unknown uneducated, psychoneurotic and despicable egomaniac, Adolph Schikkelgruber, a/k/a Adolph Hitler, employed his singularly, great talent as a demagogue, to, very successfully, delude great numbers of the discontented, disgruntled and unemployed German population, with promises of a better and more prosperous Germany. He set about attacking the newspapers, and radio media, burned books, rounded up and imprisoned all critics, divided and completely polarized the population, set group versus group, championed an exclusively, white, Christian Germany, imprisoning and murdering many millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled. Hitler used the German military (martial law) to eliminate political opposition, organized the black shirts and the brown-shirted, militarized children, to spy on family and neighbors, destroyed free speech and right of assembly, despised all foreigners and eliminated immigration, denigrated all science and learning except for military purposes, glorified strength and deprecated weakness, and murdered many disabled people, prosecuted intellectuals, and appointed racist and ignorant people as officials and military officers.

If there were, in existence, a reference book entitled,” The Joy of  Autocracy,,”  (analogous to the culinary guide, entitled, “Joy of Cooking,”) Donald Trump has not violated any of its suggested recipes. He has polarized the Nation, attacked the free press and media, has, as a demagogue, made snake-oil promises about a “better America,” encouraged racism and the hatred of minorities, mocked the handicapped and disabled, encouraging prejudice against dissenters, homosexuals,  he has deprecated education and learning, including the findings of scientists on global warming, expressed utter disdain for “liberal intellectuals,” adamantly opposed all foreigners and immigration, has, in dictator-like, style, used martial law by sending private, armed soldiers to quell peaceful protests against racial homicide, by municipal police, has encouraged foreign countries to engage in interference with the vote, has, in an autocratic fashion, even expressed doubts as to stepping down, in the event of his loss at the coming election.

Trump has faithfully adhered to the historically successful, textbook recipe, for a Weimar style, replacement of our traditional liberal democracy, and must be halted in his despotic tracks. This November, more than a selection of a President is at stake; It is clear that the first Tuesday in November, will be a referendum, as to the public’s desire to maintain its cherished rights under our Constitutional democracy, or suffer the steep political decline to an autocratic form of government.  The American voter is mandatorily, obliged to recognize the fundamental, crucial, and determinative significance of the coming election; in reality and empirical effect, a public referendum on the continuance of the American way of life.

Because of its ultimate,  great existential significance, we are concerned but remain optimistic.

-p.

Blog # 524  A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTMARE

The term, “nightmare,” has acceptable reference to disturbing dreams, occurring during a deep stage of sleep and inciting a strong emotional response, i.e., fear, despair, or anxiety, often causing us to awake, to an ephemeral state of anxiety. The daytime nightmare, as referred to in this writing, is immeasurably, more insidious, as referring to a disturbing and empirical, reality, one from which the affected individual may not free himself, as in the case of a sleeping such incident, by merely awakening.

Prior to the revelation of our essay’s daytime nightmare, we would contextually offer, three such illustrative, examples of comparably fearsome and highly disturbing nature:

  • The historic Teutonic tradition of xenophobic warfare, after many centuries, seemingly, had abated. In its stead, in the early 1930s, the world saw the development of a valid democratic republic, with an elected Chancellor and a Legislature (The Reichstag), as well as a Judiciary, known as “The Weimar Republic.” Recent history tells us that the established, Federal Government as well as the general public were politically polarized, which divisiveness was exacerbated by a world-wide depression (the “Great Depression”), leading to serious financial problems and an abnormally, high rate of unemployment. An inadequately educated (primary school), severely demented, but gifted demagogue, rose to power (Adolph Schikelgruber, a/k/a Adolph Hitler), founded on profuse promises, in snake oil salesman’s fashion, of a better Germany, and a better life for all of its discontented citizens. The resulting nightmare, consisting of the destruction of the Weimar Republic, tyranny, horrific racial and religious prosecutions, including, among other travesties, the heartless imprisonment, torture and mass homicide of six million Jews and untold numbers of gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped and disabled, and other innocent souls. Destruction of the free press and the media was immediate and networks of informers, Black Shirts, brown shirted children, and even neighbors, deluded by Nazism or sufficiently terrorized, to report, other neighbors, and in certain instances, even family members, for overheard criticism of the harsh autocracy. This extreme travesty, required the Allied forces’ destruction of Germany, to bring the extreme nightmare to a close. It is truly incredible, that cadres of lunatic, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, still exist, seemingly, with the same persistence, as do poison ivy and pandemic viruses.
  • The cogent possibility of such a traumatic nightmare, developing, at any time, in America, is frightening, answered in the positive, in Sinclair Lewis’ alarming (and instructive) novel, “It Can’t Happen Here.” In the thought-provoking and nightmarish novel, a discontented, populist supported candidate, for the American Presidency, (fictionally)defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt for the American Presidency, and creates an autocratic reign of terror, of official squads of watchful and militarized “Minutemen” and tyrannized civilians, to report citizens for sedition. The free press or media are nonexistent, learning and education are denigrated and women occupy the status of second class citizens. The demagogic ruler in the novel was modeled by Lewis, on a living, dangerous person, of that time, Huey Long, of Louisiana, whose nonfictional, life narrative, might well have been that of the tyrannical demagogue, described in the novel.
  • The dystopian, nightmarish, nation, portrayed in Margaret Atwood’s novel, “The Handmaiden’s Tale,” describes a tyrannically, repressive, country, “Gilead,” created, not by xenophobia, but by extreme devotion to religious doctrine. In this engrossing novel (and film) the Nation of the United States of America is replaced by a tyrannical conquering force of militantly, dedicated believers in Jesus Christ, in which civil rights are curtailed, and in which women, of the working class, exist only as servants and fertile, livestock animals; for the propagation of offspring for the male leaders of the ruling religious class. Speech is restricted to the exchange of monotonous religious platitudes, and rape of the handmaidens by the men of the ruling class, of the handmaidens, is an appropriate religious activity, presumably, for the goal of prized impregnation. Speaking or acting in a manner unacceptable to the upper class, even by upper class women is severely and cruelly punished, since, upper class, women, qua female, are, in Gilead, legally, second class.

We are grateful for Attwood’s fine novel, and have ourselves, objectively observed, that, historically and in the contemporary era, devout religion and other popular irrational and superstitious credos, (fundamentally, founded on fear of death, and controllable by the tactical creation of the imperial ideation of “sin”), over the ages, has been a universal cause of polarization, conflict, and inhumanity.

  • The unpredictably shameful, Mad-Hatter Presidency of Donald J. Trump is, knowledgeably, the source of our frightening, daytime nightmares. This completely unpredictable and unstable, psychoneurotic, is incapable of his office (or perhaps any other office requiring, rational thought); this ignorant, bigoted egotist, in merely a few short years in office, has besmirched the American Presidency and demoted the traditional status of our Nation, from the proud and moral leader of the entire free world, to the shameful image of an inept, international laughingstock. Trump has violated every rule of moral behavior, serially consorted with prostitutes, attempted to cover up his illicit behavior with bribes, acted treasonably with our enemies, committed crimes with other co-conspirators, then pardoned his partners in crime (for their silence), egotistically and in utter ignorance, publically denied the existence of the presently raging, mortal pandemic, thus rendering our nation unprepared and causing great and preventable, loss of life, all as part of his public denigration of science and learning, acting in the manner of a pronounced bigot regarding our fellow black Americans, been a boasting abuser of women, is possessed of a neurotic practice of consistent, predictable, mendacity, a winking supporter of white nationalism, an enemy to constitutionally protected, peaceful protest (alarmingly, in Hitler-like, and in totalitarian fashion, having sent in armed private army, to “enforce rule,” at peaceful protest marches), has gone so far beyond the pale of republican democracy, and normality, as to suggest that in the event of his defeat at the next election, he may refuse to accept the result and to leave the Oval Office. It could not, possibly, be imagined worse.

This ignorant, inept, egocentric and immoral, miscreant is our terrifying, traumatic midsummer nightmare, one which can only end with his resounding defeat at the polls.

-p.

Blog # 523  THE MEDIA LEGAL BEAGLES

We can no longer remain silent concerning the parading out, before the television audience of popularized, disappointing, and unimaginative, legal “experts.” While we are completely awed by their impressive credentials, we are less than awed by their inability to see and discuss many salient and basic issues confronting, America’s system of laws. For those readers who will respond to this statement with disbelief, or accusations of our presumption, we ask only that they thoughtfully and impartially read, the following typical examples of this unfortunately accurate, declaration. We have categorized and discussed, the most egregious.

(1) It is undisputed that the U.S. Constitution contains an absolute grant of power, to a sitting President, to grant a pardon, and as a corollary, to commute criminal sentences; such as the recent sentence commutation, of that despicable embodiment of evil arrogance, Stone. The crimes for which this wrongdoer had been convicted, were wrongful acts perpetrated, expressly, and unmistakably, for the protection of the President, and are acts, in which the President, knowledgeably participated.

Why haven’t these, legal “Oracles at Delphi” ever raised the question, as to whether the Presidential power of pardon, extends, or should properly extend, to a sitting President, who, himself, has been complicit in the underlying crime?

(2) There were many, apparently, “erudite” television discussions on the subject of the Non-Disclosure Agreements, executed by the various call girls, specifically, for Trump’s protection, Surely, these celebrity legal gurus must know, (as any C student in law school knows) that Contracts dealing with unlawful or societally unacceptable subject matter are entirely (void) and not enforceable. This failure is disappointingly revelatory, of the evident lack of legal acumen, as to the most basic legal principles.

There is no legal or rational reason, why the (witness), participants to the President’s illegal assignations, under American jurisprudence, are constrained from participating as witnesses; certainly not by reason of the explained, so-called “Non –Disclosure Agreements.” The latter, applicably, is a specialized commercial instrument, to protect business secrets or processes. We were disappointed with this lack of basic legal acumen on the part of all of the highly provenanced experts.

(3) The Bush v. Gore, and Citizens United cases, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, inarguably, and obviously, are “political” cases. Yet, eternally, and since the very creation of the Supreme Court, it has been indisputable and inflexible, black letter law and consistent precedent, that cases with any discernable political aspect (even, possible tangential and indirect political effect), will absolutely not, be accepted for determination by the Court. Those knowledgeable in law or even basic civics, would, knowledgeably, explain that this universal roadblock exists to protect the status of the Constitutional, “Separation of Powers.”

Why was this very basic legal problem left essentially undiscussed by those who have been knighted as legal, royalty by the media? These experts could also have weighed in on SCOTUS’s bizarre and irrational reasoning in the Citizen’s Union case to the effect, that Corporations are “persons”; ergo, have the right to vote; when it is mere schoolboy knowledge, that a Corporation is merely a fictional business entity to avoid unlimited liberty, (and not an enfranchised person.)

The Citizen’s case, whose “considered” decision by SCOTUS, can appropriately, be compared to the insane pronouncements of the “Mad Hatter,” in Alice in Wonderland, essentially damaged our Republican Democracy by such inane reasoning, permitting, unlimited and commercially, self-interested large Corporate money to override the wishes of the people (voter) and decide government policy.

We, like “Sportin Life” in Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” legally advise, thatwhen it comes to the value of television legal pronouncements, “it ain’t necessarily so.”

-p.

 

Blog # 522      TERRA FIRMA INCOGNITA

 

In response to readers’ requests, we have previously, published several mini-essays, on the exotic immigrant World in the 1940’s Brooklyn (East New York). So many of these nostalgic and colorful scenes, of many decades ago, still seem remain fresh in our bank of early memories; hopefully, their depictions have been of interest to readers.

We have previously, sampled snippets of our recollected memories on such subjects as the newly settled, Eastern European Ashkenazic residents,  themselves, their manifest poverty and efforts, personal sacrifice to support their families, their aspirations for the future of their American, children, their earnest,  and at times, somewhat risible, attempts at self-Americanizing, among other things, their impatient desire to quickly replace their Yiddish language, with American conversation (Yinglish), their recently transplanted folkways and cultural traditions, their tenement residence, their ambiance, the era’s, electrified trolley cars and street tracks, the still extant, albeit outmoded,  colorful horse and wagon entrepreneurs, the iceman, the milkman, the street food vendors, the children, and their street games, and many other, cherished, and long bygone, snapshots of the times.

It must be considered that, in those days, regarding the significant, developmental stage of young children’s need for diversion, there was no television, no electronic gadgets or games (beyond “wind –up” toys), only, roller skates, tricycles, rubber balls, marbles (this latter, Olympic sport, highlighted, in an earlier writing), the occasional movie or visit to the overcrowded, neighborhood pool, constituted a young boy’s total universe of diversion.

Fortuitously, in close proximity to many multiple occupancy, residential neighborhoods, there were vacant lots, affording to the local boys, a unique, and significantly, rare, uncrowded venue, in which they could discharge their youthful energy as well as their need for freedom, and engage with friends.

In order to better transmit a timely picture of the scene, we would briefly, touch on the typical neighborhood lot. The same was not a garden paradise, by any measure, but located, only one or two city blocks, from the young boy’s apartment building, it was to him, a terra incognita, an exciting, uncharted, and open territory. Very few of these children had ever been to the countryside, and so the weeded, overgrown, often littered (empty tin cans, paper, boxes and miscellaneous discarded items, scattered among the weeded, grassy) area was always, to their perception, the outer reaches, a precious, open experience, in stark contrast to the cramped space of their (either, cold, or overheated) family apartment. The boy could “kick up his heels,” and run freely over, perhaps, two acres or so of territory. To his inexperienced perception, it was a natural, (albeit, scruffy), oasis in a desert of concrete sidewalks and brick residential buildings.  The lot had many diverse iterations, depending upon season and weather. In a snowy winter, for example, it was ersatz Vermont, with snowballs and white ambiance.  For unsophisticated and inexperienced, poor children, it was an imagined rural countryside.

We would point out that most of these vacant, weeded, and littered areas, in New York City, had, decades later, sold to developers and builders for many millions of dollars, for business and residential development. But, at the times of which we are reminiscing, they provided the needed opportunity for a young, imaginative boy, for sports, high adventure, and the youthful release of energy.

The vacant City lot provided a useful arena for games of “cowboys and Indians,” mock warfare, or pretended gunfights between cops and the robbers. In our remembered lot, there was natural furniture, like a fallen tree trunk, which served as a hard couch, flat rocks, or a stiff bushes, for the placement of equipment or a sweater, removed, in breach of contrary assurances to one’s mother, and plentiful small mounds, available for sitting or hiding. Digging in the soil, where possible, would often be rewarded with, discarded, relics of past lives. [ see our early poetics: “Under the Blue Ageratum.”]

It was not unusual, sometimes, to bring to the lot, empty jars to be used for selected, short term incarceration of grasshoppers or exotic bugs; nice boys like we, would set free the insects, unharmed, at the end of play. This was wartime, and we vividly recall using those jars for the evening hunting and collection of fireflies, as requested by the Navy, for signal light experimentation. In aid of the war effort, we would also collect metal and rubber objects, much needed for recycling for military use, for deposit at designated depots.

One of our fondest memories of our activities on our lot was that of “baking mickeys.” We would each bring one or two foil-wrapped, baking potatoes, dig a small hole, place them in the hole, partly fill the hole, burying the potatoes, then cover it with dry trigs, light the twigs, as a cooking flame, and let the potatoes bake. Dugout, when “done,” the hot “mickeys,” were always pronounced, “delicious,” as we ate them, sitting on the fallen tree trunk, irrespective of their frequent lack of uniformity, in the final result.

We, obviously, could not possibly conceive, that some decades later, man would actually succeed, in landing on the moon. But in our time and at our childhood age and limited experience, the expeditions to our neighborhood vacant lot, were, exciting adventures into uncharted, exotic, territory (terra firma incognita).

-p.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post # 521    THAT GLASS OF WATER

 

There appears, for some inexplicable reason, to be a universal need, to conveniently categorize other members of society, subjectively assigning to them, simplistic tags or adjectival descriptions, to accord with one’s own personal perception. This reductive mental shorthand, is, more often than not, erroneous, as being based on insufficient experience, hasty assumptions, or populist criteria.

By illustration, the perceived extent of an individual’s demonstrated stress, brought about by the advent of the contemporary pandemic, itself, may be considered by some, as an accurate revelation of his persona. Individuals, often, in like sophomoric manner, are evaluated, among other traits, as essentially optimistic or pessimistic. There are many who, possibly, may see utility in such differentiation, as between the two facile categories, as a predictable feature of character. We could not possibly, disagree more. People are not so simplistically understood,

In addition to the fundamental unreliability and limited value of individually nuanced perception, we maintain that, in this case, these two, amorphous and sophomoric categorical classifications, or tags, as such, are inadequately reductionist, if not deluded.

No less than Winston Churchill, himself, referenced the difference between optimism and pessimism with the following, pithy statement: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

There is the appearance of wisdom, plus an added dose of humor, in such inventive (and simplistic) declaration of Winston Churchill, but we are, empirically, obliged, to withhold our approval of this, seemingly, sage witticism. As we will propose later in this mini-essay, Sir, Winston was, here, in our respectful view, guilty of the grave, reductionist error, of implying that human personality is bifurcated into the two described categories, i.e., either positive or negative (or optimistic and pessimistic) This, (for Sir Winston, surprisingly) limited and narrow concept, is often illustrated by the commonly proposed and trite, exploratory inquiry, “is the glass of water, half full or half empty?” Life has empirically shown that the basic assumption, implicit in the question, is empirically, false, and unfairly misleading.

It may be temporarily satisfying, perhaps even somewhat, affirming, to experience a nodding approval, responsive to such populist evaluations; nevertheless, such declarative assumptions, in truth, have the equivalent low value of archaic, aphoristic chestnuts, or common, unsubstantiated gossip. Human beings should not be, seen as defined categories of automatons, programmed to respond, predictably and in robot-like fashion, to pre-programmed stimuli.

We, ourselves, were once asked, at an introductory meeting, “Is the glass half full, or half-empty?” We, unhesitatingly responded in a manner, refuting the basic assumptions underlying the intended, evaluatory question. Our brief answer, decades ago, was,” both.” [the basic theme of this note].  As it happens, at the time of the question, factually, one half of our life, as understood, had already been lived; but expectedly, there was a second half, which we energetically, indicated, was intended to be lived enthusiastically and in a self-fulfilling manner.

Our life experience and observed portrayal of diversity of personality in the literature and arts, has effectively, taught us that it would be foolish, if not quixotic, to blithely aspire to describe the variety of human personality, by traditionally simplistic categories. Human beings, universally vary, by diverse personal nuance, due to a myriad of factors. These factors include early upbringing, lifetime experiences, brain and bodily chemistry, ethnic affiliation, extent of education, state of health, economic condition, ethnic and cultural learning. One’s individual response to any stimulus would naturally be affected by such varied elements. An additional consideration, is that any such vain effort at analytical or comparative observation is subject to analogous influences on perception, as well as the evaluated response.

Individuals, often characterized by inadequate education, reductionist perspective, and little experience with people unlike themselves, bizarrely, seem to pretend to an ability, to predict the inclinations, or characteristics of “others;” such asserted talent exist in various degrees, ranging from simply errant, to blatant, bigotry. Racial prejudice, for example, is lazy, fertile ground, for simplistic analysis. Similar limitations of reason, seem to apply to the useless practice of categorization of people, in general.

We must consider as well, the effect of the virtually unlimited variety of stimuli, to which the observed individual, has been exposed in the past. Early personal fantasies, taught fears and past individual events, would logically and empirically, be contributory to any reaction. Lifetime elements such as wealth or poverty, divorce, state of health, serious illness or loss of a family member, accident and consequent injury, disability, failure or success in particular endeavors, divorce, unrequited love, wartime or disaster experiences, extreme sensitivities to stimuli, such as loud sounds, obnoxious smells, light or darkness, heat or cold, and the occurrence of past trauma, may affect a reaction to a presenting stimulus (such as the present epidemic). In order to properly venture a general assessment of any individual, by his observed response, one must be, intimately and fully familiar with the individual, his past life experiences, real or fantasized, and his reactions, as known, to past, analogous stimuli.

The proverbial water glass is eternally full, containing the totality of life’s varied experience, and characterized by innumerable, permutations, and combinations of nascent, unpredictable inclinations, singularly, and specifically, applicable as to each distinct individual.

-p.

 

 

 

Post # 520 A LITTLE LEMONADE

At the outset of this writing, we would entirely disclaim any and all aphoristic belief that some good comes of every bad experience, that every cloud has a silver lining, or, that if one is given lemons, he can always make lemonade. Some experiences are, in and of themselves, entirely and intrinsically bad, and there is no useful ore to extract from the evil sludge. Rationalizations, to a limited and ephemeral extent, can be a helpful diversion, yet they are seldom useful or realistic. We would aspire to be neither pessimists, nor orthodox optimists, and would prefer to be styled as “realists,” an inclination which appears to be more rational and useful.

The Covid-19 pandemic is, in essence, entirely pernicious and dreadful, with absolutely no redeeming value; it is the catastrophic cause of untold numbers of infected and dying human beings, universal panic and substantial injury to society, financially and socially. The ease of its infection, through human contact, has called for “distancing” of members of society from each other, by actual quarantine, or otherwise. The empirical consequence of this mandatory precaution, has been an abrupt halt to societally existential, interpersonal interaction, an extreme downturn of business, employment and the American economy, the closing of vitally important institutions, such as schools and libraries, and an ominous overcrowding of hospitals. Rarely permissible human interaction, is instructively conducted, with a protective mask, followed, by thorough hand washing, preferably, with antiseptic soap.

The functioning of American society thus has been severely hobbled, resulting in a world of fantasy-like pantomime, with little sound and less joy or personal fulfillment. America seems to be silently sitting, in a medical waiting room, awaiting Dr. Fauci’s advice, as to when one can safely, resume our normal lives (and studiously repudiating, the bizarre medical advice of our inept and ignorant President, and his intimidated, sycophants).

Without detracting, from our sincere, initial disclaimer of belief in the uselessness and irrational conception, that every bad situation has a silver lining, is in the long run, “for the best” or, has an ultimate aspect of good in it, we would posit a few positive observations, which have been brought about in the defensive response to, but certainly not implicit in, the pernicious experience. For illustrative clarity, regarding our distinction, we would pose, by analogy, the development of air raid shelters, built in existential response to enemy bombing, during WWII, as opposed to being the war’s positive result. This is radically distinguishable from, and unlike, the sickening, smarmy advice, concerning, lemonade from lemons.

  • In defensive response to the infectious properties of Covid-19, many workers have been obliged to develop skills in the virtual performance of their duties. This recently enhanced skill, may result in material benefits in the realm of employment. The working aged or the disabled, may find their services less challenging and facilitated, without the need for mandatory, arduous commutation to work.
  • The true value of natural interpersonal interaction, has been recognized and emphasized, by the necessary distancing and computer virtual experiences. This quality of life, was becoming insufficiently appreciated, by the substitution of electronic, impersonal communication in place of natural, personal conversation.
  • The demonstrated, absence of necessity to commute to, and perform services at the workplace, affords more opportunity to electively, to spend more time with family, and explore and develop, lifetime interests, and self- advancement.
  • The Trump administration’s program to tactically evade deserved criticism and warranted criminal prosecution, by denigrating the accuracy of the responsible media, especially, in their revelation of his ineptitude and miscreant actions. Trump and his agents, engaged a tactical program to demean truth, itself, (and the daily revelations of the Nation’s reliable newspapers and media), defensively dismissing such factual accounts, as “fake news” and false reporting. Such adamant claims of “fake news” initially, extended to reports of the outbreak of the Corona virus, (the impact of which was greatly exacerbated by such flagrant denials). The all too publically evident and undeniable impact, of the dread viral disease, the hundreds of thousands of people, infected and deceased, put the lie to his programmed denigration of truthful facts and responsible journalism.
  • On a broader, metaphysical scale, we see that this calamitous experience has furnished to us, a unique break from our usual life of overwork and overconsumption, and time for personal reflection and objective perception, of the possibility of the simplification of our lives, as contrasted with, its frenetic pace, before Covid19.
  • Is it unrealistic to hope that the Nations of the World, presently united in a common war, against a mutual enemy, (the presenting pandemic virus) will evolve other grounds for cooperation and commonality? We can only dream.

* Will this publically demonstrated, accuracy of scientific fact, encourage some reductionist deniers, to recognize the reliability of uniform scientific determinations of man-made, global warming?

-p.

Post # 519 THE SAGA OF L SID

Timeless sagas and ancient legends, recounted and sung, over the ages, in oral history and traditional poetics, recount extraordinary feats, performed by men of remarkable courage and god-like strength, eternally established as man’s Heroes. Some, relatedly, were physically bigger and fiercer, than usual, like Beowulf or Hercules, other great heroes, more commonplace, like Robin Hood, of Arthurian Legend, or the Biblical, David.

It is our confident expectation that future eras will, in similar fashion, celebrate the heroic exploits, of our protagonist, Elliot Louis Siddleheimer, with deservedly, equal heroic reverence. His moniker, in his Brooklyn neighborhood, was “L Sid,” being somewhat more expeditious than “Elliot Louis Siddleheimer.” His street name, is not to be compared or confused, (as to name, but not as to great valor and heroic exploits,) with the 2nd Century, Castilian General, and Warlord, called, “El Cid.,”). L Sid was born in a City Hospital to parents, anxious for the reason that as an infant, he presented a worrisome appearance, tiny, thin and listless. Future years were destined, however, despite his modest size, to reveal, great, soft spoken, heroism, admirable prowess, and god-like calm under great duress.

You may remember Sid, as the young child, who, (referred to in an earlier note on East New York, Brooklyn) when untimely and embarrassingly, called to lunch, by his Mother, from their fourth floor, tenement window, in the midst of a decisive marble game, who reacted in a swift, courageous and ingenious fashion in order to quickly, return to the game. As previously related, when his mother was out of the room, he stealthily unscrewed the back of the 1940’s radio (those days, covering wires and heated radio tubes) and, quickly and decisively, inserted therein, his (tuna fish, tomato and lettuce, mayonnaise) sandwich. He left the empty plate as apparent evidence of faithful performance, and returned to the marble game, in less than 11 minutes. The backstory on the condition and status of the inside of the radio, is not known; however, it is memorably related, that after such epic, decisive, and courageous action, our modest, understated hero is famously remembered, coolly, to have said, “I hate tuna fish.”

An IRT subway ride cost, in those days, ten cents. A dime, inserted in the slot, mechanically initiated the turning of a revolving wooden turnstile, or a large wooden revolving door, permitting entry.  Sid and his buddy, Selwin, were quickly returning from the neighborhood pool, following swimming, each possessing, only, the ten cents required for the train ride home. As they left the public pool, they noticed a lemon ices vendor with a wagon advertising the price, “ten cents.” They looked at each other, woefully, until our hero got the heroic idea of buying one small cup of lemon ices to both share, and taking their chances with the wooden turnstile, at the far end of the train station, which was normally unattended. After sharing the melting and disappointing ices, they now felt desperation and great remorse, having only one time for both of them. Our resourceful hero, put the dime in the slot, told Selwin to mount upon his shoulders, intending thus, to both going through the revolving wooden door. Selwin mounted up on Sid’s shoulders, but his weight was too much for diminutive Sid to sustain him, and the latter jumped off. They tried it the other way, but the revolving door did not budge, and they were both stuck, Sid sitting upon Selwin’s shoulders, both forlorn and stuck, in the locked turnstile.  L Sid, undaunted, and, after two unsuccessful attempts, was, heroically, able to raise his body, keeping his hands flat on Selwin’s shoulders, in an attempt to use the strength of his arms to jump off, in a forward direction. He failed in that attempt, however, both boys were caused to fall forward and, luckily, through, hearing the turnstile click. Selwin, unheroically, took some time getting up, but Sid, a natural born hero, jumped up, immediately, stating, apocryphally, in his heroically calm voice, “We should have bought coconut, I hate lemon ices.”

In the era of L Sid, (the 1940’s), in addition to the more recent advent of cars and trucks, there were still extant, horse drawn wagon vendors, for example, milk, fruits and vegetables, old clothes and knife sharpening. These already outdated, but still operating, vendors would tour the Brooklyn streets, hawking their respective wares or services. It was not unusual for Sid and his contemporaries, during playtime to hear an Italian vegetable vendor, sing out, “Watemello!” or see a milk wagon horse knowingly stop, without direction of the driver, at the apartment houses of its customers, or hear the cowbell of the Jewish dealer in old clothes, and his shout, “alte Sachen (trans. “old clothes”).

 It was on a Wednesday, after school, at approximately 4:pm, L. Sid, was walking down his block, bouncing a basketball, on his way to meet his friends, Selwin, “Geenzee” (Sherwin) and the Moose (Morris) at the nearest City playground, basketball courts. As he was humming and bouncing his basketball, he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, his Mother’s friend and neighbor, with a stroller containing her toddler, holding her poodle’s leash and speaking, earnestly, to a shopkeeper. The conversation seemed to be a somewhat, serious one, the neighbor complaining about something to the contentious shopkeeper. Sid barely noticed, the altercation, but he did notice a horse drawn wagon, and heard the vendor’s announced proclamation. He dropped his basketball as he saw the little poodle, break free of his mistresses’ grip and run, excitedly, toward the horse, barking angrily. Sid immediately ran and heroically, restrained the excited poodle, possibly preventing its injury from an annoyed horse’s hoof. The neighbor, expressed her heartfelt thanks at the safe return of her poodle, now quieted down. Among his typically terse, modest, and memorable fashion, our hero, L Sid, is reported to have stated, “I hate little dogs.”

Future generations will know and laud, the heroic exploits of our courageous and mild spoken hero, L. Sid, and romantically, recount his courageous deeds, in song and legend, for the ages.

-p.