Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Falling by the wayside

March? I haven't posted since March? Jeepers (mentally adds, singing, 'creepers, where'd ya get those peepers...'). Makes me wonder just what the hell I've been up to all this time. I'd write a bit of it out if I could remember any of it. Actually, I do, but much of it isn't that interesting, and a large part of the rest would be stressful ranting and raving about the political situation in my country. There have been a number of wonderful movies I've watched, or watched again. And there has been the garden, of course. As for the movies I've screened, there have been so many it would be a minor miracle if I could still name them all. The idea was to write them down here, making notes about each, but that project fell by the wayside.

A page from the Tyndale Bible.
Now there's a phrase I haven't used for awhile, "fell by the wayside". While it's meaning is readily apparent, the origin of the phrase may not be. It goes back to a 1526 translation of the Bible by William Tyndale. It was the first bible in English to be translated from Greek and Hebrew sources, and the first to hit the printing press. There had been an earlier version (the Wycliffe Bible) in Middle English in the late 1300's, but due to its use in a pre-Reformation movement, it was banned in 1409. By the late 1400's, owning one could bring the death penalty. But that's another story. The Tyndale translation, by the way, became a principal source for the King James version of the early 1600's. The "fell by the wayside" reference is from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 8, verses 5 thru 8. It occurs just after a mention of unclean spirits being cast out of Mary Magdalene and two other women, and concerns a farmer who went out to sow his seed. The sower was a bit sloppy, and some seed 'fell by the wayside'. In fact, a lot of it seemed to fall by the wayside. Only that seed which fell upon the 'good ground' was productive. Just after the teaching of this parable, the Teacher walked upon the waters, a pretty nifty act.

Now that I've wandered off onto this tangent, I'm no longer sure of where the heck I was headed. Was it to post a few pics from the garden? Or the chance to write mildly amusing commentary on making my own tomato paste, or the adventures of putting up copious amounts of fresh homemade pesto against the depravations of winter? (I used up the very last of last year's pesto a few days before starting this year's batches.) Or were the seeds a reference to all the movies I've watched lately? Or haven't watched?
A part of the larger garden at Solar Hill (which I help maintain) where my garden is located.
At the top of the photo is a bit of the playground for the Neighborhood Schoolhouse

More of the Solar Hill garden. Just off to the left are a large number of peonies, one of which can be seen here.
The Japanese dogwood was kind of spectacular this year; it demanded a photo.
A portion of my garden this past June.
Another part of my garden in mid to late Spring.
There's lots more, including other seasons. I'm considering starting a garden blog.

That last bit in the text above (the 'haven't watched' part) refers to an attempt to screen the RKO 'Hitler's Children' for one of my younger friends. While he's knowledgeable about independent movies from the late 1980's or so up to today, he's somewhat less aware of earlier movies. At any rate, my younger friend is going to be a first time daddy soon. He made his announcement via a Facebook post whose only content was a sound file that mystified a number of folks. It was the sound of the baby's heartbeat in the womb. Now, he's never seen any of the Nancy Drew movies, and thus has no associations what-so-ever for Bonita Granville, or, for that matter, with cowboy star Tim Holt, both of whom have the lead roles in the movie. So one night not long after the incidents in Charlottesville with tiki torch bearing American Nazis, white supremacists, and the follow up ravings of Donald Trump in the role of President of the United States, we settled in to watch this bit of lurid potboiler propaganda history.

The film starts out with a Nazi rally (above), and proceeds, via flashback narration, to a 1933 confrontation between American students in Germany, and a group of teenage male Nazis in training. A fight breaks out, during which wholesome Nazi Tim Holt holds onto the American's baseball bat, refusing to give it back. Plucky Bonita Granville looks him in the eye and suddenly exclaims, "Heil Hitler". When Holt's arm rises in automatic salute, she punches him in the stomach. When the German headmaster refuses to stop his charges from fighting, the American teacher (Kent Smith, giving a performance only slightly more lively than a cigar store Indian) simply yells out, "Achtung!", which causes the German boys to fall into line. If only it were that easy in real life. We then see a little bit of the school room education of the day:

Just after Tim Holt's praise for Hitler in the clip above, my young friend asked me to stop the movie. Under the current political climate, and being an expectant father, it was too much. His heart had started racing, and he was beginning to have a bit of a panic attack. We were only about 10 minutes into the film. Thinking back on it, it was probably a good thing we changed the picture. I'd have freaked out if I was an expectant parent, too. And I'm not just thinking of the scene in which a young mother to be hopes her birth is painful as a tribute to the Führer. This picture gets far more lurid and serious.

Of course, the reverberations of movies like 'Hitler's Children' into our own time should give us pause. We currently have an administration in power which excuses the outrages of the far right, pretending there were good people amongst them, condemning those on the left for their part in the violence (even though every report I saw or read stated that the 'antifa' crowd only resorted to violence when the Nazi types began charging at women, children, the clergy, and people with brown skin). Pictures that came out of the event were startling.

Is it live, or is it Memorex?

Today I turned 67 years old. My parents divorced when I was quite little; my mother was gone by the time I was 6 months old. My father, my brother, and I lived with my Aunt and Uncle in what had been my Grandfather's house. My Uncle had fought in WWII. When television came in, I wasn't allowed to have it on much after 5pm, when my Uncle got home. The noise and cacophony of tv shows with children's laughter, and especially sudden loud sounds, unnerved him and he would fly into rages. I won't dwell on it, or on what would now be easily recognizable as PTSD, except to say that I often felt terrorized as a child. The experiences I had in those years would come back to affect me later in life. As it turns out, I was diagnosed as having PTSD too. The stresses and coping mechanisms from those days got me through my first years on my own in the late 1960's, the Vietnam war protests, getting beat up because I had long hair, being beaten up and/or threatened for being perceived as gay, being shot in the head (not as serious as it sounds, except for the psyche - it was delivered via a pellet rifle after I was seen returning a European kiss on the cheek to a male friend returning to Germany. Still, the bullet lodged in my skull and they thought I might have some damage.) During my years managing bookstores in NYC, my assistant was from Pakistan. When the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran, my assistant became agitated and predicted the rise of ultra conservative Islam. He was in New York studying to become an architect so he could build decent homes for the poor of his country. He told me flat out that with the rise of conservative Islam, he was concerned about returning home; he might be killed for becoming educated, and going to the United States. The best cashier I had was a gorgeous black woman from the Caribbean, with a lilt in her voice which would make most people smile. My warehouse manager, who was the guy I trained to run the science fiction section, was from Cuba. You get the idea; I had a lot of friends and co-workers who, if they were around today, might face deportation. The sad fact of the matter is that my country is rounding people up. Some have been deported, some are being held. Many on trumped up charges, or minor traffic style violations. Now a  movement is on to deport those who were brought here as children, who grew up here, and became part of the fabric of life here. Legal protections for transgender folk are being removed. Repealing the right of marriage for gay folks won't be far behind. The Trump Department of Justice has already insisted that gay folks are not entitled to job protections under federal anti-discrimination laws. Confrontations in the culture wars continue, and will, until decent normal everyday people start to riot. And what then? Well, perhaps that's why the Trump administration has 1.2 Billion dollars in the Federal budget for 'detainee beds'. I have been accused of having a decidedly liberal paranoia about this, but I could spend several hours writing out the reasons for such suspicions, and pointing out the similarities between the US today and Europe in the early 1930's. You're free to laugh at me if you want, I won't mind. But I will remind you that Nazis are on the march. In America. They may be carrying mass market torches, but that doesn't change the fact that they are there, marching, provoking, waiting. Their own leaders will tell you that an army is being built. We have a President who threatened violence from his supporters if he wasn't elected. His supporters threaten violence if he is removed from office. Go ahead and laugh some more. But remember the following image when the 'arrests' start. It was painted on a fence in California a few days after the Charlottesville events. And you'd better hope to hell everyone in your family is straight, and white. A lot of the seeds being sown aren't for flowers.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The snow this time

Another snow is falling.

I have things to do, but I don't feel like doing them.

Watching the snow is peaceful, even with the roar of traffic going by; the sounds, not of quiet, but of tires on wet asphalt, punctuated by the whirrs of small motors, and the occasional groans of trucks.

I haven't been able to write much, and what I have been able to get out has been in orgasmic spurts on Facebook, commentary meant to attract the reader to news stories that seem important.

There are too many stories.
There is too much to try to understand.
There is too much to think about,
there is just too much.

One night last week, I watched 'Gojira', the 1954 Japanese movie that was altered for release in the United States, where it became known as 'Godzilla'. I dare say everyone knows the outline of the story: a few years after the atomic bomb, a monster arises from the seas, a monster that shows little use for logic, a monster bent on destruction.

Such plots call for a scientist who will quell the beast. In 'Gojira', that role was filled by Takashi Shimura, known to film buffs worldwide for his roles in the films of Akira Kurosawa. In his role as the scientist fighting Godzilla, every time the camera zoomed in for a close-up of his concerned face, all I could see was his face at the end of Kurosawa's 'Ikiru', in which he plays a bureaucrat struggling to find the meaning of life, his life, as he dies of cancer.

The picture I want to use as illustration shows the actor, in the snow, on a child's swing. It has a stock photo company's watermark on it. A lot of photos which used to be considered to be in the public domain are now claimed as the property of such companies. They want to be paid for their use, and the amount they want to be paid, even for a blog almost no one will read, is not cheap. I know the progression of this takeover for a fact, as for several years I have done occasional searches for particular photos, and watched as this has happened. In this case, a 65 year old photo from a Japanese movie is claimed to be under the ownership of a stock photo company. Much of the world seems to be becoming divvied up by owners who were not creators.

The snow outside of my window isn't sticking to the road yet, but is already piling up on the earth which had just started to suffer the appearance of crocus and the earliest signs of Spring.

About two weeks ago, I woke repeatedly throughout the night, which is not at all an unusual occurrence. That evening was different, however, in that every time I woke, I was in the same dream. I only remember the part at the end, from my stirring in the early morning. That's a metaphor, I suppose. In the dream, people were being rounded up. Color was draining out and everything was becoming, well, not black and white, but gray. Gradations of gray. Gray upon gray. People were being rounded up and sent off to somewhere. Younger men were being sent to the army, that much was known. Other people were being sent someplace unknown, to be unknown. I managed to sneak away from the roundup, and made my way down a long corridor which seemed an endless void. There were doors everywhere, lined up neatly, evenly, like some Levittown style apartment house. As I came close to my door, the corridor was flooded with people, people rounding up people, people trying to escape, there was a crush of people. I managed to open the door to my place, and snuck in, hopefully unobserved in the chaos. It was my space without a doubt. Except that my stuff had been largely removed. The furniture that was left had been covered by sheets and tarps, resembling one of those old closed up apartments opened years later with layer upon layer of dust covering everything. That was when I woke up.

The snow covers the world like layers of dust.

I feel stupid. I may have misread the situation, and the intentions of the Trump coterie. I just read several of the comments made by Nikki Haley, the new United States Ambassador to the United Nations. The situation in my country grows more surreal by the day, by the hour. I'd long assumed that the takeover by the reactionary right was an attempt to gut the government, to remove any help given to the working class, to move as much money and resources as possible to the rich, the oligarchs, the robber barons of our time. This seemed like the natural, and predictable, outcome of years of de-regulation, of lies and distortions by media representing the far right. A fight that had used the religious culture wars had paid off, but the cost was Donald Trump and the destruction of the Republican Party. I think I was wrong. I should have kept focus on the religious right. They don't just want to end abortion, or end gay rights (and gays). They don't just want their version of Sharia law, a world in which the husband will rule the home, with an obedient wife to wait on him (if she knows what's good for her - by now a working life in an often corporate culture should have taught women that they are expendable, their roles replaceable).

As I look at the proposed cuts to -this year's - budget, the toll in human misery can easily blind one to the toll on science, on the arts, on international aid, basically everything. I thought these people were simply ignorant of the interdependencies of the world, and had no understanding of the outcome of their actions.

But it's what they want. They are depending on it. Many of this crowd are fundamentalist Christians. The Bible is their word, their God, infallible, and Trump is His servant. They are not here to destroy the world so the United States can take over, so the moneyed class can acquire more than they already have. They are here to destroy the world. Period. They seek nothing less than to force Armageddon; they aren't looking for the end times - they consider that we are already in the end times. They are looking to hasten the end.

Mr. Trump isn't the intransigence and chicanery of the Republican Party come back to haunt them. He is their monster, rising out of the sea of their despair, come to destroy.

And me? I'm just another observer, a loser at life, swinging back and forth in the snow.