Days Gone By
In the early days of our human race we had hunters and gatherers. Now it would appear that quality has, for the time being, degenerated into a constant search for what is bad and negative and destructive in our fellow man (while attempting to avoid looking at the same qualities in ourselves).
The findings are presented to us in the morning news.
We spent last Columbus day reading… not accounts of the reaching out of forces to pull the world closer together in times of exploration. We heard about the ugly and destructive way Columbus bungled his dealings with the indigenous peoples he confronted. The conclusion presented after a fling into horror was that we drop Columbus as an historical hero and honor the indigenous people instead.
Of course the built-in flaw in this plan is that the same approach, at some point can also be aimed at the indigenous people. Tales of horror, torture, cannibalism (as in what happened to Verrazzano) and other traits of our human nature will be found here as well. Eventually we become like the drunk man who falls on the Limburger cheese and after roaming around a bit, decides “the whole world stinks.” (And we all know where the smell was coming from.)
We have given similar treatment to the memories of many of our founding fathers who took from the best in their natures and fought for our liberty and to create a protective constitution for us. A constitution that is in place for everyone here in our country. Not just some.
So what point am I making? That the findings of Dr Zimbardo and Dr Milgrim are quite correct. Given permission, and often light permission we will all, men and women alike, perpetrate atrocities. If we’re going to look at ourselves let’s really do it folks.
When the men or women who thought they were giving electric shocks to people in another room and could hear their screams of pain were told to keep turning the power up a further notch, they did it without question to the point where death would have occurred. When the Jailers in the Prison experiment realized they had been granted the mock power to exercise cruelty over the prison inmates, they did it gladly and with real sadism. The prisoners suffered terribly, and were willing to suffer as their part in the experiment. These were not people gathered from an insane asylum or such; these were well-educated students demonstrating their human nature. And from this we learn.
We hear tales of wealthy motion picture magnates who abused their power and took advantage of those who worked for them. They were guilty of ugly and sociopathic behavior. Ugly and self-serving to the max. Famous actors and politicians who have been guilty of the same and similar offenses all point fingers and say “tisk, tisk.” We take turns siding with one unsavory politician or another not looking at the fact that a good portion of the brew is sour.
We tear down statues of those who once perpetuated slavery, feeling justified because of our cause in acting like vandals and thieves, until we also tear down a peace statue, but that’s OK because our cause was good. Then we go home stopping by a giant chain store that offers low prices because many of its suppliers live in other countries and work for pennies an hour, some living in boxes and with nothing remotely like adequate food to eat. But that’s OK because we don’t see them. Out of sight out of mind. My, what bargains we got! We sit and eat our overly large supper with a feeling of total complacency. We made a statement about slavery today.
So what am I suggesting? That we realize that where there are wrongs we can certainly work to change them. But throwing out the good of history because there was also bad is for us a kind of suicide. We recognise ourselves in the badness. We should. When we shrink from those lessons it is ourselves we shrink from. That recognition leads us often to throw away our mirror and try to point a finger at anyone but us.
We shrink from our religion also. It is a little too close for comfort for us because it illuminates our proclivity for evil. But the spiritual lessons are good ones. “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone,” How much better could that have been said by a complacent scientist or tech wizard? We learned along the way but the lazy part of our natures wants to spurn the knowledge. Easier to call the higher spiritual values of the centuries “Myth” and “make believe,” certainly much easier than actually trying to follow strong, moral precepts and lessons. We try to transfer our allegiance from a spiritual outlook to a scientific one, only to find out that our human flaws follow us the whole journey and are still fully intact. And we are much less comforted by the thought that we have only ourselves to turn to, knowing when we are honest just how imperfect we actually are. Looking to a higher and perfectible self was one of the good lessons we learned. It gave us saints and heroes to sustain us. Of course we are loath to see it go. And the good in us will not let it. That is the other side of the coin.
One story I saw in the news was I think quite hopeful. One person after a very graphic account of Columbus’ wrongdoings pointed out the rightness of another early companion of Columbus, Las Cassas. How he took up for the poorly treated Natives of America and urged against slavery (the writer did his homework properly in also pointing out LasCassas had originally sponsored slavery but saw the error of his ways and changed). This lesson gives us the full picture to work with. How we can raise ourselves beyond our lower human nature to heroic activity. How we can make that choice and have it real. I’m glad to have found that story. It’s the nugget we need. We should keep Columbus, because bad and good, he’s part of us. We keep LasCassas too because, thankfully, he’s also part of us. Out of our uncensored history we find the true strength to look at ourselves first when heading out to judge the world and our human past.
Now that we are actually living in the time envisioned by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World and George Orwell in 1984, we find that as well as being increasingly harmful to individual freedom and creativity, it is also filled with unspeakable rudeness. Tech Rudeness.
If we went into a restaurant for a festive outing, and no sooner than we sit down to order a pleasant meal, out of nowhere, a group of well-to-do people sit down with us and begin ordering and telling us what we should be ordering, then after partaking of the meal while talking loudly all through it, the uninvited guests leave informing us we need to cover the tab. We would be outraged beyond belief and, needless to say, we wouldn’t let this happen twice.
And yet we are now spending our money on products that do just that and worse. Products that will interrupt us while we are writing notes, checking on weather, reading news stories. Just about everything we do. They leave their prompts on the screen and wait with baited antenna to see which we will use. They tell us what to think, and that we should think it. These intrusive apps on our phones, computers, televisions and soon to be attached to our heads behave in a way an eight year old school child of years past would have been ashamed to admit to.
So much of this rudeness is delivered in an elaborate and showy form, which in fact, adds further insult to injury. We are constantly told how we are soon to be the happy recipients of the latest, ( to approximate the language) “Innovative solutions, proving that disruption brings order to the entire infrastructure through total data connectivity..” etc. etc. And shouldn’t we be glad.. (and we have no choice anyway because this is relentless tech progress.)
Who are we poor peons to question such elaborate, scholarly sounding jargon as this as it is constantly foisted upon us?
It reminds me of the showy CGI displays on black holes and what they are of a few years back. We are encouraged to sit speechless before these impressive productions, such a dramatic presentation must hold ultimate truth we humbly think. Until, of course, Stephen Hawking changes his mind, as he did recently. Then, wow, back to the old CGI drawing board. Oops.
The Wizard of OZ was a good guy when he hid behind the curtain and used his august image to help endow his friends with more faith in themselves and their individual gifts.
The modern wizards hide behind curtains too, but for no such good purpose. In fact their purpose is pretty much the exact opposite. They are self serving business people who seek to standardize the mass of us into non-thinking workers and customers. While they portray their products as being streamlined space age innovations, the products actually represent the greedy mercenary anxiousness of their creators. Just as stuffed sausage often looks good on the outside but as we know when we think about it, the inside is made palatable largely by its high seasoning not quality of content. They are so anxious for quick sales that they are clumsily giving their agendas away on an almost daily basis. And for that, I am most glad.
Without bothering to ask us, these hucksters also insinuated themselves into our educational systems, thinking most likely to increase control over our thinking at the youngest most impressionable ages. Fortunately this first covert attempt failed. Now these same folks plan to create entire tech cities where they, and their products, can rule and be worshipped. However, as we have always seen, wrongful human systems and creations ultimately crumble. Thousands of years of our history have taught us this. We still have our free will, and we will use it one more time to restore the balance. The dumbing down hasn’t worked yet.
I never tire of quoting Ray Bradbury’s poem, “The Machines beyond Shylock” where he made it clear the machines were just what they are programmed to be, “stuff right, get right, stuff rot, get rot.” Our present machines have been and are being used to spy on us, politically influence us, condition us, and rob us. You can judge for yourself what they are stuffed with.
Well it’s election year again, and this reminded me of a movie I commented on last election year, aptly enough titled “Election Year.” At the time I noted that the film, if read as social commentary, was using an extreme “overkill” method in its depiction of “artificially generated strife and violence” as well as “subtle methods to faze out portions of the lower middle class and poor,” etc.etc.
Well having read the usual tech augmented morning news today, I feel that if anything it was understated. I give it to you now, four years later, just as it appeared in 2016 :
The Purge Election Year
Every now and then I find a statement, whether in a book or film that makes me outright want to cheer. Watching the latest offering from the “Purge” series was one of those times.
I believe shock value, when used effectively, can really get the job done in point making. This horrific film does just that.
The film really needs to be watched cold but I will comment that it very well relates to every serious problem we, as a country, have been experiencing these last years: Government overeach, class warfare, political correctness,
economic slavery, artificially generated strife and violence, misuse of religious and moral concepts by those with negative agendas and much more.
While the people who have been behind the dirty work in our present climate quite often have used much more subtle methods to accomplish the same ends of fazing out the population of the “inferior and unproductive lower middle class and poor.”
The dramatic and incredibly violent methods portrayed here are quite literally an “overkill” in making the point. It doesn’t take long at all to see how sociopathic behavior in a ruling or decadent wealthy class applies itself.
We need slaps in the face like this to awaken us from perhaps a bit too much of the smog particles the big planes dust on us daily while our would be leaders keep their mouths tightly shut about such obvious issues. Likewise not a word about the people who have been paid to spy on us daily though it is strictly a violation of our Constitution.
It would be nice if we could actually have a champion like one of the presidential candidates in the film is shown to be. Perhaps what we can conceptualize can become a reality. We can only hope and pray and act…
In this year (2020) I heartily agree with myself on the last word, especially “Act.”
Quite a title, huh? Unfortunately particularly interesting right now in our world history.
Classic authors in our English language have come up with some really splendid titles. The original title was even longer as it was prefaced with the words “A Journal of..” Charles Mackay, Scotch journalist and songwriter compiled the work in 1841.
What I like best about Mackay’s collection is that I can cite it without being accused of stacking the deck against the usual stacked decks of our times that I seek to make “transparent.” (It’s much too old and classic to be considered in that way.)
Mackay illustrates fads and economic get rich schemes from over the ages. He shows frauds like the “South Sea Bubble” and shows how again and again people have believed in and invested in ideas that were hoked up fakes from the get go.
Now to bring ourselves forward, imagine you had invented the most effective machine in the world for beaming out messages to the populace. You could begin and continue a program of mass broadcasting at the flip of a switch. Lets for fun call it “The Wublee Machine.” Lets suppose what might happen with the “Wublee machine.” If Mr. Wublee were a good spirited seeker after truth, anxious for the good of mankind, such a machine might disseminate powerful lessons from the fruit of our worlds’ story, both historical and spiritual. But what if……..?
What if Mr. Wublee and his partners are garden variety self serving sociopaths. What then?
He would probably think to himself, “Wow, this is great, my machine could be the greatest vehicle for mass hypnosis ever seen. I could tell things to people and they would believe them, simply because I tell them to believe them. I can sell anything this way, If I tell people they’re sick. They’ll believe they’re sick. I can then sell them my medicine! Not only will I become ridiculously wealthy but I can control the thinking of millions and aim it all toward my own aggrandizement.”
“Now lets see…” he continues “What might hinder my scheme..” “I know, 9000 years of recorded history and Art could throw a slight crimp in things, but hey, power and manipulation are on my side…” “I’ll simply use my machine to beam out the idea that my twenty years of huckstering my products out does the whole of history and its spiritual growth.” “Ambitious plan you say? Hey nothing is beyond my program for personal success, wealth and power!” “I have to laugh” (he continues) “people will all walk around like gullible Lil Abners saying “We must realize that the Wublee Machine Age has changed all of history. There is nothing else now and we have no choice but to accept it” ….”and where will they have gotten this concept? From the Wublee Machine, of course!!.” (Mr. Wublee would then laugh and walk off to make another huge deposit into the bank he owns. Another scheme might be, to make gifts of Wublee machines to all the schools and invent a system for the children to study.” The Common Wublee approach to acceptable Wublee truth,” (or words to that effect.)
My little story is all fictional, of course. Following a train of ideas sparked by Mr. Mackay’s 1841 book. Any resemblance to our times right now is “purely historical.”
( When I wrote this, seven years ago, I hardly realized we would be experiencing our own “Thunderdome” in so short a time. As I reread this I realize the film I was contemplating has important messages for us right now.)
When we think of dystopian literature we often think of books or films like 1984 or Brave New World. Neither of these classics deliver a positive feeling about the drift of world affairs. They feature lapses of humanity into Tech and media controlled totalitarianism and eugenics. They are good warnings and I think that is probably their main purpose.
Another work, however, that I admire offers strong hope through old-fashioned human faith, ideals and heroism. After being shocked by the first two classics mentioned, this as a follow-up offers a great incentive to action in our direction of World rebuilding. A good reading and watching list, for this time of contemplation.
The character of “Mad Max” in Beyond Thunderdome, so well played by Mel Gibson, is a hero every bit as much as Hercules was. After his great fight in the arena of Thunderdome, Max is cast into the outer regions by “Aunty” (Tina Turner). Then comes a high point of the film when a rugged girl named Savannah Nix, played by Helen Buday, finds Max where he had been left in the desert to die. Savannah carries him back to an oasis where, for years, she has been playing mother to a group of children who had been in a plane wreck during the apocalyptic war (which the group calls the Pox Eclipse). She thinks Max is the “Captain Walker” who had flown them away from a bombed city and crashed near the Oasis. He had originally gone for help but never returned. The group had created a tribal oral tradition which they referred to as a “Tell.” I found it extremely moving to hear the statement told by Savannah which begins “I’m looking behind us now, across the count of time to history back…” in a beautifully simple way she tells of their survival at the oasis and their hopes of one day being returned to civilization though Max is adamant in denying he is their lost Captain, he non-the-less lives up to their expectations by getting them safely to the ruined city of Sydney, Australia. In the closing scene Savannah gives one more “tell” which I give in its entirety.:
“Time counts and keeps countin’, and we knows now finding the trick of what’s been and lost ain’t no easy ride. But that’s our trek, we gotta’ travel it. And there ain’t nobody knows where it’s gonna’ lead. Still in all, every night we does the tell, so that we ‘member who we was and where we came from… but most of all we ‘members the man that finded us, him that came the salvage. And we lights the city, not just for him, but for all of them that are still out there. ‘Cause we knows there come a night, when they sees the distant light, and they’ll be comin’ home.”
“Who we was, and where we came from;” an appropriate thought for all of us in these latter days. We all need to cling to whatever “tell” we have of our better selves and our better history. To never fall prey to Totalitarian planners who try to insinuate themselves in our time of stress. We will hold on to our faith and to our ideals of freedom and individuality. We will never be branded and guarded slaves nor allow others to be, ever again. Regardless of the odds we will make our way back to those often forgotten lights of our past. The lights that we know in our hearts are most truly home.
Just about everyone, at one time or another, has heard of Frank and Jesse James and the James gang. As many people as have heard of the Jameses, an equal number have never heard of William Harrison Ainsworth. So, what is the connection?
Jesse and Frank James, when children, led farely normal lives. Frank wanted to become a school teacher and was a great reader. He read through most of the books in his late fathers library probably sharing stories with his younger brother Jesse. We know he liked Shakespeare, but I also suspect he liked the novels of Ainsworth.
Ainsworth became famous about the same time Charles Dickens did. He, however, won fame by his depiction of Highwaymen as likable anti-heroes rather than cold blooded thieves and murderers. His first such depiction was “Dick Turpin” in the novel “Rookwood.” Rookwood was a runaway success, everyone fell in love with the likable scoundrel, Turpin, (who was based on a real-life bandit from the 1700s, by the way). When “Jack Sheppard” appeared (another bandit novel), as many as eight different play versions were soon going on at the same time.
During and after the civil war Frank and Jesse did their best to promote an image of themselves as “Robin Hood” style bandits in the tradition of Ainsworth’s idealized rogues. When Jesse wrote letters to the newspapers about the gangs exploits and the political reasons behind their banditry, he and Frank signed their names “Jack Shepherd, and Dick Turpin.”
Frank and Jesse may not have always lived up to the qualities of their prototypes, but as far as the public was concerned they were heroes. Jesse was universally mourned when he was shot in the back, and Frank was acquitted of all charges when he finally went to court.
The disenfranchised South had found a voice in two men who had, quite likely, found that voice in two works of historical fiction.
Work on What has been spoiled
Carl Jung, the famous psychologist had a great interest in the history of the human race. Religious and philosophical customs played a big part in this.
One of the best known works of ancient oriental wisdom is the book called “The I-Ching.” Combined with meditation the I-Ching often offers remarkable insights into our daily lives. This fascinated Jung.
One of the commentaries in the book that I best remembered was “Work on What Has been Spoiled,” certainly a timely one for this moment in history!
“The Wind blows low on the mountain, The Image of Decay Thus The superior man stirs up the people, and strengthens their spirit.” Yes, strengthens their spirit. This strikes at the heart of our need. In the judgment on this statement, these direct words: “What has been spoiled by man’s fault can be made good through man’s work.”
This is the jumping off point for us in this time of decay. We are working our way through a much unexpected period of reflection and in doing it we must take a closer look at all there is around us that marks evidence of our thoughtlessness and irresponsibility.
How do we begin such an effort? Well that is simplicity itself. We look closely at those things that are part of our daily lives and thinking. Case in point: The daily news.
Each morning as we start up our computers or phones we are met at once with the long unfolding lists of “news” items that form our day to day opinions of life around us. Both locally or in the world.
The list, as we focus on it, is less than happy. Most stories are ugly and anything but inspirational for our hope or courage, “defeatist” would be the word, and almost gleefully so. Also, as we clear our minds, we see that the stories leave very little room for our own imagination or thinking process. They demonstrate a tacit assumption that we don’t really want to be bothered with the choices involved in thinking and therefore will take that nasty responsibility away from us and supply the responses for us.
Something like this, “The Mayor spoke in an ignorant way and here’s what you should think about that.” Then follows an account heavily weighted against the Mayor and ending with further invective making it clear that whatever the mayors attitude was we should want no part of it.
Lately in the midst of the present mayhem I have seen this program carried a step further. If the mayor or lets say any force of thought offers an alternative point of view through any of the media it is simply censored and removed and replaced by a rambling statement from the powers that be telling us how wrong and misleading the now missing information was and how grateful we should be that the media censored it. It would have been a waste of time for us listening to it. The kindly media has our good interests at heart and will continue to remove any troubling free thought that it finds other than it’s own. And now we are even being supplied by these people with scripts to use if we encounter any divergent opinions to squelch them , media style, On the spot! .This type of “news” hardly existed 50 years ago.
So the freedom of speech promised in the Constitution of our country will indeed continue to exist. Practiced only, of course by the media and those invisible forces that support and control it! ie: Billionaires and politically slanted speakers..
Get the picture?
This is something that is spoiled. And it is getting ranker by the minute. Time to consider the ancient wisdom and begin to clean house. Try to realize that when we read the term “Herd immunity” that is us being talked of . We are the “Herd”.
Herds are always branded to show ownership , put behind fences for safekeeping and eventually sent to the slaughterhouse.
As we are gradually being told in this very slow conditioning process we are soon to enjoy the exciting experience of having identification chips implanted in our hands “ To give us the dignity of being truly able to prove who we are.” ( It will of course make it much easier for the “herders” to keep an eye on us, monitor our health , temperature, whereabouts and other good things to help assure our continued “freedom”) Billionaire investors find this quite “exciting”
Soon also we are gleefully told the same investors plan to see to it we have electronics attached to our brains so that our very thoughts and impulses can be monitored and controlled “Like Cyborgs” they say with wonder in their eyes. We will be controlled and utilized for peak efficiency for all their business needs.
Exciting future for any of us who accept being enslaved . But then the “political correctness” encouraged by the investors has expunged most of the knowledge of how slavery worked from our schoolbooks so we can be programmed as nearly clean slates in this regard. What a useful business tool!.For the planners , political correctness has proved worth its weight in bitcoins.
Apple Pandowdy and the Like
When I was a child I always loved to visit my grandmother on my Uncles farm.
She was always making some recipe that would make me feel like I was walking into an old Gary Cooper or Henry Fonda movie from the thirties or forties.
One day she was preparing a platter of chicken to fry when she said ( speaking to herself as well as me) “I know, I’ll make us a batch of Apple Pandowdy for dessert..”
Apple Pandowdy. What a name for a dessert! It conjured images of apples, cream, some sort of pan, as well as the mystery of dowdy as part of the name. I knew it was going to be a mystery. But my grandmother’s mysteries always had happy endings, (particularly at dessert time!).
After she got the chicken ready to fry she got out her ingredients for the Pandowdy.
Great ingredients! They included Apples (of course), cinnamon, molasses, sugar, milk, flour, etc. I knew that whatever was coming was going to be good. My grandmothers experiments always were..
And true enough, in a half hour the finished product was like a combination of baked apples, bread pudding and deep dish pie. Served with plain or whipped cream it was out of this world.
All this remembrance, in a talk at the diner this morning, sparked a talk about how great some of the old lost recipes were. A restaurant serving such delights would be sure to be a success. Everyone would want to try such a restaurant and sample the past in this “hands-on” way.
And the name for such a restaurant? Perhaps “You CAN go home again.”
The United States Post Office is as old as the United States. It is one of the few government agencies authorized by the United States Constitution. It had its start at the time of the second continental Congress in 1775. Benjamin Franklin was made the first Postmaster General.
A Very impressive and nearly forgotten beginning for this great organization. The first regular printed postage stamps for our country featured pictures of Franklin and Washington.
The advent of Computers has played a major part in the lessening use of the post office. One major reason for the post offices’ financial difficulties of late has been the e-mail. The E-mail, to me, represents the love we have been taught for media gadgetry as opposed to personalism. People saved love letters in bundles tied with ribbon and treasured them. People saved the letters of artists, writers, soldiers, political figures and treasured them also, not to mention friends and family. All of this was important to our history, both personal and national.
Today e-mail, while it can technically be saved for a bit is susceptible to a wide range of loss potential that handwritten letters never were. We can erase them by mistake, the program they are on can change, the central computer can fail. A box of letters on your shelf stays there unless your house burns. And a fire-safe box wouldn’t burn. Of course you might not have a bookcase to keep them on as books are more often a computer product as well right now. But the same flaws computer letters have computer books also have.
I was proud to see a new plan involving combining material books with E-books. One for the road, another for the personal library.
But to get back to the post office, my advice and plan? Get a book of “Forever” stamps and some stationery and begin writing more letters. Lots of letters. It will help preserve penmanship along with everything else. And if it catches on well, maybe the Postal Service will begin to prosper again. It deserves to, it’s been here for us for a long time.
I want to thank Greg Lyons, the local artist and gifted caricaturist for suggesting an article on Mort Drucker. We lost the amazing artist on April 9 when he passed away at the age of 91. Mort was an important member of the Mad comic book turned magazine family of artists. This group also included Bill Elder, Wally Wood and Jack Davis. He also became well known for his marvelous portraits of noteworthy people, and much other work.
My own memories of enjoying the work of Mort and the other artists has been happily brought back to my mind by talks with Greg Lyons. Greg had some conversations with Mr. Drucker some while back, and I’m sure will treasure that memory. Greg’s enthusiasm reminds me how seriously I studied the drawings of those artists and how much robust art does to encourage younger artists to emerge. As a youth I recall doing my own series of spoof cartoons mimicking as close as I could the work of that wonderful group. I’ve spent many years of my life drawing and painting because of what they sparked.
Mort was born in Brooklyn March 22 1929 to parents Sarah and Edward Drucker. He attended Erasmus Hall High School where he met his future wife, Barbara. They married shortly after graduation. They had two daughters, Laurie and Melanie. The couple located in Long Island.
Mort began newspaper cartoon work in 1947 at the early age of 18. He helped with a comic strip called “Debby Dean” and then joined DC comics where he worked as a retoucher. He soon went freelance.
Mort joined Mad Magazine in 1956 shortly after Harvey Kurtzman, the founding editor, left. The new editor, Bill Gaines, told Drucker when he applied that if The Brooklyn Dodgers won the game going on that day he would hire him. The Dodgers won. Later Gaines admitted that he would have hired him anyway (but it made a great story Mort told many times over the years).
Drucker drew for Mad Magazine an amazing 55 years. During his long career he drew for many other magazines including covers for Time.
Michael J. Fox said on the Johnny Carson show in 1985 that he knew he had made it in show business when Mort Drucker drew his portrait.
The Time magazine covers Mort drew are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. He received many awards and was given an honorary Doctor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Boston.
I very much suspect that Mort Drucker left this world with the satisfaction of knowing he had made a very great contribution to his chosen field. I know it will continue to be appreciated as long as there are ways to print and reprint works of art. And I personally hope that is a very, very long time.
Not too far back, a political figure introduced a concept which stated in its starkest form, implied putting our senior citizens out into dangerous positions, during this pandemic, as potential sacrifices to preserve our economy.
I must say I was proud to see the utter disdain with which this concept was met. Years of computer generated horror cartoons and general dumbing down have still not dulled the human spirit to the point where such eugenical concepts are allowed a hearing.
It brought to mind a classic film from the 1970s
The 1976 film, Logan’s Run, is set in the year 2274. The film depicts a dystopian world in which the remaining inhabitants of Earth reside in a protected, domed city where they live only for pleasure (we are not told what catastrophe caused them to be so quarantined).
They have been dumbed down by computer programmed “Education” to the point that they do not realize their lives are pointless and that all they have to look forward to is a uniform death at age 30 in order to mathematically balance things and avoid over population.
The rules of the civilization have been programmed into a computer (presumably by the now extinct ancestors of the present generation as some sort of “benign” way of continuing the species). Rebirth is handled by laboratory technicians in an artificial way. Real love and family are unknown (the AI left to guard the coming generations has apparently gone amuck and degenerated into the destructive device the film depicts).
The computers give ongoing orders to the populace and the death squads (known as sandmen). The sandmen are the only citizens who carry firearms and they use them to assassinate “Runners” (those who try to avoid the ecologically correct, prescribed death at age 30), and to police the other members of society who must attend “Carousel” on their 30th birthdays.
On carousel, which is shown as a festive occasion, the people are neutralized by massive lasers, killing every last one (though they have been falsely told that they will likely “renew” and continue living).
The cheering audience have no real understanding of what is happening before their very eyes. A young woman, Jessica 6, (Jenny Agutter) and a Sandman named Logan 5 (Michael York) begin to have an understanding of things and choose to become runners rather than be “terminated.”
Logan has already been instructed to play the part of a runner by the computer. His directive is to follow runners to a place called “Sanctuary” and destroy it to discourage future runners.
Running is difficult to accomplish as all citizens have computer identification crystals implanted in their hand at birth by the computer instructed medical teams; these crystals serve as identification plus time clocks to measure the amount of lifetime allowed and tracking devices to be monitored by the sandmen’s GPS trackers.
Logan and Jessica pass through several outer areas of the city including a ruined area called ‘Cathedral” (probably a reference to the displacement of religious concepts by AI concepts).
Cathedral appears to be occupied mostly by youthful street urchins. The couple eventually use an Ankh shaped key, taken off a dead runner, and pass through tunnels into the outer world. (where they are greeted by a view of the sun, which they have never seen).
Shortly after they begin their trek in the outside they sight a ruin in the distance, and take this to be the mythical “sanctuary” (it is in fact, what’s left of Washington DC).
Walking there over rough terrain, they finally arrive and find an elderly man (played by Peter Ustinov) living in one of the buildings. Ustinov’s character is a sweet old man with many cats who quotes T.S.Eliot off and on. He shows them a cemetery and explains the meaning of family terms like “Beloved Husband” and “Beloved Wife.”
The two become fond of the old man and are entranced by hearing his memories of the nuclear family and other earlier value systems. They like the thought of returning to such systems.
A former sandman friend of Logan’s (Francis 7) follows them to the ruined city and tries to assassinate them but is killed by Logan using what is left of an ancient American flag and pole as a club. While dying the friend looks at Logan’s now clear hand clock and smiling says “Logan, you, renewed,” (the identification clocks don’t work outside the quarantine walls of the dome).
In the final scenes the couple return to the domed city bringing the old man with them as proof that one can live a normal lifespan.
After reentering they have encounters with sandmen and the central computer but succeed in disorienting the computer and unlocking the city.
When the occupants of the city go outside and see the old man they are amazed and delighted at the realization of the larger world.
We are left to conjecture on the rebuilding of society following all this but the last moments of the film bode well.
I leave it up to you to consider parallels in this story with our present-day world experiences.
We all remember that one of our kids who used the old “cookie jar permission” ploy.
This strategy uses the “divide and conquer” concept and goes something like this.
Son says to mom, ”Can I get a cookie from the cookie jar?” Mom answers, “Well, okay but just one or you’ll ruin your appetite.” Son runs off to the jar and using creative consciousness, remembers only the word, ‘OK.” A few minutes later the boy is leaving by the side entrance clutching eight cookies and a container of chocolate milk. Dad happens to spot him and calls, “Whoa, where do you think you’re going with all those cookies and that chocolate milk?” “Mom gave me permission,“ he answers, “She said it was Ok..”
Well finally it is all sorted out between the parents and the boy is given a healthy “Time out” or “grounding“ from his parents for his falsehood and greedy effort. The parents often remember such events fondly in later years knowing that the experience taught the child a good lesson about telling the truth and acting in a responsible way.
It is unfortunate that in these difficult times many political figures act much like the young boy in their habits. Only in this case it is our Constitutional freedoms that they gather up and run off with. Our privacy, our freedom of speech and much, much, more. When stopped and asked how they dare to do this they glibly answer, “I had permission, the voters all said I could ignore the Constitution.“
When the “parents” of these big kids, in the form of congressmen, representing the people, make it clear that such actions are way out of line, these guys, unlike the boy with the cookies, usually go on doing what they are doing answering with only a shrug of the shoulders. “Whatcha gonna to do about it?..” they smirk.
Well the people’s answer, in the years to come must be “Time for a healthy time out,” (hopefully life long).
What’s good for the little kids, is definitely very good for the big ones.
Any of you who saw the film “Dead Poet’s Society,”will remember the scene where the boys march off to the secret cave while reciting lines from Vachel Lindsay’s Poem “The Congo.”
Lindsay was a major American Poet who wrote during the great days of Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg and Edgar Lee Masters.
Lindsay today however, is read much less than these other poets. Lindsay was one of the most American of poets. Perhaps the greatest national poet since Whitman.
With the commerce oriented plan to cut back the teaching of creative classics in the schools, It may not be that soon that he won’t be taught at all.
With this thought in mind I hope to give a glimpse of this great man who loved America so well.
Lindsay was born in Springfield, Illinois and he set his famous poem, “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight”there. As he grew, his parents had hopes of him becoming a doctor but Lindsay had other ideas. He wanted to be an artist and a poet…not just of the old school, but of the ancient school. He wanted to revive the musical aspect of poetry found in ancient Greek works.
It could fairly be said that Lindsay helped pave the way for the modern “Folk Revival”of the fifties and sixties. He declaimed and sang his poems from the stage stamping around and acting them out. The audience often had copies of the words to the poems so they could chant along with him.
In this public way Lindsay traversed the country, sometimes in the guise of a tramp, to get out the good word. He sang his poems “General William Booth enters into Heaven,” “The Chinese Nightingale,”“Johnny Appleseed”and many others to steadily growing audiences. It is worth hunting out some of the few recorded examples of his stage work to get a notion of how he moved his audiences as he did.
It is sad to record that Lindsay took his own life in 1931. He had become depressed and mental illness played a part, but he left a great legacy for those who wish to rediscover it. He felt that he poured his soul into a prose work called “The Golden Book of Springfield.”it is a curious work, unique as Lindsay was unique. Hunt him up online. You’ll be impressed.
Some while back, Dick Van Dyke, co star of “Mary Poppins”was floating on a surf board in the ocean. He drowsed off for awhile, then awoke finding himself far out to sea. After a bout with panic he looked up and saw a group of fins circling him. “I’m already dead” he thought. Turns out it was a “pod” of dolphins and the friendly creatures slowly nudged him back toward shore, saving his life.
The story reminded me of a childhood memory, when as a boy of nine, I was standing with my father by an ocean inlet in Florida watching Dolphins sport in the water. My father told me how they were known to help a drowning person keep afloat and get to land. I never forgot that day, it is still a very vivid picture in my mind.
So what does this show? The Dolphin is part of our natural world. Our natural world is filled every day with wonders we often fail to notice in our hustle and bustle. But sometimes, even if it comes in the extreme sort of way Dick Van Dyke experienced, we do notice the Dolphin’s care of us shows us something wonderful and true about our Maker and about our planet.
However lost we may feel, we’re never forgotten, and when we least expect it, earth breaks out its Dolphin, or similar message. Whether we recognize it or not, there’s almost always a way back to shore.
While many modern self help gurus have touted living in the present, in the “NOW’ as they have put it, as the proper way to live in this modern world, one must live for self and forget about history and what is shaping for the future. These things lead to discomfort, they say.
Some other philosophical thinkers have expounded on a very different approach. Colin Wilson, the writer who was a member of England’s “angry young men” following the second World War, was such a one.
Wilson wrote a book called “The Outsider;” Using great creative writers as examples he noted that some of the greatest, who he designated as “Outsiders,” are aware not just of the present day but of “other places and other times.” They possess the key insight to not be limited by the illusion of the moment but to expand into eternity, as it were. It may not be a comforting pleasure trip, being an outsider, but that quality exemplified in creators like Van Gogh, T.S.Eliot, H.G. Wells, William Blake and Earnest Hemingway is what makes us, as human beings, distinctly unique.
Which brings us to Outlander. Outlander, the series is now in its fifth season on the Starz media. I truly enjoy this production which is like an epic film with very high quality acting, storyline, locale and Cinematography, which goes on and on most wonderfully. It is based on the novels of Diana Gabaldon.
The series tells the story of Claire Randall, (played by Caitriona Balfe) a former military nurse from World War two who, with her husband Frank, (played by Tobias Menzies) visit Scotland in 1946. There she finds herself transported through a time portal at an ancient site to the year 1743.
Once she understands her predicament Claire, who is extremely intelligent and has a previous knowledge of history, is able to bluff her way into appearing to be an English woman who had been captured by Scottish Jacobites. She is escorted to an English military headquarters where her adventures in time and history begin.
Her arrival in Scotland just a couple of years before the battle of Culloden puts her very much in the thick of things. Early on she meets James “Jamie” MacKenzie Fraser, (played by Sam Heughan) who becomes her Highland lover. The ongoing story, of Claire and her mates and friends in two different time periods has steadily grown in popularity over its years of production. It is not a pretty story, though it has great beauty; it is a violent story, though it has great love and tenderness. One is given few moments to settle into the “Now” in this story.
All that we don’t want to look at is here and all that we most want to look at, is here. We must look through Claire’s eyes and realize the dilemma of considering she might actually be able to change history by knowing in advance where it is headed and if she could change it… what then?
Outlander deals with very basic life experience, with family, with friendship with loyalty, with love at its deepest and best. These concepts touch the core of the human condition; they form a kind of spiritual responsibility our heroes and our own consciences do not shy away from. Our own natures and our history cement this. We all time travel when we rethink the past and hope to improve the future through our choices. In watching I came to realize that we still have much of our human bravery or we would not want to watch, and absorb so much realness. I’m very proud of us for that.
My daughter had a new catalog this week of neat novelties and other gift items. One item that caught my eye was ” Stainless Steel Soap” to remove fish and other odors.
Not wanting to pun, but something smelled a little fishy about this item. I decided to look into it with some further research.
To begin, as I read, I was reminded of the “Stone Soup” story. We all remember the story of the hungry soldiers, who, having nothing but a stew pot and a stone cajole local towns folks into adding meat, potatoes, other vegetables until the soup is complete and the stone can be removed for another day.
It is claimed Stainless Steel soap works by the steady action of running water and air combined with the steel cake. The Wikipedia article on the curious invention makes the point that a stainless steel spoon might work as well. The article adds, “In the absence of plausible chemical explanations of why this may work, or experiments using controls, it is unknown whether stainless steel soap is actually effective.” Another article I found states that a steel knife can work for this purpose “but only up to a point.”
Well not to “throw cold water” on this invention I will observe that the use of water and air for cleaning our hands with or without stainless steel aid is bound to be a step ahead of most of the hand-washing I see in public rest rooms these days.
If a new invention can encourage that, hey, I’ll invest.
I’m not really that keen on modern self-help books. One thing however, that I agree with them about is that we can actualize our dreams by keeping them real in our minds.
The lives of great people often exemplify this truth. Abraham Lincoln dreamed as a youth on the prairie and read law books by lantern light, going on to become one of our greatest and most inspiring presidents.
My favorite writer, Ray Bradbury, sold newspapers while he dreamed of being a writer. He stuck to his guns and published wonderful books all his life. He received a special Pulitzer prize citation, the first such received by a science fiction writer.
In a statement he made near that time, he spoke of how he, when a boy, would never have dreamed of living to be 86 years old, much less having the same passion and interest in life that he had as a youth. And yet, even after a stroke left him in a wheel-chair, he still started each day with the same zest and passion as ever. He wrote, even if dictated, several stories or essays, every week.
“You’re here in this world to love and enjoy life,” Bradbury continued. “If you’re unhappy, get out of writing then, do something else.. I have no time for you if you’re going to ruin your life with negative thinking… I want you to fill your life with feeling, with loving, that’s what you’re here for… you’ve been put in this world to love the act of being alive.. There isn’t a morning I wake up that I’m not grateful for the gift of life.”
Well said. As everything he ever wrote always was. It is really true, if we can hang on always to those simple truths about life there is nothing we can’t accomplish. And we can do it with joy!