Sunday, July 20, 2014

Inhumanoids - Data File - Know Your Enemies

I was a little older than their target audience, I was a thirty-something at the time, but man, I loved this show. 

Politics was a mess in the Eighties, and the culture in general was going to hell in a hand basket, but there were bright spots. 

Billy Sunday Preaching In Boston (1929) - Rare Footage

As a blaspheming, whiskey soaked, Sabbath breaking infidel, I find these remarks highly offensive.

But interesting.  It's interesting to note that the script has not changed much since 1929.  Oh sure, the list of demonized groups has a few new names on it, but the idea is still the same.  "Thank God for the rich," says the reverend, "and here's a list of the people that we hate."

Religion could do so much better than this, and sometimes does.  Why, I wonder, do the real religionists put up with this kind of thing?  It just makes them all look bad. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

English Strikes Again

English is not only a matter of vocabulary and grammar.  One must also master cultural sensitivities, or else the use of English may be inappropriate in some way.

Like calling a brand of infant formula "Lovely Milk Bags."  That one goes wrong in a hurry.

Filial Devotion

The other day I was having a coffee with a couple of friends.  The subject of mothers came up innocently, and one friend, in an effort to be considerate, asked me if my mother was still living. 

“Oh, God no,” I said, “my mother has been torturing people in hell for many years now.” 

Why would someone say such a thing?  Well, I have my reasons.  Before you think ill of me, please bear in mind:  you were not there.

Nothing was ever good enough for my mother.  I got terrific grades in early grammar school, top of the class.  But even a 99% average was disappointing to her.  I usually got the 100%, but even that was not praiseworthy.  That’s what was expected somehow. 

My parents were quick to find fault, quick to criticize, and they were never satisfied.  I was a good boy, generally, and I was well liked by most of the other parents, by my teachers, and by most of the other children too.  At home, I never got any credit for this. 

But just let some little thing go wrong!  Or wrong in their eyes anyway.  Nothing was ever good enough for either of my parents, and anything at all could become an opportunity for disapproval.  I am grateful to my father at least for limiting his reactions to mere disappointment and occasional degrading, sarcastic remarks.

My mother, on the other hand, would wait until we were alone and then start with the screaming and the beating. By the time I started grammar school, all of the wooden spoons in our kitchen had a least one side broken off.  

It was always about them, my innocent actions somehow had no meaning other than the effect they had on them, particularly my mother.  Everything in the world that was bad happened only to make her miserable.  She was capable of real violence.  How could I do such a thing!  Didn’t I love her!  Then would come the worst part.  With an imploring look, and tears in her eyes, she’d say, “don’t you know how much we love you?”  These torture sessions were the only time that she would tell me that she loved me, and then only in this backhanded way. 

This abuse often came by surprise.  Some news would come to her through the grapevine while I was out, some news of a scolding at school or a fight at the playground or the park.  Returning home at any time, any day, there was no way to know what to expect.  It was a nerve wracking crap shoot for me.  She might be reclining on the couch, enjoying a cocktail and watching American Bandstand.  No problem.  Or she might be waiting for me just inside the door, crying already, screaming immediately and clubbing me with a TV tray like some TV wrestler. Often I had no idea of the reason for the beating, and never found out.  

The only silver lining here is that my sister seems to have escaped this kind of treatment, almost entirely escaped it.  She kindly told me recently that the beatings really shocked her and that she remembers wishing that she could do something to help.  Thanks for that.  You’re a great sister.

After I was about ten years old, and my sister six, my father spent twenty days per month or more on the road for his job.  It was a very good job, and he made great money.  At this time he made an emotional detachment from my mother.  Their intimate relationship ended, and he became cool to her and to us, the children.  In effect, he abandoned us.  This did not improve my mother’s mood, he said drolly. The beatings went on all through high school.  

This post is an apology of sorts to anyone who may be surprised, or shocked, at the things that I might say on the subject of motherhood, my mother, Mothers’ Day, anything at all in that genre.  Mothers’ Day in particular usually reduces me to tears, the sense of loss is overwhelming.  The heartwarming stories of encouragement and support, the sincere demonstrations of appreciation and love, it all cuts me to the bone.  So I may seem cruel sometimes. 

Please understand that you do not share my memories; you do not suffer from my nightmares; you have not lived almost your entire life with voices in your head telling you that you are inadequate and that your only chance to save yourself is self-sabotage.  If you choose to find my attitude ungrateful, mean-spirited, or worse, please also bear in mind that you may be wrong.  My response may be the correct one.  I was there.

I say this all now because my mother is well beyond my complaining.  Many others too, separated by the grave from offense.  I was very good to my mother while she was alive.  She loved to talk on the phone, and I called her frequently so that it would not appear that she was doing all of the calling.  I was very kind to her.  My only rule was that we could never speak of the time I had spent in her house, I would change the subject immediately if that time came up in any way.  Even then she only wished to engage in revisionism, or outright exculpation.  I’d get off the phone and say to my wife, “when I die, I’m going straight to heaven, because I was nice to grandma.”

I loved my mother, I love her still. I came to accept her as a flawed human being who had given me the gift of life, even if she made it very difficult to enjoy that gift.  When she died, I felt mostly relief.  For her, because life had obviously been such a torment for her.  For myself too though, because the effort to forgive and forget had been difficult.  I also felt, and continue to feel, a great sorrow that no resolution or acknowledgement had been possible during her lifetime.  And there’s also the fact that anyone who views my life, with all of its failures and shortcomings, will know nothing of the contributing circumstances.  No one except you readers!  All twenty of you!  Thanks for that.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

lee dorsey yes we can

Lee Dorsey is so great, there should be a holiday in his honor.  "Lee Dorsey Day."  And a tip of the hat to the Meters too (providing back up on this cut).  A day without the Meters is like a day without sunshine. 

A Non-Evangelical Post About Thai Buddhism

Yesterday, July 12th, was the big Buddhist holiday of Asanha Bucha.  I always confuse it with another holiday about a big meeting of monks who just showed up without being summoned, but they are two different holidays, I'm pretty sure.

Asanha Bucha celebrates the first meeting, the first lesson.  Mr. Buddha had been meditating at this temple for quite a while and was finally at the point where he felt that he had something so share.  So the holiday memorializes the birth of Buddhism as a movement, a religion, if you will.

It's simple.  There is suffering in human life, and it is caused by craving.  There is an achievable state of mind called nirvana, in which craving and suffering cannot thrive.  And there is a manner of living that can move a person towards that state.  Which would be good.  

What I like about Buddhism, and in particular Thai Buddhism, is that it is a "religion" without a God.  It is more of a way of life, a philosophy.  Here are some clues about what life is, and here are some suggestions as to how it can be made more bearable.  The Buddha understood better than almost anybody else in history that life is a steaming pile of Hundschmutz, and that some relief is necessary, some strategy to combat the constant disappointment, failure and outright horror of the whole enterprise. Twenty-five hundred years later we are still in his debt. 

Buddhism in other countries gets carried away with nirvana, and reincarnation, and saints and whatever, and praying for something, some benefit or little bit of luck, probably financial, but Thai Buddhism is wonderfully free of that kind of bullshit.   Thai Buddhism is very focused on our personal experiences of the world, relationships between parents and children, workers and bosses, the high and the low of society, like how to be a good person and how to avoid the worst of the suffering that is inevitable in life.  Thai Buddhism is very, very cool.

Not that I practice it, I'm a guest here, and I remain an observer of religion in general.

But it's a big holiday over here.  All of the temples are full of families who have come to make offerings of food, household items, candles and money to the monks, and to receive blessings in return.  These are really team-building exercises, community strengthening experiences.  It's also a good opportunity to put in a good word for the faithful departed. 

I let my friend go in for the meeting/blessing part of the visit with the monks alone.  I generally feel that the last thing Thais need while they are building their own sense of community is an outsider who doesn't know exactly where to place his feet.  I kicked in 100 Baht for the envelope, it was the least that I could do.  My friend told me to make a wish on the envelope, that's the custom.

My wish was, "please don't let the worst happen."  I do feel like it's  best to keep one's prayers simple.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Greetings, All You Russians

I see from the stat's page that many of my Russian friends are checking in on Spin Easy Time.  Thanks for that, and as they say in New Orleans, "I hope y'all pass a good time!"

I would greet you in your own language, but all I can say is:  "shto eto?" followed by "eto karandash."  I have seen many wonderful Russian movies though, and I will tell my non-Russian readers that Russian is a much more beautiful language than you think.  It is actually much more melodious then its reputation.  I think that the "no articles" thing gives it a bad name.  ("What is?" Answer: "is pencil.")

That and all of those various sh and ch sounds.  Russian is not as bad as Dutch though, or, God forbid, Swiss German.  Try it sometime!