Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Chuck Berry has a great, under-noticed and under-played song called "Understand Each Other."

"When I see those big brown eyes is when I take my cue,
It don't take but a few minutes, to get a message through...."

You can hear it in the film "Hail! Hail! Rock & Roll," Taylor Hackford documentary....
* * *
Yesterday I typed a blog post and was trying to understand it later.
(I need a translator to find out what I myself am talking about!)
No seriously, I know what I mean, but not sure I organized the thoughts well, or in order.
Still working on it.
And at home I've been listening to the film "Gentleman's Agreement" while showering / dressing / preparing for work each morning -- I'm not getting it all; you need the visuals and some of the conversation is hard to get, through bedroom and bathroom walls, because of the way actors used to talk -- think most studios sent actors & actresses they hired to a dialogue coach, or speech teacher of some kind & the teacher trained them all to speak sort of -- theatrically. (When I was growing up and I saw an old movie I would think, "What kind of accent is that? Where are they from? But now I think it's not regional, but rather, professional.)

This Saturday I'm going to WATCH the movie and study it and catch it ALL.
Going to Understand.
Where I work, I have the pleasure of learning phrases and sentences in other languages -- Spanish, and some of the Asian languages.

The Asian ones are hard, for me. (Was told it makes a difference, when you say a syllable, which emphasis you put on it -- and whether it's high or low -- as to what the meaning will be interpreted to be. Explains why those languages sound like musical humming, to the Western ear.)

Once someone taught me to say the equivalent of "See you tomorrow" in Maung; tried it out as some workers were leaving for the day. I had it memorized, syllable by syllable. Most of the people I said it to smiled and nodded; they seemed to understand, at any rate, that I was trying to say something friendly in their language, and I think they were very tolerant and generous at what was probably atrocious pronunciation, even with all my diligent practice.

One young man was striding confidently out, swinging his lunch-box, & when I said the phrase to him, he turned around, astonished, looked up at me, and said, "What?!?"

A co-worker passing by at that moment said calmly, with a taciturn expression and no break in his pace, "I think you just told him you want to have sex."
It's something we always have to work on, every day.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

14 speeches

U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia
passed yesterday,
at age 92.

51 years in the U.S. Senate;
+ 6 years in the House = he's longest-serving member of Congress.

Beyond high school, he was self-educated.
Not only read books; he wrote some.

(I was surprised and shocked when I read headline in today's N.Y. Times,
"...a Pillar of the Senate, dies at 92" --
now why, I ask myself, does that surprise me?
I'm always surprised when I hear someone has died or got divorced.
These things should not surprise me, logically:
most people get divorced, and
Everybody dies.
But I am still surprised.)

Reading about Senator Byrd, I was reminded of two topics which I've thought a lot about:
1. Seniority and clout, and
2. Term limits.

1. Seniority and clout.
Politicians who have served some of the longest terms in Washington are from Southern states: the ones who come to mind -- Senator Byrd ( W. Virginia); Jesse Helms (a Carolina); Claude Pepper (Florida); and Strom Thurmond (? -- have to look him up -- South Carolina)-- and Helms, N. Carolina ...

I noticed and wondered why: in the state where I live, which is not Southern, our voters make a point to periodically elect somebody new and basically "throw out" whichever of our Washington senators has lasted the longest. In my lifetime, I've seen 'em do it to Democrats and Republicans alike.

As soon as our senator gets "up there" -- through service, and seniority, earning a position as chairman of this-or-that key committee, our voters basically say "Screw you" and elect somebody new. I've worked to understand the mind-set. It's as if the voters in our state are not looking at the issues and what the senator has accomplished and what he can accomplish with whatever amount of clout he's earned. Rather, our voters are looking at the person who is senator and saying, "We can take you out; watch this!"

It's like -- using one's vote as an expression of aimless hostility. It would seem to reflect a mind-set lacking in maturity.

Are Southern voters more "mature" -- emotionally and intellectually -- than the voters in my state?
Those states are older; they have a longer history than we do.
Our voters surely do not take seriously or understand what a senator in an influential position (someone who has earned the respect of his colleagues, someone with clout) can do. When we vote, we're not taking the long view.

Is this because of a different type of person? Or a different local history? Or both? Or something else?

2. Term Limits.
In line with the attitude I wrote about in Item #1, "term limits" got traction with our state's voters in the mid-nineties and now our state senators and representatives are term-limited. If the voters don't vote you out, you will be automatically term-limited out.

It's the same mind-set: rather than focusing on accomplishing something, or being supportive of good government, our sytem is rigged to focus on throwing out elected representatives and senators. (Are our state's voters not intelligent enough to go to the polls and vote for the challenger in order to defeat the incumbent? Apparently not -- we've set up the system to automatically remove the incumbent after a specified period of time, irrespective of whether the person is doing a good job or not. It's sort of an "anti-" attitude. It's a case of voters removing power from themselves and giving it to the system.

With a dis-empowered legislature, more power has been informally and unofficially handed over to -- a) the governor's office, and b) the bureaucracy.

{N.Y. Times article, from today's Byrd story}:
[Senator Byrd] was profoundly self-educated and well-read. His Senate speeches sparkled with citations from Shakespeare, the King James version of the Bible and the histories of England, Greece and Rome.

As a champion of the legislative branch, he found cautionary tales in those histories. In 1993, as Congress weighed a line-item veto, which would have given President Bill Clinton the power to strike individual spending measures from bills, Mr. Byrd delivered 14 speeches on the history of Rome and the role of its Senate.

"Gaius Julius Caesar did not seize power in Rome," he said. "Rather,...the Roman Senate thrust power on Caesar deliberately, with forethought, with surrender, with intent to escape from responsibility."
[end quote]
The approach of the Roman Senate comes from a "term-limits" type of mind-set, I think.

And -- 14 speeches! Fourteen! Like -- 11 speeches wouldn't have been enough -- thirteen wouldn't quite do it; no, he came up with fourteen speeches!
I like a legislator with that kind of enthusiasm.
Senator Byrd, I applaud you!

I want those speeches....


Monday, June 28, 2010

Notes for a Monday

Last week, made mistake -- typed in the name of a book and movie as
"Gentlemen's Agreement";
it's actually "Gentleman's Agreement."
My mistake; it was "all in my head."

Listen, on You Tube, to the music of Jelly Roll Morton.
Begin with "Hesitation Blues."
You get a whole sense of American history, seeping into your pores through Music.

"The Triumphant Decline of the WASP" -- an article just in N.Y. Times -- read; while on topic of "Gentleman's Agreement" -- this op-ed says progress has been made, & shows stats.

It says,
Unlike almost every other dominant ethnic, racial or religious group in world history, white Protestants have ceded their socioeconomic power by hewing voluntarily to the values of merit and inclusion, values now shared broadly by Americans of different backgrounds. The decline of the Protestant elite is actually its greatest triumph.


Friday, June 25, 2010

some of my best friends are Methodists

In the movie
"Gentlemen's Agreement"
(entertaining but serious study of
both anti-Semitism
and "Prejudice" in general)
a character gets himself cornered
by his own remarks
and begins to mount a defense with,
"Why, some of my best friends..."

and the character played by the at once delightfully down-to-earth and elegant Celeste Holm counters with, "Yes, and some of your best friends are Methodists but you never remind us of that...."

Celeste Holm -- in some of the best movies ever:
A Letter To Three Wives
All Above Eve ...


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gentlemen's Agreement

Gentlemen's Agreement.

a post-World War II American novel
then a movie

About a writer who is doing a series of articles for his magazine about anti-Semitism in America. To research the topic, he pretends that he is Jewish. Finds out all kinds of stuff.

The phrase "gentlemen's agreement" refers to -- assumptions which some folks make about the attitudes of others -- for example, one guy might make a prejudiced remark to another guy, assuming the other guy holds the same beliefs as himself; he's assuming the other guy will -- think the joke is funny; or -- agree with his own opinion; or -- at any rate, not be offended.

The novel was written by Laura Z. Hobson, 1947.
Book was a hit.

Daryl Zanuck purchased rights & produced movie.
(Many assume "Zanuck" is a Jewish name, but not -- it's Dutch. He was from the midwest, and was about the only movie studio chief in those days who was not Jewish. Story is, the other studio heads got together and tried to talk Zanuck out of making the film -- don't stir up trouble, was their admonition.)

Played the movie on my DVD player in my bedroom this a.m., while showering / dressing / getting ready to go to work: could say I "watched" it; more like, I listened to it.

Which is kind of OK because the film is basically a debate -- a lot of dialogue.

It is in black-and-white. Has beautiful shots of New York City. And I loved the interiors -- the apartments the people are in ... the little tables; the lamps; the open doorways offering a view of the next room, and then that room's doorway on the other side, opening onto another room beyond....

Prejudice is a topic people keep coming back to, in my lifetime. I keep thinking the problem's solved, on to the next, and then someone will say something very weird, and I will think ...ppffffff...?!

A few years ago I was working hard at tennis -- one day at the gym I made a little joke, said to some women who work there that I was going to become like Venus or Serena Williams ... one of the women there made a big exaggerated face (like she was -- astounded, or as if she had been electrocuted or something), and said in hugely dramatic and exaggerated tones,

"Well -- I think yer the Wrong COLOR !!!"

What - ever, dude.

I mean -- I had wanted to (jokingly of course) compare myself to Venus and Serena was because they are so fit and strong, and that's what I was working on...THAT was the point. ...but then, probably not necessary to explain this to normal people, right?


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mr. Hunt is not here now

selection(s) / Pres. Men.:
The story noted: "There was no immediate explanation as to why the five suspects would want to bug the Democratic National Committee offices, or whether or not they were working for any other individuals or organizations."
That night, Woodward drove to McCord's home, a large two-story brick house, classically suburban, set in a cul-de-sac not far from Route 70-S, the main highway through Rockville. The lights were on, but no one answered the door.
Two address books, belonging to two of the Miami men arrested inside the Watergate, contained the name and phone number of a Howard E. Hunt, with the small notations "W. House" and "W.H." Woodward sat down in a hard chair by his phone and checked the telephone directory. He found a listing for E. Howard Hunt, Jr., in Potomac, Maryland, the affluent horse-country suburb in Montgomery county. No answer.

At the office next morning, Woodward made a list of the leads.
"There is one other place he might be," she said. "In Mr. Colson's office."

"Mr. Hunt is not here now," Colson's secretary told Woodward, and gave him the number of a Washington public-relations firm....

...Woodward called the Mullen public-relations firm and asked for Howard Hunt.

"Howard Hunt here," the voice said.

Woodward identified himself.

"Yes? What is it?" Hunt sounded impatient.

Woodward asked Hunt why his name and phone number were in the address books of two of the men arrested at the Watergate.

"Good God!" Howard Hunt said. Then he quickly added, "In view that the matter is under adjudication, I have no comment," and slammed down the phone.

Woodward thought he had a story.
[end Quote]
[All The President's Men, by
Carl Bernstein and Bob
Woodward. 1974. Simon &
Schuster Paperbacks. New
York, New York.]
He thought he "had a story," did he?
We put that in the "Huge understatement" file.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

God I miss New York

It's the unexpectedness of the response that makes it funny:

Last weekend, watched "Sex And The City: The Movie" (not the new one, but the first one) --
the "Samantha Jones" character is out in Los Angeles. She has everything going for her, yet she isn't happy -- she is losing any connection to the life she's currently leading.

Financial / career success; loving relationship with a great guy; etc., etc. But -- it isn't her life. Being "in a relationship" is not Samantha's style; she's one of those New York partisans who finds Los Angeles sort of "plastic" and empty; and she wants her P-R business to be about more than one client (her boyfriend).

So she's dissatisfied, but can't admit it yet; she wants to be loyal to the guy.

Visiting her friends (Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda) in NYC: they go to a show during Fashion Week and when they come outside afterwards, Samantha is standing on some steps, wearing a pure, whiter-than-snow fur coat. In a medium-close shot, you see a splotch of red blood hit the front of that coat -- it shocks you, and startles you: two ladies standing nearby with a little pail start in with, "Fur is murder!"

"Murder! Murder!" They keep yelling that word, real angry, about five or six times. Miranda and Carrie are just aghast, standing there with their eyes wide and their mouths open.

Samantha tilts her chin up, just a little bit, gazes out at the broader view of the day, beyond the fur protesters, and, with a little sigh and an ironic smile, says, "God, I miss New York!"


Monday, June 21, 2010

a two-poem weekend

This weekend I wrote two poems, one titled "Relax" and the other one, "General Motors."


Finishing, having done the neessary
and the agreed-upon,
And so NOW
Moving to the NEXT
Which is --

* * * *

"General Motors"

Chess Pacific.
A Cat who seemed to arrive by chance.
At first, thin & gray & jumpy;
Later, substantial & gray & decisive.
And playful.
At rest, his back fur
Fluffs, like a field
of wheat -- or some ocean.
His purr
Motor man.
General motors.
Chess Pacific.


Friday, June 18, 2010

True Story

[a passage from All The President's Men]:
Woodward had been to the courthouse before. The hearing procedure was an institutionalized fixture of the local court's turnstile system of justice: A quick appearance before a judge who set bond for accused pimps, prostitutes, muggers -- and, on this day, the five men who had been arrested at the Watergate.

A group of attorneys -- known as the "Fifth Street Lawyers" because of the location of the courthouse and their storefront offices -- were hanging around the corridors as usual, waiting for appointments as government-paid counsel to indigent defendants. Two of the regulars...had been tentatively appointed to represent the five accused Watergate burglars and had then been informed that the men had retained their own counsel, which is unusual.

...Earl Silbert, the government prosecutor, rose as their case was called by the clerk. Slight, intent and owlish with his horn-rimmed glasses, he was known as "Earl the Pearl" to Fifth Streeters familiar with his fondness for dramatic courtroom gestures and flowery speech. He argued that the five men should not be released on bond. They had given false names, had not cooperated with the police, possessed $2300 in cold cash, and had a tendency to travel abroad." They had been arrested in a "professional burglary" with a "clandestine" purpose. Silbert drew out the word "clandestine."

Judge James A. Belsen asked the men their professions. One spoke up, answering that they were "anti-communists," and the others nodded their agreement. The Judge, accustomed to hearing unconventional job descriptions, nonetheless appeared perplexed.
[From All The President's
Men, by Carl Bernstein and
Bob Woodward. 1974. Simon &
Schuster Paperbacks. New
York, New York.]
Clan -- des -- tine.
(I have to practice "drawing out" that word. ...)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Just never

Today is June 17th.
It has not been 39 years since the Watergate break-in, it has been 38 years.
1972, not 1971, as I posted yesterday.
(a passage, from Woodward and Bernstein's All The President's Men):
Among those who had been knocked to the ground was Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. The policeman who had sent him sprawling had probably not seen the press cards hanging from his neck, and had perhaps focused on his longish hair.

As Woodward began making phone calls, he noticed that Bernstein, one of the paper's two Virginia political reporters, was working on the burglary story, too.

Oh God, not Bernstein, Woodward thought, recalling several office tales about Bernstein's ability to push his way into a good story and get his byline on it....

Bernstein was a college dropout. He had started as a copy boy at the Washington Star when he was 16, become a full-time reporter at 19, and had worked at the Post since 1966. He [sometimes] did investigative series, had covered the courts and city hall, and liked to do long, discursive pieces about the capital's people and neighborhoods.

Woodward knew that Bernstein occasionally wrote about rock music for the Post. That figured.

...Bernstein thought that Woodward's rapid rise at the Post had less to do with his ability than his Establishment credentials.

They had never worked on a story together.

...The five men arrested at 2:30 A.M. had been dressed in business suits and all had worn Playtex rubber surgical gloves. Police had seized a walkie-talkie, 40 rolls of unexposed film, two 35-millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-size tear-gas guns, and bugging devices that apparently were capable of picking up both telephone and room conversations.
It ws 9:30 P.M., just an hour from deadline for the second edition. Woodward began typing:

A $25,000 cashier's check, apparently earmarked for the campaign chest of President Nixon, was deposited in April in the bank account of Bernard L. Barker, one of the five men arrested in the break-in and alleged bugging attempt at Democratic National Committee headquarters here June 17.

The last page of copy was passed to Sussman just at the deadline. Sussman set his pen and pipe down on his desk and turned to Woodward. "We've never had a story like this," he said. "Just never."
[end quote.]
[From All The President's Men,
by Carl Bernstein and Bob
Woodward. 1974.
Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.
New York, New York]


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fear and Loathing in 1971

"They threw me off the hay truck about noon."
the opening sentence of James M. Cain's novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice.
a favorite; I am a fan of that sentence.

Recently while waiting for an ill-fated appointment, took with me a copy of Hunter Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (I hate to wait with nothing to read -- Time then seems to ooze forward like a snail on barbituates).
The opening sentence of Loathing / Vegas is,
"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."
That sentence immediately reminded me of Cain's opening Postman sentence.

"They threw me off
the hay truck about noon."
* * * *
"We were somewhere around
Barstow on the edge of
the desert when the drugs
began to take hold."
Those two sentences take my attention and invite me into the story in a similar way: a sense of action; some sort of harshness, or bleakness; foreboding; and wry fatalism.
Postman, pub. 1934
Loathing, pub. 1971
~~~~ Perhaps Hunter Thompson was inspired by Cain's First Sentence.
And speaking of 1971, tomorrow it's been 39 years since the Watergate break-in.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

you had to ask

Last evening, heard the phrase "blue air" in a technical conversation over the phone.

Wondered: What could that refer to -- "blue air"?

It must be a terminology specific to the area of expertise.
Cold air, maybe.
Special air that you pump from a can, mixed with some chemical. ...
Blue air.

So -- asked, after phone conversation finished:
"What is blue air?"

(The reply came with an energetic mix of aggravation and jubilance):
"BLEW air!
We BLEW air through it!
NOT 'blue air'!!!"



Monday, June 14, 2010

now, a poem

"Cool For June"

Barely moving air,
Cool for June,
Enters through the window
From the dark
To the Cat.

Cat-man gray,
after checking the window
(whiskers alert)
crosses the bed to curl
up & rest
in lamp-light, warm.

It's cool for June.


Friday, June 11, 2010

threw me

They threw me off the hay truck about noon.

One of the greatest first sentences ever written.
It's the first sentence of Chapter 1 in
The Postman Always Rings Twice
a novel written by James M. Cain
Copyright 1934, Knopf, New York

(From Chapter 2):
Los Angeles wasn't but twenty miles away, but he shined himself up like he was going to Paris, and right after lunch, he went. Soon as he was gone, I locked the front door. I picked up a plate that a guy had left, and went on back in the kitchen with it. She was there.

That novel was banned in Boston.
("explosive mixture of violence and eroticism")
Imagine: "banned in Boston" used to be a -- well -- a, a Thing.

The author, James M. Cain, was from Baltimore.
journalist; college professor; served, World War I

also wrote Double Indemnity.

Both The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity were made into movies.

French author and Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus said "Postman" inspired him to write The Stranger.

(It always seems interesting to me when somebody writes a book because they're inspired by another book...)

"They threw me off the hay truck about noon."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

the conversation of humanity

Two days ago, noticed there were a couple of stories about what the internet is DOING TO us: an article in N.Y. Times & a book review (a WHOLE BOOK on the topic)!
And it occurred to me, and posted, here, that some of the people criticizing the internet are saying the same things people used to say about television.

And then today, I got to that book review -- and it carried same idea I had, & took it further - !
"Our Cluttered Minds" is the title of Jonah Lehrer's review of The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains.

The reviewer writes,
Socrates started what may have been the first technology scare. In the "Phaedrus," he lamented the invention of books, which "create forgetfulness" in the soul. Instead of remembering for themselves, Socrates warned, new readers were blindly trusting in "external written characters." The library was ruining the mind.

Needless to say, the printing press only made things worse. In the 17th century, Robert Burton complained, in "The Anatomy of Melancholy," of the "vast chaos and confusion of books" that make the eyes and fingers ache. By 1890, the problem was the speed of transmission: one eminent physician blamed "the pelting of telegrams" for triggering an outbreak of mental illness.

And then came radio and television, which poisoned the mind with passive pleasure. Children, it was said, had stopped reading books. Socrates would be pleased.
[end quote]
Love that punchline: "Socrates would be pleased."

Above, we're dealing with "input" to ourselves -- information we RECEIVE -- from TV, internet, whatever. What about "output"? Do we say things a little differently depending upon whether we're handwriting them on a piece of paper with a pen, or typing them? I do. Can't specify, but I know it's different.

At end of Lehrer's book review (above) he writes:
In 1916, T.S. Eliot wrote to a friend about his recent experiments with composing poetry on the typewriter. The machine "makes for lucidity," he said, "but I am not sure that it encourages subtlety."
[end quote]
Perhaps there is always a question to struggle with -- "When we work with the new technology, is it going to make things better? Or worse?"


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I love you, you're perfect

There is a play titled

"I Love You You're Perfect Now Change."
One of the best titles I've ever read.
It tells you --
type of irony to anticipate
...and more.
The complete absence of punctuation in the phrase increases its effectiveness.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

a large sock with horse manure in it

An article in yesterday's New York Times,
"Your Brain on Computers: Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price."

It occurred to me that some of the things they say about computers and the internet now, used to be said about television.
"It's taking up too much of our time";
"we're mesmerized by it";
"it's making our attention span shorter"...

Marshall McLuhan was a guy who studied TV and wrote a book about it -- he called it a "hot medium." I think. I wonder what he says about the internet. I wonder whether he's still alive.

No. Died, 1980.

"The medium is the message" is one of the other things he said about television.

Something to check on the internet:
Type in "Marshall McLuhan" on Google; lines will appear underneath, and one of them will say "marshall mcluhan annie hall" Click on That, & play the video they give you.

(There it is: "the medium is the message" -- it's like, a television documentary to teach us how bad television is for us.
Now it's -- is the internet bad for us?
I don't know; let's "Google" it and find out....)


Monday, June 7, 2010


A CNN anchor looking out from my TV screen this weekend informed us that former president Bill Clinton was out "stomping for a candidate." (I wondered if I heard wrong, and wrote it off, the first time. But later Sunday evening I heard him say it again: "stomping for a candidate.")

It made me giggle.
Picturing Bill Clinton out there, "stomping" for a candidate -- the word is "stumping."
The dictionary gives several definitions of the word stump: one is like, a tree stump. One is to baffle; "to frustrate the progress or efforts of..."
And the one we want is: "to travel over (a region) making political speeches or supporting a cause." Stumping.

The error could have been on the teleprompter: someone typed it on there as "stomping" either because of a "typo" or because the typist actually thought "stomping" was the correct word.
Or the anchorman could have read "stumping" and thought that was an error and changed it to "stomping" because he thought that was right.

Look up "stomp" in the dictionary; it tells us -- "a jazz dance marked by heavy stamping"... Actually I could picture Bill Clinton doing that for a candidate if he thought it would help. (Remember his saxophone-playing?) Clinton is a man who likes to have fun and enjoy life.


Friday, June 4, 2010

big ocean

Today's N.Y. Times article about "the face" of BP -- spokesman guy who shows up to inform, apologize, and speak soothing words.

He's getting criticized.
(There's a surprise.)

The article refers to his "gaffes." Reading them, I didn't think his gaffes were that bad. Not that good; not that bad.
Perspective (in A, B, and C):

A. this is a giant disaster, anyone speaking of it is going to be criticized by somebody because it's stressful situation -- it's like the President -- any President of U.S. is criticized and his decisions second-guessed by commentators when the topic is a bad terrible disaster -- oil spill, Vietnam, Iraq, whatever you got.

B. With so many commentators everywhere now because of the internet and other forms of instant (and constant) communication, in a way it's good because everybody gets a say -- very democratic -- and in a way it's bad or weird because it becomes TOO MUCH. Feelings escalate and facts and situations get blown out of proportion.

(The article says, "The chief executive's tendency to utter provocative statements has prompted a surge of criticism from politicians, bloggers and television pundits...." [Really???!!! No shit??!!] That's hardly news.)

Pouncing on somebody and making fun of what they say has dubious value, I think, in the public discourse, but it has Value with a Capital Dollar Sign for the "television pundits" -- being critical, sarcastic, indignant, and sometimes outrageous is their stock in trade for which they're being well-paid while they actually contribute very-little-to-nothing towards solving problems such as the oil spill, and sometimes seem to make things worse.

A couple of the statements (or, phrases) which some critics criticized the BP chief. exec., Tony Hayward for:
he called the gulf "a very big ocean";
and "What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit."

That's not a big disaster, or a horrible insensitive thing: that speaking style is British. It's sort of a style of understatement, sort of "lower-key, upper-class, la-de-da approach which is commonly seasoned with real sort of plain speech -- which can sound slightly dorky or even dumb, to the American ear. (I remember Prince Charles saying of parenthood, on the event of the birth of his first son Prince William, "It's rather a grown-up thing.")

I hear the "tool kit" comment as being similar -- it might not be what I'd say, or what most of us in America would say -- but it's British. It's a style of speech. I think a listener, particularly someone who is elevated to their own newspaper column or television show, should extend themselves to hear what the person is saying and to try to hear what they truly mean.

C. And it says in the article, "Mr. Hayward, a geologist who has led the company for three years..." A geologist. Since when is a geologist a P-R wizard? I think those are two different things. (P-R, I'd have a crack at. Geologist -- not so much. ...though I do know a rock when I see one.)
A feed salesman is not necessarily ready for a job running the Pentagon.
A lobbyist / advocate does not qualify as a brain surgeon. (Bring your head over and lay it on my table, we'll see what we can do....)

Brit. Petrol. should maybe take public relations more seriously. Maybe in a big company like that, where they do such Big, physical things, they regard much emphasis on P-R to be shallow; that's a legitimate concern -- but P-R is a GOOD thing if done right, and with integrity and a positive goal -- like, making things good and making things clear, Not to cover stuff up.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

"things ain't going well"

"Abuse occurs when people mistreat or misuse other people, showing no concern for their integrity or innate worth as individuals, and in a manner that degrades their well being."

Bob Dylan has a song on the "Modern Times" CD,
called Ain't Talkin' --
it expresses what you feel sometimes:

As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden
The wounded flowers were dangling from the vine
I was passing by yon cool crystal fountain
Someone hit me from behind

Ain't talkin' -- just walkin'
Through this weary world of woe
Heart burning, still yearning
No one on earth would ever know

They say prayer has the power to heal
So pray for me, mother
In the human heart an evil spirit can dwell
I am trying to love my neighbor and do good unto others
But oh, mother, things ain't going well

Ain't talkin -- just walkin' ...

There's the stuff!
Dylan can always say it for us.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

incessantly stand on your head

[a passage // strange stuff]
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"

So she was considering in her own mind, (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid,) whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a white rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything: then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and bookshelves: here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled "ORANGE MARMALADE," but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody underneath, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

"Well!" thought Alice to herself, "after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they'll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn't say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!" (Which was very likely true.)

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? ...
[from Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.
orig. pub. 1865. from the edition
printed by Donohue, Henneberry
& Co., Chicago.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This book was read aloud to me, by my mother, I don't know how many times, by request. The images and language are part of my basic brain pattern -- one of my earliest memories and so powerful, maybe because when you're so young there isn't that much else in your brain to compete with anything new coming in. So everything new makes a big impression and stays with you.
Mom. Dad. The cat. The Christmas tree. The yard. The neighbor girl. Cereal for breakfast. Alice in Wonderland.
Such a small amount -- a person can remember it all, easily.
When I look at the "Alice" book, nothing is unfamiliar, even though it's been many years.
"There was nothing so very remarkable in that..."
"Either the well was very deep or she fell very slowly..."
and -- the author threw in poems, such as this --
"You are old, father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head --
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
(+ several stanzas more...)
Some people like to claim that Lewis Carroll might have been partaking of dubious mind-altering substances when he wrote the book; but I think those are just the same people who always think everybody's "on drugs."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

outlaws, parts I and II

Part I.
There's an old joke.
Jesse James used to rob banks.
When authorities caught him, psychiatrists wanted to counsel with him, and study what made him turn into the outlaw and master criminal he became. What caused his behavior and lack of regard for the law? What deep-seated insecurities and childhood trauma had shaped his character?

So the psychiatrist asks Jesse James, a very solemn question.
"Why -- did you -- rob -- all of those -- banks?
And the psychiatrist waits, with pen and paper in hand, to take down notes on the deep, dark influences in Jesse James' background.

And Jesse James replies,
"I robbed all those banks, because --
...that's where the money was."

Part II.
In May 31, 2010 New York Times, an article about foreclosures in Memphis.
[quoting from the article]:
As the subprime market heated up...the bank pressure to move more loans -- for autos, for furniture, for houses -- edged into mania. ...
"Your manager would say, 'Let me see your cold-call list. I want you to concentrate on these ZIP codes'..."We were told, 'Oh, they [consumers in those particular neighborhoods] aren't so savvy.'"

She described tricks of the trade, several of dubious legality. She said supervisors had told employees to white out incomes on loan applications and substitute higher numbers. Agents went "fishing" for customers, mailing live checks to leads. When a homeowner deposited the check, it became a high-interest loan, with a rate of 20 to 29 percent. Then bank agents tried to talk the customer into refinancing, using the house as collateral.
[end quote from N.Y. Times]

In the Old West the outlaws robbed the banks.

Now, from what we read, it seems like some banks are the outlaws.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I grew up believing, or being taught -- I don't know, having an image in my mind of Respect for banks, as a sort of solemn, upstanding profession -- like doctor, lawyer, minister, teacher, whatever.

Not an "expert" but -- it just seems like Something has Changed in the last fifteen years, give or take some years -- Something Happened. On several fronts, some businesses and businesspeople seem to be so desperate for money that they resort to ways of getting it that don't seem ethical or dignified or legal. Or OK.

In my mind, and tell me if this is wrong but I don't think it is -- there is
a difference
Doing Business
Ripping People Off.

When I learned, on the job, how to be a salesperson, I learned -- Help the customer, help him solve his problems and sell his product, and your business will grow.

In other words, Do Good Work and You Will Make Money.
Now it seems like we can observe more businesses operating with a different Objective:
instead of -- Do Good work and You Will Make Money,
it's more like
Get The Money.

One day in conversation I said, "I'm in favor of people making money..."
and the man I was talking with added, "But they should make it the right way."

The right way.
It's overwhelming to try to figure this out.