Saturday, June 27, 2009

Song Saturday~Gran Torino

Last night I took a look at Gran Torino and was greatly impressed, as I am with most of Clint Eastwood's projects. This particular movie however was so touching as it brought together both two different cultures and two different generations in one very old, grumpy, set in his ways man's story. Walter Kowalski, a crotchety old Pollack ( which made me warm and fuzzy immediately having a crotchety old Pollack in my own family) is almost magically touched by the Hmong family living next door and pulled into the idea that race does not have to be a barrier to humanity, decency and human kindness. This does not mean that Walter leaves behind all his prejudices, it seems he acts charitable in spite of them. Walter is also a deeply flawed man, which he readily acknowledges. He has baggage, and as a man of his era, being a Korean war vet, this is something he feels is natural to do. In his own words to do anything else would be acting like a "pussy". And perhaps he's right. Perhaps to wallow in our own grief and not push on through life is leading to the pussification of America. His strong ideas about manliness and right and wrong don't stop him from doing good in his small realm of influence. They don't stop him from noticing strength and potential in others even the "gooks" next door (his words, not mine) They don't stop him from becoming a positive male roll model to the young man who is sitting on the edge of being good and falling into the path of a gang. A particularly touching scene in the movie in my opinion is when he took the Hmong youth to the barber shop, the bastion of manliness to teach him how to "talk like a man" in America. I won't give too much away.
Many Critics have compared this movie to Eastwood's earlier films like The Unforgiven and The Man With No Name, I would add High Plains Drifter to that list. It has seemingly been a theme throughout Eastwood's career to point out that flawed people still have an opportunity to do good, and indeed they should.
Another point that I took away from this movie was the powerfulness of the older people in our midst. Young people seem to either see them as invisible or un-threatening. Eastwood in this movie tore that idea apart while acknowledging that it was his very "invisibleness" that provided an element of surprise to the "bad guys". We would do well to treat our experienced elders better and look to them for the wisdom they have. Their lives have not been sedate ones no matter their current circumstance. To ignore them is to both miss out on gems and to underestimate their ultimate influence.
All in all a very good movie, I highly recommend if you have not yet seen it. And with that I leave you with a song which Eastwood himself penned to go with the movie:Gran Torino

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Band-aids on faces

So I spent the last four days with a band-aid on my face. Not for any particularly good reason. I had a small-ish owie on my cheek that I kept brushing against and I didn't want to mess with it. So I put a band-aid on it. To my dismay I found I had no small or discreet band-aids but what the hell, I went with the big ones anyway. I had just finished with a stupid toe infection due to a splinter and was taking no chances.

Anyway to my dismay and interest when I went out places like the Dr.'s office and the library nobody asked me what was wrong with me. I mean I had a big assed band-aid going from the top of my nose to the middle of my cheek on my left side. Everyone stared at it while they talked to me...looked at it with consternation....but did not ask me why I had it or how I had hurt myself. It was a little disconcerting, like when people stare at your boobs when they talk to you but try to pretend they aren't.

So me being me, I decided I would wear it for as long as it would take for someone other than people I share the house with to say something. ~In case you're wondering the people I share the house with , hobs, gnomes and teenagers all think nothing of such strangeness, in fact they were wondering if I would like them to shake up more noticeable band-aids to see the effect of neon colors on my face.~Anyway the band-aid would stay just so I could see what people would do.

For three days I went about my normal buisiness, grocery shopping, walking in the park, posting letters, driving people and hobbs around and nothing but curious stares that seemed to say...."I want to ask but look at me, I'm being ever so sensitive to the relatively small band-aide handycap."

On the fourth day a child of 8 asked me what was wrong with my nose. I felt kinda like one of those faerie creatures released from a curse. Finally someone pure of heart and full of kindness noticed me!~Not really, I think she really wanted me to have something grotesque wrong with me that I could share with her so she could go "Ewww." and giggle. I think I disappointed her by revealing my social experiment, as if she of course already knew grown-ups were helplessly stupid and didn't know how to ask questions.

Which is the real problem with us all. If we knew how to ask questions and which questions to ask things would be so much clearer all the time. But we might be disappointed that there isn't anything grotesque behind the band-aide. I think we kinda still want that outcome too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thinking without our mouths...or is that about our mouths...either way

In so many areas of my life there is cross-over that is harmonious. In other areas, not so much. As I strive to bring those discordand places into harmony I have found that my quick tongue is not such a benefit say....when discussing groceries and meal plans with my mate as it is when working on a socially satirical writing piece. I have begun to be more mindful of this and as I do, I find that it is like breaking any other habit, hard at first, my mind worries at all the little snarky things that I can say about tomatoes out of season that are funny yes, but not necessarily helpful. Anyway, I came across a writing by a friend of mine whose mind was on the same path so i am linking to his piece as it is so simply eloquent and sais exactly what I would have said. You can read him here at Dharmadude on the Web

Until then be kind or kinder or kind-ish in your speech patterns today. Stop short, just once or twice and see what happens.

फ्लैश फिक्शन~आईटी वास में शे नीदेद तो गेट आवे फ्रॉम

Much has been made of my story for good and ill. Mostly ill. It is always surprising to me how someone such as I feeling so insignificant, having such a small part to play in the wheel of life; would engender such speculation. Many men have gotten rich from the legend of me. Many men have died because of my legend. Many more will.
My mother escaped to the new world in search of religious freedom. Although not entirely a Christian or a puritan, she was not entirely anything else either. The desire of her heart was to be left alone. What she came to realize over time was nobody could expect to be left alone, not indefinitely and certainly not in a Puritan community.
My mother mostly followed what people nowdays call ‘The olde religion’ she fed house pixies and gave oblation in spring at what is called by her people Beltaine and in the fall at what they call Samhain. She worked the fields diligently and had children as was required of a mother, whose life giving force comes from the original Mother of Us All. Before I came she had twelve children all of whom lived. I was thirteen.
My mother found her comfort in the sect of Quakers. She was mindful of not standing out with her old fashioned practices, passed down from mother to mother. Quakers allowed however for individual religious expression. While sometimes this confused outsiders, with the dancing and quaking and conversely the silence that some people practiced, it suited my mother who was on her own path anyway.
She married a man named Leeds who was a good and kind man. He never did know or share her secret beliefs. They were to her mind woman’s practices anyway and not something he needed to know.
One Beltaine Eve my mother went out to the woods to give thanks to the Mother in the Mother’s way. It may or may not surprise you but practitioners of the Olde Religion resided in secret all over the colonies. As they came, so too did their deities and house sprits. This Beltaine in 1735 my mother met with chose a man who she could only describe as dark, pleasing and with an air of dangerousness.
Nine months later I was born to her on a stormy night. As her pregnancy had gone the same as ever she had no reason to worry about this one. She also had no worries on her mind regarding her husband as at least four of my siblings were Beltaine babies. However on this stormy night things would turn out differently and all who were present were completely unprepared.
I did not enter the world to coos and awe. My entrance provoked fear and disgust. The midwife and attendants, two of which were my older half sisters, had no experience to prepare them for a human shaped infant who upon entry into this world immediately began shifting forms. I am told to some I appeared to be winged, to others pony-like, to others I appeared somewhat doggish. My mother too was shocked. She was also afraid. She had built up a life for herself in this community. It was fairly clear to her that she had inadvertently coupled with one not quite human; however she clearly could not explain this to others. She knew the whispers would begin, and they did.
As the dumbfounded crowd left leaving her with my sisters, she took them to her and explained to them women’s magic. Things that they would have known in time, but had to be told early because of the occurrence of my birth. What was decided was as it was well past Samhain and another three months until the next time the veil between worlds would be thin, she would nurse and care for me, keeping me covered at all times so as not to attract attention. Her husband would be told I was born deformed and may not live; the reason given would be the number of pregnancies my mother had experienced.
Being not quite human I grew well and strong. Also my mind grew at a different rate. There is much that I remember from this time. My mother’s singing voice. The soft swell of her breast easing my hunger, milk thin, warm and sweet filling my stomach. My sibling’s laughter, filling the family home. The man I assumed at the time was my father, coming home heavy and tired, smelling of pine tar from clearing trees, or wood smoke from making charcoal.
When the next Beltaine did approach my mother did not take part in worshipping, instead she brought me in the dawn to a stream deep within the woods. Taking a deep breath and singing an ancient song she stepped through it and into another world and kept walking. She had entered my true father’s land.
I knew it immediately. Smells were not so much stronger as different, enhanced. I could taste the air. I squirmed in her grasp and became a pup, which she smiled at and put down. I was happy to follow her, but had no control over my forms, changing constantly between horse and child, dog and bird. She was patient and stopped when I became child and either carried me or waited for me to change again.
Eventually we came to what looked like a hunting lodge. My mother rapped thrice and waited. The door itself was thick and old. My dog and horse forms could smell many things on it, sadness, fear, joy, indecision. There was no indecision smell to my mother however. After a while the door opened and "was filled with the body of a huge man. He was dressed in trousers, and his arms were nearly around as some of the trees. He looked as if he could be quite foreboding but his manner and smell were quite kind.
He looked at my mother, and then glanced at me. “I see you have one of ours.” He said.
“Yes,” she answered “although I know not whom is father is, he is Beltaine Bourne”
The man laughed at this. “I know well enough whom he belongs to. And the form changes should have told you too, if you had been properly schooled.”
I could tell my mother was a little embarrassed at this. “I practice singularly my Lord. While I know enough to give The Mother her due, I have not learned all, I doubt if I could even have crossed if it were not the right time and I did not have my son with me.” At this she gave me a squeeze, but not an uncomfortable and stroked my feathers as I was at that point a bird.
“What I do know is I cannot have him with me, not here; in this new land where there are none to give him what he needs.”
The man looked kindly on her. “No you cannot. He will stay here, and I will give him to his father as soon as he returns from the night. He is Phouka and he belongs with us.”
With that he held out his arms. My goodly mother gave me a hug and tucked something into the man’s hands. “If he can, please let him see us sometime and teach him who his human family is so he will know them." With that she turned and strode away. She did not look back. It was not because she did not love, but rather because in order to live in her world, it was me she needed to be away from.
****I forgot to add the explaination of this piece. I have long had it in mind to write a fantasy about The Jersey Devil from his point of view. I actually began it some time ago, but the computer it is on is battery-less right now. So for this piece I began anew. Sometime I will go back, I'm sure it's nothing like the first draft, however the prompt made me think of it.

This morning a relative of mine sent me a video all about how Christians are declining worldwide due to decreased birth rates and how Muslims are stepping in to fill the gap. The video postulated that in 38 years the entire Euro-Union will be Muslim. I won't be responsible for your viewing of this but if you can't stand it you can view it on you-tube probably under "Muslim statistics."
My first thought was: Holy Crap again with this? And why oh why don't they teach statistical analysis in High School so we could avoid some of this ridiculousness? The thought also came to mind, who the hell cares? I could care less if Europe is mostly Muslim, good for them, they wouldn't even have to knock on doors, just skip a movie and spend a night in once a year.
But then I got to thinking. This is getting bloody minded and out of hand. Here we are 8 years after the Sept 11, terrorist flights and people are still passing around anti-muslim sentiments. Things to scare, to and them.....
This isn't okay. Scaring Christians into throwing away their birth control in an effort to stay a "Christian" Nation. We have enough to worry about right now without a population bloom.
I am of the opinion that we should always try to treat one another with respect. Not to attack people's religion is to make them feel validated. Validated people are on the path to feeling good and doing good, no matter their beliefs. I also believe that when we see wrong it is possible to point it out without name calling and attacking people's base identity, like race, religion and things they cannot avoid, (ie: cleft palate, knock knees, sexual orientation, mental health, uni-brows, 3rd nipple, hypertrichosis, you get the idea)
There is however the flip side of anti-locution and prejudice. Those who use it to their advantage.
Take for example, Monday's edition of Talk of the Nation wherein they discussed the definition of Anti Semitism. It seems from some of the discussion there is a "New" form of anti-semitism. Scarily, the "New" form encompasses anything you might say about a Jewish person that is negative. One of the examples given was of a professor who sent an email to colleagues and students about the situation in the Gaza, postulating his opinion that it was similar to concentration camps. He was called out by Jewish students ,community members and staff and suffered disciplinary action. What the Hell?? People can't have opinions about policy if it has to do with someone or somewhere that is connected to the sons and daughters of Abraham?
This has been a while coming. Frankly, I think the issue of Abraham throw the race card down way faster than any other race and with such a comfortable flourish that they seem not to even notice. I have a huge problem with this, and I'm sure by the "New" standards it will be anti-semitic, so before I start I want to make it plain that I am not. I do believe the "Old" anti-semitism wherein people accuse "Jews" of being controlling, rich or devious or anything else is unacceptable. Just as I find categorizing anyone by caricature traits and stereotypes unacceptable.
How long are we going to hold back what we think about the policies and actions of anyone Jewish just because of this supposed anti-semitism? If we compare the Gaza, and reasonably so to a concentration camp we are being anti-semitic. I find this ludicrous. Every single race on this earth today at sometime or another has been driven from their land of origin. Every race at sometime or another has been subjected to a force wishing their annihilation. Every race has suffered enslavement and every religion has been subject of persecution. Can we get on with it? Yes the Holocaust was awful. But so has been everything else. We share this with one another, this human penchant to be horrible to one another. Do we really need to separate ourselves from each other and say things like "I am owed." because of this or that?
(For those of you with a sarcastic sense of humor go HERE to see The Gang from Always Sunny in Philadelphia address this issue.)
That being said, I have no problem with people strongly believing and fighting for their positions. Just don't call me names because I don't agree. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding of your own beliefs when you fall back on name calling instead of striving to understand one another through discussion and argument.
Now on to another issue in anti-locution. Recently I began noticing some ads being run in prime-time slots on mostly children/family networks asking people to stop using the word Gay. I'm a little perplexed on that one. I'm pretty sure the word Gay was used before Homosexuals took it up as a tag. Also if we can't use the word Gay does that disclude all the other words too? Does that mean Kathy Griffin is going to be out of a job? In all honesty I would like to know what my Gay friends think about this.
Look, Just like the next reasonable person I am happy to call homosexual people by their given or chosen names. What I worry about sometimes is all these commercials and spenducation which tends to result in kids having their minds on the negative side of things more than they would have ordinarily.
And isn't that also a form of anti-locution? You aren't can't use our words. It's the same thing with the big N word, nigger, you aren't us we are different, you can't use our words.
I'm a little concerned that all this attention will ultimately bring about the opposite of the desired effect.
Just some thoughts, feel free to disagree, just don't call me an anti-whatever