Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sunday Evening Television

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I had written a note to myself to talk about Sunday night television and then Chris Hayes on All In (MSNBC) beat me to it, but I decided I would still get my own whine in.

This is what TV does and we know it; once a few shows prove to be popular on a given night of the week (for a long time it was Thursday) every station piles on and tries to create a show that will tempt viewers away from what they have been watching. It is counter-intuitive, isn’t it, since ratings are so important, for show producers to all create new shows which attempt to compete for the biggest share of already divided ratings which will then be spread out even thinner? I just don’t get it.

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Well this is what is happening on Sundays right now. I don’t have a DVR. I have sworn not to subscribe to HBO because I am trying to keep costs down. I watch The Good Wife on Sundays, a frustrating prospect in its own right because The Good Wife is not on at a predictable time. Since it airs after football and/or basketball I have to keep switching channels to find out when the show will actually start. Ridiculous! Would a DVR even be helpful in such a situation?

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Now I am placed in a new quandary – Game of Thrones is on Sunday nights at the same time that The Good Wife is supposed to be aired, but it is on at a consistent time, so I would be able to do away with all that annoying channel switching. Of course, it is on HBO; a station I do not have. I sort of enjoy not seeing Game of Thrones because I have read all the books and so I find that when I listen to people’s reaction to Game of Thrones the next day, it’s sort of interesting to see what part of this lengthy saga people are watching. When I read I visualize the people and the events I am reading about. Books are somewhat like movies to me. So I’m torn about Game of Thrones and about HBO.

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My only other consideration here is that I love political shows, especially shows featuring comedians who also love politics (especially liberal politics). HBO has Bill Maher and now will have John Oliver. John Oliver took John Stewart’s place on The Daily Show last summer and I learned to enjoy his political commentary. He is nutty, acerbic, and insightful (and funny).

Doesn’t matter, I still can’t bring myself to order HBO. Every time I have done so I have lived to regret it. As soon as you catch up with the original programming (which is only original because you haven’t been watching) HBO becomes like the rest of TV – a great wasteland with a few roadside attractions.

Then why am I conflicted enough to write an article about this. It is about being “with it”, it is about not missing out on a popular phenomenon. It is not necessarily as satisfying to buck the trend as it is to go with the flow. No hating, please, if I should happen to change my mind and place that HBO order.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Will We Ever Have a Prolonged Peace?

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Brutality, aggression, competition are part of all humans, probably hard-wired in as survival skills for hunters. We see most brutality in this age from men, but we are beginning to see more dangerous women, and those Amazonian women of legend still have quite a reputation (not to mention the Borgias). Women may be sneakier in their attacks (perhaps to make up for smaller size and different musculature due to female hormones), but women can be vicious also. Men often confront life head on and in the moment, but brutal men who are better known for cool-headed strategizing may get to exercise their power over longer periods of time. I don’t know that we will ever be rid of brutality and, if it’s not the trait that brings about our ruination as a species, it will probably continue to be useful in the future.

Even the ancients could list the negative human traits that can plague our cultures if given free rein. We have the Ten Commandments from the Bible (and, it seems, every religion has similar rules or cautions). These lists of religious rules have helped rein in the worst traits of human behavior and they still do. Even people who are not terribly religious see the sense of these rules and try to abide by them for social reasons either of conscience or of law. However, there consistently arise, in positions of power, those humans who seem driven by mad ambition or mental aberration to use brutality to cow various groups into accepting them as leaders.

Goethe wrote Dr. Faustus which became an enduring morality play, still relevant centuries later. He gave us the Seven Deadly Sins (greed, pride, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth, lust). It is easy to trace the calumny triggered even in the 21st century by these sins of excess. (Catholicism lists seven virtues (chastitiy, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility) which we often have serious trouble adhering to also. There are prices to pay both large and small when people are unable to follow the path of moderation

History and current events prove that human nature has changed very little over the centuries. And while I often hope for “enlightenment”, I should be hoping for evolution, because we are still quite primitive really and perhaps we still need our flaws. It is possible that in certain situations these flaws are strengths, but this still turns morality on its head because bad people often seem more successful in human societies than kind, benevolent people do (nice guys finish last).

I guess my larger point is that avoiding battles and even wars is just about impossible given our natures. Right now there are so many flash points in our world that I don’t see anywhere we can jump in without having mayhem erupt somewhere else. This very volatility gives us a breather. It’s unclear which fray needs our attention the most. But that head-on brutality crowd is still out there, calling forth our defensive instincts. Future battles and war seem inevitable and we all expect to be sucked into them eventually. We know isolationism is even less possible now than it was in the past.

Perhaps we will invent a drug that soothes the savage beast in us, and the gluttonous and greedy bits, etc. Of course, just when we do that the aliens will attack.

We really need to work on ways to change that hard-wiring to a more civilized “motherboard” if we are ever to experience a prolonged period of peace on earth. But we are not the creators of the human machine and our brains are still largely a mystery.

So, perhaps, no peace for us.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Midstream Hindsight

 

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Obama still has about 2 ½ years to mess up, but I have to take a moment to say that he was the perfect President for this particular point in time. First of all there is his character, which has proven to be thoughtful, kind, steady, and intelligent. I had a gut feeling from the very beginning that Obama was a good man. And although I was all primed for Hillary and we might have found her at the nexus of the women’s rights issues we have been dealing with, I believe it has been more important to have a person of color as President right now. I further believe that it was especially important to elect such a man as Obama, who should not be the polarizing figure he is at all, because he is, at base, a man who comprehends the power of being fair and even-handed. I don’t care what the Republicans have to say about this, because fairness and even-handedness are two qualities that could not be ascribed to them in these post-Bush years.

So we have been able to see, displayed across the media screen of our nation, America’s great national racial divide. It has all been regurgitating forth, ugly, but honest, showing us that we are nowhere near done with this issue that we have so much difficulty talking about.

Once white people were informed that their hegemony was about to be toppled by the sheer numbers of minority people who now reside in America and who consider themselves Americans, the cry went up – the giant “no”, the big denial among all the denials right down to the desire to deny the power of the federal government. Out came all the desire to back up, perhaps all the way back to the civil war. Out came the present attempts and cries for a “do-over”, for “whoa, how did this happen”, for “we don’t want to be here so we are going to figure out a strategy to reverse the arc of American History. (And the whole situation has been a twofer because all the women’s rights stuff has been vomited up too.)

In answer to that giant “no”, we have had minority communities answering back and speaking up for the obvious inequalities that they have been living with even with civil rights laws in place. We are looking at the data and it is data we knew about in our hearts. We knew that economic equality often stopped at the edges of minority communities. We knew about the inordinately high arrest rates. We knew about the educational challenges faced in minority neighborhoods and we knew that the financial formulas we use for state aid to education place poorer neighborhoods at a distinct disadvantage for future success. We knew that there are still such things as “minority” neighborhoods.

We have not been as informed about illegal immigrants and most Americans still suspect that illegal immigrants receive money from government programs which they believe should only prop up legal citizens. What we haven’t heard until now is what minority people have to say about these and other injustices. It’s not that it isn’t being studied. It’s not that it isn’t being written about. It is about the lack of a public forum that was ready to listen. The Obama Presidency has given all of this a chance to be exposed, to be statistically examined, and to be debated.

We have been moved by the election of a man of color to the crux of the dialectic (and no, dialectic does not have to be a strictly Marxist term) and the battle is joined by those at the extremes. Will there be a synthesis (will the fever break) to relieve the social stresses we have been going through? Will we slip back to the past or broker a future that is the antithesis to the theses of the past?

So Obama’s skin color is the second potent factor of his Presidency, although he had been hoping it would not be. He had been hoping to be accepted as a statesman, not obstructed as a black man. The only thing some Americans do not have in common with Obama is his skin color. In every other way he is as American as any of us. We should all be dreaming a strong, free, fair, and prosperous America together, but we have come down with a case of Caucasian Flu, a giant hiccup standing in the way of solving the problems the planet must solve quickly.

It is embarrassing to have the whole world see how we have failed, but it has been so productive to be here and to have these conversations, finally. Once these conversations have begun let us hope that there will be, at some point, an enlightened resolution, and not a retreat to the ignorance, a retreat to the unearned and undeserved domination of one group over another based on something as superficial as skin color. I believe Obama’s legacy will loom large in America and in the world for centuries (should we live so long) and he will be considered among our greatest Presidents (if he can just get through 2 ½ more years without falling prey to that second term curse so many in the political media talk about).

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Turning the Postal Service into the Walmart

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Staples is planning to place (already has placed) a private post office within some of its stores. These post offices will not offer jobs to US Postal employees. These jobs will be performed by low wage clerks. They have the right to add to their business plan in any way they wish, but this idea reeks of GOP tinkering.

The Republicans don’t like the Post Office because if offers jobs to workers, even workers who are right out of high school, that are secure jobs, jobs people have for a lifetime that pay well and offer great benefits, especially a very good pension.

Republicans have been working overtime to cut public jobs and turn them over to their buddies in the private sector who will then turn the Post Office into a McDonald’s or a Walmart (or a Staples). Walking a postal route is hard, even after you earn your way to a truck route. The mail is heavy. You are at the mercy of dogs, and weather which can be broiling in summer and bone chilling in winter. The weather is such a factor in this job that the Postal Service has its own clothing to protect its workers.

I am sure that Staples does not plan to deliver mail to our homes. Will they simply sell stamps and then use the US Postal Service to deliver the mail? Will they offer lock boxes where customers can collect their mail? Do they plan to allow office supply customers to also buy mail delivery plans? I have not seen their business plan. I am betting, however, that we should be protesting this aspect of the Staples business plan, whatever the details.

The GOP has already floated the idea of cluster mailboxes. They want to cut way back on Postal employees. They could find a set of approaches that could save the US Post Office, including cutting back on pension savings requirements, raising fees a rational amount instead of pennies at a time, even ending Saturday delivery would probably be acceptable to most.

However, saving the US Postal Service does not suit the policies and procedures of a Republican Party whose mantra is “privatize everything”. The GOP has always favored smaller government, but recently their pursuit of this target has been rabid and has been scarily effective given that Republicans only control the House (and, apparently, the Supreme Court).

Staples can barely run its office supply business. They entrap veteran employees when their salaries get too high and as they near retirement, they find a pretext to strip them of their jobs and their company stock (received in lieu of benefits) before they have to pay a pension. They are closing stores. Why would a chain in trouble want to add a new division to their operation which is already looking like it is a liability in the Public Sector? This not only looks like something they may have been pressured (or even paid) to do, but it looks like a move that could topple Staples completely (and perhaps bring the US Postal Service down too. I sure would like to know the back story on this move.

I am not stating facts here. This is totally my take on this and it may be true, partially true, or totally paranoid. However, the battle to close the US Postal Service is one we have all observed and followed. The ideology that believes that America is not “Capitalist” enough, that it is becoming “socialist” is also one that is on our radar. My opinions here are not a huge reach. Things don’t get added to business plans unless they have a good profit track record. From everything Washington tell us about the US Post Office, it does not.

The Postal Service offers wonderful secure, good-paying jobs in every community in America. Losing those jobs will just turn more workers into low-wage hourly employees. I can see where this would be a goal of capitalism; I cannot see why it would be a goal of “we the people”.

Staples, please abandon this ill-conceived plan.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Don’t Bogart that Planet

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I have entertained a faint hope recently that the U.S. has not been quite as greedy about earth’s resources as experts say. I was intent on asking that Magic 8 Ball, the internet, if the overpopulation rampant on some continents could be blamed for the stresses we are experiencing on planet Earth (perhaps soon to be planet Reagan).

Alas, the evidence I saw did not support my “weasel-ly” hypothesis. Overpopulation is putting stress on the planet, requiring huge quantities of food and water, but the Earth would not be so stressed if developed nations (worst offender, the United States) had not flagrantly plundered and gleefully enjoyed the once plentiful resources of our planet.

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Reducing consumption without reducing use is a costly delusion. If undeveloped countries consumed at the same rate as the US, four complete planets the size of the Earth would be required. People who think that they have a right to such a life are quite mistaken.

(This material is taken from the last link listed below.)

 

I don’t think we set out to corner the world’s resources, to find and consume them all out of some kind of “mine, all mine” scenario (OK, maybe a few of us did, like the oil companies). We just wanted “the good life” for everyone (in America at least). We were told there were no limits to how high we could climb and we accepted the challenge. Consumption has been our national pastime in America for decades and owning nice things, being comfortable, is addictive. But we never said to ourselves, let’s use up all the raw materials on this planet. The resources seemed endless and, even though scientists warned us that they weren’t, we didn’t know how to or had no desire to stop, so we just denied the evidence. But there are plenty of facts in the form of statistics, out there on that internet which document how we sort of bogarted the planet’s resources and that we are still doing it.

In spite of all the deniers, our excesses, however unintended, are starting to have effects on the resources that are still available on this planet to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population (9 billion by 2050). And while I would like to say that the overpopulated nations on our Earth are responsible for the reduction in available resources, they have lived so simply until recently that this is simply not true.

Scientists talk about our resources as a two-part concern – the tap and the sink. The tap is what resources are still available, the sink is what the waste of an industrial age is doing to make this an age when the numbers of extinctions of species are growing, and resources are being lost through pollution-by-waste rather than through use.

Fresh water and fertile soils are both being challenged. Phosphates reserves used in fertilizers, necessary to grow the huge amounts of food we will need are dwindling. We haven’t yet run out of anything, but it is just a matter of time. How desperate will we get? We are already seeing land grabs and water wars may be closer than we think.

We in America imagine that we will create the world in our image and that everyone on Earth will be brought into the American Dream, rising and rising forever through layers of more and more sophisticated vehicles, homes and appliances. However, it looks like we should really be thinking about simplifying our lives, becoming minimalists, doing that Henry-David-Thoreau-On-Walden-Pond thing. I don’t believe we have the stomach for this though, and we have Republicans insisting that none of these dire warnings is true and that we can just go on manufacturing, consuming and discarding ad infinitum. I wish I believed them, but I just don’t and neither do scientists who rely on empirical methodologies as opposed to political ideologies. I don’t mean to sound like a socialist, but I am suggesting that Capitalism needs to go on a diet.

So while it may be true that overpopulation will add to our resources problems in the future, the evidence does not support blaming overpopulated nations for the current damages that we are observing to our planet if we are honest with ourselves. We are back to finding a new, really efficient energy source and/or learning how to colonize other planets out in space and neither of those accomplishments can be counted on the manifest in time to avoid the hard choice between some kinds of cut-backs or cultural chaos.

Here are some links to the articles I read on the internet:

http://monthlyreview.org/2013/01/01/global-resource-depletion

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/810

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/american-consumption-habits/

http://public.wsu.edu/~mreed/380American%20Consumption.htmT

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

“April is the Cruelest Month”

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Usually when anyone quotes the line that says “April is the cruelest month” they are referring to the line from T S Eliot’s poem The Wasteland. But, this April has more to answer for than unpredictable weather. This April has taken terrible tolls on the world’s children and whenever children die you can be sure that there was a terrible toll taken on the parents also, and that toll will be paid out over a lifetime.

In Northern California we had the 10 children who died when a FedEx truck crossed a highway median and crashed into a bus. Now I know they were teenagers and they would not be happy with me calling them children, but to their parents they will always be their children. It is a great sadness to lose children at any age, but once they are graduating from high school and they have made it past the dangers of childhood; for a parent to lose this young person, carefully reared and sent off on a bus to tour a college campus, seems especially sad.

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In Nigeria, 230 girls disappeared from a village school days ago and no one knows where they are. The number has fallen to 190 because the art students, it was found, were not taken. This happened in a border region of Nigeria where violence is the rule of the day. Although these parents surely miss their daughters they do not hold out much hope that they will ever see them again. How can a mass kidnapping of young women happen in the 21st century? Well, not every nation has arrived in the 21st century yet, and apparently this is not the magic number I like to think it is. Don’t even try to imagine the things that could be done to these young girls. I prefer to assume they will be treated well until they are old enough to marry, but I can hold to this belief only if I allow myself to be delusional.

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And now we have this stupid ferry captain and whatever idiot decided on the placement of the cargo in this ferry boat in South Korea that overturned and drowned the majority of teens onboard, who were headed for a week of spring break on a destination island not far off shore. This captain let someone (the third mate) take the helm of the ship. Once the cargo shifted (after a sharp turn) he told the teens to stay in their rooms (he now says he later told them to abandon ship) while he grabbed a lifeboat and escaped. He said the other lifeboats could not be lowered because of the extreme tilt of the ship. Well he has to live with his guilt, but my thoughts are with the parents who will no longer live with their beloved children, will never attend their graduations or play with the grandchildren they might have had.

I suppose this cannot be considered some purposely malign behavior of the universe, some cosmic slap, but it has certainly been a very cruel and sad April. Parents, the world is grieving with you, and while it is true that we probably will not grieve as long as you will because other woes will claim our attention, I hope you can feel the sympathies sent to you by the parents of the entire world. It’s not enough, but it’s all we can do.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

 

 

The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace – Book

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I have been obsessed with David Foster Wallace because his writing is audacious, unique, and so linguistically creative. His dialogue rings true, although no one has any idea why because not all of his characters ring true (or are even supposed to). He has certain writing tics that we recognize with affection whenever we run into them. He is no longer with us, biologically speaking, but he is not gone either.

I have managed to read DFW backwards for no reason that I am conscious of. I started with The Pale King, put together posthumously from notes and chapters found in his files after his untimely death. I have read through most of his work but not The Broom of the System. So last month, I finally downloaded The Broom of the System, that fateful first novel that Mr. Wallace published when he was just 24. And I can see that it is much less sophisticated than his later work but that signature audacity is there and perhaps is even stronger because not backed up by as much craft and life experience. It’s a bit of a heavy-handed light-hearted novel and although I have read the Wittgenstein comments from the critics and the Pynchon comparisons, and the post-modernist arguments, I did not come up when those writers or philosophies were the keys to literature, so I cannot look at DFW’s books in that way except through the eyes of others.

I can see that the characters in The Broom of the System do tend to be a bit two dimensional and cartoonish but I don’t really mind; they still involve me. I swim my own way into and out of the various membranes that populate the novel, right down to the cellular level, the self and the other, the membranes essential to female virginity and the piercing of membranes necessary for pregnancy. Even the phones seem membranous. This is pure Wallace; biology is always going awry and even objects like buildings are biological. The phones in “Broom” are a nervous system; there are “lungs” under the tennis courts in Infinite Jest.

Lenore Beadsman is our heroine and she has lost her paternal grandmother, also named Lenore Beadsman, who seems to have fostered a certain mindset in her granddaughter (brainwashed her) who visits her regularly in the nursing home. But Senior Lenore and about 25 residents and staff from the nursing home have disappeared and no one can find them. How will Grandma survive when she is so sensitive to cold that she can only exist in an environment that is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit? (There’s that biology again.) Is there a parental separation story here perhaps?

We make several digressions into Lenore (Juniors) past. In one we follow her to Mount Holyoke College where she goes to visit her older sister Claire and meets Wang Dang Lang and Biff Diggerance, whose gauche behavior makes her chose a more sheltered college to attend. We follow her to her job at Frequent and Vigorous, a publishing company where her boss, Rick Vigorous, quite a bit older than Lenore, is also her boyfriend, a boyfriend who cannot consummate the relationship, who tells odd stories to Lenore instead of making love to her, and who, even so, is very jealous. We visit her bird Vlad the Impaler with her when he, once a silent pet, becomes quite talkative. She learns from her father, owner of Stonecipheco Baby Food – competitor to Gerber – that there is a connection between the missing Senior Lenore and the newly precocious bird.

Wallace loves to put in landscape features that are either ridiculous man-made constructs or that have resulted from our abuse of the environment, so we find that, although we are in Cleveland (Wallace has a Midwest connection), Lake Erie is filled with a brown, sort of gelatinous, sludge occasionally showing sort of brown waves with white tops. Another area of Cleveland has been turned into the Great Ohio Desert (G.O.D.), a touristy invitation to walk the black sands and eyeball carefully designed desert landscapes, and to perhaps meditate (it isn’t supposed to make literal sense).

Then we find the political David Foster Wallace who had strong liberal leanings and who gives us the giant voracious Capitalist, Norman Bombardini, who is already grossly fat and yet wants to expand further and eat everything (especially Lenore Beadsman, the younger, who also happens to be one of DFW’s impossibly beautiful women who don’t know they are beautiful). The play of light and shadow has a role in this story and there is a “broom of the system”, but I will not elucidate.

The excesses of DFW are given to us by him on purpose and are part of what makes my brain wake up just thinking about any one of his books. If you read The Broom of the System you can also meet Lenore’s younger brother, the Antichrist and you can learn to play “Hi Bob”, a killer college drinking game. David and I are probably done for now, but I could, given time, read these books again and find many new and interesting little baubles and I just might do that whenever I need to get my adrenalin flowing (which great literature always does).

Here are some links to other critiques of this book:

http://mindfulpleasures.blogspot.com/2011/04/broom-of-system-by-david-foster-wallace.html

http://biblioklept.org/2010/08/03/the-broom-of-the-system-david-foster-wallace/

http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/16/reviews/wallace-r-broom.html

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Movie

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Everywhere I looked there was an quiet little ad for the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel and it was obvious that it was not a Hangover movie, but one for the artsy crowd. I’m not sure why we are loathe to take a chance on a movie unless it is the weekend’s blockbuster, or based on a story we already know, or from Disney/Pixar, because it is, after all, only a few hours of our life, which we may waste from time to time just playing solitaire or surfing the internet, or, my personal favorite (as the Red Light Queen) waiting for green lights at various multilane intersections. Even though movie prices have gone up quite a bit it is still not an absolute disaster to blow some bucks on a chancy movie. We spend more sometimes on lotto tickets or at the casino, and a good movie, after all, feeds the mind and perhaps the soul. So I threw caution to the wind and made my sister go with me to see The Grand Budapest Hotel and I didn’t hate it. In fact, it has stayed with me all week and its quirky Eastern European style is still playing in vivid detail on the screen in my mind.

The story of how a concierge of a grand hotel comes to own that grand hotel is a complex one, full of intrigue, danger, Nazis, prison, imminent death, and sexual bed hopping by said concierge who appears to be somewhat ambisextrous (made up word that I did not make up). He provides pleasure to aging, wealthy, blonde female hotel guests (one of whom is the original owner of this grand hotel). She happens to be the matriarch of a very brutal bunch of offspring who plan to inherit said hotel. How the concierge ends up as the owner is a story told by the current concierge (who was the lobby boy when these events occurred) to a guest of the now-less-than-grand Grand Budapest Hotel.

The movie is a bit campy, but not trivial, as this style is used to present some serious upheavals in Eastern European history. The most terrifying occurrences do not faze our hero in the least. He stays suave, unflappable, and charming throughout, facing danger and imprisonment with aplomb, which is why he is our hero. It is a bit unsettling to glide through all of these events with barely a blip on our emotional radar, but I guess that is how the smart set kept a stiff upper lip and how a man with a goal kept his eyes on the prize in pre-World War II Budapest. Underneath the gliding however there is the gravitas of the end of an era and the slide of a proud nation. There is also the inbred entitlement of the aristocracy and the vulnerability that comes with being dependent on luxury and service.

This is one of those movies that feels better with time and reflection. Look up the cast; there are a lot, and I do mean a lot, of very good actors in this film.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Waking Up Sad

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photo from internetmonk.com

It is a sad day in Christendom. This is the day Jesus was nailed to a cross to die according to the ancient book of Christianity: The Bible. If we didn’t already know how the story ends, if we lost our short term memory and forgot the resurrection, if it was like we were reading the story for the first time, then we would probably concentrate a bit more on what a sad day this is. So perhaps that explains the grief I felt when I woke up this morning, even on a rare sunny day, which I appreciate so much. But I think my sadness is more of this world than the next.

My friends are staying near the beach in Florida. They described watching a bird fly across the fishing line of a man fishing on the beach and watching the bird get caught in the line. This bird was freed. Then another bird was sighted on the beach wrapped in fishing line and, although people on the beach tried to free the bird from the line, the bird was too frightened and flew away still ensnared. Another friend was visiting San Francisco at the same time and her comment after reading about the Florida birds was to tell about the number of pelicans in California who have lost a leg due to being entangled in fishing lines. These sad scenes brought to mind a film I recently saw about a colony of nesting birds. I believe this film is by a photographer named Chris Jordan. The mother birds (sea birds) laid their eggs, as their biological destiny demanded, on an isolated island in the Midway Atoll. They hatched their eggs and went off to find food for their babies. They fed their babies as best they could until they died with stomachs full of plastic scooped up from the seas around this distant atoll, seas that should have been pristine and full of baby bird food, but were instead full of human plastic garbage. Their babies also died because they were fed plastic along with any real food that their moms managed to bring, until they died of starvation either because their mom’s were dead or the “food” they were being fed had no nutritional value. How sad is that? How sad are those birds we see covered in oil after each oil spill? We see people saving some of these birds, but I bet there are many that go unsaved.

Bird with plastic

photo by photographer and film maker Chris Jordan

And that is just the tip of the sadness iceberg because then the mind moves on to all that sadness of those neglected pets that we see on TV every Sunday as we try to relax after the labors of the week, the pets with the liquid eyes and sweet faces, the shaking pets. They only show the charmingly mistreated pets but on the local news we see the emaciated and still loving dogs tied up by their owners (perhaps they could no longer afford to feed them) and then left to starve to death. I am starting to resent these ads even though these pets are a heavy sadness on the world. I resent the cloying voice and music that accompanies these ads probably because I cannot afford to contribute enough to help all of these animals who make me so sad. They are, after all, animals and the very next ad will be about the children of the world who pick through garbage dumps each day to eat and wear rags and only survive because the climates they inhabit have milder temperatures than the latitudes I inhabit. These children with the huge eyes and the bodies that show the ravages of sparse diet and lack of loving and nurturing and all of the things that we, in our privileged country, think children are entitled to once they are brought into the world. If I have any money I have to chose the sad children over the sad pets, but I can really do little about either, a few dollars into a deep pit of sorrow. Why not think of our sadness today? Even Passover is sad if you think about what was really happening on Passover (thus the bitter herbs).

Once my mind went there the scenes started to flash through my brain – the concentration camps in Nazi Germany, one of the most horrific, saddest set of historical events in my lifetime, the grotesque primitive drawings that have come out of the prison camps in North Korea, the mass graves in Bosnia, the refugee Syrians living on the edges of their own country in tents- lives uprooted by war, the genocide and the abuse of women and female children in many African nations; it could go on and on, the litany of people’s cruelties towards other people.

My mind goes to the destruction by natural forces of established cities like what occurred in Haiti, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the tsunami in Japan, Katrina with the trusting people, too poor to flee, waiting patiently in this wealthy nation to be rescued, so many cities flattened by tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, floods. This sadness is not as full of guilt because humans do not make weather (or do we?) but it still weighs heavily because here is more misery and more loss.

If I want to be sad, to feel the sadness of this life, to really wallow in sadness, this is a good day for it. I couldn’t stay in my bed because the sorrow attacked me and would not let me alone. I don’t know if I will give my whole day over to sadness, but taking a day to mourn the tragedies of this life is really a small thing relative to the size of the parade of misery that accompanies us through life. Taking that time to mourn will perhaps clear the way to a celebration of the joys of this life because we, the living, dwell in the paradoxes and move constantly between the depths and the heights.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Corporate States of America

csa1

from lonesomebanjochronicles.com

If we want to imagine possible Bizarro Americas that could result from right wing ideologies we could probably get some interesting suggestions from left wing comedians that would have a bit too much truth behind them to stay funny for long, except for a lingering taste of wry humor like an olive after a martini.

This particular Bizarro America that I present today is the one that I call the Corporate States of America and it comes from an alliance of some pretty strange bedfellows. Those very truckers, displaced workers, farmers, and rural garage talk show lovers we talked about yesterday and Big Business have a lot in common these days (sort of in the same way that buffalo and wolves have a lot in common). The Republican Party is the body pillow between the corporations on one side of this big bed and the conspiracy theory lovers on the other side. These three groups have one main thing that puts them together in that very small sector at the center of a Venn diagram of that bed. They all want a federal government that is smaller in three ways:

  1. Lower taxes (no taxes?)
  2. Fewer services (no services?)
  3. Fewer rules (no rules?)

This unholy marriage has been arranged by right wing media and the Tea Party and if it could be sanctified through a sweep by the Republican Party in the 2014 midterms and the 2016 Presidential election then we could find ourselves living in the Corporate States of America. Perhaps we will pledge allegiance to and sing that new anthem of unfettered Capitalism “from sea to fracking sea”. I’m guessing that most of us will hold a permanent role in the poorly paid worker class that will finally allow America to once again be the number one manufacturer in the world. The only problem is that we will no longer be America. That’s one of my most nightmarish visions for a Bizarro America that we could belong to in the near future. Don’t turn America over to these very strange bedfellows.

I am not trying to create left wing conspiracy theories; I am trying to extrapolate possible futures from the ideologies expressed by Republicans. If we really do the things they say they want to do then this is one new America we could actually inherit.

Please vote? Please vote for Democrats in 2014 and 2016.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>