Breakfast at Tiffany’s streamed over Turner Classic Movies this evening. It includes a bizarre character, Mr. Yunioshi, an irritable and clumsy Japanese photographer played by Mickey Rooney, who delivers a crass cross-cultural performance that has been excoriated as being stereotypically offensive. I completely see the point in the criticism, but it makes me wonder why the equally crass cross-cultural stereotypical performance that Peter Sellers (an Englishman) gives as Inspector Clouseau (a Frenchman) in the Pink Panther films does not get criticized for being bigoted and offensive.
Part of the current right-wing sneering about the student loan relief program that the President is setting up has to do with hard-working tax-payers being forced to finance “worthless” things like philosophy degrees. As one who worked toward two such “worthless degrees”, I am a living example of how short-sighted that view is.
My undergraduate degree was in motion-picture and television studies, which might indeed sound to the faux-utilitarians on the right as nothing more than the pop-culture version of an art history degree (a degree often ridiculed as among the most worthless).
My graduate work was in English literature, another degree often excoriated as an effete indulgence by those who think a college degree should prepare you for a real job, dammit.
Except that my college work in two worthless fields did just that. As part of my literary studies I took a course in computerized textual analysis. That led me to a good paying job programming software for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Deep Space Network. Where, by the way, my literary studies also came in handy for helping me craft solidly written and persuasive memos and reports—I became my team’s go-to guy for responding to problematic directives from the higher-ups.
And my film degree? That helped me in my next job, developing instructional videos and software for university composition courses at UCLA.
All my worthless academic work, film and literary studies, came in handy for my next job, when I went to work at the Voyager Company, developing interactive media and helping to create the first widely distributed ebooks, the Voyager Expanded Books.
In short, my worthless film degree and graduate literary studies resulted in well-paying jobs and allowed me to contribute to new economic enterprises: instructional technology and interactive media. I hear there’s lots of money to be made in both those fields.
I managed to pay off my student loans myself, but even if the government had paid them all off for me it would have gotten much more than its money’s worth from its investment in my “worthless” degrees.
So stop the sneering: you never know where even the most useless or obscure college studies might lead.
Many years ago, when I first visited my future in-laws over the holidays, I saw that they had set up a small crèche as one of their holiday decorations. I may (or may not) have scandalized them by remarking, “It looks like they’re all saying to each other, ‘I’m not going to change Him; are you?’’’
In any case, flash forward some three decades and I thought that I might attempt a Nativity scene for my sometimes-annual, always-badly-drawn (for I know no other way to draw) holiday card. For its caption I came up with a related baby Jesus poopoo joke, “Gold, frankincense, myrrh…but nobody brought Pampers?” After a few hours work, it was completed.
And then I thought of an edgier caption. Poopoo jokes are always comedy gold, but given our divisive times, this is the caption with which I finally went:
However (and it seems there’s always a “however” in comedy) my pointing out the baby Jesus’ religion made me realize that at the Nativity He was just a few short days from His bris, and that led me to this:
And, if you think that is a far-fetched reason for one of the Three Kings to “traverse afar” to attend the Nativity, you ain’t never heard of the Holy Prepuce!
I happened to be awake just before 2AM this morning, so I put on my Apple Watch and watched to see what happened when 2AM rolled around and Daylight Saving Time ended. At exactly 2, as the second hand passed 12 on the watch face, nothing. Then, at 4 seconds past 2, the hour hand jumped back one hour.
(As for why California did the Daylight Saving Time Tango this year, blame politics.)
There’s been talk lately about changing the national anthem because the song’s lyricist was a slaveholder. Good enough, but, honestly, it should be replaced on its own lack of merit.
First, the song has four verses, though almost nobody knows verses 2-4, and many of those who only know verse 1 don’t even know it that well.
Second, the first verse says nothing about the country, its values, or anything else, really. In fact, all it is is a long-winded rhetorical question:
Can you see the flag this morning? You know, the one we saw last night at sunset. Yeah, the one with the stripes and stars that we cheered about last night. That’s right, the same one we saw lit up by the rockets and bombs all night: is it still waving this morning?
How inspiring: a vision test! My patriotic heart is all a-flutter.
And then there’s the music, which is an almost un-singable (the melody spans an octave and a half) recycled British club song: “The Anacreontic Song” written by John Stafford Smith for an 18th-century amateur musician’s club. What says “America” more than a song celebrating a private men’s club?
It took until the early 1930s before it became the anthem. At that time, Prohibition was in effect, so maybe the national ability to make sound judgments was at a low level because of all the bathtub gin people were drinking, but, in any event, it has only been the anthem for less than a century! Ditching it for something with better content and an easier-to-sing melody is hardly a slap at the Founders of this nation, who had all been long-dead before the song was made the anthem in the first place.
Replace the anthem! Your ears and your vocal cords will thank you!
I saw this story about a boy who was arrested for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and it reminded me of a similar transgression from my youth.
When I was in high school, we had to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the first class we had each day. It was the end of the turbulent 1960s, the Viet Nam war was raging, protest was in the air, and I thought the school was ludicrous to ask students to renew their pledge of loyalty to a piece of cloth every day, as though the pledge wore off sometime overnight and had to be reapplied. So one day I decided not to.
At the time, my first class of the day was German, and my German teacher and I had an interesting relationship. On the one hand, she sincerely seemed to like me, but on the other my inability not to open my mouth and crack wise at the slightest opportunity infuriated her sensibilities. Almost every day she tried (and failed) to put me in my place, usually literally with a hollered “Setzen Sie sich!”, and so she saw this refusal of mine to stand up and recite the Pledge as a particularly valuable opportunity for place-putting.
She ordered me to report to the Principal’s office to explain myself. This order wasn’t because she disagreed with my anti-Pledge stance—she was something of an anti-war liberal herself and, I think, secretly approved of my protest. Rather, it was a double-bird-with-a-single-stone opportunity for her: she could get my disruptive ass out of her class for one day, and could bedevil the school Principal, whose few fans among the faculty did not include her, with my smug adolescent attitude and anti-war sentiments.
So I marched off to the Principal’s office, which, by the way, I (and my parents) had already come to know well at this point in my academic career. As I impassively stood before his desk, he fixed me with an obsidian gaze asked me why I was there. I told him that I had refused to say the Pledge that day and that Frau Vorster had ordered me to see him about it.
“I see,” he said, and then launched into a lecture about liberty and freedom and all the flag stood for and about all the brave men who had given their lives for it over the years. He wrapped up by asking me if I would say the Pledge out of respect for them.
I told him, “No.”
Non-plussed, he asked me sternly, “Is it because you hate America?”
With feigned outrage, I replied, “No.”
“So, then, why won’t you say it?”
Finally, the jackpot question, the one that my teacher likely assumed I would answer with some anti-war sentiment or other, delivered with all the self-assured righteousness and disdain of which she knew I was capable. I told him, “I didn’t say the Pledge because we don’t have a proper flag to say it to.”
His eyes widened. “What do you mean? Of course your classroom has a flag.”
“Yes, but it’s not an American flag.”
“The flag in our classroom has only 48 stars,” I smugly let him know.
And it was true. I had noticed early on that the flag in my German classroom had but 48 stars—although Hawaii and Alaska had become states around ten years earlier, the school had not yet got around to replacing all the old 48-star flags in its classrooms with the current 50-star edition. “I refuse to pledge allegiance to a flag that isn’t our country’s flag!” I said proudly.
He blinked and summoned the head custodian, who said he would check, and left. We sat and waited in silence. A few minutes later he stuck his head back in the office and said, “Kid’s right. I’ll change it.”
The Principal and I stared at each other for a few more seconds, then he lowered his eyes and gruffly ordered me back to class.
My teacher nodded at me as I came back and smiled to herself, no doubt thinking that I had either kowtowed to the Principal or had been dismissed from his presence out of sheer annoyance. What she thought later that day when the custodian brought in a new flag and swapped out the old one I never bothered to ask her.
I met a traveller from a strife-torn land
Who said: “An orange and empty head of stone
Screamed at the people . . . Near it, in the grandstands,
Half drunk, a bitter correspondent, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and trembling hand,
Tell that its owner knew his hopes were dead,
Could not survive, insulted by this orange thing,
The crowd that mocked him, as his poor heart bled:
But in his notebook these words appear:
‘His name is Donald J. Trump, ranter of things:
Pay heed to his word salad, and despair!’
No one with brains remains. Past the fairway
On that benighted course, boundless and bare
The greens and empty sand traps wait, unplayed.”
Things look grim for our ship of state, but they could be grimmer. President 💩🔥💰 is not having everything his own way. He just took it on the chin from the 9th Circuit. News about Flynn’s pre-election discussions with the Russians has begun to leak out, which I’m sure is leading to some upset digestive systems in the White House.
And, in addition to breaking stories, there are ongoing triggers for Administration agita.
There are a number of “rogue” White House and Cabinet staff, for example, who are not only leaking to the press but to those who are officially investigating the Administration. Just as a cadre of pro-Trumpers in the FBI helped sabotage Clinton’s election, there are cadres of outraged staffers who are keeping their heads down as they work to puncture the Trump bubble.
Whether these rats in the adminstration’s wainscoting will be successful or not is hard to say. They do exist. And they’ve been getting the word out. WaPo and NYT, et. al., been having a heyday reporting tales of inside the WH tantrums and screw-ups because of them.
At the same time, while the GOP in Congress is still goose-stepping behind Trump almost in unison, that precision march may not last into Spring. GOP representatives around the nation are suddenly finding their local town-hall meetings overrun by constituents asking pointed and inconvenient questions, and their calls and visits are overloading their local district offices’ resources. And the pressure seems to be mounting, not declining. Congress is going on a short break next week: lots of Representatives will be back in their districts and I suspect that a lot of their public appearances may be more contentious than they’d like.
So, three weeks in things have gone to shit as quickly as we’ve ever seen in this country, but, at the same time, massive numbers of people seem to have noticed that and they are not sitting back and sighing, “Nothing to be done,” because they’re actually doing quite a lot.
Resistance may or may not be futile ultimately, but it certainly isn’t insignificant right now.
And that, as Gandalf said, may be an encouraging thought.
Sarah Palin said, “Don’t Retreat, Instead – Reload,” and included Representative Gabrielle Giffords among those politicians targeted on her SarahPAC site. I expect that Palin will claim that she bears no responsibility for the shooting of Giffords today.
Just like I’d bear no responsibility for the havoc that ensues when I shout “Fire!” in a theater.
Update: Palin hasn’t disclaimed responsibility, but she has cried some crocodile tears on Facebook over the shooting.
Update 2: Giffords’ recent opponent in the November election bears some responsibility, too, though I don’t expect him to be man enough to admit it.