Friday, August 29, 2014

Sympathy in disguise ISN'T

Just read TIME magazine's coverage of the shooting of an unarmed 18-yr-old black guy in Ferguson, Missouri a couple of weeks ago. After the article 3 individuals expressed their sympathy & thoughts on what Americans should do to prevent this sort of thing in the future. One comment was by Rand Paul, Republican senator from Kentucky. We choose our sides, so I didn't expect anything intelligent, but this was even worse than I expected.
     Rand Paul blamed the whole thing on 'Big Government'! Huh? you say (anyway that's what I said), big ...? That's sure not what America has. Still, he feels the Obama government has "militarized the police" by helping the municipalities directly. Veeery interesting because even Rand Paul had to mumble something about the divide between poor blacks & rich whites, rich & poor generally. It is this divide Obama has been trying to close ever since his first day in the White House. His legislation has consistently sought to level the field just a bit & give the poor a break. Rand Paul & his cronies have blocked every move, unfortunately a time-honored tradition of the privileged. Yep, never miss a chance to bash the president, even if it has nothing to do with the actual topic. Basic selfishness has always been a strong motivator. Bad enough, but when it comes disguised as sympathy it's even more disgusting. 
     I am more & more sad & mad about the shocking division of American society. It can't be only Republicans whose dicks are too short & have to compensate, but that's the way it looks, it really does.  This comment on a tragedy takes hypocrisy to a whole new depth. I sent a shortened text of this post as a Letter to the Editor of TIME. Don't know if it will end up in print there, so here it is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movies & Poets

Just enjoyed a lovely visit from my absolutely better half's younger brother & his significant other. Relaxed & laid back, everyone just needed down time so DVDs were the best entertainment. I hauled out our films about poets + one policeman: From Hell, the story of the search for Jack the Ripper. A lot of research behind the story but the conclusion was just one of many possibles. Very convincing though. We didn't have time for The Raven but it's a big favorite of mine. Nobody knows how Edgar Allan Poe died & the movie's solution is not the least bit convincing, but suspenseful good fun. Somewhere in the literary oversoul Poe is high-fiving all those minor writers who will never be portrayed by John Cusack.
   We saw Finding Neverland too, where J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, takes the beauteous form of Johnny Depp. (A bit of a switch for Depp from the psychic cop in From Hell.) Both Edgar Allan Poe & J.M. Barrie were - by our standards - little squirts. Johnny Depp is middle sized, John Cusack very tall dark & handsome. (Off the subject - Michelangelo was an even littler squirt & I have never forgiven 20th Century Fox - Hollywood at its worst - for casting that  big dumb moose Charlton Heston to play him in The Agony & the Ecstasy in 1965.) Depp & Cusack are terrific as Barrie & Poe. So is Ben Whishaw as John Keats in Bright Star. He actually looks a bit like  Keats & is properly small, pale & delicate. Who else could you cast in that role? He reads the poetry beautifully too. Made me want to read it all again. I haven't seen Howl, but more of same - James Franco as the young Allen Ginsberg. Maybe Ginsberg was handsome when young, but I remember him as fat & hairy; gross-looking, no matter what you thought of his poetry. James Franco looks yummier than spaghetti carbonara & soulful as well.
You know, I really love it that poets & writers get movies made about them with gorgeous intelligent hunks leading the cast. High five, Edgar; 2 thumbs up, J.M.; ooooh John; what a hoot, Allen! There are all sorts of heroes & now even movie studios have figured it out. Who's next? I suggest Eric Bana as James Joyce in The Dubliner. What a cool mix of dialects. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Help the men!

     My center recently scored 2 fair-sized bags of money to fund programs for women. One is just for a weekend trip (to a Boy Scout cabin) for women & children - Danish & immigrants - who cannot afford a summer holiday. We have done this 3 times before & it's a big success.
The other is more serious: a 2-year program called Woman, Your Life is in Denmark. The goal of this program is to bring immigrant women out of their isolation & into activity, a network of new friends & new skills - like just taking the city bus alone. Too many immigrant women, especially from small immigrant groups from Asia & the Middle East, have such a strong wish to get back to where they came from that they are in denial. Almost total denial. The 2 most common ideas are
1. just a few years, then husband will earn enough money to move back home & buy a new house or
2. just a few years & the political situation will change so we can go home to the house we left ...
away from rain rain rain, cold dark winters, a difficult language & people whose idea of humor is giving each other a hard time. They usually end up in a Danish nursing home many years later with their non-existent Danish & sorrow because their children are busy westernized adults with no wish to install old mum in the extra room.
    Most of us working on this program are well-integrated immigrant women + the odd token Dane. How I hope we succeed & reach a large group. Ours is one of many programs for immigrant women all around - you might have heard of one or 10. I sure have, but I know of exactly one (1) program for men in the same group. Some years ago I taught Danish to immigrants as a semester substitute because their teacher - male - had a workshop class where the language teaching was part of a practical course with carpentry & general do-it-yourself skills in focus.
      We need more like that. A lot more.
      It's easy to feel sympathy & want to help women from macho societies, lack of education & skills, low status & often tyrannical husbands. Just as easy to despise the husbands, the bullies, big jerks, big jokes in the eyes of westerners. Why can't they see our way is a lot better since they all want to charge right up here & make a buck? If they can't figure it out why don't they get their sorry asses back where they came from? Not even their children can respect them when they grow up.
        Right - & neither can I. But ... I can see why they don't have a clue, feel terrified of losing all their status & respect - like the Burmese refugee who was told hitting children is illegal here.
       "How will I keep discipline?" he asked. A smack was the only method he'd ever heard of. Big jerk, big joke ...
      Many refugee women who come alone with or without children beg for a women's only asylum center. I'll say I can understand their wish, but also why it will never happen. Then the men would be even more of a problem, say the authorities. Help ...?
      The problem will never be solved until both sides get our attention. Anybody can figure that out, not? It's just so much easier to concentrate on the women, the repressed ones, the ones who don't make a fuss & admit they need help. Easier, yes, but I think their men need it more now. The ones with jobs do have that status & work is a terrific way to promote integration. Sports likewise, & school, but immigrant girls do a lot better than boys in school so there's one more area of insecurity & loss of status for many men.
      Don't know what to call a helpful program. Man, Get Your Head Out & Stop Acting like a Jerk would be tempting, but don't think many would sign up. Uh ... Man, Guide to Success in (fill in the blank) Society. That might work. Something has to, or else. Male teachers, coaches & pedagogues GOOD IDEAS PLEASE!