Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Get a Horse

People fascinate (and too often infuriate) me for a wide range of reasons, one of which being the vehemence with which so many resist the idea of change and the total acceptance of it once it has arrived. I started this particular blog a couple days ago, then when time came (today) to post it, I realized it needed to be in two parts: material changes and societal changes. So let’s start with the material, which seem to be faster to come along and generally with less resistance than social changes.

Humans have a general historical suspicion and distrust of technology. The knee jerk reaction to anything new is either “it’ll never work” or “well, I’d never use it.” The first automobiles were greeted with catcalls of: “Get a horse!” Orville and Wilbur’s idea of a flying machine was generally denounced with the firm general conviction that “It’ll never fly.”
Yet we have experienced, in a just a little over a hundred years, a sea change in how technology has totally and forever changed our lives.

I do not think my immediate family…my mom, my dad, and me…had an indoor bathroom until I was approaching puberty. I know we didn’t on the little house on Loves Court in Loves Park; I’m sure there wasn’t room for it in the 14-foot-long trailer in which we lived in Gary, Indiana, where I broke my leg and was in a body cast for a month or so during the heat of summer, and I know we did not have air conditioning. We did not have an indoor bathroom until we’d been living on Blackhawk Ave. for some time. I seem to recall a hand pump for water in the kitchen, and I definitely remember a hand-pumped kerosene stove in the trailer.

Impossible to believe now, but few of us had even heard of television before 1945, and in 1949 people would stand outside appliance store windows to watch the bulky sets with the blurry black and white photos. Radio was our primary source of entertainment, and we usually went to the movies once a week until I was a teenager: then I’d go once a week with my family, and every Saturday afternoon on my own with, as stated before, my “allowance” of $1.25: 50 cents for the movie, a quarter for a chocolate ice cream soda, 20 cents for two tall bags of Manley Popcorn, and 30 cents for the bus to and from.

Mail was delivered twice a day, for three cents a stamp. Electric refrigerators and washing machines were in very few homes prior to the 1940s. On ice-delivery day, you’d put a card in your front window with a little arrow pointing to the amount of ice you wanted, and it would be brought in an open truck with a heavy tarp in the back covering the ice, and all the neighbor kids would run up to it on warm summer days and take little chips of ice to suck on.

It’s impossible to totally separate technological change from societal change, since technology is a river on which society floats.

The past was not all nostalgia and warm snugglies. Now-eradicated or easily treated diseases cut down tens of thousands, and for improvements in medicine alone we should give thanks.

But with change also comes a degree of loss. The more technology takes us out of ourselves comes a loss of innocence, of security, of a sense of physical, emotional, and geological closeness with friends and family.

Like it or not, change is constant and we are carried along with it willingly or no. All we can do is remember what was and use it as an anchor or a guidepost to what is to come.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Tar Bubbles

When I lived in Los Angeles, I used to enjoy going down to the La Brea Tar Pits to stare out over the still surface of the largest of the pools and watch gas bubbles slowly form little black igloos, linger a moment, and then more melt away than burst. They’ve been doing that for millions of years, and never seem to run out of the gas to create the bubbles.

My mind’s a lot like that. Thoughts and ideas will just suddenly work their way to the surface of my consciousness, remain for just long enough for me to acknowledge them, then vanish. Where they come from and how they were formed I have no idea. I suspect it is some sort of short-circuitry in my thought processes.

I was thinking of doing a blog entry on my school days, and realized that putting 16 years into a one page blog might be a tad difficult. But here are a couple of bubbles that rose to the surface:

Because of my broken leg, I was unable to enter first grade when I should have, and had to wait until the next year. I first attended Loves Park Elementary, though I’m sure it had another name. Shortly after I entered first grade, the United States entered WWII. I distinctly remember my prize possession being a military-type jacket that made me feel very grown up. However, looking at the photo above, I see I may have been mistaken [I was unable to find this photo].

I loved The Weekly Reader, a very early form of news magazine made especially for elementary students.

I remember going from door to door selling packets of vegetable seeds to raise money for the school to buy a motion picture projector. I hated going door to door selling packets of vegetable seeds, no matter how noble the purpose. And just before the projector was purchased, we moved and I transferred to another school, Harry Morris…which was located on the south-west outskirts of town and had a total student body of 68. And after more than 60 years, I am once more in contact with two of my Harry Morris classmates, Dan Sable and Marion (then) Bender.

I remember the mothers (mine specifically, of course) taking turns walking to the school in winter to make hot soup for us for lunch. I remember “milk money” and buying pints of chocolate milk. I remember The Bugville News, my first literary effort, which was a “newspaper” relating the various disasters befalling the insect citizens of Bugville. I would tack each “edition” to the school’s front door.

I remember hating recess if organized sports were going to be involved. They would always choose up teams and then argue over who had to take me. Not a fun time.

I remember many a happy hour, walking home from school, spent wandering around a side-of-the-road dump-yard, breaking bottles.

I remember learning to ride a bike. My dad bought me a used bike much too big for me...I could barely reach the pedals...and one day riding down the hill from school directly into cross traffic and being hit by a car. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt. But I was very badly shaken. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I all my life have avoided anything that I think might cause me physical harm.

I remember with great, great fondness my teacher, Mrs. Larson, who always reminded me very much of Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Larson was who God had in mind when he created teachers. Her exact opposite was Mrs. Heinz, a redheaded harridan who, for punishment (which was frequent), would make us write every verse of the Star Spangled Banner.

Oh, Lord, I remember so much. So many people; so many more lost to memory. If I allow them, the bubbles rise faster and more thickly, until the surface of my mind is like a vast, rapidly boiling pot and I can no longer separate one memory from the next. I seem to be approaching that point as I write this, so it is time to turn off the burners for now. But don’t be surprised if the bubbles start rising again before long.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Since this blog was written, the egregious “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law has been repealed and, as I fully knew would be the case, it sank beneath the surface without a ripple. But it should never be forgotten that at one time, gays and lesbians were not allowed to serve their country openly.

Were you aware that there is only one employer in the entire United States of America which is free to fire its employees on the basis of sexual orientation? Care to guess which one? Why, the United States Military, of course—an arm of the U.S. government. By refusing to comply with the very laws it has mandated for everyone else, it thereby sets itself as being above the law (hardly a first-time event, but disgraceful nonetheless).

Since the inception of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule, well over 12,000 American servicemen and women who volunteered to serve their country have been kicked out of the military simply for being gay or lesbian. Enlisted men and women, officers, highly trained specialists, badly needed linguists/interpreters, holders of medals. No matter. They’re gay, they’re out. This at a time when the military is stretched dangerously thin, and they are lowering their recruiting standards. Well, of course, allowing convicted felons to enlist is far better than keeping a college graduate who has never had so much as a parking ticket, but is a faggot, and therefore a serious danger to the “cohesion”—whatever that is supposed to mean—of the unit.

Is the average heterosexual American soldier, sailor, or marine such a delicate emotional blossom, or so insecure in their own sexuality, that they would feel “threatened” by serving beside someone who was openly gay?

The United States is one of the last major countries in which homosexuals are not free to serve openly in the military. Why? Israel, Canada, Norway, England...are our moral standards so much higher than theirs? Or are we afraid our service men and women are too frail to survive sleeping in the same compartment as a homosexual?

The bitter irony here—one of many, actually—is that there are already tens of thousands of gays and lesbians in the military who chose to serve their country despite the knowledge that they can be kicked out any time they dare to reveal their sexual orientation.

I was one of those who served in silence, and who lived with the sword constantly hanging over my head. I witnessed first hand what happened to anyone who was discovered to be gay aboard an American warship. (I’ve told the story often before, but a guy I knew, a nice, innocent, naive kid, was called into the personnel office. “We arrested a man in Norfolk who said he had sexual relations with you. Now, we don’t want to do anything against you, but if you’ll sign this paper to verify you had sex with him, we can prosecute him.” The poor kid signed the paper and was flown off the aircraft carrier in the middle of the night. Flown off an aircraft carrier in the middle of the night lest he contaminate his fellow crewmen! My mind still reels to think of it.)

That the moral standards of my fellow (but heterosexual) sailors were infinitely higher and more refined than my own, and that they were therefore far more worthy human beings than I was evinced every time we went ashore. Apparently one can get a far better education in bars and brothels than in a museum. Museums are for faggots: bring on the girls!! One of my shipmates contracted gonorrhea no fewer than seven times in the course of our eight-month cruise. He was held in high regard by everyone for being a “real man.”

It appears that finally, finally the days of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may be coming to an end, and one more outrageously discriminatory ruling will be overturned. And within one year of its repeal, I guarantee you that everyone will not give it a single thought other to wonder what the hell all the fuss had been about in the first place.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: