Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why Paris stinks.

So, Paris Hilton was at Macy's in center-city Philadelphia last night to promote her new "personal fragrance."* Also on hand were the media—to record this momentous happening—and Ms. Hilton's legions of adoring fans. Among the latter was a young blonde girl, extremely enthusiastic if not actually giddy to be a part of "Paris in Philadelphia," as my local ABC affiliate headlined the event. Asked by reporter Jessica Borg to explain her admiration for Ms. Hilton, the young woman gushed, "She's a singer, she's a model, she's an actress. She can do it all!"

And there you have it: Paris Hilton-as-inspirational-role-model for a generation of women.

Were I reporter Borg, I would've asked a follow-up: "Could you define 'do it,' please?" The fact is, thanks to her family name and social celebrity (which is more along the lines of notoriety; see below), Ms. Hilton is allowed to act (she's unwatchable) and allowed to sing (she's unlistenable) and allowed to model (she's passable at best; let's face it, the girl is no Heidi Klum). What is admirable in all that? She can't do any one thing very well, but somehow "does it all" and gets paid quite nicely for it. In exploiting her celebrity/notoriety, Hilton is also extracting money from millions of workaday fans who—if the stories about her are even close to true—she'd no sooner spend time with than eat all her meals at Del Taco (unless she's getting paid millions to "slum it" for television with her erstwhile comrade-in-anorexia, Nicole Richie). Hilton's brand of so-called success is no different than if, say, Prince Harry decided to launch a career in Vegas or write a series of crime thrillers. Sure, some casino would put him on its stage and some publisher would gladly pony up the advance money. And though Harry's show would sell out for a while and his book would earn back every penny of the advance, the young prince would, in reality, be a joke. Just like Paris Hilton. Except, Hilton is worse. Leaving aside her name and enormous family wealth, she is "famous" in her own right chiefly for parties, public drunkenness, very short skirts and jail stretches, and home-made porn. (In fact, if I were a member of the Hilton old guard, I would seriously consider suing her for soiling the family name and devaluing an iconic international trademark.) But this is what we apparently admire in American culture these days: this kind of vapid, hollow, dye-job, open-legged celebrity. This is what has young women atwitter and screeching things like, "Paris can do it all!"

If I sound bitter and harsh—and I already know I do—I hope I can be forgiven this one time. I just can't help thinking of Ms. Hilton in the context of a very lengthy, angry comment I wrote as an addendum to my post about the tragic suicide of my son's former girlfriend. I'm going to repeat here some of what I said there, not because I'm in love with my own words, but because many visitors to this blog do not read all the comments; besides, several regulars have told me I should've built a new item around that rant in the first place.

Reading the "remembrance page" that several of the girl's friends put up on MySpace**, I was suddenly struck by the fact that that page, plus the various friends' pages to which it led, told me all I needed to know about the environment in which this young woman lived and died. It's an environment in which the highest kudos go to whoever can get drunkest, fastest (with special bonus points for anyone who can elude police while imbibing some portion of that in a moving vehicle); an environment in which kids who still have several years to go before reaching 21 reminisce about their favorite night out drinking with the girls; an environment in which "bettering yourself" apparently means stepping up to a single-malt Scotch. On his own MySpace page, the man to whom this girl was engaged at the time of her death lists as his "most admired person"—I quote—“the guy who invented beer." Also on that page, his sister writes, "Get your liver ready, sis is coming to town." Amid all this, traditional values (for want of a less hokey-sounding phrase) become utterly irrelevant. Another young woman on the remembrance page, who has been with her boyfriend for five years in a relationship that has already produced two children, writes cheerfully that they are now "thinking about getting engaged." Nor is there any reverence for learning here. If anything, there's a distinct anti-education bias of the kind that used to be identified with urban street gangs. Overall, then, this is a climate in which mourners measure out their remembrances of a dead girl (and their own lives as a whole) in shots of tequila or sly references to the number of people of the opposite sex someone "partied with" over break.

I realize that no one assembles a MySpace page as if he or she were composing a resume. Still…this is really what we aspire to? To live a no-responsibilities, never-a-serious-thought life? Like Britney or Lindsay? Or Paris?

Understand, though I should be allowed my private feelings, I'm not really saying this as a moralist. (In truth, I may be the last person who should be shaking a holier-than-thou finger at others.) I'm saying it as a pragmatist. The problem is that while this kind of lifestyle may "work," in some sense, for Britney or Lindsay or Paris, it will not work for you or me, or most other people. Not long-term. There is always a price to pay, often a severe one: in jail time, in lost opportunities, in needless violence, in a pattern of dysfunctional relationships, in innocent babies that never should be born into the circumstances they're born into. And unless you are Paris Hilton, there usually isn't a painless, conveniently available way for you to regroup and begin anew. And you're definitely not getting your own perfume when it's all over.

Worse, if initially I'd associated this dubious ethic with a certain segment of the population, at least five people I know who are in college, or recently were, now tell me it's not much better on campus. Incredibly, several of them tell me that the disdain for serious-mindedness may be even worse on campus, where kids who take their coursework seriously become pariahs: Like the honest cops in the NYPD of the Serpico era, they "can't be trusted."

Paris Hilton may have "got religion" in jail—that's what she said when they let her out—but the image of Hilton that endures encapsulates just about everything that's wrong with today's younger generation, and what it admires. She came by her wealth easily, effortlessly, and yet prances about like she's entitled to every penny of it, as well as every flash of a camera. She comports herself like American royalty, as though somehow entitled to keep her prodigious nose aloft. Meanwhile, young girls look up to her and the way she lives her life. They want to "be like Paris."

Again, I am sorry, but I am bitter. I'm bitter about the role models that we embrace (and that network news teams race out to cover as if they were heads of state or Nobel prize winners). I'm bitter about the fact that young blondes covet the movable-drunken-orgy lifestyle that so many young celebrities live. I'm bitter that at least one such girl, whom I knew and cared about, ended up dead. I am sick of it all. I am sick of watching young people live messy lives, and then die.

* I was relieved to learn that they meant an actual, commercially available product; with Hilton, you never know.
** Once again, in order to protect the family's privacy, I am not disclosing that URL.

48 comments:

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
I can certainly understand your disillusionment - even anger - at the course our society seems to be taking in elevating the trivial to stardom, and chasing destructive pleasures at the cost of productive lives.

But I can't help but wonder whether this might be a symptom of a low-grade, endemic depression. I remember how badly many of us acted out when faced with the reality of Vietnam. The attitude was pretty well described in the song by Country Joe & the Fish. It was an acknowledgment of the futility of rejecting the direction in which we saw the country moving. The reactions of that generation were destructive, but understandable, if one looked beyond the superficial.

Faced with the very real possibility of another 9/11, being stuck in a stupid war that we entered under false pretenses, the blatant corruption and abuses in our political system, an economy that is finally being recognized as something besides just the Dow and S&P's, and learning that we're facing another big recession, perhaps folks are just tired of bad news, and are looking for some kind of salve. Something that is so profoundly superficial that it allows us to look away from the headlines, and forget our fears for awhile.

Does Paris "deserve" the acclaim she gets? Certainly not based upon her talents or actions. But if looking up her dress, into her bedroom, or just staring at the vapid excuse for a human that she seems to be provides the escape folks need, maybe she does serve some sick purpose. And if we're willing to ignore the fact that we encourage our children to emulate her, perhaps we deserve the final result of their twisted approach to maturing.

It could be worse... We could be confronted with a David Schirmer sex tape, or pics of Mr. Fire whooping it up at some New Age disco. The visual that arises from that alone is enough to make one ill.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron... You're right. I may never eat again, after reading that last graph.

And you may be right about the endemic depression, too. Hell, I notice that even I'm tempted to have a glass of wine in the afternoon these days, and I don't drink.

Cosmic Connie said...

Hey, great weight-loss visualizations, Ron!

As it turns out, there may be some David Schirmer sex scandals going on too behind the scenes, though I'm not at liberty to comment further at this time. Thankfully, I've not been informed of any existing tapes. But excuse me while I go throw up anyway. :-)

Steve, this was one of your best and most powerful posts of late, and I am glad you took the advice of those people who suggested that you put your comments on "the main page." I do think Ron's endemic-depression theory is valid too. In fact, forgive me if I state or re-state the obvious, but our culture's chronic depression and desperate need for escape are probably the main factors in the mad rush to embrace every SHAM/New-Wage "breakthrough" to come down the pike.

a/good/lysstener said...

I literally laughed out-loud in the middle of the library reading the first line of this, and your footnote. What a great putdown!

You already know my feelings on this based on what I wrote in reply to your comment when you first made it. What you write about is tragic in both the personal sense and the social sense. I'm part of that generation technically, but I 'm the first to admit we definitely need to do a lot better.

a/good/lysstener said...

I literally laughed out-loud in the middle of the library reading your first line and then your footnote. What a delicious putdown!

You already know my feelings here from my reply when you made this comment the first time. This is a tragedy in both the personal and social sense. I am a part of this generation, but I'm the first to admit we definitely need to do a better job.

acd said...

What I don't understand is, if you're going to bemoan the state of the world and our culture specifically, and the impact of same on our children, why do you want to keep subjecting children to this generation after generation? Obviously many people share these same feelings--parents and prospective parents alike--so then why do they keep creating little Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans? And little boys who grow up to want those same types of girls and who never learn to appreciate real value in a woman? Stop adding to the cycle of endemic depression, or whatever label you want to put on it. People talk about the "good old days" because things only get worse, not better. Why do you want to put your children, and your grandchildren, and so on, through all this?

Steve Salerno said...

You and I have had this "debate" in this forum before, acd, and though we generally agree on the nature of the problem, we part company when it comes to the "solution component." I don't know why you would assume--as you seem to--that because things are a certain way, well, that is the only way they can be, and we should just throw up our hands in defeat. Are you actually proposing that people stop procreating until/unless we fix this? That we declare a moratorium on childbirth, pending the eradication of dreadful role models?

One thing that may surprise a lot of people--in fact I'm sure it would--is the basic optimism that drives me. I always think that Better is attainable. (Part of the reason why a writer exposes Worse, indeed, is the hope of spurring people to Better.) And I would like to be a part of working towards Better. My problem with the SHAMscape isn't that I "hate optimism and good feelings." It's that--by and large--the self-help movement is not well-intentioned, in my view. It looks at Ron's mass of endemic depression and says, "Hmmm, I can make a buck off that by peddling snake oil. I can put a fancy car in my driveway." But if someone were to come up with a genuine program for improving the situation--assuming we could even agree on what constitutes improvement--I'd be there with bells on, and I'd be every bit as enthusiastic as that blonde outside Macy's last night.

The Crack Emcee said...

"If someone were to come up with a genuine program for improving the situation--assuming we could even agree on what constitutes improvement--I'd be there with bells on, and I'd be every bit as enthusiastic as that blonde outside Macy's last night."

I hate to say it, Steve, but I doubt that. Especially if the solution involved men doing something about it (which I've suggested, like, a million times) because anything men, or a man, would do would be twisted into chest-thumping, and being overbearing, and full of fear, or whatnot. To me, that's just perverse, considering what we're getting instead: weak men and hysterical women.

I've been thinking a lot about that "piling on" ploy that the Clinton campaign launched and, while it's good she was caught in it, I wonder why no one is commenting on the values (or lack of) that would propell her to do it - she was blatently trying to "get away with something" and I doubt, seriously, that - if it had been successful - most women in this country (or the New Age men, like Bill Clinton) would've said a peep. They just would've pulled one over on everybody and smiled, like siamese kittens, at how clever they thought they were.

Of course, trying to be fair, New Agers probably missed the more serious implications of Hillary's shenanigans because they're so intent on making sure that man in the White House is prosecuting the war in a politically correct fashion,..."1, 2, 3, 4,..".

Anonymous said...

It's a zero tolerance competitive world, Steve. Caught drinking once ... no sports for a year, they code you, zero tolerance. Hard lines, no give. That's what we learn in school, zero tolerance. So, you're a winner or a loser, or at least it feels that way most of the time. Sports is big part of teaching that. It's what is drilled into us all day long. Win win win, try harder harder harder. At some point after trying and trying only to end up "Average" and not special like you've been told you should be your whole life ... well, why not just relax and party and quite stressing all day long about how your not living up. And it's not parents, it's how on TV money and success are flaunted left and right, then you feel like your own life doesn't measure up. All I'm saying is that it's dams stressful. And our 20's are one of the worse times in your life. Finding yourself is damn scary, especially when we find where we fall in the pecking order. I won't even mention relationships. And if you think Win/Lose, life is bad if you're not winning .... so the answer is to shut off the TV and radio and drop all your friends, because that's all they do when they are not trying to be better than you, and the status thing goes away for a while, then you find yourself without friends, and that's not very fun, but you have peace for a while. But then you embrace the lifestyle because it's easier than being lonely. So your still wandering, seeking, finding things out ... and some people don't make it out. Me, well, I just do some things that hopefully won't haunt me too much. My addictions get me through ... self help books (that's how I found you) video games ... they are there for me when the rest of my selfish friends and divorced parents are not ... all they do is spend time with their girl/boyfriends ... I'm competitive and I hate losing ... I hate the pecking order ... but I'm smart enough to realize my complaining won't do a thing about the environment I'm in or was brought up in. I just need to find a way to accept it ... or at a minimum tolerate it or find some meditation, like work you enjoy, or a home, or a whatever, to keep your hope alive and find some joy in your week. I hate suicide.

Steve Salerno said...

That's one of the sadder comments (in the wider sense) I've read in a long time. And the saddest part is that I know there are so many young people --and not-so-young ones--who feel exactly that way.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve -

Your last bit of the post recalled a memorable moment from a mostly silly little movie: Disney's the Kid. In one scene, Jean Smart turns to Bruce Willis - as they discuss where their lives have taken them - and says something like, 'We can't all grow up to be astronauts or ballerinas.' Simple, wise, true, realistic, accepting. No regret in that statement.
That small but important distinction of 'who can really be what' in life seems all but lost on people of a certain generation.

Steve Salerno said...

I just read that yesterday Lindsay Lohan served out her 84-minute sentence for her DUI. This past summer Nicole Richie had served 82 minutes. And we know about Hilton and her early release. (How could we avoid knowing? It was almost all the press talked about for a solid week.)

I don't believe that society has to purposely "make examples" of people by treating them in unduly harsh ways (i.e. as a deterrent to future offenders). But think about it: If these people are role models--and like it or not, they are--then the minimal consequences of their actions also become "role models," in a sense, of how people can thumb their nose at life's rules and barely suffer any hardship as a result. And yet--as I note in this post--that is not a valid inference for most non-celebrities to draw. The average real-world person who "encounters" the criminal-justice system is not going to get off with 82 minutes in jail. And the average repeat offender--the real-world counterpart of, say, a Robert Downey Jr.--will probably, at some point, go away forever. (And, he will not be offered meaty TV roles upon his release, if and when he does get out--as also noted with Ms. Hilton and her perfume.) Sure, we complain all the time about slap-on-the-wrist sentencing, but what we're complaining about in most cases is guys who get out of prison after six or eight years of a 20-year sentence. At least that's a little bit more than 82 minutes...

Anyway, something to ponder.

RevRon's Rants said...

Have to agree with you on the sadness of anon's post, Steve, but he's got a real point. Kids are pushed to be "winners," and the best the "losers" can hope for is to be ignored. As adolescents, it gets even worse; they're pushed to excel, pushed to assimilate, pushed to rebel, and in too many cases, pushed to be slackers. If they make it through that, they're either pushed to be "evolved" by the "enlightened," or pushed to be "strong" by those who would see themselves as strong.

It would be a pretty glum picture, were it not for the simple fact that facing all those influences - both internal and external - is part and parcel of maturing. Beyond all the posturing and acting out that we hear so much about, there are still an awful lot of kids who mature enough to see through the crap and actually make something good of their lives. I've seen my own kids do it, and trust me... the road was really bumpy there for awhile.

What the survivors eventually realize is that the pressures they feel come from the big questions we all have. Those who push so hard for them to be "winners" are inevitably driven by their own fear of being "losers." Those who push them to be "evolved" usually feel that they lack that "evolvement" themselves. And those who push them to be "strong" do so because they feel insecure in their own strength. The child acquires wisdom by seeing through to the origins of the pressures they feel, whether they come from inside, or from someone else.

Despite what the alarmists may tell us, for every destroyed child, there are hundreds, if not thousands who emerge from the funk to become happy, productive adults. It is inevitable that we mourn those who are lost and try to improve their lot, but we need to keep in mind that they are not an accurate representation of an entire generation. We will always have losers obsessed with winning, failed seekers obsessed with projecting their wisdom, and wounded souls striving to appear strong. If we can do in our own lives what we hope to teach our children to do, we'll give more of them a boost as they go through those tough times. We'll continue to shed tears for those who fall by the wayside, but hopefully, we will spend at least as much time cheering those who make it through the gauntlet, rather than becoming part of that gauntlet ourselves.

Headlines and isolated cases aside, "the kids are all right."

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, "the realism thing" is a difficult topic. Because you don't want to make a child fatalistic or take away someone's motivation to excel. On the other hand, what you say in quoting The Kid is precisely right. So it's a delicate balance. My gripe with the SHAM community is their absolute and obstinate refusal to accept the fact that balance even applies. And that they can make millions upon millions of dollars selling "programs" that essentially reduce to wishful thinking--"want it enough and it's yours!"--continues to boggle my mind.

RevRon's Rants said...

I can't help but get a chuckle at the digs tossed at the Clintons. Good thing that we finally have "strong" men running things... :-)

wisdomwench said...

Hello Steve,
You are not a voice in the wilderness - you write what many people think. The cult of personality seems to be endemic in our society. Whether it is a personality spruking perfume or the latest new age self help it is still cultish in its grip.

Both are unashamedly apealing to greed and gross materialsm - true personal development and enlightenment be damned! When will people learn that cars, yachts, houses, perfumes are not the true measure of a man or woman and never can be? Elevating the value of stuff over true spiritual growth in a vacuous grasping rush to accumulate vacations or designer clothes merely leads to more wanting. To fill the abyss one must blot out the misery with the illusion of fun that alcohol or drugs promise. And if that doesn't work, the latest new age fad will surely help fill the void.

This scenario is not and never can be a path toward lasting peace, genuine prosperity and character development.

I am reminded daily of one of my favorite quotations by Dr Thurman Fleet from his little book Rays of the Dawn:

Anything that cannot be legitimately gained through developed intelligence and ability must be sacrificed without one moment's hesitation. For anyone who would progress, there is no possible compromise. There must be absolute integrity in every detail of our daily life. Whatever else we are called on to sacrifice, our character must be preserved. Among the people we meet daily, there are few whose faces reflect true peace and happiness...many people's faces are masked with the artificial, with sensuality, with cold practicality, or with unworthy fears and uncertainty. We must release ourselves from the sophisticated and set patterns of the multitude and follow our truer and less complex personality."

Thanks for your blog, Steve. It's a thinkers paradise.

Steve Salerno said...

A thinker's paradise, huh? Clearly you haven't talked to The Winner lately. He's not quite so fond of me. (see his comment on my "casual Friday" post).

Then again--given the anonymity of the blogosphere--for all I know you could be The Winner's schizophrenic alter ego. ;)

Whoever you are, WisdomWench, thanks for joining us at SHAMblog.

The Crack Emcee said...

Wisdomwench said:

"The cult of personality seems to be endemic in our society. Whether it is a personality spruking perfume or the latest new age self help it is still cultish in its grip."

And over at Orac's Respectful Insolence blog, someone named Sastra wrote this to me:

"I think fighting woo is fighting religion -- a religion which is bewildered by the modern insistence that it needs to keep itself in a separate, watertight compartment called "morals and meaning" and not be taken seriously, as a real force with the real power to do things directly."

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/11/i_fought_the_woo_and_the_woo_won_or_its.php#commentsArea

And Panda Bear, MD recently wrote:

"On the other hand, while medicine is imperfect you’d have to be a moron or totally brainwashed into your particular CAM cult to not recognize the tremendous advances in medicine even over the last twenty years to say nothing of the huge leap from the days of snake oil at the turn of the last century."

http://pandabearmd.com/blog/2007/11/10/everything-you-need-to-know-about-complementary-and-alternative-medicine-part-1/

Meanwhile, I'm patiently waiting for more of you to play catch up to this ignorant black guy's blog with the bizarre fixation on cultish-thinking.

And, speaking of cultish-thinking, it occurred to me, Steve, that you're not angry - or even depressed - but, quite obviously, just full of "fear". That's what your anger feels like, doesn't it? Don't bother answering: Of course it does - I said so, and my master said it was true, so you get absolutely no say regarding your own emotional state. It's settled: you're scared. I'm a stubborn one that way.

And isn't it funny how these definitions change from me to you? (Your anger is diagnosed as depression while I have to be scared?) And that's from the same witchdoctor,...I mean "priest" or whatever.

If you ask me, somebody's evidently confused, and that confusion started with "how badly many of us acted out when faced with,...reality" and bleeds right into today's equally wrong-headed assessment of our current foriegn affairs by cultists:

Hey - I've got a bright idea:

Let's work real hard to sack our own quarterback in The Big Game!!!

Now that's New Age "brilliance on display" if I've ever seen it. Rather than wondering if kids are "being stunted by an overblown need to rebel", I think we should look a little bit further up the post-60's food chain.

But I ain't naming no names.

*I will now go back to ignoring certain posts.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve,
Methinks we've touched a nerve here. :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

Perhaps a clearer perspective could be achieved by looking at our prison population and seeing what percentage of incarcerated criminals - especially those convicted of violent crimes - had a childhood where they were overindulged by their parents, versus the percentage who lived with domineering parents (especially where there was a pattern of physical and/or sexual abuse).

Virtually every study ever done on these populations indicates that the greatest proportion (by a wide margin) fell into the latter group. So much for the exalted value of overbearance!

As anyone who has read & understood my previous posts would know, I do not posit that we should follow either extreme, but should seek a degree of balance. The SHAM world certainly isn't the answer, but it has been well-proven that a society run by misogynistic, overbearing "men" certainly isn't, either.

The Crack Emcee said...

Steve,

Some food for thought:

"I think a lot of romanticizing has gone on with the women's movement. Whatever type of behavior women are coming up with, it's claimed as a victory for feminism — doesn't matter how bad it is. We don't seem to go in very much for self-criticism." (emphasis mine)

- Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, 2007, and (ahem) very much a woman

"If women want to be equals then they should take their lumps like everyone else."

- Frank Zappa (emphasis mine)

It's positively bizarre how pointing out the flaws in any women's thinking is called "misogynistic" when women can diss men as much as they want and "misandry" never enters the conversation. Or that a call for parental responsibility is rephrased as being "overbearing".

Hippies. Always going for the extremes (whether valid or not) merely for shock value. Like going from drinking, and arguing/fighting with other drunks, to Buddhism - pretty extreme turn there. Hardly natural, or even sane, if you ask me: Both are extremes - and, post-enlightenment - looking for an argument/fight!!! (Buddhism really helps with those problems!)

And ignoring the whole fear/depression point is classic. I thought anger=fear in all instances. If so, why not yours, Steve? Could there be (Heavens!) a flaw in that argument? No way - it came down from the mountain, on stone tablets, delivered by the master himself - so there must be something wrong in my reading of his words.

Hope you're better these days, Steve.

Steve Salerno said...

Crack, why are you arguing with me on these points? I didn't pose the equation you reference.

I'm "man enough" to say that I don't know all the answers (even though in the past you've alleged that a "real man" is never equivocal and always knows how he feels and what should be done about it). I also think it's a mistake for anyone except a shrink to try to definitively analyze people from the outside, based only on what we see of the external self. Hell, in too many cases, it can be dangerous for a shrink to try that, even after extensive one-on-one exposure to the person. (How many times do you hear about people who are released from mental institutions after being declared "cured," and then go on to commit some horrific crime?) I never understood why it seems so important for some people to stipulate bedrock, black-or-white, across-the-board answers for everything. Especially when you're dealing with a mercurial entity like a human being...how can you expect to do that with any accuracy? Is fear anger? Is it depression? Is it simply a "system malfunction" of some kind? Is it always the same thing even in the same person? I have no idea.

RevRon's Rants said...

"It's positively bizarre how pointing out the flaws in any women's thinking is called "misogynistic"..."

What is truly bizarre is your own obsessive rage against any mindset that does not mirror your own. The misogyny to which I refer rears its head in many of your statements, though of course, you feel it fully justified, since it was a woman who wronged you. Because of occultism. Because of the New Age. Because of Buddhism. Because of anything, everything, and everyone, except...

The progression you describe, from violent, destructive behavior to seeking something better, is part of the process of growing up. Of turning an angry boy into a productive man, capable of observing the world around without feeling the need to destroy everything I don't agree with or understand. Perhaps such a metamorphosis is what has protected me from being damaged by those nasty New Agers, occultists, Buddhists, and women. :-)

The difference between yourself and Steve is that while Steve attacks what he sees as destructive ideas and behaviors, you seem to need to attack the people who have a mindset different from your own. That you cannot see the fear behind such behavior is regrettable, but obvious.

The Crack Emcee said...

1. I'm talking to you because I'm not talking to the priest, or whatever he thinks he is.

2. I may have alleged that but that's not what I meant. I meant men have a role to play in society and the extreme of open-mindedness ain't even close to an essential part of the package. As a matter of fact, I view it as a weakness, like gullibility, or indecisiveness. (sp?)

3. You said you were "angry". I believed you. Someone else said you/we were scared - no ifs, ands, or buts, about it - which, as you said, was a "mistake" for him to do but there you are. He makes a lot of "mistakes".

I work at a homeless shelter now and, above the door, there's a sign that reads:

"The hard truth beats a soft lie every time."

Words to live by, My Man, words to live by.

Betcha they were written by a man,....

RevRon's Rants said...

Just went back and re-read my comments, and I'll be darned if I can find where I said *you* were scared, Steve. Or for that matter, where I said anything about being a priest. But I'm pretty sure you knew what I was talking about. :-)

Cosmic Connie said...

CMC: I've never once heard Ron claim to be a priest. Nor have I ever seen him make a statement that anger equals fear in all cases. I don’t believe I’ve even seen him make a statement that all of YOUR anger is fear-based. Most of all, I have never had any doubt whatsoever about his manhood, and I'm in a position to know. I do know that Ron would fight to the death to defend anyone he loves who was in danger. I have no doubt that he would die for a cause he truly believed in as well. But he’s not willing to go to battle to the death with everyone who disagrees with him, though he does love a good argument, I’ll grant you that.

BTW, Leonard Cohen, whom both you and I have quoted on our blogs re "the flabby liars of the Aquarian Age," has been a Buddhist for many years, and in the 1990s he spent five years in seclusion in the Mount Baldy Zen Centre. He was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk in the late 1990s.

Although I’m an inveterate Cohen quoter, over the years I’ve found myself being pissed off by some of the things he has said about manhood and the emasculation of our culture (some of it almost sounded like some of the things you say, CMC). At least that teed me off back in my feminist days; now I see his point, though I don’t completely agree with it. I think there needs to be a balance between the feminine and the masculine (yeah, I know, easier said than done).

My disagreements with some of his philosophy aside, I’ve long admired Cohen’s work. But even that work is multidimensional; it’s not all romance and eroticism. There’s a lot of darkness and even a tinge of misogyny in some of his lyrics. The same man who could write breathtakingly beautiful lyrics such as “Suzanne” and “Take This Longing” and “Light As The Breeze” could also pen songs like, “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On,” which features this lovely verse: “Here comes your bride with her veil on / Approach her you wretch, if you dare / Approach her you ape with your tail on / Once you have her she’ll always be there.” That kind of thing used to get to me, but now I just shrug it off. So what? We all have mood swings. (Besides, the lyric *is* kind of amusing, and I even found myself humming it silently during a wedding a few years ago, in which a perfectly nice man was joined in holy matrimony to a rapacious bit.. well, I digress.)

And take the late Norman Mailer, a man's man if there ever was one (and apparently another one of your heroes, CMC). Mailer famously participated in protests against the war in Vietnam. He was once described as the only person over 40 trusted by the flower-power crowd. I know he went on to stab his ex-wife, which might redeem him in the eyes of some. As you put it on your blog, “I don't know what to make of him stabbing his wife, except to say, ‘Wives are tough’.” That put chills down my spine, CMC. Mailer is another one who really used to piss me off. But I admire his writing, and American letters are richer for his many contributions.

CMC, you have made some good points about many issues. You’re a talented writer and I like your music too, but your anger pervades *everything* you write. I get that you're angry. I get that you have many reasons to *be* angry. And I’m not even going to try to analyze how much of it is anger and how much of it is fear and how much of it is depression. Like Steve, I just don’t know. Humans are complicated creatures. When you say you’re angry, I’ll take you at face value. But I gotta tell you, your continued gratuitous attacks on Ron are really getting old, and IMO they add nothing to the conversation on this blog. I've been silent for the most part during this latest round, but now it's really starting to tick me off. You don't want that, do you?

Cosmic Connie said...

CMC: I've never once heard Ron claim to be a priest. Nor have I ever seen him make a statement that anger equals fear in all cases. I don’t believe I’ve even seen him make a statement that all of YOUR anger is fear-based. Most of all, I have never had any doubt whatsoever about his manhood, and I'm in a position to know. I do know that Ron would fight to the death to defend anyone he loves who was in danger. I have no doubt that he would die for a cause he truly believed in as well. But he’s not willing to go to battle to the death with everyone who disagrees with him, though he does love a good argument, I’ll grant you that.

BTW, Leonard Cohen, whom both you and I have quoted on our blogs re "the flabby liars of the Aquarian Age," has been a Buddhist for many years, and in the 1990s he spent five years in seclusion in the Mount Baldy Zen Centre. He was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk in the late 1990s.

Although I’m an inveterate Cohen quoter, over the years I’ve found myself being pissed off by some of the things he has said about manhood and the emasculation of our culture (some of it almost sounded like some of the things you say, CMC). At least that teed me off back in my feminist days; now I see his point, though I don’t completely agree with it. I think there needs to be a balance between the feminine and the masculine (yeah, I know, easier said than done).

My disagreements with some of his philosophy aside, I’ve long admired Cohen’s work. But even that work is multidimensional; it’s not all romance and eroticism. There’s a lot of darkness and even a tinge of misogyny in some of his lyrics. The same man who could write breathtakingly beautiful lyrics such as “Suzanne” and “Take This Longing” and “Light As The Breeze” could also pen songs like, “Don’t Go Home With Your H-rd-On,” which features this lovely verse: “Here comes your bride with her veil on / Approach her you wretch, if you dare / Approach her you ape with your tail on / Once you have her she’ll always be there.” That kind of thing used to get to me, but now I just shrug it off. So what? We all have mood swings. (Besides, the lyric *is* kind of amusing, and I even found myself humming it silently during a wedding a few years ago, in which a perfectly nice man was joined in holy matrimony to a rapacious bit.. well, I digress.)

And take the late Norman Mailer, a man's man if there ever was one (and apparently another one of your heroes, CMC). Mailer famously participated in protests against the war in Vietnam. He was once described as the only person over 40 trusted by the flower-power crowd. I know he went on to stab his ex-wife, which might redeem him in the eyes of some. As you put it on your blog, “I don't know what to make of him stabbing his wife, except to say, ‘Wives are tough’.” That put chills down my spine, CMC. Mailer is another one who really used to piss me off. But I admire his writing, and American letters are richer for his many contributions.

CMC, you have made some good points about many issues. You’re a talented writer and I like your music too, but your anger pervades *everything* you write. I get that you're angry. I get that you have many reasons to *be* angry. And I’m not even going to try to analyze how much of it is anger and how much of it is fear and how much of it is depression. Like Steve, I just don’t know. Humans are complicated creatures. When you say you’re angry, I’ll take you at face value. But I gotta tell you, your continued gratuitous attacks on Ron are really getting old, and IMO they add nothing to the conversation on this blog. I've been silent for the most part during this latest round, but now it's really starting to tick me off. You don't want that, do you?

Anonymous said...

STEVE'S NOTE: By agreement with several SHAMblog contributors, including The Crack Emcee, I reserve license to edit comments. The following comment was heavily edited due to my concerns about personal attacks (which I have pledged to ban from the blog) and serious allegations of criminal activity that potentially would expose me and this blog to the same legal recourse someone might take against CMC himself. I apologize for the extent of the editing; normally if I have to "massage" a comment to this degree, I simply reject it. But I do feel that CMC makes some valid points that deserve a fair hearing. I use ellipses (...) to indicate where I have cut fairly large chunks of text. I've also changed some wording to accommodate that missing text. As I've said a dozen times already, this isn't an exact science, and I apologize to those who feel that I give more leeway to some commenters than others. I do the best I can to maintain a high-quality blog.

Crack Emcee writes:

Steve's mentioned, several times, that this heinous thing we call Self-Help is virally spread, primarily, by women. (Goddesses that they are.) Am I wrong to notice that too? And the one that you so euphemistically say "wronged" me [NOTE: Here, CMC makes serious allegations about criminal acts on his ex-wife's part] gave me a close-up view of the landscape that many of you "open-minded" and Buddhist-types live in. It's not pretty, positive, or "justified" in any way....

You suggest that criticism of women is misogyny, while you can't help but diss men at every turn... I'll ask you again: That’s not misandry? Probably put there by some "master" or some man-hating feminist New Age lit? I've never once said I hated women (and, believe me, I'm "man enough" to say it if it was true) I just don't think they're "special" is all.

At some point you're going to learn that my anger - not fear - is the actual result of beliefs like yours. They undermine all the "good" that people, like you, claim to be spreading. And, no, I don't blame myself...because I've always endeavored to be a good, moral, and intelligent person. And if those ideals are the basis for my whacked out, New Age, UFO, Occult-and-homeopathy-and-Buddhist believing wife to do what she did - which, despite those beliefs and her immoral actions, you seem intent on blaming me for - then that's her/your problem, not mine. I'm not gonna start blaming myself - or my sex - because she, Oprah, and you, don't like reality.

...Trying to get me to agree to, or accommodate, wrong is "evil". I ain't gonna do it, not for you, or the [criminal] I married, or any of the other millions of charlatans that have decided to "follow the path".

I've seen the results of those beliefs - dead people, broken marriages, lying, cheating, stealing, con games, manipulation, and madness - and, as I pointed out, the doctors (and scientists) I talk to, along with many others, are starting to come to my way of thinking - not the other way around. And why shouldn't they? I've done nothing wrong. I'm just pissed, which is a very real - and good - emotion to have towards dead people, broken marriages, lying, cheating, stealing, con games, manipulation, and madness. It's only people who can hear that someone's been murdered by a couple of whack jobs, and so much more, who have the gall to say "It must be your fault." That's the evil I'm talking about, Rev. The evil that doesn't know right from wrong. Even when it involves a death.... That hand-me-down ideology trumps right and wrong, in human relations, politics, music, whatever. I haven't really been able to agree with anything you say, even a little, because it all strikes me as moronic New Age blather....

RevRon's Rants said...

"You suggest that criticism of women is misogyny,"

Not at all. It is the repeated, demeaning,and belittling references that constitute misogyny. And I have never dissed "men" as a whole. Only those whom I thought were irrational, irresponsible, or obnoxious.

"Trying to get me to agree to, or accommodate, wrong is "evil"

I'd never try to get anyone to agree with something that is wrong or evil. I might invite someone to consider an idea different from their own, or to elucidate their ideas to me. Of course, some people don't consider anything beyond their own vision, programming, fear, and rage.

Just for the record, I never said that what happened to you was "your fault." I merely stated that there are *always* two sides to a story, no matter how hard someone tries to deny it. It's about taking responsibility in as willingly as assigning blame.

I don't have any kind of investment in what you choose to believe, crack. Nor any real interest. But I do find your blanket condemnation of entire groups which you obviously know little about to be pretty obnoxious.

I don't take the digs at my beliefs seriously. I just grow very tired of your constantly toxic diatribes in general, and look upon them as the price I have to pay to participate in Steve's discussions. But I guess there's some of that in most online discussions. Wheat and chaff...

The Crack Emcee said...

Steve,

I started to edit that post and was cutting in the exact same places: Good job.

"It is the repeated, demeaning,and belittling references that constitute misogyny."

So - what? - you just ignore all the digs I take at New Age men (which make up the vast majority of my online comments) and focus on the ones about women, thus declaring me a misogynist? And then - knowing it's a sore point - blaming it all on my divorce, like New Agers deserve a little lee-way, even as you yourself diss them, unmercifully, even coining the phrase "hustledorks". That, my friend, is true enlightenment and compassion. Plus the usual hypocrisy.

"Some people don't consider anything beyond their own vision, programming, fear, and rage."

Funny, when Steve posted his horror stories, which included a lot of sneers toward New Age, I didn't hear you pipe up with "get rid of your anger". No, you reserve it for me, and those other Hip-Hop guys that Connie said you keep a close eye on. And you do have a problem with other people being angry, like it's never justified. And "programming"? You have a "master", Rev, not me - if anyone's allowed themselves to be programmed,....

"I never said that what happened to you was "your fault." I merely stated that there are *always* two sides to a story, no matter how hard someone tries to deny it."

Sure there are. But when something's missing and the choice is between a known crook, and a guy that's never taken anything, who are you gonna believe? Are both of their claims of innocence to be treated equally? Or do you (being "open-minded") lean on the honest person, a bit more, just to prove you're fair?

"It's about taking responsibility in as willingly as assigning blame."

From Blair Warren:

How to Lie Without Really Lying

Lying without really lying is easy.  Just embrace two simple ideas:
1. Language is powerful and can be twisted and distorted to mislead and manipulate people without their awareness or consent.
2. People are 100% responsible for everything that happens in their lives - including being unknowingly misled and manipulated.
Embrace these two ideas and you are free to tell others whatever it takes to take whatever you want.


Sound familiar?

"I don't have any kind of investment in what you choose to believe, crack. Nor any real interest."

Ahh, the ol' "I don't care" defense. (You've said this before, when cornered.) Then why behave otherwise and take me through all this? I, quite obviously, do care. I thought caring was what Buddhists do? About "all living things"? Or is your belief system, just like my Buddhist ex's, just more of that usual ol' self-interest nonsense I've said it is? That you diss so thoroughly in others? That allows you to spit nonsense but decide it's not worth your time when really questioned on it? You can't have it both ways, Rev: "Mature", as you say we must, and face reality or, for goodness sakes, quit trying to be a pain to those of us that are already doing so.

"I don't take the digs at my beliefs seriously."

I know: You take yourself seriously. The rest of us are expendable. Buddhism. Nice philosophy for that.

The Crack Emcee said...

Steve,

I started to edit that post and was cutting in the exact same places: Good job.

"It is the repeated, demeaning,and belittling references that constitute misogyny."

So - what? - you just ignore all the digs I take at New Age men (which make up the vast majority of my online comments) and focus on the ones about women, thus declaring me a misogynist? And then - knowing it's a sore point - blaming it all on my divorce, like New Agers deserve a little lee-way, even as you yourself diss them, unmercifully, even coining the phrase "hustledorks". That, my friend, is true enlightenment and compassion. Plus the usual hypocrisy.

"Some people don't consider anything beyond their own vision, programming, fear, and rage."

Funny, when Steve posted his horror stories, which included a lot of sneers toward New Age, I didn't hear you pipe up with "get rid of your anger". No, you reserve it for me, and those other Hip-Hop guys that Connie said you keep a close eye on. And you do have a problem with other people being angry, like it's never justified. And "programming"? You have a "master", Rev, not me - if anyone's allowed themselves to be programmed,....

"I never said that what happened to you was "your fault." I merely stated that there are *always* two sides to a story, no matter how hard someone tries to deny it."

Sure there are. But when something's missing and the choice is between a known crook, and a guy that's never taken anything, who are you gonna believe? Are both of their claims of innocence to be treated equally? Or do you (being "open-minded") lean on the honest person, a bit more, just to prove you're fair?

"It's about taking responsibility in as willingly as assigning blame."

From Blair Warren:

How to Lie Without Really Lying

Lying without really lying is easy.  Just embrace two simple ideas:
1. Language is powerful and can be twisted and distorted to mislead and manipulate people without their awareness or consent.
2. People are 100% responsible for everything that happens in their lives - including being unknowingly misled and manipulated.
Embrace these two ideas and you are free to tell others whatever it takes to take whatever you want.


Sound familiar?

"I don't have any kind of investment in what you choose to believe, crack. Nor any real interest."

Ahh, the ol' "I don't care" defense. (You've said this before, when cornered.) Then why behave otherwise and take me through all this? I, quite obviously, do care. I thought caring was what Buddhists do? About "all living things"? Or is your belief system, just like my Buddhist ex's, just more of that usual ol' self-interest nonsense I've said it is? That you diss so thoroughly in others? That allows you to spit nonsense but decide it's not worth your time when really questioned on it? You can't have it both ways, Rev: "Mature", as you say we must, and face reality or, for goodness sakes, quit trying to be a pain to those of us that are already doing so.

"I don't take the digs at my beliefs seriously."

I know: You take yourself seriously. The rest of us are expendable. Buddhism. Nice philosophy for that.

BTW - about my "toxic diatribes":

I have found that nothing else works with cultists. This goes to what I was saying about your "good" undermining itself: You won't acknowledge your own hypocrisy without being forced to. You don't have time for reason. Everybody (Connie, Steve, me, and others) has stories of so-called compassionate folks, who spout nonsense, viciously attacking anyone who challenges them. (Why do they think they get a hall pass?) "Nice" doesn't work against cultists - it's a sign of weakness to be taken advantage of - just as I was. So, no, I won't be nice to believers. It's not worth the effort. I want results. And, if being as aggressive as they are is what works - and being pissed is what allows me to be that aggressive - then pissed I am:

I'll start smiling when you give me something to smile about.

The Crack Emcee said...

Hey, Steve,

There's a NYT article on denial that includes this:

"Social mores often work to shrink the space in which a conspiracy of silence can be broken: not at work, not out here in public, not around the dinner table, not here. It takes an outside crisis to break the denial, and no one needs a psychological study to know how that ends."

That's better than I could've said it. Here's a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/20/health/research/20deni.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

As the guy with the "outside crisis", I think it should be food for thought for the rest of y'all "open-minded" folks.

RevRon's Rants said...

"So - what? - you just ignore all the digs I take at New Age men (which make up the vast majority of my online comments) and focus on the ones about women, thus declaring me a misogynist?"

I wouldn't expect someone who attributes all things positive to "men," and all things weak to "women" to recognize himself as a misogynist. After all, you're a "man," right? :-)

"And then - knowing it's a sore point - blaming it all on my divorce"

You're still confusing what I said. I merely pointed out that you constantly whine about how badly you were treated, while bragging about what an honorable guy you are. Take a little responsibility for your own part, "man," and give the whining a rest.


"New Agers deserve a little lee-way, even as you yourself diss them, unmercifully, even coining the phrase "hustledorks". That, my friend, is true enlightenment and compassion. Plus the usual hypocrisy."

I feel compassion for those who buy the snake oil, but little for those selling it. If you can't tell the difference, further explanation is futile. If you simply refuse to see the difference, that's still your problem. Call it whatever you will.

"Funny, when Steve posted his horror stories, which included a lot of sneers toward New Age, I didn't hear you pipe up with "get rid of your anger".

Steve goes about disproving falsehoods. He does it dispassionately and logically. You launch into diatribes about how evil people are, and how badly you're treated. And I react to each accordingly.

"No, you reserve it for me, and those other Hip-Hop guys that Connie said you keep a close eye on."

Hang on to that fantasy, crack. And while you're at it, to quote another line from "The Kid," call a waaahhhhmbulance.:-)

And you do have a problem with other people being angry, like it's never justified. And "programming"? You have a "master", Rev, not me - if anyone's allowed themselves to be programmed,....

Other people being angry? Lots of folks get angry. But like other creatures in the animal kingdom, humans only attack for food or out of fear. And you attack a LOT! And I see you still can't wrap your mind around any connotation of the word "master" beyond your programming. That's too bad.

"But when something's missing and the choice is between a known crook, and a guy that's never taken anything, who are you gonna believe?"

All that is "known" to readers here is what you have presented, and I doubt too many are inclined to buy the image of Saint Crack versus antichrist ex-wife. A smart person takes one side of any story with a grain of salt, and given the obvious issues you've got going on, it's more like a pound.

"Are both of their claims of innocence to be treated equally?"

Until proven otherwise, I'd think both deserve to be listened to. But we've not had the benefit of hearing the antichrist's side. Only yours.

"Or do you (being "open-minded") lean on the honest person, a bit more, just to prove you're fair?"

I'll let you know when I hear someone who sounds honest.

"Sound familiar?"

Well, you've got the twisting others' words part down pretty well. Can't tell whether it's intentional or just the manifestation of a comprehension problem. And all I ever suggested - but you continue to miss - is that you accept your own share of what happens in your relationships, and give the whining about everybody else a rest.

"Ahh, the ol' "I don't care" defense. (You've said this before, when cornered.)"

Actually, I haven't ever felt cornered in these discussions. And the only reason for a defense would be a threat, which just isn't there.

"Then why behave otherwise and take me through all this? I, quite obviously, do care. I thought caring was what Buddhists do? About "all living things"?"

There's a big difference between feeling compassion and allowing one's self to get caught up in someone else's pathology. If someone is bound and determined to live a toxic life, it's beyond anyone else's power to stop them."


"Or is your belief system, just like my Buddhist ex's, just more of that usual ol' self-interest nonsense I've said it is?"

If it makes you feel better, I do feel sorry for you. And though I don't know your ex, I feel sorry for her, as well. Doesn't mean I'm going to buy into your vitriol.

"That you diss so thoroughly in others?"

Others? I diss idiocy and toxicity where I see it. And I don't see it in everybody - not even those with whom I disagree. That's where we differ.

"That allows you to spit nonsense but decide it's not worth your time when really questioned on it?"

You can scream at a river your whole life, and it won't change course. It's going to go where it's going to go. And that's pretty much how I see you. Growing up and getting a life beyond your anger is your job, not mine.


"Mature", as you say we must, and face reality or, for goodness sakes, quit trying to be a pain to those of us that are already doing so."

Well, you keep on "fighting the good fight." Just don't hold your breath waiting for the world to conform to your vision of it, or for the reality that most other people experience to mirror your own.

"I know: You take yourself seriously."

That'll be your little secret. Good luck selling it to anyone who knows me, though. :-)

"The rest of us are expendable. Buddhism. Nice philosophy for that."

There you go again, assuming that I lump everyone in the same bucket with the worst elements. Being obsessed with toxicity and rage is expendable. And I don't enjoy or choose to hang out with such people. It's called good judgment. And yes, it is a pretty nice way to live. Beats seeing demons in every shadow.

And speaking of good judgment, good night! :-)

Anonymous said...

What is it with you two, Ron and Crack? Seems like no matter what the topic you guys look for excuses to rip into each other. I have an idea, why don't you just make a day and a time and either whip em out or do like Burr and Hamilton. If not that than please try to stay on topic for more than 2 minutes before you go off on EACH OTHER!!

Steve Salerno said...

I shall withhold comment--though I am soooooo tempted...

RevRon's Rants said...

I've got an idea, Steve. How about sticking to the standards you say that you've set for your blog and refusing to publish *any* comment that contains a personal attack. I own my part in the exchange, but if you'll note, I try to contribute and remain on topic until some snide remark gets my dander up.

My dander is my problem. Whether you choose to allow and perpetuate the arguments on your blog is yours. It's your blog. Just a thought...

Cosmic Connie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Crack Emcee said...

"What is it with you two, Ron and Crack? Seems like no matter what the topic you guys look for excuses to rip into each other."

It's real simple - and was apparent from the very beginning:

Rev's the Woodstock Festival, preaching peace, love, and enlightenment, while wallowing in the mud.

And I'm Johnny Rotten at Winterland, bellowing, "Ah ha, how's it feel to know you've been cheated!?!"

Steve Salerno said...

OK, Rev, if you want the last word here (hey, somebody's gotta get it), let 'er rip, and then we'll call a formal halt to this and hope for better on subsequent posts.

Cosmic Connie said...

Hey, Steve and everyone:
As some of you may have seen, I had made a lighthearted comment to this thread about getting back on topic, and the comment is no longer there. I deleted it because it didn't really express what I wanted to say. So that’s the mystery of the “comment deleted by author.”

I do want to say a few words – more than a few, actually – and I hope Steve and the rest of you will indulge me a little. I can well understand Anon's weariness with seeing people “rip into each other” here. I’m sure Anon is not the only one who feels this way. At one point the other night, when the duel was escalating, I attempted to submit a remark of my own to address some of these matters. I tried four different times to do so, and my comment kept bouncing back with a “failure to deliver” notice. It might have been my Juno email acting up, or a Blogger glitch. I then tried to submit my comment via private email to you, Steve, but I guess it never reached you because you never acknowledged it. Which is no big loss, but I’m including some of that comment in the present one, and hoping that at least it will get through without a “bounce back.”

First of all, Crack, I want to straighten you out on one thing: I've never once heard Ron claim to be a priest or a monk or any other kind of holy man. Nor have I ever seen him make a statement that anger equals fear in all cases. I don’t believe I’ve even seen him make a statement that all of YOUR anger is fear-based. He has said he thinks there’s some fear behind your anger. Maybe so; I don’t know. That’s what he sees when he looks at your story, and in favor of his p.o.v., I think we all betray things about ourselves that we don’t intend to when we write or speak. When *I* look at your story I mostly see a lot of anger, as well as a deep sense of betrayal. And on the surface, anyway, I see a classic case of “collateral damage” caused by the influences of a narcissistic new-age culture. (Steve, I really am trying to keep this about more than just personal conflicts so that it has some relevance to this blog too.)

But I have to agree with Ron that there has to be another side to this story, a side you haven’t told because, perhaps, you can’t. And that, if you’ll pardon me for stating the obvious, is your ex’s side. One statement in one of your previous comments caught my eye. You wrote, “Funny, when Steve posted his horror stories, which included a lot of sneers toward New Age, I didn't hear you pipe up with ‘get rid of your anger’. No, you reserve it for me, and those other Hip-Hop guys that Connie said you keep a close eye on.”

First of all, I am truly puzzled by what you mean when you claim that I said Ron “keeps a close eye on Hip-Hop guys.” Where did I say that? Either you misunderstood me or I had my head way up my… Either explanation is possible! But the more important point is that Ron (and Steve too, for that matter) have acknowledged that there are two or more sides to every story, including the horror stories that Steve chose to publish on his blog. And that is basically what Ron has said about your own story. No matter how despicably your ex may have treated you, she has a point of view too – reasons for doing the things she did – and that hasn’t fully been told on your blog. Again, I wouldn't expect you to tell that story, but that doesn't make it an unimportant one.

It's my understanding that one of the reasons Steve chose to discontinue his own series of horror stories is that he was aware there were other folks’ points of view that hadn’t been fully explored. At any rate, if Ron has seemed more sympathetic to Steve and to the people he wrote about in his short-lived “collateral damage” series than to you, it’s because none of those folks have ripped into him and called him an evil moron every time he opens his mouth.

There is a fine line between “walking like a man”/standing up for your beliefs and chest-beating, and it does seem, Crack, that you have a tendency to cross that line at times. Sometimes I almost think you’re being facetious, and I want to say, “Hey, good one!” But mostly it seems you’re being serious. Ron’s willingness to “agree to disagree” might make him less than a “man” by your definition, but I do know this about the man I live with: he would fight to the death to defend anyone he loves who was in danger. I have no doubt that he would die for a cause he truly believed in as well. But he’s simply not willing to go to war with everyone who disagrees with him, though he does love a good argument, I’ll grant you that.

You do seem to have it out for Buddhists, which is probably a big reason that Ron gets you going. Interestingly enough, Leonard Cohen, whom both you and I have quoted on our blogs re "the flabby liars of the Aquarian Age" (ref. your Sept. 24 post), has been a Buddhist for many years, and in the 1990s he spent five years in seclusion in the Mount Baldy Zen Centre. He was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk in the late 1990s.

Although I’m an inveterate Cohen quoter, over the years I’ve found myself being p.o.’d by some of the things he has said about manhood and the emasculation of our culture (some of it almost sounded like some of the things you say, CMC). To be more specific, those things teed me off back in my feminist days; now, however I see his point to a certain extent, though I still don’t completely agree with it. I think there needs to be a balance between the feminine and the masculine (yeah, I know, easier said than done).

We’ve discussed this matter on Steve’s blog before, and I’ve acknowledged and agreed with both you and Steve that even though in many ways it’s still a “man’s world,” nonetheless there are double standards in our society that are favorable to women, and our culture belittles maleness in ways both subtle and blatant. Moreover, women get away with many things that men can’t – ranging from putdowns of men to committing violent crimes against them. The word “misandry” is a good word – and is not all that commonly known, though just about everyone knows what “misogyny” means. So I’ll grant that Cohen, and Steve, and you, too, Crack, have valid points. Regarding Cohen, my disagreements with some of his philosophy aside, I’ve long admired his work, even that which is tinged with darkness and a hint of misogyny. (Or maybe it’s not really misogyny; perhaps it would be more accurately described as an (understandable) ambivalence about love and commitment.)

And take the late Norman Mailer, a man's man if there ever was one (and apparently another one of your heroes, Crack). Mailer famously participated in protests against the war in Vietnam, and back in the day, he was sometimes described as the only person over forty trusted by the flower-power crowd. It seems to me, Crack, that you would have found that aspect of Mailer’s history distasteful, as contemptuous as you are of the legacy of the 1960s, and as much as you seem to think that any antiwar activity is unmanly. Yet you didn’t mention this in your brief tribute to him, though you did mention the fact that he stabbed his ex-wife; as you put it on your blog, “I don't know what to make of him stabbing his wife, except to say, ‘Wives are tough’.” That put chills down my spine, and it’s that kind of remark that might lead some people to think you are a bit of a misogynist yourself. That aside, Mailer really used to tick me off in my younger days. But I admire his writing – some of it, anyway – and however I feel personally about him or his activities, I acknowledge that American literature is richer for his many contributions. (And I know you’ll probably say he redeemed himself for his flower-power sympathies by growing more conservative in his later years.)

The point I guess I am trying to make, in my own rambling way, is that we can find something to admire in the work and words of people whose viewpoints we don’t completely agree with – Buddhists and atheists and hip-hop artists and skeptics and, yes, even new-agers. Or at least we can err on the side of silence when “agreeing to disagree” becomes too disagreeable for one or more parties. Fact is, no one here or anywhere else is going to be 100% in agreement about everything (duh).

Crack, you have made some good points about many issues. You’re a talented writer and I like your music too, but your anger pervades *everything* you write, and it gets in the way of the message. It’s like food that is over-seasoned. I get that you're angry. I get that you have many reasons to *be* angry. And I’m not even going to try to analyze how much of it is anger and how much of it is depression and how much, if any, of it, is fear. As Steve said, I just don’t know. Humans are complicated creatures. When you say you’re angry, I’ll take you at face value. Just don’t attack my man, okay? Because it really, really ticks me off.

And again, Steve and everyone else, I’m sorry this is so long, but it was just something I wanted to say. BTW…as I was finishing this I noticed Steve’s and Crack’s latest statements… and Crack, thank you for adding some levity to this. But believe me, Ron is WAY over Woodstock.

And now back to our regularly scheduled topic: Paris stinks.

Now, on to better discussions. And a happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Anonymous said...

NOTE: I am submitting this comment on behalf of Cosmic Connie because, for whatever reason, SHAMblog does not seem to be accepting some postings from her. We'll try to get to the bottom of that...and thank you, Connie, for your persistence!--Steve.

COSMIC CONNIE writes:

Hey, Steve and everyone:

As some of you may have seen, I had made a lighthearted comment to this thread about getting back on topic, and the comment is no longer there. I deleted it because it didn't really express what I wanted to say. So that’s the mystery of the "comment deleted by author."

I do want to say a few words – more than a few, actually – and I hope Steve and the rest of you will indulge me a little. I can well understand Anon's weariness with seeing people "rip into each other" here. I’m sure Anon is not the only one who feels this way. At one point the other night, when the duel was escalating, I attempted to submit a remark of my own to address some of these matters. I tried four different times to do so, and my comment kept bouncing back with a "failure to deliver" notice. It might have been my Juno email acting up, or a Blogger glitch. I then tried to submit my comment via private email to you, Steve, but I guess it never reached you because you never acknowledged it. Which is no big loss, but I’m including some of that comment in the present one, and hoping that at least it will get through without a "bounce back."

First of all, Crack, I want to straighten you out on one thing: I've never once heard Ron claim to be a priest or a monk or any other kind of holy man. Nor have I ever seen him make a statement that anger equals fear in all cases. I don’t believe I’ve even seen him make a statement that all of YOUR anger is fear-based. He has said he thinks there’s some fear behind your anger. Maybe so; I don’t know. That’s what he sees when he looks at your story, and in favor of his p.o.v., I think we all betray things about ourselves that we don’t intend to when we write or speak. When *I* look at your story I mostly see a lot of anger, as well as a deep sense of betrayal. And on the surface, anyway, I see a classic case of “collateral damage” caused by the influences of a narcissistic new-age culture. (Steve, I really am trying to keep this about more than just personal conflicts so that it has some relevance to this blog too.)

But I have to agree with Ron that there has to be another side to this story, a side you haven’t told because, perhaps, you can’t. And that, if you’ll pardon me for stating the obvious, is your ex’s side. One statement in one of your previous comments caught my eye. You wrote, "Funny, when Steve posted his horror stories, which included a lot of sneers toward New Age, I didn't hear you pipe up with 'get rid of your anger'. No, you reserve it for me, and those other Hip-Hop guys that Connie said you keep a close eye on."

First of all, I am truly puzzled by what you mean when you claim that I said Ron "keeps a close eye on Hip-Hop guys." Where did I say that? Either you misunderstood me or I had my head way up my… Either explanation is possible! But the more important point is that Ron (and Steve too, for that matter) have acknowledged that there are two or more sides to every story, including the horror stories that Steve chose to publish on his blog. And that is basically what Ron has said about your own story. No matter how despicably your ex may have treated you, she has a point of view too – reasons for doing the things she did – and that hasn’t fully been told on your blog. Again, I wouldn't expect you to tell that story, but that doesn't make it an unimportant one.

It's my understanding that one of the reasons Steve chose to discontinue his own series of horror stories is that he was aware there were other folks’ points of view that hadn’t been fully explored. At any rate, if Ron has seemed more sympathetic to Steve and to the people he wrote about in his short-lived "collateral damage" series than to you, it’s because none of those folks have ripped into him and called him an evil moron every time he opens his mouth.

There is a fine line between "walking like a man"/standing up for your beliefs and chest-beating, and it does seem, Crack, that you have a tendency to cross that line at times. Sometimes I almost think you’re being facetious, and I want to say, "Hey, good one!" But mostly it seems you’re being serious. Ron’s willingness to "agree to disagree" might make him less than a "man" by your definition, but I do know this about the man I live with: he would fight to the death to defend anyone he loves who was in danger. I have no doubt that he would die for a cause he truly believed in as well. But he’s simply not willing to go to war with everyone who disagrees with him, though he does love a good argument, I’ll grant you that.

You do seem to have it out for Buddhists, which is probably a big reason that Ron gets you going. Interestingly enough, Leonard Cohen, whom both you and I have quoted on our blogs re "the flabby liars of the Aquarian Age" (ref. your Sept. 24 post), has been a Buddhist for many years, and in the 1990s he spent five years in seclusion in the Mount Baldy Zen Centre. He was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk in the late 1990s.

Although I’m an inveterate Cohen quoter, over the years I’ve found myself being p.o.’d by some of the things he has said about manhood and the emasculation of our culture (some of it almost sounded like some of the things you say, CMC). To be more specific, those things teed me off back in my feminist days; now, however I see his point to a certain extent, though I still don’t completely agree with it. I think there needs to be a balance between the feminine and the masculine (yeah, I know, easier said than done).

We’ve discussed this matter on Steve’s blog before, and I’ve acknowledged and agreed with both you and Steve that even though in many ways it’s still a “man’s world,” nonetheless there are double standards in our society that are favorable to women, and our culture belittles maleness in ways both subtle and blatant. Moreover, women get away with many things that men can’t – ranging from putdowns of men to committing violent crimes against them. The word "misandry" is a good word – and is not all that commonly known, though just about everyone knows what "misogyny" means. So I’ll grant that Cohen, and Steve, and you, too, Crack, have valid points. Regarding Cohen, my disagreements with some of his philosophy aside, I’ve long admired his work, even that which is tinged with darkness and a hint of misogyny. (Or maybe it’s not really misogyny; perhaps it would be more accurately described as an (understandable) ambivalence about love and commitment.)

And take the late Norman Mailer, a man's man if there ever was one (and apparently another one of your heroes, Crack). Mailer famously participated in protests against the war in Vietnam, and back in the day, he was sometimes described as the only person over forty trusted by the flower-power crowd. It seems to me, Crack, that you would have found that aspect of Mailer’s history distasteful, as contemptuous as you are of the legacy of the 1960s, and as much as you seem to think that any antiwar activity is unmanly. Yet you didn’t mention this in your brief tribute to him, though you did mention the fact that he stabbed his ex-wife; as you put it on your blog, "I don't know what to make of him stabbing his wife, except to say, ‘Wives are tough’." That put chills down my spine, and it’s that kind of remark that might lead some people to think you are a bit of a misogynist yourself. That aside, Mailer really used to tick me off in my younger days. But I admire his writing – some of it, anyway – and however I feel personally about him or his activities, I acknowledge that American literature is richer for his many contributions. (And I know you’ll probably say he redeemed himself for his flower-power sympathies by growing more conservative in his later years.)

The point I guess I am trying to make, in my own rambling way, is that we can find something to admire in the work and words of people whose viewpoints we don’t completely agree with – Buddhists and atheists and hip-hop artists and skeptics and, yes, even new-agers. Or at least we can err on the side of silence when "agreeing to disagree" becomes too disagreeable for one or more parties. Fact is, no one here or anywhere else is going to be 100% in agreement about everything (duh).

Crack, you have made some good points about many issues. You’re a talented writer and I like your music too, but your anger pervades *everything* you write, and it gets in the way of the message. It’s like food that is over-seasoned. I get that you're angry. I get that you have many reasons to *be* angry. And I’m not even going to try to analyze how much of it is anger and how much of it is depression and how much, if any, of it, is fear. As Steve said, I just don’t know. Humans are complicated creatures. When you say you’re angry, I’ll take you at face value. Just don’t attack my man, okay? Because it really, really ticks me off.

And again, Steve and everyone else, I’m sorry this is so long, but it was just something I wanted to say. BTW…as I was finishing this I noticed Steve’s and Crack’s latest statements… and Crack, thank you for adding some levity to this. But believe me, Ron is WAY over Woodstock.

And now back to our regularly scheduled topic: Paris stinks.

Now, on to better discussions. And a happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Steve Salerno said...

Let me say at the outset that I am not "siding with" Connie here. I simply want to affirm--as a matter of journalistic accuracy--that she is correct in her inferences about why I suspended my series of "self-help horror stories." I had realized all along that there was risk in presenting only one side of these stories, which is why I reserved the right to do independent investigation before posting any stories submitted (and there were several dozen submitted, by the end; they continued to drift in even after I canceled the series). Though I felt that I did my due diligence for the two stories I actually posted, certain facts pertaining to one of the stories came to light afterwards that made me understand fully the basic unfairness (and the legal exposure) in pursuing this course on my own--which is to say, without a major publisher or corporate entity to "backstop" me. The simple fact is, in our litigious culture, you can't go around blithely calling people murderers or thieves unless you've done your homework, and at least given them a chance to speak in their own defense. "Merely" labeling someone an adulterer can have serious repercussions (for the person you defame, as well as for you, as the defamer). This is especially true when you're bringing into public focus areas of people's lives that had previously been private and undisclosed. The Supreme Court has held on multiple occasions that the public is not entitled to know everything about everybody. (That is the very basis of privacy rights, or at least it was, until YouTube and cell-phone cameras came along...)

Even leaving the law out of it, it's simply irresponsible to make such accusations unless you've really, really researched the matter, which I couldn't possibly have time to do on a non-income-generating property like a blog.

Finally, in simplified form, the law holds that the person who publishes a false and/or malicious statement is equally liable with the person actually making the malicious statement. That means that if somebody, for argument's sake, calls someone a pedophile, and I allow the comment through, and the person who was labeled hears about it and decides to sue, I bear joint culpability with the person who made the comment. Maybe some of you feel I'm taking this a bit too seriously "for a blog," but I'm kind of old-school in that area too; and that's part of the reason why I read comments carefully and try to weed out the truly over-the-top name-calling and the allegations of specific criminal behavior.

RevRon's Rants said...

For reasons I've already made clear, Steve, I'll pass on the "last word."

"hope for better on subsequent posts."

Applying the Law of Attraction to blogging? :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Hey, let's face it, Connie's as good a "surrogate last-worder" as there probably is in all of blogging, Ron.

Have a great holiday. Wish I knew somebody who was making turducken. After all the buzz this year (John Madden/Frank TV etc.), a regular ol' turkey sounds almost boring...

Cosmic Connie said...

Hey Steve, I really wasn't trying to be a surrogate for Ron; he can speak for himself pretty well, as he's demonstrated here time and time again. I just wanted to say my piece. In any case, I think Ron is going to be devoting his energies elsewhere for a while.

Steve Salerno said...

Touchy, touchy, everybody's so touchy.

Ah well. Happy Turkey day to all, nonetheless.

Mary Anne said...

Connie opened this up a bit and I have always wanted to comment on it. In regards to the “two sides” to every story, I wanted to share my thoughts on this in regards to marriage. I have read a few posts that allude to marriages gone bust due to self-help and a horror story that Steve posted about this. In MY experience and observations, people break up marriages and not outside influences. Marriages are like see saws and invariably one person wants to get off while one person wants to stay on. See saws do not work with one person though. It is easier to blame self-help, another person, religion, career, or whatever, instead of facing the fact the other party did not want to be there anymore or may have never really been there from the beginning. Most people are not even honest with themselves about this. If a person is REALLY honest with him or herself, the signs of a divorce are there and usually from the beginning for most. A marriage is the ultimate gamble and the losses can be great, but most do not want to take the responsibility of the gamble. I have seen A LOT of marriages go bust and I have been fortunate to see great ones too. I have also witnessed marriages that are travesties of what most believe marriage should be. I was never surprised by the ones who divorced, but in the end they were better off. I would rather be divorced than live with someone who does not love or respect me yet many people do. Whenever I hear the following,” we were happy until he(she) came along” or “we were happy until he (she) found God” or “we were happy until he(she) found self-help,” I know that person is lying to him or herself. If a person is truly satisfied, that person would not go looking for something or someone to “fix” him or her. Now I am not saying that a person would not want to grow, learn, or expand, but that person would not want to find a way to escape. Maybe I am na├»ve, but if a person is truly happy with a marriage, that spouse is the one the person would turn to when in need. If the marriage is not a safe place to land, than what is the marriage to begin with?

The Crack Emcee said...

I WON! (Kidding. I haven't visited because I was busy and thought this thread was closed:)

Mary Anne,

I agree.

I've never said my wife and I wouldn't have eventually broke up, except for Self-Help/New Age, or that we shouldn't have (Time teaches a lot) but that it was such an insideous, and harmful, element in our lives that it's corrosive effect couldn't be ignored - especially when I consider arguments about things like whether she could walk through walls and such. (I would've thought, with any normal person, a simple demonstration would've sufficed to end that New Age nonsense, but not with the hippie culture we have, today, suggesting we must be "open-minded" about any possibility, and proof is on the skeptical, not the idiotic. BTW, my wife did say it was because I was "holding her back spirituality" as the reason for our separation - I filed for divorce - not because I had done something to her, as some have suggested I may have,...) It's been a negative phenomena, in my marriage, in so many ways. Especially because I didn't understand it's scope and dynamics then.

As for me, and my "toxic" or "poison" delivery, I make no apologies. I'll partially paraphrase on a recent NYT article:

Knowing something, generally, about how cruel and thoughtless people are is a good thing for getting through life and developing compassion. Finding it out, intimately and/or all at once, leaves nothing but poison.

And, I'd say, discovering it's influence is, to various degrees, wide-spread makes it worse. I see rev's "shades of grey" but without using it as an indiscriminate cover for the obvious black and white in New Age.

Happy Thanksgiving, Yall.