Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The best years of our lives?*

I'd meant to get to this sooner and I apologize if it seems a bit out of date (in more ways than one, perhaps).

At one point during the holidays, my older son and I got to talking about how improbable and contrived so many of today's movies are. We laughed about the absurd premises and plot-lines of films like The Game—which got my son's nomination for the most contrived film ever made—and, more recently, National Treasure. (I haven't seen the sequel, but the trailers suggest it's every bit as ludicrous as the original, if not more so.)

After Gary took his family home, I came down here** to work for a while. As many of you know by now, I usually have something on in the background as "white noise." Sick of the standard holiday reruns on the major channels as well as Lifetime ("Television for women...and Steve"), and unable to summon up much enthusiasm for staring at the Yule Log for the next hour or so, I began absently watching this old movie on Turner Classics. It was something from the late '40s, and the name escapes me now...but talk about improbable! Get a load of these plot elements:

The husband didn't cheat on his stay-at-home wife. At no point in the film was there even a suggestion that he was tempted.

The wife didn't seem to think the epitome of wifely purpose was to keep up a running sarcastic commentary on the husband's behavior that—while at times oblique—nonetheless communicated her passive-aggressive contempt.

There were hints that the two of them had been each other's first loves. Thus, presumably, both were virgins when they married.

The children all came home to holiday dinner. The older ones that brought boyfriends/girlfriends did not sleep in the same room with them. The unmarried people did not have children. Girls dating boys did not crawl out of bed after a multi-hour sexual romp, meet their girlfriends for lunch and say things like, "I think it might be getting serious between me and Josh..."

The kids didn't text-message their friends during family dinner hour.

There actually was a family dinner hour.

There wasn't a single appointment made for the younger female children to get their Gardasil shots.

The male children somehow got through their entire school day without shooting anyone. None of them was diagnosed with ADD. There were no metal detectors at school entrances.

When Mom and Dad encountered a problem, individually or together, neither felt the need to browse the self-help racks to get in touch with any inner children or find some artificial mechanism that might make them feel "empowered." They felt that way already, and just did what needed doing.

No one fretted constantly about the status of his/her happiness or the progress of his/her self-actualization.

No one cursed at anyone's parents or kids. In fact, no one cursed.

Nobody so much as mentioned Prozac, Paxil or Xanax.

None of the kids was in daycare.

All of the family members went to church. Together.

...I could go on and on, but really, can you imagine? I mean, have you ever heard anything so ridiculous...?

* This is, of course, an allusion to the title of a movie from the post-war period (the war being World War II).
** "here" being my basement office.


Steve Salerno said...

By the way--I hope it's understood that when I write posts such as this one, I am not implying that I myself live up to these standards or observe this way of living in general. It's just a social observation, and in some cases, a form of judgment that I am passing on myself, as much as on anyone.

RevRon's Rants said...

When I was a kid, we were taught that our parents had a right to beat us, that in a discussion between an adult and a child, and the child's job was to listen, unless asked a question. Quite a few of our sisters were molested, but knew in their hearts that it was their fault, so they kept their mouths shut.

And those colored folks who lived on Riceville Road knew better than to invade the white folks' sanctuary, just as us white kids knew not to go to "that" part of town, because we'd end up getting killed or hooked on drugs.

If you were a queer, it meant that you deserved to get rolled. And the guys who did the rolling were just "being boys."

I can remember a newspaper headline, expressing outrage at someone actually having written a letter to the editor with the title, "I don't like Ike." Apparently, the author had the nerve to object to Ike having exercised America's God-given right to overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran, replacing the leader with someone who thought like we did.

To repeat a quote from a favorite movie (Sabrina), "Illusions are dangerous. They have no flaws." While there are certainly some things I'd like to see maintained, I'd never want to go back, given the frequently-forgotten details of life in a past generation.

Steve Salerno said...

All good points, Ron. Bear in mind, I was not--in posting this--expressing some latent longing for "the good old days." I was simply pointing out how different a world we live in now. In that respect, there is better, and there is worse (assuming, of course, there's any validity to our criteria in making those judgments).

a/good/lysstener said...

Mark this day down, I agree with Rev Ron! Steve, despite your disclaimer are you saying you basically like your women barefoot and pregnant?

Steve Salerno said...

Well, at the very least you should also give me credit for "liking my men" unarmed and undrugged....

I refer you back to what I said up at the very top of the column here, and in response to the Rev. I'm mostly just making a comment on the rather striking changes in mores, as expressed in cinema, over the past generation or so. I'm also mindful of the film, "Splendor in the Grass"--I think I've blogged about this?--where a young woman, played by Natalie Wood, essentially goes insane as a result of losing her virginity, becoming "one of those kinds of girls," and her consequent inability to cope with it all. For better or worse, that film, and the world-view it represents, would be laughed out of movie theaters nowadays. No?

Mary Anne said...

Why is this an either or debate? Why can't we take something positive from the past without it becoming a debate about "how we've progressed."

I agree that the past had problems that were not addressed, but it had Cary Grant too. Gosh, what I wouldn't do to meet a gentleman like that!

What happened to manners and gracious living? I am a big fan of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. The had such class! They did not have perfect lives, but something of the ones they had. I deeply admire them.

I believe we can take the best from the past and incorporate it into our present day lives and is that so bad?

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - I didn't think for a moment that you were pining away for "the good old days." However, I felt that some who were less familiar with your mindset might read your post and get that very impression, as Alyssa's response would tend to indicate.

Even worse, I felt that some might actually use your observations as support for their own quest to revert to the way things were, while overlooking the ugliness that dwelt at the hidden core of that supposedly Utopian era. I shudder at the notion of the reemergence of that most profound of "don't ask, don't tell" mentalities.

Even with the preponderance of absurdities we face today - along with their potential for harm - at the very least, we are able to consider, talk about, and even address the darker side of the society in which we live nowadays. In that openness lies at least the hope that we may improve, rather than risk being smacked into silent acquiescence. To seek balance in our lives, rather than cynically accept that which causes us pain and keeps us ignorant.

Besides... I need validation for "living in sin" with my sweetie! :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

BTW - I've been "armed" virtually all my life, and for a time, was drugged, as well. Does this mean we can't be friends any more? :-(

Cosmic Connie said...

Ron wrote:
"Apparently, the author had the nerve to object to Ike having exercised America's God-given right to overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran, replacing the leader with someone who thought like we did."

Well, at least that's one thing that hasn't changed, at least in some circles where it's considered unpatriotic or even treasonous to question the actions of the president.

I like to think there's some kind of law of compensation in all of this, in the sense that Emerson may have meant it when he wrote, "For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else." As a culture, we lost our innocence long ago, but I would like to think we've gained something more than a lot of cool new technology in the process.

But then I look at phenomena such as "The Secret" and, for that matter, the Spears sisters, and I wonder what exactly we've gained. Even so, I wouldn't want us to go back to that era Ron describes.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, it may surprise you to know that two of my proudest possessions at one time (or actually at two different times) were a .458 Winchester and a Sako .30-06. I used to love taking the .458 to the range, if only b/c of the looks on the faces of the other shooters as I'd put it through its paces. What a weapon! An acquaintance of mine at the time had a .460 Weatherby; beautiful, beautiful gun. We were into serious big-game firepower, though the closest any of us ever got to actual big game were the malfeasant gulls at Coney Island.

In fact--in the category of "not that you asked, but"--I sold the Sako to buy the IBM Selectric that got me started on this whimsical path of utter self-indulgence known as writing...

Mary Anne said...

Maybe it's just me, but with the primaries happening and all this talk of wanting change, I am seeing a theme going on here. How we handle change seems to be it.

What so many fail to realize is change is scary and unknown. Yes, it might be better, but it could be worse. The past is known and comforting in some ways.

The past was by no means perfect, but it did have some level of civility and a respect for knowledge that I see lacking in today's social climate. I think our pasts can help our futures. All this talk of the Clinton years made me think of Al Gore.

I admire and respect Al Gore more now than I did in 2000. He was defeated and he went on to probably do more as a non-president than he could have as a president. I think history will be kinder to Al Gore than George W. Bush. He took a defeat and created something. I find that very admirable, whether or not one agrees with him. He is not hanging out in circa 1992 or 2000.

I look at someone like Hillary Clinton and I feel as though I am in a time machine of the '90s. If she chucks her husband's team, she is considered disloyal. If she keeps them, she is stuck in a rerun no matter what she may say.

I think the great story of the election of 2008 is how more people are voting. Voting has been down in record numbers in the last thirty years. That move to vote is actually a reflection of the past and maybe the best part of our nation.

RevRon's Rants said...

Maryanne - Sounds like illusion fusion to me. The "best" of the past carried with it the "worst," about as separable as the two sides of a coin. Perhaps we can strive to develop the best, even as we attempt to put the worst aside.

And Steve - When SHAM sells its first million, you probably need to go out & buy yourself a Barret. Lacks the grace of a Sako Finnbear or a .458 double, but really pegs the macho-meter! :-)

Me, I'll stick with my .30-30, .357, and a few assorted rimfires. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Yes, Mary Anne, to which I would add my own paraphrase of something (the oft-reviled) Bill Bennett said the night of the Iowa caucuses: We live in a time, right now, when people in Kenya are rampaging through cities and villages, hacking off each other's heads, and people in Pakistan are rioting in the streets in protest against their incumbent government--which, some say, was responsible for the murder of the opposition candidate. Amid that backdrop, we continue to pursue our primary process in an orderly fashion. There are many things wrong with America (and here I paraphrase Churchill), but probably fewer things than are wrong with government almost anywhere else.

Steve Salerno said...

Actually, Ron, I always wanted to get myself a Casull .454. I probably wouldn't be able to hit anything that was standing beyond arm's length, but it sure would be fun to try to tame the recoil!

Mary Anne said...

Rev said,
"Maryanne - Sounds like illusion fusion to me. The "best" of the past carried with it the "worst," about as separable as the two sides of a coin. Perhaps we can strive to develop the best, even as we attempt to put the worst aside."

I don't understand this comment, because it basically sounds like you are agreeing with me.

I don't see the worst/best as two sides of the same coin. I look at the Civil Rights Marches of the 50s and 60s for this. How can one be civil if one does not recognize another's humanity?

One of my greatest heros was a black man who served in WWII in Europe. I met him when I was 24 and he would tell me war stories, because I am a WW II buff. I was outraged for him. I asked, "how could you serve a country that treated you so terribly?" He answered, "because it was the right thing to do. You gotta do the right thing no matter what." I was humbled by him. He was pre-civil rights, but he knew what was happening in Europe was wrong and even though his country had its problems, he still did not let that justify his actions. HE is what I am talking about the BEST of the past.

RevRon's Rants said...

My son had one, and it wasn't that bad. I carried a Super Blackhawk for years, and loved it. Great for getting the devils out... just fill a gallon jug with water, freeze, step back about 50 yards, and let loose. Shoulda kept it!

RevRon's Rants said...

maryanne - The civility of the 50s was possible only because of the attitude of acquiescence and the near-universal insistence upon conformity. With the freedom to express came the freedom to express negative emotions. Perhaps the progression from that civility to the current environment would be easier to grasp if you picture it as a pendulum swing, rather than as an either/or situation.

As the pendulum swung toward more unrestricted expression, it was only natural that the negative ideas and emotions would be expressed, as well as the more constructive. The same phenomenon occurs in politics (which is nothing but a microcosm of society as a whole) and personal relationships. What was once considered acceptable methods of disciplining children has come to be viewed as abuse. And the kids have jumped n the bandwagon, frequently charging even "normal" parents with abusing them.

Hopefully, the arc of the pendulum swings will diminish, so that the rancor, partisanship, and "abuses" with which we are so frequently faced today will eventually disappear. It's that "balance" I keep referring to, which is the ultimate goal we seek.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, I think you overstate here. I don't think you can ascribe all of the civility of the 1950s to "acquiescence and the near-universal insistence upon conformity." Was it mere acquiescence, as you put it, that made unthinkable, then, so many of the offenses and outrages that are prevalent today? Is it really "acquiescing," in the sense I think you intend it, to refrain from cursing at authority figures or bringing guns to school for the purpose of annihilating one's classmates? Is it just a sense of "conformity" that provides people with an inner moral clock that tells them they shouldn't bring babies into the world without benefit of marriage? (For that matter, if you have an incident of road rage, even today, wherein you're tempted to simply shoot the other guy in the head--but something inside you stops you--are you "acquiescing" in that decision? Are you being unfaithful to your true, iconoclastic self? Or are you just being civilized?)

I think you undersell the value of the sincere sense of ethical conduct and common purpose that existed in those days. No, I'm not arguing that the 1940s/1950s were Utopia by any means--and I say that for all the reasons you have so eloquently stated. But let's give credit where credit is due, maybe.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I think that the inner moral clock you describe has been intact all along - and remains so - but so has been the inner "beast" that gives rise to the uncivility and road rage. Nowadays, by being more accepting of the full spectrum of emotions, we are more tolerant of behaviors which would once make us shudder. As those long-repressed negative emotions are allowed freer rein, they tend to be manifest, perhaps even magnified beyond the level they would normally achieve.

Thus, my hope is that once the "novelty" of vitriol begins to wear off, we'll see it less often... the pendulum swings ever closer to the center.

In truth, much of the abrasive conduct we see so publicly nowadays was around back in the "good old days;" it was merely confined to a narrower stage. We could rail against the atrocities of the segregationists, and release some of our own hostilities in the process of condemnation.

And as we experienced in our own adolescence, fistfights were a common occurrence among boys, and even the occasional knife fight would break out. At least in my own case, guns were always available, but we never considered using them on one another. But with the rise in acceptable expressions of anger, what once would have ended in a bloody nose now escalates into a deadly confrontation.

I hope - and believe - that this tendency will ultimately reverse as that pendulum swings back toward center, and that rather than suppress our angers until they boil over, we'll learn to address the fear that is typically the true source of those angers.

It's not as cynical an outlook as it might appear on the surface, as I see the behaviors as symptoms of a phenomenon that will eventually pass.

Of course, I could be wrong, but that's my story, and I'm sticking with it. :-)

Mary Anne said...

I don't think you understand what I am saying Rev, but Steve does.

I get the pendulam swing, but what about the four black students who asked politely to be served at the Woolworth's counter in Greensboro, NC in 1960? The Civil Rights movement began without violence, but with the quest that they be recognized. It was a long journey that started by NOT treating their oppressors the way they were treated. A lot like your argument against capital punishment.

I understand that there were horrible social maladies, but they go on now. We have made progress, but we have regressed too.

Let's look at Grace Kelly. I just finished the retrospect on the 25th anniversary of her death. She was an academy award winning actress who left her career at its height. She never made a fuss, but made a CHOICE to get married and have a family. She CHOSE to leave Hollywood behind. If she did that today, she would be called anti-feminist and other horrible things with a helicopter watching her. From all I have read, she never regretted her choices. She took RESPONSIBILTY for them. Who does that today?

This is 2008, but as a 37 year old woman, I am required to have it all and a nanny too. I just finished a book about how I should keep my career skills, because it is likely I will face a divorce with children to support. Basically, I cannot trust my husband will support his children with me. Is that progress? I won't even get into the women who use men as sperm donors, which is accepted so easily today.

I am not living in the past or not recognizing its failures, but there are elements from the past I can appreciate.

The Crack Emcee said...

What movie is this? It's awful contrived,...

RevRon's Rants said...

"The Civil Rights movement began without violence, but with the quest that they be recognized."

If that's the point at which you believe the movement started, I can see where you'd get confused. Before the peaceful sit-in, there were uncounted acts of violence, perpetuated by both sides. Describing a single made-for-TV moment as the beginning is akin to declaring that graduation from high school is the birth moment for sentience.

Humans would be hard-pressed to eliminate the destructive aspects of our nature, especially if we fail to acknowledge their existence and influence over us. The ugliness we see in our society now was always there, but manifest in different ways, probably not as well documented as it is now, and certainly not as openly considered or discussed.

We should appreciate our past, but we need to realize that whenever we paint it as being "better," we're merely overlooking the aspects that were "worse."

Anonymous said...

Steve & Revron

I hope you guys can explain to me this love affair you seem to have with guns?

I don't live in the States, I've lived most of my life in Israel and South Africa and if it was up to us we would chuck them all in the sea.

As a vegetarian its hard for me to accept Big Game hunting but I do it graciously because I know hunters pay for the conservation of the species they are shooting and it benefits the rest of the environment.

You guys don't seem like Big Game Hunters to me - so why do you have them in your homes?


RevRon's Rants said...

Londoner -
In my case, guns were part of the culture growing up here in Texas. It was actually pretty unusual to find a boy who didn't have at least a .22 or a shotgun, and activities like bullfrog, dove, squirrel, rabbit, and armadillo hunting were popular pastimes (and a source of variety in the diet). Opening day of deer season was as close to a national holiday as you can get, and it was pretty well accepted that school attendance dropped on the days before & after opening weekend.

When my kids were little, there were times when squirrels, venison, or elk provided meat when we couldn't have otherwise afforded it.

Nowadays, I'll hunt deer or feral hogs, but that's about it. Both species provide excellent meat, and both are experiencing ballooning populations that compromise their health, as well as the well-being of farmers and ranchers in the area.

I can see where the idea of hunting might seem alien to someone who didn't grow up in a culture where it was such a significant element, but the flip side is that hunting was as much a part of my childhood and adolescence as was baseball and television.

Steve Salerno said...

Londoner, you ask a fair question. If you've read my prior items on the subject, you will see that I am no fan of gun ownership, in the overall. I haven't completely made up my mind on the topic, but yes, I think I lean towards agreeing with you about chucking 'em into the sea. The comments made earlier in this thread really reflect my state of mind (or more likely my feelings) at an earlier stage in my life--my 20s and 30s, primarily. And in my defense, I should point out that at the time, I was a white guy working in some very, very bad neighborhoods during a period when white guys working in very bad neighborhoods were at significant peril. We were targets simply because we were white. So I took a gun to work with me (illegally, I might add).


If I'm going to be honest with myself, I can't deny that it went beyond that, for me. By no means is this to be construed as any reflection on Ron, but I think I used to be "into" guns for the macho aspect of it. I felt "cool" and "tough" when I was on the range, blasting away with my shoulder-cannon. (That was a period of my life when I actually looked for fights, too.) In fact, it embarrasses me to say that there were times when I'd simply sit on my couch and fondle the damn thing. No joke. I'd just sit there and enjoy the heft of it in my hands. I won't deny that I still have a visceral stirring of that nature from time to time, but for the most part, nowadays, when I think of guns, I find it hard to separate them in my mind from the blight they've inflicted on urban America.

I suspect you may get a very different (and equally valid) take on this from the Rev. It's a difficult issue, with lots of deeply held feelings. It has been observed that guns are almost something of a race memory for Americans--part of the pioneer ethos--and I'm sure there's something to that.

P.S. Just for the record, I own no guns today.

Your PR Guy said...

Ya, know what's crazy -- our media mirrors our perception of society, on the one hand, and what we hope it would be, on the other. Saddly life is never exactly how Hollywood glams it. That's why movies are entertainment. They have just enough "ah-fantasy" to keep us amused. Could you imagine a movie or sitcom that reflected REAL life? No ratings there.

So while media is a reflection of our society, it's a distorted one at best, but gives us relief from the harsh truth we live everyday.

The question is, did you enjoy watching the movie?

RevRon's Rants said...

To paraphrase a common statement & morph it into yours, "...for the most part, nowadays, when I think of spoons, I find it hard to separate them in my mind from the blight of obesity they've inflicted on urban America."

I never really considered a gun to be a masculinity-enhancing element. If I wanted to feel tough, using a weapon seemed like cheating. When I'd get into fights, I didn't want to short-circuit the experience. Happily, I'm not so prone to fighting anymore, and certainly not as a means to make myself feel better (it doesn't work).

Perhaps there's something to an ingrained pioneer mentality. I know that as a kid, being out in the field hunting just felt natural. I enjoyed competitive target shooting, as well, but that was an entirely different experience.

Beyond other factors, I've always been enamored of things that are expertly crafted, including guns, knives, and fine examples of the woodworking craft. That I ended up becoming a juried furniture maker rather than a gunsmith was probably due to the availability of wood shop in school, where gun smithing wasn't offered (at least, not officially). And I'll admit (sans embarrassment) that I enjoy the heft of my favorite guns & knives.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, well, the "spoons" argument is, of course, a variant of the "guns don't kill people..." bumper sticker, which--if we're going to play word games--could also be applied to nuclear weapons: "Atom bombs don't kill people, people kill people." Should we all own one?

But really, I'm not sure this is the forum for that hoary debate. And I definitely have mixed feelings on the issue, as I've said. I just know that I would like the killings to stop. Particularly the mass killings, which, one must admit, are greatly enabled by the availability of guns. And despite what they say about all kinds of info being available on the Web, let's face it, bomb-making is hard, and messy, and smelly, and often as not the thing'll blow up in your hands before you even get to the mall!

RevRon's Rants said...

I know this isn't a gun control forum, but since you left the door ajar ... :-)

I wasn't aware of any culture where ownership of nuclear weapons is prevalent or historically justified. Apples & oranges...

I want the killing to stop, as well, but stopping law-abiding citizens from owning guns won't move us closer to achieving that goal, since those who are prone to killing aren't particularly impeded from getting whatever weapons they might want. As a matter of fact, states that have implemented concealed carry laws have seen a decrease in violent crimes. An attempt to criminalize gun ownership in this country will only serve to create more criminals and set in motion a sequence of unintended - and highly undesirable - consequences.

Rather, I think we should add individuals diagnosed with severe mental disorders to the NCIC database, and prevent them from legally purchasing firearms, while simultaneously rigidly enforcing the laws covering crimes committed with weapons of any kind, including guns.

As to other kinds of weapons, they're easier to manufacture (and more controllable) than you might think. I project that the greatest danger from terrorists (both politically and/or psychiatrically motivated) will come in the form of easily produced and relatively untraceable explosive or biological devices. Why go to the trouble to make and transport a complex nuclear weapon, made with tightly controlled elements, when you can create weapons-capable botulism from items available in the grocery store?

Steve Salerno said...

Rev, I'm not really worried about some severely depressed high school student brewing a strain of botulin toxin or ebola in his bedroom. The widespread availability of guns has dramatically heightened the potential for violence by putting mass-kill-capability in the hands of just about anybody who's got $50 or $100 to spend. And to argue that it's not the guns, it's the people, is really a moot point in an open society like ours where you're always going to have a fairly large contingent of crazies and misanthropes wandering around. So "it's the people"--so what? If you can't control the people, then you have to ensure that those crazy people can't come into possession of an instrument that allows them to kill easily and in mass numbers. Or so it would seem.

It's like after Virginia Tech, when Geraldo Rivera opined that "if the students themselves were armed, somebody could've plugged the guy." As I said then, oh that's just what we need on college campuses these days, is an army of binge-drinking, short-fused macho teens and early-20-somethings cavorting about with guns...

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I'd be willing to bet that per-capita gun ownership was greater during my childhood than it is today, at least here in Texas. Virtually everyone owned a gun, and many were carried openly in vehicles, yet we didn't have the shootings we have nowadays.

I feel that we'd be better served by a more logical, reasoned response than a primarily visceral one. Automobiles kill far more people than guns, yet are we single-mindedly focused upon eliminating automobile deaths? Not when the primary marketing appeals are to the hunger for performance, speed, and the domination of other drivers. If we were as concerned about reducing deaths as we so loudly proclaim, the vehicles we buy would be drastically different from what they are. Yet we continue producing hot-rods, while bemoaning the existence of guns. Empty posturing prevails.

Anonymous said...

Its a really tough situation and I don't really have any answers but its funny how there is a correlation between the growth of SHAM and the growth of Gun Massacres.

Has there been a book yet?

RevRon's Rants said...

anonymous - There have been a number of books that danced around the subject, and Steve's book points to what I believe to be the core issue: the emergence of a culture of narcissism.

When I was a kid, we had guns, but we also had rules as to their ownership and use. Those rules were enforced by parents, friends' parents, and society in general. As the rules got watered down and parents abdicated their responsibilities of establishing and enforcing them, behaviors that were once unthinkable became commonplace.

I was allowed to own a gun only on the condition that I learn how to respect it and safely use it. I joined a junior rifle club. The rules of common sense, safety, and respect were so thoroughly ingrained that I was allowed to use my guns unsupervised. That was the de-facto standard of the day, and people who broke those rules were the rare exception.

Nowadays, too many "adults" allow kids to do whatever they want, rather than impose limits. Until the pendulum swings back toward the center, the resulting antisocial behaviors will continue. Attempts to regulate the tools, while ignoring the core issues that gave rise to the behaviors, are doomed to failure, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

One thought to consider regarding that all-important pendulum and it's assumed eventual "swing" back to center:
has anyone ever considered that it might be stuck? Or being tightly held by people who have little desire - or incentive - to act with respect, decorum, modesty or as a result of his or her own moral compass based on universally agreed values? (I know - we can debate what could in fact be termed 'universally agreed values' but let's not.) Why bother? Not when you can gain international acclaim, and lose nothing, by demonstrating the complete opposite!

Steve Salerno said...

I think that's a good point that Anon makes. Where is it written that pendulums (pendulae?) always swing back? Perhaps sometimes they arc out beyond the intended limits of their travel, and simply break....

RevRon's Rants said...

I guess the assessment one makes all comes down to their level of optimism vs. pessimism. I don't believe the pendulum has been stopped or broken. Others may disagree. Half empty or half full? Candy mint or breath mint? Fudgy frosting or floor wax? :-)

Not much clear evidence either way.

Mary Anne said...

Rev said,
"When I was a kid, we had guns, but we also had rules as to their ownership and use. Those rules were enforced by parents, friends' parents, and society in general. As the rules got watered down and parents abdicated their responsibilities of establishing and enforcing them, behaviors that were once unthinkable became commonplace."

So Rev you do understand what I am saying about the past.

Mary Anne said...

Having lived in L.A. during the riots of 1992, I think that people think violence is the answer. If the Civil Rights were done today, they would involve guns and not communication.

Mary Anne said...

Rev said
"If that's the point at which you believe the movement started, I can see where you'd get confused. Before the peaceful sit-in, there were uncounted acts of violence, perpetuated by both sides. Describing a single made-for-TV moment as the beginning is akin to declaring that graduation from high school is the birth moment for sentience. "

I do not believe that at ALL about the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement is still going on and began really before slavery.

What I admire about those sit-ins and marches, were the approaches to the violence. They did not shoot anyone, but chose civil ways to deal with their oppression and shamed their oppressors in the process.

Being from the entertainment business, I can't even watch movies or TV anymore. I know too much and unless it is a cartoon, I drive my companions bonkers with pointing out the defects in the script, lighting, sound, and continuity. I know all too well the differnce between fantasy and reality.

RevRon's Rants said...

Maryanne - I understood you pretty much all along... just didn't necessarily agree with all you said.

Before the "Civil Rights Movement" was a headline or a news program talking point, it was also handled far too frequently with guns, nooses, and baseball bats, used by both sides. Before it was a "movement," it was a culture war. The big difference nowadays is visibility and instant access to news of events.

Mary Anne said...

Rev said,
"Maryanne - I understood you pretty much all along... just didn't necessarily agree with all you said."

Well, your posts and assumptions about my thoughts say otherwise.

It's "Mary Anne" two names.

Anonymous said...

Having written about one movie, you could have pointed Londoner to a movie that would have explained The Gun Thing: A Christmas Story ("You'll shoot your eye out!")

>>>Could you imagine a movie or sitcom that reflected REAL life?

Yes, wasn't that starring Roseanne/ Roseanne Arnold/ Roseanne Barr? Wasn't it in the Top Ten? (Hmmm... where is she these days? Imaginary question.)

I really, really hate those footnotes where you explain something that should be a common cultural currency, like that movie title. Subtitles For Eejits.

Mary Anne said...

I have a funny yet scary gun story. I was working in a older woman's house/office and found her gun in the office drawer. I did not know it was a real gun, because I had never seen one "in the flesh" so to speak. It was VERY small and cute. I thought it was a lighter and nearly blew my face off. She calmly came into the office and said, "oh that's not a toy. That's a real gun."

RevRon's Rants said...

mary anne (with 2 names) - Guess there's something of a chasm between what I say and what you perceive. Cest le Vie. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Apropos of changing mores, I thought I'd mention that an article in my local paper today talks about a family that has achieved a rare coup: six generations of family members alive at the same time. The story softpedals the fact that this achievement was possible only because the girls in the family--going back generations--have had their first babies at 15 and 16. And true to form, the new mother who gave birth to the sixth generation is just a teenager herself, and lives with her boyfriend. Overall, in the piece, there is little mention of husbands and fathers.

Is this really something we want to celebrate? Is it judgmental of me to even ask such questions?

You tell me.

Steve Salerno said...

Not sure that link works.
Try this

Mary Anne said...

Steve, I could say so much about this six generation article.

The "grandmother" is younger than me! Why didn't the 19 year old marry the father first? Why did the 16 and 15 year old "mothers" get pregnant at such young ages and where are the fathers? Why did this family see the need to perpetuate this cycle?

I got to tell you that I have a real problem with this type of "family" dynamic. I think it does a diservice to men and women. Why is this type of behavior now the acceptable norm?

I understand that birth control fails and mistakes happen, but why is this celebrated?

Did you catch the part about not taking medication, but the 19 year old had a Caesarian-section? Don't let me get started about how those are passed out like Pez to women now.

Steve Salerno said...

Before I posted this article, I had a conversation with an acquaintance of mine who happens to be African-American (and self-identifies as such; I make that point b/c regular readers know that I'm not a big fan of racial divisions), and he was sensitive to the subject and rather cool to my "tone." He's a highly educated member of the publishing establishment, but nonetheless, he seemed to feel that I am treading on a "cultural thing" here, in the same way that some folks--notably Whoopie Goldberg--attacked the criticism of Michael Vick by saying that in "urban circles, dog-fighting is just part of the culture."

You know, sometimes it's hard to know how to respond to this. Is that a legitimate objection? ("It's part of the culture.") Or should the appropriate response be, "Well, then change the culture!"?

Mary Anne said...

Steve said.
"You know, sometimes it's hard to know how to respond to this. Is that a legitimate objection? ('It's part of the culture.') Or should the appropriate response be, 'Well, then change the culture!'?"

I do not care WHAT culture it is. That is an excuse and sounds like Brit Brit's excuse for holding Sean Preston in her lap while driving, "we're country." What does that have to do with irresponsible behavior?

I am going to put myself in this as an example. I am illegitimate and my mother rationalized her desire for another child this way: It was "her" prerogative to have another child and she did not want the headaches she had with her son's father. Let's just say her "plan" did not do me any favors.

My mother thought she was being the height of sophistication to have a child on "her terms." Those "terms" caused A LOT of heartache.

I would NEVER do that to another human being.

RevRon's Rants said...

mary anne (with 2 names) - Guess there's something of a chasm between what I say and what you perceive. Cest le Vie. :-)

The Crack Emcee said...

Mary Anne,

First, let me say I thought my previous post appeared at an unfortunate time because I wasn't commenting on your post (in fact I'd agree with most of what you're saying on this thread) but how the comments weren't about the topic, of entertainment content, at all. It's no big deal but I've been charged with "hi-jacking" too often not to mention it.

Second, as a black person, all this talk of the Civil Rights Movement makes me ill. From the first black forced off the boat to Barak Obama, the drive has always been for blacks to just be Americans, but I don't see how that's ever gonna happen as long as so many people - almost always black and white - insist on staring into the rear-view mirror of history to see where blacks are going (and, by extension, America). As Christopher Hitchens recently wrote:

"The time is pretty much past, in our country, when a Polish-American would not vote for a candidate with a German name or when Sharks and Jets were at daggers drawn, but this is all because,...people agreed to forget a lot of things as well as to remember a number of things. So, which are we doing presently?"

I hate everyone pretty much evenly so, personally, my thinking has been able to evolve to the point where I can easily dislike bleeding-heart liberals for many things they consider advances, and even find things to appreciate in old-school racists, like the idea that, if so many whites hadn't fought so hard to preserve certain aspects of America for themselves, those same things wouldn't be worth dick now that I have access to them. That's MKL's "dream" in a nutshell.

Much has changed - and many things happened, good and bad, at the same time - so a big part of why I can love this country so much is because it gave me enough education to know it's history really well - blemishes and all. So much that I feel no compulsion to, actively, try to be constantly holding it's feet to the fire, like so many others do today: For that I'm (mostly) grateful, while wondering what all the fighting's about, except for a general kind of stupidity.

Let me give you an idea of how much of a mindf*ck it all is to me:

I drive a van for a homeless shelter, run by liberal whites, and I pick up all kinds of society's human debris. One of my regular pick-ups is 69 yr. old bible-clutching black woman with lung cancer. (None of them knows I'm an atheist but, BTW, one of my supervisors is an aspiring monk "with a past" who takes meds for unnamed "mental problems").

One rainy day, before the old woman could get in the van, a female black thug buffaloed her way past the old woman and jumped in the passenger seat next to me, where the old woman usually sits (the old woman and I chat each day and she prefers my conservatism to the views of the "progressives" in the program - e.g. I obviously respect my elders, etc.). When the thug plopped herself down next to me, I instinctively said "Hey! What are you doing?" and grabbed her by the arm, pointing out that I'd seen her push the old woman aside. The thug gave me lip, made threats, etc., before getting in a back seat and letting the old woman take her usual place. The thug vowed, from then on, to "get me".

Well, the thug did her job well: She went to my liberal white bosses and claimed I'd "assaulted" her. They, in turn, immediately wrote up a report - without asking me for any clarification - and launched an "investigation", telling me I'm suspended from driving until this "incident" is cleared up. (I'm a man and she's a woman: Simple, right?) So what have we got?

A hard-working black atheist conservative, facing a witch hunt from "spiritual" white liberal progressives, because I stood up to a relativist black female thug for a sick, elderly, Harriet Tubman-looking bible thumper.

Yes, indeedy, I love my life.

I tell you, there's something very peculiar going on because, if you want to talk about right and wrong - and the historical effects of race talk in America - as far as I'm concerned, it's liberals who can't "move on" enough to clearly see what role they play in the damage that's being caused today.

I hope that all makes sense. (I'm not sure as I read it back.) BTW, what's the definition of "e.g."? I know how to use it, I think, but what do the letters actually mean?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I just KNOW you're hoping to hit 50 comments here, so I'll oblige you with #48, and bring a little biology to bear on the 15- and 16-year-old parents. We may have to go back a ways, but humans evolved to have babies in their teens--healthy babies, easy births, ready conception--not in their 30s and 40s (and 50s) as seems more and more common now. I think the rise in infertility and children with ADHD, Asperger's, autism, and etc. tells its own tale of biological woe, and reflects on our latter-day view that "kids are kids" until they're 40 and shouldn't be expected to assume a serious responsibility like parenthood until early middle age. Of course, back in the day, those teenage parents had extended families and communities to help them raise their kids and assume their responsibilites. As (ahem) someone once said, it takes a village. But that is another matter...

The Crack Emcee said...


He, and Whoopie, are liberals. (The Americans who believe they need that hyphen.) American conservatism don't play that.

Anyway, I stand by my last comment, in light of your new one.

Mary Anne said...

Rev said,
"mary anne (with 2 names) - Guess there's something of a chasm between what I say and what you perceive. Cest le Vie. :-)"

No Rev, I just am able to read and comprehend.

Steve Salerno said...

May I jump in here a moment, before anything else is said?

See, I hope I don't sound pedantic or (worse) patronizing, but if you look at the last group of comments, and are at all sensitive to the "trend-line," you can clearly see the evolution of an ad hominem dispute. And I just don't see why it's necessary. I honestly don't. There is a legitimate dialogue to be had here, focusing solely on the ideologies, which lord knows are rich enough and complex enough in their own right. Why do we have to make the debate about the debaters?

I hope that people will read this comment in the spirit in which I offer it, and not be offended. I don't want to alienate people. I guess I'm just trying to serve the function of a moderator, as best I know how.

Mary Anne said...

Anon said
"I think the rise in infertility and children with ADHD, Asperger's, autism, and etc. tells its own tale of biological woe, and reflects on our latter-day view that "kids are kids" until they're 40 and shouldn't be expected to assume a serious responsibility like parenthood until early middle age. Of course, back in the day, those teenage parents had extended families and communities to help them raise their kids and assume their responsibilites. As (ahem) someone once said, it takes a village. But that is another matter..."

This is a great post and it highlights something I have noticed. We now have nannies raising our children and put our elders in homes. It use to be the elders helped raise the next generation.

As for biology, if you want to see a great sales pitch, go to a reproductive clinic. That is a THRIVING industry. Women's fertility peaks at 27, not 35 as previously thought. Again, back to my point about making responsible choices with one's life. One can have it all, but can one do it all at the same time?

Mary Anne said...

Steve Said
"See, I hope I don't sound pedantic or (worse) patronizing, but if you look at the last group of comments, and are at all sensitive to the "trend-line," you can clearly see the evolution of an ad hominem dispute. And I just don't see why it's necessary."

I made the last comment, because I don't like my words or thoughts to be misconstrued. Hey, they are mine.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mary Anne, thanks for the support! In all my time commenting on SHAMblog, I don't think anyone ever even acknowledged my comments, and I appreciate it! As for shoving our elders into nursing homes rather than appreciating their wisdom and asking for such help as they can give us, connecting them to their grandkids (and great-grandkids) and making them feel useful, valued, and loved, I can only offer this cautionary tale: A Chinese farmer was toiling in his small fields and feeling very put upon as he labored dawn to dusk to support his family and his elderly father, who spent his days sitting on the porch and basking in the sun rather than contributing to the household's bottom line. Finally, after a particularly frustrating day, the farmer had had enough. He built a large wooden box, wheeled it up to the house, and demanded that his father climb in it and lie down. The father dutifully obeyed, and his son wheeled the box to a cliffside, intending to throw his father over--one less mouth to feed. But before the son could pitch the box over the cliff, he heard his father tapping on the lid. "What is it, father?" he asked. "Son, why don't you toss me ove rthe cliff and keep the box?" his father asked. "Why should I do that?" the son wondered. "Why, because your own children will need it one day," the father replied. I often wonder what today's parents are thinking as they shove their parents into "homes." what sort of message are they sending their kids about the disposability of elders?! ah, for shame.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, just let me say that, if your comments have been anywhere near this interesting and well-put, then I am stunned that you've gone unrecognized/unacknowledged--and I feel particularly remiss, myself, in that failing.

Thank you for hanging in there and for continuing to give us the benefit of your thoughts.

Mary Anne said...

Anon asked
"I often wonder what today's parents are thinking as they shove their parents into 'homes.' what sort of message are they sending their kids about the disposability of elders?! ah, for shame."

I agree and worry about this myself. I sometimes wonder if that is our problem with over emphasizing youth. Do we value experience and wisdom anymore? Centurians are one of the fastest growing populations and we all will get old. Youth is fleeting.

As for being acknowledged, sometimes is not all its cracked up to be:)

RevRon's Rants said...

Consider this, anonymous... those kids who are being taught the scant value of their elders will one day select the nursing home for mom & dad. Talk about getting the last word in! :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

Help! Help! I'm being patronized!!

Sounds like a line from Monty Python & the Holy Grail. :-)

And I think I'll just leave it at that.

Steve Salerno said...

Re guns and such, I offer this item without further comment. ;)

Keith Throop said...

Actually, that sounds a lot like my home. My oldest is just 17 now, so we haven't yet had any of our children out on their own, but the family atmosphere described in that movie is very much like ours. And we are very happy.

Of course, this is because we share pretty much the same moral standards assumed in such a movie, so it shouldn't be surprising that our experience would be similar, I guess.

At any rate, we certainly do not long for "the good old days" because we are making every effort by God's grace to make these "the best years of our lives."

Learning from the past can be very helpful, but living in the past is always a mistake.

RevRon's Rants said...

keith said, "Learning from the past can be very helpful, but living in the past is always a mistake."

Hear, hear! And longing for that past is an exercise in self-delusion.

Steve - I wonder how many are now clamoring for the elimination of all guns in response to this latest tragedy, rather than recognizing that the man died because he broke a cardinal - and well-known - rule of firearms safety: A gun should only be loaded when you're prepared to shoot it, and must be under the owner's control at all times.

I feel for the man's family, but compassion doesn't negate the fact that he was responsible for what happened. Not the gun, and not the dog.

Cosmic Connie said...

Crack: Your story about the incident on the bus is a good illustration of ways in which race relations are still messed up in this country. Although I'm kind of a "liberal" (more a libertarian) I agree that white liberal guilt has helped keep the problem alive. And speaking of movies, I'm thinking it's time to do a sequel to "Crash" (Oscar winner for Best Picture in 2006). Though many criticized the film for many good reasons, I thought it did a fair job of pointing out some of the complexities of racial issues. (Okay, so the writer and director is a Scientologist, but still...)

As for your question about the meaning of "e.g.": Scanning all of the responses I didn't see evidence of anyone answering this question so I will. First, you are indeed using it correctly. It is the abbreviation for the Latin "exempli gratia," which means, "for example." It is sometimes confused with "i.e.," short for "id est," which means, "That is." My information comes from a 1985 book called, "Amo, Amas, Amat and More: How To Use Latin To Your Own Advantage and to the Astonishment of Others," by Eugene Ehrlich. So far I have not realized any advantages, nor have I astonished others, by my use of Latin, but the book does come in handy at times.:-)

Cosmic Connie said...

I thought long and hard about responding to the comment about "shoving" aging parents in "homes." Sometimes elderly and frail people need far more care than loved ones are capable of giving in their own homes. And sometimes appropriate home health care is beyond their budget. When a parent is too sick for home or even for an assisted-living environment, but not sick enough to be hospitalized, what do you do? It is very often a heartbreaking decision that has nothing to do with not valuing the parent -- quite the contrary. I know from experience.

That said, I do agree that in general our society devalues elders in a way that is shameful. Further, the state of institutionalized elder care in the US is appalling. Even the best facilities require hands-on supervision from family members in order to ensure good care. Again, I have learned this from experience.

It must be noted, however, that at least some members of the current generation of nursing home residents put their own parents in nursing homes, which have, after all, been around in their current form for several generations. And I imagine many of these folks made this decision for their parents for the very same reasons that their children have made the decision for them -- because they loved them dearly, but simply could not care for them.

Cosmic Connie said...

Oops, in my comment about the elderly, I meant to write "shoving elderly parents *into* homes," not "in homes." The latter has connotations I did not intend. :-)

Also, in my previous comment I meant to add that Crack's story about the bus incident illustrated the messed-up nature of gender relations as well as race relations in our society. Sorry... I'm writing in a hurry here.

Steve Salerno said...

Writing in a hurry?

Wait a minute, wait a minute. You mean you don't organize your entire calendar of events around contributing meaningfully to this blog??

RevRon's Rants said...

Yeah, Connie... what he said. Typos are my area of expertise, and if you continue to make typographical missteps, I'm gonna have to complain to the union. :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

I see we're once again being called back to the tired - and inaccurate - practice of blaming those darn liberals for all that's wrong with the country. It was those "liberals" throughout history who were willing to discuss, address, and attempt to right the wrongs that held the races back. Nowadays, the whole liberal mindset is lumped in with the stupid and self-serving actions of a few opportunistic individuals, who frankly are no more liberals than Bush is a conservative.

Perhaps one day, we'll quit twisting the definitions we assign to others (or even ourselves), and a liberal will be recognized as one who seeks improvement via progressive thought and action, and a conservative will be recognized as one who seeks stability through well-established and cautious action. As it stands today, neither definition really applies to the group that so loudly claims it.

Cosmic Connie said...

Agreed, Ron, and once again I was "writing in a hurry" when I seemed to be agreeing with Crack that liberals were to blame for the mess he found himself in. The "white liberal guilt" I mentioned is kind of a shorthand for a certain PC mindset but by no means did I intend it to reflect on liberalism in general.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Boom! contains some scattered autobiographical interjections in which [Tom Brokaw]—objective to a fault—recalls how he felt as anti-war activists shut down campuses and rock stars started throwing around the f-word. In typically measured tones, he suggests they all went too far.
The problem with
Boom! is that it doesn't go far enough,...Brokaw alludes to the failings in his subjects' personal lives, from drugs to infidelity, but he's too cautious to confront these men and women directly, or to bluntly assert that the boomers screwed up a golden opportunity through their own immaturity and lack of impulse control."

- From the A.V. Club's review of Tom Brokaw's new book, Boom!, in The Onion

RevRon's Rants said...

It's just a wonder that the entire generation - screwed up as a few seem to believe it to be - didn't altogether self-destruct.

The generation gave birth to many changes, at a time when change was the last thing a lot of people wanted. Some of those changes were desperately needed, some proved destructive. Pretty much like every generation. The changes were faced with either a sense of exhilaration or deep-rooted fear, depending upon the individual's perspective and ideological bent. And even 40 years later, the responses have changed little, save for the addition of apathy and introspection to the mix.

Whether the boom generation as a whole was (and is) a source of hope, terror, or rage depends more upon the mindset of the observer than upon the overbroad moniker applied to the millions of "baby boomers" that dominate so many discussions nowadays.

I, for one, tend to chuckle at most of the screw-ups, try to fix the ones that affected me, and hang on to the ideals that were so deeply held during the time of our cultural awakening. To blame all our sorrows on a mentality borne four decades ago makes as much sense as putting on a blindfold and whining about the darkness. And every bit as productive.

Anonymous said...

>>>You know, sometimes it's hard to know how to respond to this. Is that a legitimate objection? ("It's part of the culture.") Or should the appropriate response be, "Well, then change the culture!"?

Years ago there was a brouhaha on talk radio about the religion on Santeria which allegedly demands the sacrifice of live chickens.

My stance is: If you want YOUR culture, go back to the country where it is practiced. This is a different country and different culture.

England is filled with stuff like this:


Girl found dead in river sought council refuge, inquest told

A teenage girl whose badly decomposed body was found in a river had fled from an impending arranged marriage in Pakistan, an inquest heard today.

Shafilea Ahmed, 17, alleged that her parents beat and robbed her, and claimed she feared she would never return to Britain if sent abroad.

The youngster was so fearful of her parent's behaviour that she sought her own accommodation from council officials, the hearing was told.

She also claimed that her parents had prevented her from attending college and from working part-time.


I don't give a damn how I sound, but a culture that does *that* sucks. And it doesn't belong as a pseudo-embassy within another country, claiming that under *their* roof different rules or laws apply than that of the host country.

Mary Anne said...

Steve asked,
"Why do we have to make the debate about the debaters?'

I do not know if you will let this post go through and maybe you shouldn't, but I can answer your question.

Because people get competative about posting on your blog. It is a matter of pride. Some commentors want to appear as the smartest in the class. They feel they are diminished if they are not getting attention or the last word or by making another blogger appear less.

I have read a few posts that are just regurgitations of the same posts, but with different words. The funny thing is it shows that previous posts were not read! I just don't read certain bloggers anymore, because of it.

So Steve, your blog has become a competative sport or a pissing contest to answer the question of "why" the debates become about the debaters.

On a side note, some of the posts actually scare me quite a bit. I don't have the luxury of living in PA.

RevRon's Rants said...

mikecane - I have to agree that any "culture" that condones such barbaric acts is pretty sick. Fortunately, *we* live in a culture that places such individuals in a cage with people who share the same "culture."

mary anne - there have been very few "pissing contests" that I've observed on this blog... far less than on many other forums (There have been several I've seen that were populated with folks so overwhelmed by their "issues" that the entire milieu was awash in their toxicity). Disagrement, yes, but for the most part, we can agree to disagree on subjects - even those we feel strongly about and defend vigorously. So long as those "issues" are kept in check, and the exchange of ideas takes precedence over forcing others to agree with an individual's perspective, it stays pretty pleasant.

Mary Anne said...

"Disagrement, yes, but for the most part, we can agree to disagree on subjects - even those we feel strongly about and defend vigorously. So long as those "issues" are kept in check, and the exchange of ideas takes precedence over forcing others to agree with an individual's perspective, it stays pretty pleasant."

That is a pleasant thought, but the reality is I am person. You, like Steve, have the "pleasure" of living in different states than me. It is not too hard to find someone on the web if you REALLY want to. Not EVERYONE sees debates in this way.

RevRon's Rants said...

Are you feeling like you are in some kind of danger as a result of opinions you've expressed on this blog, mary anne? If anyone here has said anything even remotely threatening, I certainly didn't notice it.

Granted, there are some folks who come to blogs just to pick fights, but even that is minimal here. I've only seen one or two, and they are generally exposed pretty quickly.

If that wasn't what you were trying to say in your comment, I'm pretty much at a loss as to what you're getting at.