The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." "...it is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32) akakyakakyevich@gmail.com

Friday, June 22, 2018

South of the Border


I don’t have much to say at the moment, but I thought I’d say it anyway. We are much confused these days between legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants, whom the press often refer to as undocumented workers, and I thought I might be able to do something to explain the difference.  The first category in the previous sentence is an actual category of people living here in this our Great Republic. Those people are individuals who obeyed American immigration law, applied to come to the United States, and jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops the collective Kafkaesque mind of the immigration bureaucracy could devise to come out on the other side with a legal resident card, the legendary Green Card, which I understand is actually a sort of off-peach color these days. They are, by virtue of their obeying the law and acquiring the off-peach green card, allowed to live and work in our country with all the rights and privileges of citizens of the land. The only privilege not extended to these good folks is that of suffrage, the franchise being limited to actual citizens and those who like KFC’s chicken. This is one of the great mysteries of the modern world to me; I cannot eat more than a few pieces of the Colonel’s cuisine without started to belch uncontrollably. I think I am allergic to at least one of the eleven secret spices in the original recipe. 

On the other hand, the category of undocumented immigrant (or worker) is a euphemism and I think I can say without too much controversy that the point of a euphemism is to not call something by its right name because its right name accurately describes the person or thing described and that accurate description is, for one reason or another, uncomfortable or inconvenient or politically incorrect. In this case, the politically incorrect phrase we are looking for is illegal alien. This is a short phrase, but it clearly shows that the person who bears the name is one, currently living and working in the United States of America in violation of the laws governing immigration to the United States of America, and two, a citizen of a country that is not the United States of America.  Hence, illegal alien. That does not seem so hard to figure out, I think, and when I am confused with the concept, a confusion progressives and capitalists alike choose to foster for reasons both political and mercenary, I simply remember that my mother and her brothers and their wives are legal immigrants to the United States and that the guys who are mowing my neighbor’s lawn as I write this probably are not.  Now, I am sure that the guys next door mowing the lawn are nice people who want what’s best for their families, but so were my paternal grandparents and my mom and her brothers and their wives and they didn’t see the need to come into the country illegally. What the guys next door mowing the lawn are, in short, line jumpers, people who make the thousands patiently going through the process feel as though they are idiots for showing up for interviews and filling out questionnaires and doing the right thing when all they have to do is cut out the middleman and get across the border one way or another. So why bother doing the right thing? 

The purpose of immigration law, as I understand it, is to give the federal government a chance to look over the people who want to move here and determine whether those people should move here.  This is not controversial: every country in the world, with the possible exception of Germany these days, does the same thing.  There is no inherent right to enter and reside in the United States, unless, of course, you are an American citizen or a legal resident.  For all others, entry to this country is not a human right, it is not a civil right, it is not a constitutional right, it is not a natural right. Entry to this country is a privilege that the government grants and that the government can withdraw at any time the government feels necessary.  A temporary visa is just that: temporary. You get to come in, maybe study at an overpriced college that will be more than happy to charge you twice what they are charging Americans, or go take a look at the Empire State Building and the Grand Canyon, maybe catch a bus tour of the stars’ homes in Hollywood, or hang out in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras and grab some beads and flash your tits to the crowd down on Bourbon Street. And then you go home. I fail to understand what is so complicated about that, but then, I do not need cheap labor to line my pockets—I can mow my own lawn, thank you very much—nor do I feel the need, in Brecht’s catchy phrase, to dissolve the people and elect another in order to make sure I can win elections.  Asking that people obey the law didn’t used to be a matter of such contention; that it is now tells me that people want the law changed but know that such change is not possible; the people who already live here, you see, get to have a say in such matters, which seems to annoy a great many Masters of the Universe no end.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Anthony Bourdain


I had a dream on Saturday night, yes I did, but first, a little background.  When I am not writing for this blog, which, let’s face it, is most of the time, I am either working diligently in a sideways sort of fashion at the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread or I am going to bars and photographing the musicians playing at those bars.  Saturday was an exceptionally productive night; people were out and about, some of them were drinking heavily, and in the presence of a 1980’s cover band, a good many of them started dancing like there was no tomorrow. I am very partial to this sort of photograph. The trouble with photographing musicians in bars is that there is nothing inherently dramatic about what musicians do up on the stage. It is very much like trying to capture effect without also capturing the cause of the effect. After all, the person looking at the photograph of the musician after the fact cannot hear the music.  So what I do to compensate for this is that I try to capture the looks on the musicians’ faces as they play in order to convey the emotional intensity of people doing something they love. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t—some musicians are extravagant with their expressions, while others just look down at their instruments trying to make sure that they don’t drop notes or play in the wrong key; it is pretty hit or miss, as is almost anything so dependent on a person’s personality— but what does work on a pretty consistent basis are photographs of people dancing. Dancing means the music is hot and people are having a good time, and who doesn’t like seeing people have a good time? I know I do and I suspect you do as well. Anhedonia, like Marxism, cheese and squirrel sandwiches, and the designated hitter rule have no place in any civilized society. 

As I said, it was a productive night photographically and I got home much at a much later hour than a man my age should be getting home at. I was still wound up; watching other people have fun takes a lot out of a person, you know; and so I watched the news for an hour, which, at that time, was all about Anthony Bourdain dying in France. I finally got to bed at about five and promptly skipped all the preliminary stages of sleep and went directly to deep sleep and stayed there for a while, enjoying the ambiance of the place and the free pistachios with a free wine cooler, compliments of the house. Several hours later, I was sitting in my spot at the end of the bar in my favorite watering hole, drinking a Diet Coke and doing what everyone does in such a social setting: I was looking at something on my cellphone. Consequently, I paid no attention to who was coming and going; it’s a bar, after all—someone is always coming and going. A customer came in and sat at the corner and asked Corinne, the pride of Melbin, South Australia, an actual place or so Corinne tells me, for a Corona and a lemon. I looked up to ask Corinne for the bill and stopped. Anthony Bourdain was sitting at the corner of the bar looking at Corinne as she pulled the Corona out of the fridge. As I am never at a loss for words in any situation I said, “You’re dead! What are you doing here?”  Bourdain twisted the top off of the Corona and looked at me. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “Bad decision there. What’s your excuse?”

And then I woke up.  That was three days ago and I am still wondering what my excuse is. I must have one, right?



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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stormy weather, or how things change


I noticed something years ago about the sexual revolution: by the time I arrive to take part in the seminal social conflict of our time, the revolution has packed up and moved on. This happens to me a lot, I fear, and it is tremendously disheartening to be always a bridesmaid and never a bride. So you can imagine the joy I felt when news of the Stormy Daniels affair broke. I was finally going to fight the narrow moralistic bluenoses who couldn’t stand the idea that someone here in America was enjoying a bit of fluff on the side. I mean, really, didn’t we all go through this twenty years ago? Wasn’t there a national uproar about a President lying about extramarital sex?  Didn’t Congress impeach the President and the national life of the country come to a near halt so that we could all learn more than we really needed to know about the President’s sex life and what the meaning of is is? Didn’t anyone learn anything from that experience? 

Apparently not, so this time I was ready for anything the dirty-minded neo-Comstocks had to throw at me. The President’s affair, if you can dignify a one-night stand with the title of affair, was consensual on both sides. President Trump saw a chance to grab some you know what and Ms. Daniels was not averse to having her you know what grabbed, so what’s the harm here?  It was just sex, after all, and sex in private is the business of the people involved and no one else. Yes, it was adultery, and adultery is on the Top Ten list of things that people should not do, in particular a married man whose wife has just given birth—there’s no way the guy in this situation comes off as anything other than a complete and utter sleazeball—but then again, none of us is the Lord and therefore who are we to judge?  Remember that the Bible says that it is better to pull the speck out of a neighbor’s eye than to pull a beam out of the eye of a Camel, especially an unfiltered one, and don’t you forget it, buster. Moreover, we should remember that the President was not the President then and that Ms. Daniels was not some poor naïve teenage girl duped or bullied into dropping her panties in front of a movie camera; she was an experienced performer with a lengthy filmography behind her. So how is this anyone’s business but theirs?  I think it is time we all took a deep breath and just moved on.

Well, I may think it’s time to move on, but it seems that I am the only one who thinks so. I went forth to battle the new Puritans who seek to oppress us all with their retrograde religious morality and found that they agreed with me, for the most part, and that the sexual revolutionaries were the ones foaming at the mouth about what two consenting adults chose to do with their genitalia. I found this more than a little confusing, to say the least, and so I had to sit down and eat Chinese food (the roast pork with broccoli and wonton soup were very good, thank you for asking) in order to relieve the cognitive dissonance and sort out just what in the blue blazes happened here in this our Great Republic while I was not looking.  Someone changed the rule book somewhere along the line and no one bothered to tell me that Comstockery was back in fashion. Well, everything old is new again, as the saying goes, and there is no new thing under the sun, but I cannot help but notice that the new version of Comstockery is remarkably like the old libertinism complete with extra servings of wanton soup, with the singular difference that the new Puritans didn’t mind when a President they liked and supported did this sort of thing while he was actually President and they do mind a great deal when a President they loathe and despise did the exact same thing when he wasn’t President.  Nearly a quarter of a century separate the initial inaugurations of these two men and much can change in a quarter of a century: the Internet barely existed in 1993, film photography was photography, I was forty pounds lighter—really, I am not making that up—and so I am sure that this sudden concern for the private morality of public people is the product of a generation’s coming of age and rejecting the immature ideas and commitments of their salad days. Or the new Puritans could be just a bunch of sleazy hypocrites. That’s always a possibility, you know, especially if you are cynically inclined, as I tend to be.


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Friday, April 13, 2018

Upcoming

Something is coming, folks, I have it written out, but I must type it out first. My apologies for the absence; I had a nasty and persistent case of pneumonia. I'm fine now, but it has been something of a pain trying to catch up with the rest of my life. See you soon!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ecclesiastes tells us everything we need to know about life, except how to cure the common cold



First, I want to make clear that this is not the piece that I promised to post in the previous post; the material is still fighting me and yes, it is getting more than a little annoying at this point, but things are what they are and when the thing finally gels I will put it up here PDQ, as my grandmother used to say, may she rest in peace. No, this thing is just a screed about adult coloring books. Now, you may not believe this—I know I didn’t when I first heard about them—but adult coloring books are a thing nowadays. I have seen them. They exist. They do; I am not kidding. The adult coloring book is not terribly different from the coloring book we all knew and loved when we were all about five years old and going to kindergarten.  The outlines in the book are a bit more complex than the ones we filled in when we were kids; there are no happy little bunnies or cute little kitty kats in the adult coloring books; and instead of using crayons to fill in the blanks one uses colored pencils (isn’t that racist? Shouldn’t it be pencils of color?), which allow, I would imagine, a much finer degree of control over where the color goes than a crayon or a magic marker can. The principle, however, is the same: it is a coloring book.

In related news, and I will tell you how this news is related in just a moment, the Census Bureau announced recently that the Millennials have finally passed in absolute numbers the great bulge in the American demographic python that is the Baby Boom Generation.  In addition, the number of Generation Xers will pass the Boomers sometime in 2028, proving yet again, as if the fact needed proving, what a bunch of slackers the Gen Xers are.  The Boomers will not go quietly—there will be plenty of kicking and screaming; the one thing that the Boomers could always do well is throw a magnificent tantrum—but The Preacher tells us in Ecclesiastes that one generation passeth and another generation cometh, and there will be no exception for the Boomers, no matter how much the spoiled senile delinquents insist on staying.

In short, the Boomers are entering their second childhoods, assuming, of course, that they ever left their first childhoods. With Boomers, this can be hard to tell. One would think that it would be impossible to generalize specific characteristics across an entire generation; some members of the Greatest Generation were not so great, some members of the Silent Generation were not so silent, and not every Millennial is an ill-informed doofus…well, maybe that’s a bad example; but most Boomers (specifically the Boomer I cohort of 1946 to 1955) are self-absorbed, egocentric dolts that never grew up (I blame drugs for this, especially weed). If you are one of these Boomers and you feel that this description does not describe you, that you are a functioning adult that long ago left the 1960’s behind and have moved on into the broad sunlit uplands of adulthood, then I apologize to you for the insulting description and I congratulate you for your acceptance that being a mature human being is not a fate worse than death, but let’s face reality: you’re a freak. 

So, we have adult coloring books and cable channels catering to the Leave it to Beaver nook in every Boomer’s soul and now dating sites on the Internet where the Boomers can go and find other Boomers with whom they can relive the happy years of tuning in, turning on, and dropping out without all the teenaged angst. We must endure commercials for CD collections of the Boomers’ favorite music, followed by equally endless commercials for prescription drugs that promise to keep the Boomers reasonably healthy in their second childhoods. Frankly, it all gets to be a bit much after a while.  Is it too much to ask some people to just grow up already and act their ages?  

Apparently, it is, and I am sure that because it is, somewhere in the deepest recesses of the Census Bureau there is joy abounding and happiness without limit, as the numbers finally show, after more than seventy years, that the most egocentric and annoying of American generations is finally beginning to go away.  I would imagine that the Census Bureau already has several cases of champagne on ice in the basement of its Maryland headquarters, stored there to help their long-overworked staff celebrate the happy day when the last Boomer hops into the celestial VW Bus and heads off towards the empyrean Woodstock with his doobie in hand and Saint Wolfman Jack blasting the Rolling Stones’ Can’t get no satisfaction on the radio.  Then the Census Bureau will party like it’s 2099, or, better yet, like it’s 2199, the latter date guaranteeing that there will be no Boomers left holding out on tropic atolls like stranded Japanese soldiers awaiting the return of the Imperial fleet.  And the girl that Mick is trying to make in Can’t get no satisfaction: she’s probably a grandmother now.  

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

More lies


I am, despite what it looks like, writing something for this blog. The material fought me at first, and frankly, is still resisting a bit, but I think I am within spitting distance of getting this to work. In the meantime, I want to apologize for the delay; it is unconscionable, but I hope to make good on it very shortly. Thank you for your patience. 


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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Death, be not proud...




Carla died ten years ago. The words don't really make any sense, as if the reality they describe was simply too odd to be true, but it is reality, nonetheless. The mind rebels against that reality, the mind rebels at the idea that someone as intensely alive as Carla could be dead at all, much less gone for all this time. Some people are like that. When the war photographer Robert Capa died in Indochina in 1954, his friend Ernest Hemingway wrote that Capa was so much alive that it was a long hard day to think of him as dead. Carla was like that. And now it has been ten years.

I hadn’t realized it was the tenth anniversary until a few days afterwards. Time passes and the slow accumulation of days the one after the other goes by so slowly that we pay no real attention to it.  There is always some new thing we must attend to: we must pay the telephone bill or get the car inspected or buy a gallon of milk because the last gallon is almost gone and there won’t be anything to put on our breakfast cereal tomorrow morning.  We worry about getting to work on time or how to get the kids to football practice or whether we can afford a new roof for the house. We wonder where we’ll go on vacation this year or whether to buy one of those big plasma televisions or how much candy to get for the trick or treaters on Halloween or how long to cook the Thanksgiving turkey or what to get the kids for Christmas, and then, before we know it, the New Year is here. And so it goes, one thing after another, one year after another, until it has been ten years since Carla died.

Time heals all wounds.  This is the comforting nostrum we tell ourselves in the wake of any great loss.  If we wait long enough, we tell ourselves, the pain will go away, and perhaps for people like me, the friends of the family, that is true. Time numbs the loss for us, so that we can go on with our lives, so much so that the tenth anniversary can come and go without our realizing the significance of the date.  Carla’s family does not have that. The suddenness of her death, the tragic loss so someone so young, vibrant, and talented as she was leaves a ragged scar on the souls of those who loved her most, the sharp edges of grief keeping the wound from ever completely healing over. 

I have not been to her grave since the funeral. I suppose it just never occurred to me to go. I am sure that everything is now as it was then: the white Dutch Reformed Church and the old graveyard behind the church, with its old and pitted gravestones marking the passing of the generations, the small flags marking the graves of local boys who died in faraway places like Gettysburg, Omaha Beach, and Khe Sanh, the long valley with its neat white farmhouses stretching away towards the sharp rise of the Shawangunk Mountains, all these things will not have changed.  There will be flowers on her grave, in the plot where her paternal grandparents also rest, and maybe a few stones as well, to show that someone came and stopped for a moment before moving on to the next thing, came and stopped and thought of the beautiful girl in the earth below and paid their respects to her. I think that will be my next thing to do, to cross the river and go and put a stone on her grave, and remember the little girl who used to rescue salamanders from the stream that ran by her house and the young artist with so much promise and the lovely young woman who was almost as tall as I am, almost, and who only grew that tall to make me feel old.

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