Cookin'......Dawg   Monday, June 26, 2006

Welcome to Here and Now number I.v. ( I am posting early this week as I am going out ot town for a couple of days looking for pictures>)

A movie I liked

We went to see the Al Gore movie on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, this week. If you have not seen it, I recommend it to you. I did not learn anything I did not already know, but everything was presented so well, including some pretty scary examples, that I know it now at a level I did not before.

And, of course, there is Al Gore. I voted for Gore for president the first time in the Texas presidential primary in 1988 and voted for him again in the election in 2000. It is almost painful to consider how much different and better off our country would be today if we could have had an honest election in 2000.

A book I'm thinking about liking (maybe)

I am just starting a book, Credo by William Sloan Coffin. It is a collection of mostly aphorisms from his previous writings and may be the last thing from him before his death earlier this year.

I did not give much attention to Coffin in my (and his) younger years, when, as chaplain at Yale, he became known for his antiwar and civil rights activities. I was not as sure at the time of what to do about the VietNam war as was he and most of my cohort, or as I eventually came to be in the end. On civil rights I pretty much discounted him as another white, liberal yankee, much better at finding racism a thousand miles away in some dark corner of the South than in his own back yard. I was much more influenced by people like Harry Golden, a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine who moved from New York City in 1941 to Charlotte, North Carolina to start his newspaper, The Carolina Israelite. From the beginning his little newspaper was a champion of civil rights, anti-segregation, anti-Jim Crowism and anti-klan in the very bowels of the beast of all the things he spoke against. He learned about segregation and racism from the burning crosses and the bricks that were periodically throw through his windows.

I got a better understanding of how that could happen as I grew older and came to realize that I had grown up in a segregated society and never recognized it for what it was. Like in the North, segregation and racism was a fact of life and tradition, but not of law. In South Texas, there were not any signs at restaurants that said "No Mexicans Allowed" (though such signs were not uncommon in the Texas Panhandle) so it never occurred to me that my friend Carlos and his mom and dad were not eating at our favorite family restaurant because they were not welcome. I guess I just figured they didn't like roast beef and mashed potatoes. Even as I was arguing civil rights with my old-time redneck relatives, I still did not fully get it.

It was not until I was on a bus trip through the deep south in 1967, on my way to Charleston to fly out for my first overseas military assignment, that the veil begin to lift. This was after the Civil Rights Act had passed, including the public accommodations provisions, but at every bus station where we stopped you could still see the separate waiting rooms for blacks and whites and the separate restrooms and water fountains. Though all the markings of segregation and all the legal force of segregation were gone, blacks were still using the black facilities and whites, the white.

Evil, it was finally clear to me, doesn't need the protection of law, it just needs an opportunity to become habitual. In the realm of segregation, once people, both blacks and whites, learned their "place," whether under law or under social expectation, it took a while to unlearn it.

People just do not see what they do not see. In the 1960's that was as true for a South Texas redneck like me as it was for Yankee liberals.

But, that's all digression. If I like the book, I will talk about it later.

This is not a joke

But it is a Bukowski poem that breaks me up.

it's never been so good

it isn't mentioned
too often
but in the old West
many men were simply shot in
the back

this matter of bravely facing
each other
in the street
and drawing their guns

the best shooter was
the one who
pulled his gun and
fired first
while the other was
having a drink
or eating
or playing cards
or bedded down with
a lady

"dead men don't talk,"
they used to say

in the new West
things haven't changed
at all

just the weaponry:
now they can get in 17 or 18
shots to the back
quicker than you can say

Not a rant, though it may seem like one

A controversy came up (well, actually, I brought it up) on an online poetry workshop where I have been posting my new stuff for critique and revision. It involved a poem (not one of mine) that was pulled from one forum and reposted to another "adults only" forum.

I objected.

The workshop has several forums. The principle one (the one I usually posted on is supposed to be "PG-13." I knew that, but it never really struck me as meaningful. Then, there is the "adults only" forum. The rule is that any poem considered unsuitable for anyone 13 years old or younger should be posted on the password protected forum for adults only.

My side of the controversy (and that was pretty much only me) saw three problems with this.

First, we have reached the point where labeling anything as just for adults immediately means, to many people, that it is "dirty." That was confirmed by one of the workshop members who said that she never went to the adult forum because she didn't want to see that kind of stuff.

Second, I disapprove of the idea that we need to put rubber bumpers around the world and everything real in it to protect children from seeing something that might make them grow up too soon, most likely as some kind of pervert. When I was a kid, it was the children who were made to leave the room, not the grown-ups, when the adults wanted to talk about something they did not want the kids to hear.

Finally, I was very disappointed that I seemed to be the only member of the workshop to see anything wrong with this arrangement and the self-censorship that would inevitably arise from it. Although they never used these exact words, member after member made clear that they would happily curtail their own freedom in order to limit the possibility that they might be offended by the free expression of someone else.

If creative people will not value and speak up for creative expression, who will. The answer to that is easy, no one.

It is a terrible thing for all of us when, in this world where freedom is always feeble and under threat, poets and novelists and film makers and artists of all stripes begin to hedge their bets, censoring what they do as they do it in order to be safely within the bounds of whatever acceptability is currently being enforced.

All good art is revolutionary because it helps people see and understand reality. The first requirement of tyranny, whether a dictatorship of one or a dictatorship of the majority, is to control what people see and the first way to do that is to control art.

That is why it is important to never give in, because freedom is always lost incrementally and every increment of control given up makes the next incremental loss more likely.

I suppose this qualifies as my rant of the week, but I don't feel rantish, just saddened that a place I enjoyed is no longer available to me. My poems are just poems. Some are better than others and some are plain lousy, but in terms of intent, they are all equal in my eyes. I cannot post them somewhere where I have to consign some to an adults only ghetto.

some people
think they have a right
to serenity
and I don't get that
because serenity
is not something
we get
but something
we make for ourselves

is a product
of the way we live
within self;
it is not the clamor
that destroys serenity
but the untamed storms

so it is that some people
think they have a right
to live without offense
and I don't get that either
so much of what I see
in this world
offends me
it seems an abiding
fixture of life

offense, like serenity,
it is not something someone
does to us,
it is something we
allow ourselves
to feel in response
to a world
different from the world
we prefer

the way to avoid offense
is not to deny this
offending world
but to seek out the good,
knowing always
that it will be rare
and never found
unless we welcome
the possibility of offense
and accept the offending
for what they are,
necessary to the search,
but irrelevant to the
and serenity
we must craft for

New gallery up

I put a new gallery of photos up on the 7beats photo page last weekend. Trying something different this time, playing with colors, looking for a little bit of psychedelic effect. Do not know how well that works, but they're colorful for sure. To take a look, click the 7beats thingamajig top right, then go to the photo page.

Hasta la pasta

Well, enough of myself, it's time to mosey on down the trail...

see you on the other side.

(Jeez, what a downer this one was.)

first photo by Chris Itz
remaining photos by Allen Itz


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