Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ali, The Man, The Moves, The Mouth, DVD

When I was a young fellow and got my first transistor radio, anybody with a set who was my age in the NY Metro area (and many who were older) listened to WABC-AM. It had lots of transmission clout so that even a cheap transistor radio in a valley like where we lived could pick up the signal clearly. And of course the station played top-20 hits then, over and over and over. But every half-hour there was five minutes of news and, in the late afternoon, there were other things, like Howard Cosell's sports show.

Back then Cassius Clay was making his first bid for the Heavyweight Championship and Cosell covered Clay's outspoken/poetic persona heavily during his show. I was fascinated with the attitude of the man, and how he expressed it. Of course I was one of many who began following the fighter, his pronouncements, his incredible moves, his conversion to Islam and renaming as Mohammad Ali, his stand against racism and the Vietnam War, imprisonment, release and his miraculous regaining of the championship title again and again before finally going down to defeat.

Ali was larger than life and a huge part of American culture. As a boomer I experienced Ali first-hand. Watching the clips of his fights now reaffirms that he was an amazing boxer, probably the greatest in modern times. We may never see his likes again.

All this is portrayed rather well in the 60 minute documentary DVD Ali: The Man, The Moves, The Mouth (MVD Visual 5396D). It has extensive documentary footage of his press conferences, interviews, fight highlights and a reasonably inclusive narrative spoken by Bert Sugar. Since I get DVDs for review I was sent this one and I am glad to have watched it. It recaptures a time from the vantage point of an important figure and does it informatively and entertainingly.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When There's Nobody There to Talk to You

I once had a friend who one night told me she watched TV sometimes at night "because there was nobody to talk to and it was a voice." This was before i phones, the internet, cyberspace, video conferencing and all the things we have now.

And now we have all these things, so now we should never feel lonely, right? I don't know about you, but it seems to me there are less real voices in one's life than ever, so that that feeling if anything has increased, to my way of thinking. And this cyberspace with all its social media and endless variations on simulated sociality, to tell you the truth, sometimes seems a lot worse than the reality of being truly alone like in the days when there were four walls and either there were people or there weren't and that was it. Or some toothpaste jingle on the radio or TV to console you. There never was an illusion that it was going to work. A Saturday night spent alone was just that and no bones about it.

But of course the new generations coming up are so used to the virtual that they sometimes seem like face-to-face seems unreal to them. At least that's the impression I got sometimes when I was selling musical instruments and met up with a younger person.

So what does it all mean? We are as a society a conglomeration of people who are more and more isolated in a group sense, are less likely to congregate in groups than ever before, am I right? It's even seen, after 9-11, as a danger. Get a group together--well, you sure better search them, just in case.

I don't like the way things feel anymore, that lack of togetherness. I can measure the lack, at least in my life, and I find it unpleasant. But then I like people, generally speaking. And I have also spent an awful lot of time in the last few years in front of a computer as an occupation.

Have you noticed this sort of thing? Or is it just my life that has changed?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sensory-Motor, Sensory-Overload

First day of summer here and suddenly it's beastly hot. Spent several hours and a half-tank of gas trying to find a rendezvous point in glorious Paramus, New Jersey. I then realized that without a cell phone these days if you are lost in Paramus, you are stuck. No pay phones anywhere and if you ask somebody for a street address, nobody knows it because most of Paramus is one big mall and they would know, presumably, if I asked where K-Mart was, but not the whereabouts of a building that was not devoted strictly to shopping. I finally gave up and went home. It wasn't much fun in any event because it was around 100 degrees. We all have our lives. This is mine.

And here we are, a bunch of human machines designed in terms of evolution to do things we no longer do, or no longer have the need to do. Like rip big chunks of semi-raw meat apart with our incisors (unless one frequents Outback Steakhouses), or the flight-or-fight thing, which ends up turning into lying in bed at night worrying about money. Money doesn't attack, so there's nothing to fly or fight about. Yet many of us in hard times have involuntary caveman panics about things we do not control by a physical act. Money worries are like that.

Another thing. We do find ourselves with various messages on electronic media that we need to respond to and the communication thing is one of those human propensities we've developed, that is the use of language in speech and writing. And yet when we watch television or roll around the internet we get half-messages all the time, things we cannot respond to. So we end up mumbling something to ourselves often enough. A real-time response to a real person might change the outcome of the message's effect on you. Yet it isn't possible to respond that way.What we haven't quite learned as humans is how to ignore these messages, I mean completely, and I am not sure we always should, but certainly in more cases now than ever before, perhaps, we most definitely should. Like say you've seen the ad for funeral insurance on TV 100 times. You aren't going to get it, let's say, for whatever reason. Yet you keep getting the message over and over.

You need to be able to ignore the message completely. But you don't. You can't, quite. At least I can't. I may think I am. Then the next day a phrase from the ad pops into my head. Part of me was still listening. Or, as another example, a side effect for a drug you will never take for whatever reason, heard over and over again in an endlessly repeating TV ad. Do you need that rattling around in your head? No. It's not healthy, even, because it's very morbid information of no use to you and psychologically it casts gloom in your life.

When I was an adolescent the Surgeon General released the famous report that cigarette smoking was dangerous to your health, etc. I remember a father saying to us teen punks, "I don't understand why you still smoke when we now know it kills you. WE didn't know that when we were your age." Well, yeah, but WE were exposed to 100,000 cigarette ads on TV and those messages were lodged firmly in our heads. No excuses here, people should not smoke, but not-forgetting is a factor we need to keep in mind. Brainwashing is real and it goes on all the time electronically, like it or not. It starts out one assumes as the goal of creating desire, for the product, for the show, for the news, but it turns into something else sooner or later, wittingly or unwittingly.

And it's ironic that we have to thank Ronald Reagan, the man who was developing Alzheimer's in the White House, for all the pharma ads and their side effects. What he could not help forgetting we cannot seem to forget.

The human evolutionary cycle has not yet developed the capacity to wipe selectively parts of our mental hard drives. . . to forget, selectively, voluntarily, purposively and permanently things that are not only unnecessary but even harmful to know at some point in our lives.

Well. I'll be a monkey's uncle.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Here We Stand, Here We Sit

It's been a while so I thought I'd check in. How are you all? Good? All three of you? Or four? The internet is a place where you could be writing for four people, or four thousand, and yet the writing is the same labor.

There aren't any limitations on size, large or small, and yet you just never know. It's a humbling experience, after writing articles that I know were at least in the hands of 500,000 people, 500,000 copies printed and distributed, all with gigantic effort and paying jobs for many people. What I write here keeps in part some guy who sees to the server on Blogspot with a job. I am glad of that. And I appreciate what she or he is doing, wherever he or she may be. . . Singapore? The West Coast? India?

It's all so abstract, though, isn't it? Who is doing what, where, when, who is reading what, where, when, who is alive and awake in the world at any particular moment?

The definition of common terms have changed with the abstractions of virtuality, too. "Friends," for example, used to be face-to-face folks you knew, had a beer with, talked about things one-on-one, who knew your history and vice-versa. Today it can be very different that way. I read somewhere of a kid on Facebook who had thousands of friends (on Facebook) yet in the "real" world had almost none. That I guess is sad. But no different than the age-old thing called the pen pal? Those women authors like Emily D, writing for an unspecified group of somebodies. Probably not that different in terms of how it felt, but in the romanticization of hindsight, it all sounds so IMPORTANT. What's important now? Right now? Nothing much. And who is pretending? Not me. To pretend, you need to get a running dialog of horseshoot going in your head and that is stultifying, in the end. Who needs stultification? If somebody reads me, I am happy for that. And that is that. Has to be.

As the beer jingle went, "Here's to good friends, tonight is kind of special, the beer you drink, must be something more somehow...." Let it be virtual. Besides, I don't drink beer anymore. My system doesn't tolerate that amount of carbs anymore. Eh. "Ufa," as my Italian translating friend and workmate used to say.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On (Not) Seeing a Robin on (Not) the First Day of Spring

We now live in a world where there is so much information available to us we can scarcely keep abreast. There once was a time when you read about 50 classic books and the daily paper and you were set. And "set" meant you could build some kind of edifice on this common stock of knowledge, a life, a position in relationship to what was considered the "it" of eternity. Of course if that position was too different from the acceptable orthodox position you could be burned at the stake. So it wasn't some sort of utopia. But whatever you did there was a kind of set game that you could master, however you might.

Today that world has disappeared. It's hard to get anyone to agree on what 50 books you might need to know to master the world of ideas today. And some don't believe you should read very much at all. Those are our modern barbarian kith and kin. On the other hand there are hundreds of thousands of books you could read, many more the number of articles and essays on the net, in the libraries, periodicals, everywhere. Then there are the e-mails, the social media, texting, the endless cell phone messages. To keep on top of it all one multitasks like a madman. I do.

And yet one has to stop sometimes and wonder, if we ever did catch up, where would we be? Where are we right now, humanity? And why are we here? I don't have a set answer for that.

And here on a lovely day in early spring I look out my office window and see continuity. The seasons whirl, the greening of branches, the songs of the birds, along with the grind of the garbage trucks compacting the "recycling" and the sounds of planes overhead, and traffic from a fairly close highway system.

The doorbell may be on the way out (cell phone users call you to say "I am here outside your door!") but the spring sunlight isn't.

We live. We can't catch up. There's no longer any need for it. Because "ahead" doesn't mean much. So we should take a moment. And stop.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Prosperity is A Corner Soda Fountain Tumbling Down, Gone: Boomer Poem 2012A

Thugs with chug-a-mugs give me the bugs.
Don't drink scudsuds from All so what the. . .
ugh-ugh, shrug, no. Hey, Jughead? Jug?
What you script has rug-weaver?
Pharma-grey suiticals, trim cuticals.
Organ-ization Mang.
It's been dug but now I'm just a useless slug.
Some might say.
They crapped out, ba-bloom, they out.
Three strikes unlucky.
Diabetes defeaties my wheaties, me tweeties.
Kaleidoscopic misanthropic, so time to drop-kick.
Uber under weather, beather to cease, Jeese.
Cheese. Rotten damn-ed cheese.
Your reward for making a good salary.
A good job with the intercom and a big-assed secretary
and the lips red, guy next door Fred wants it too,
It's been used
and never been choos'd
For purposes porpoises would say, "thanks but no."
United we fly, not unzipped,
divided we seem a little dry, not wet bar, nurse,
bring em here, or hear sea shanty, and a curse.
No, it ain't peculiar.
It's what we nose, smell, see, hear,
cents at a time, into the bubblegum machine slot.
What goes? Recedes, flower petals falling,
seeds hitting the travel mode in the gusty wind. . .
Univox, univox, mox, eee, they stole all the clocks, Jaques.
So here it sit stubborn mule-ier.
And so then on to some Tuesday.
To try and be unrul-ier.
Or remember something, some time, place, universe, graced
with better leather to roll out the weather
without the letterman's itchy sweater.
Football goodbye, pink-bellies, futures.
Slabs of raisin cookies
with little red ants crawling lengthwise.
Go! Off with you. Off with the past.
Off with the pints, the quartz, topaz,
Godzilla meat-o beat-o Mothra with clam sauce!
Change your clothespins or remove them
and proceed onto the street, naked.
That is all. Over.
All over.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Wall Bangers, or What Comes After

It is important to believe when you are young that, ultimately, the world is an open system. And so you decide "what you want to do when you grow up." Then you go ahead, in this vision, and do it. As you grow older you see that the system is more closed than open, and you spend the rest of your productive time trying to tear down the walls and beat open the doors to get where you want to go. Then at last, in old age, you are exhausted and you slump down against the wall, humming a little song to yourself, and wonder what it would have been like on the other side. At long last, you stop caring about the wall, the door, and what lies beyond. You forget little things that used to seem important at first, then more and more as time goes by. You start looking up to the sky, and think of soaring away from the whole thing.

Then... well, I honestly don't know WHAT is after, but those people go. And we who still beat against the door think about them and feel a little chill, an emptiness, as we remember them doing what they did in ordinary life. What IS the point of the way they made scrambled eggs, with a little flick of the wrist, now that they are gone from us? Or that they laughed when they watched the Johnny Carson show, their roared guffaws echoing upstairs as you lay in bed.

What? And we think about OUR eventual slumping down and the little song we'll hum.


We need to capture that song. And make it louder so we door beaters can hear it now. And learn from it.