Thursday, June 29, 2006

Little Sympathy Here

TO: American society's commonly accepted categories of the victimized: Women...Blacks...Browns...Gays...Single parents...Undocumented aliens, anyone who claims be victmiized and want special treatment: you get no knee-jerk sympathy here. As the Soprano's say: "Fagedda bout it!"

My personal history:

I was born in a charity ward of an inner city hospital. My mother had already signed the release to chop me up and pull me out piece by encephalitic head, five days labor and a narrow birth canal had eroded any love she might have had for me previously. Thanks to a fortuitous visit by a supervising doctor, hey got me out instead at the last minute with forceps. I spend the first three months of life tied up vertically in a bed to help the water disappear.

My father was an immigrant; a Muslim. He spoke with an accent to his dying day. He also drank and gambled. He never got past the 4th grade in his native Turkey. My mother ran away from reform school at fifteen in Minnesota, never graduated high school.

As a child, (one of) my brother's and my household duties was emptying the mouse- and rat-traps every morning before going to school. We would wrap the little overnight-caught dead rodents in yesterday's newspapers and deposit them in the backyard garbage can, set the traps again and head off to school. After school, before going to bed, if and when it rained, we had to set out dozens of pots and pans in every room to catch the water that flowed all night through the cracks in the roof.

My father and mother split up when I was twelve. My mother immediately went to work in a sweat-shop factory working for minimum wage. That was her daytime job. At night, after coming home to make us dinner; then she went and worked from seven to ten PM in a local Bar and Grill...making sandwiches, soup, snacks, etc. for tips.

She also made money every week by running our home as a rooming house; 6 roomers in the upstairs of the house, besides my mother, brother, sister and me; that made ten of us to share one bathroom.

My job twice a week was to clean all the the rooms in the house and 'make the beds' (change the sheets and pillow cases). Also, we had a 'bookie'--Charlie 'Shots'--working out of our our kitchen. He and I shared the kitchen when I came home from school for lunch. I ate a baloney sandwich and a bowl of Campbell's soup, he was on the phone writing on small slips of paper, notating 'who-wanted-to-bet-how-much-on-what-horse-in-what- race-at-what-racetrack'.

At fifteen during a visit to my father he got angry at me and told me my brother was my half-brother. I hadn't known it before. I hadn't even known my father had been married before. (To read what my mother said about when I came home crying after discovering my true relationship with my brother from my angry father, SEE BELOW).

I had no best friend as a kid.
I didn't have a date until I was eighteen. I didn't get laid until I was twenty.
I have had purple-welt acne on my face all through my teenager years--no money for a teen-age dermatologist; so I had acne scars all my adult life. I also had no funds for a dentist--either in my teens and twenties (during which time I was financially on my own); hence, when the pain got too bad I plugged up the holes in my teeth cavities with aspirin before going to sleep--and, by the way, the holes in my shoes with cardboard).

I found out I had leukemia when I was forty. I also discovered a clotting condition that led me to experience a pulmonary embolism, and infarcted bowel (I almost died from that--I was three days in a coma, eleven days in intensive care).

Later I had quintuple heart by-pass, and surgery for cataract and glaucoma because I threw a blood clot to the main vein in my right eye.

That is my 'tale of woe'. However, because of and maybe in spite of all that, and while I may have some vague theoretical sympathy for 'woe-is-me' women, blacks, brown, etc., I have no time or energy to weep for them: I am too busy 'dealing' with the day to day visisitudes of my own life, and being happy, being grateful for all the wonderful things (many, many, many, many) that au contraire have happened in my life (which I won't list because people generally don't want to read about happy things).

AN ADDED THOUGHT: Among all 'victimized' groups in America, Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants don't complain much; yet they seem to be doing socio-economically and educationally better than all other "victimizing" (and for that matter, 'victimizer') groups. Think there is any correlation there?

NOTE: When I came home from visiting my father, blubbering from the revelation about my half-brother, my mother asked me what happened, I told her, she said: "Sit down." I did. "Have you always loved him?" I nodded. "Has he always loved you?" I nodded. "Has he always been kind, loving and generous with you?" I nodded. "Then stop crying. He's your brother. Shut up and go out to play." And he has remained my unqualified brother since that day and every day of my life. False tears of shattered love had been banished forever.

Which reminds me what my father said to me one time when I told him that all my problems in life were because of him. I blamed him for all my life's difficulties: "Because of what you did to me," were my exact words. "Oh?" he said. "Yes," I stated emphatically. He nodded, said "You want to know what my father did to me? And what his father did to him? And his father did to him. Even better, you want to know what you'll probably do to your son? Get a job," he said. "That'll cure all your problems. And walked away.

Sympathy is earned by elegance, and willful perserveance in the face of life's viscissitudes and random fortune; sympathy can never be demanded. So anyone looking for sympathy from me, don't bitch to me; bitch somewhere else; bitch to your own personal 'choir', people who think and complain about everything like you; they're probably the only one's listening to you anyway.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

America: 'Melting Pot or Vegetable Stew'?

The seems to be a great metaphorical argument today: is the US a "melting pot" or a"vegetable stew". Is America a special blending of races, cultures, ethnicities, etc., a melting, as it were, into a single taste; or is it a brew where all social grouping are--and should remain-- individual vegetables within the larger national (somewhat weaker) broth?

Arguments abound on both sides, depending which part of the hyphen we wish to emphasize: Is an African-American more African than American? Are Mexican-Americans more Mexican than American? Does a Mexican-American having more emotional allegiance to Mexico than America (given that he/she has only enough money to buy one flag, which should he/she wave on holidays?) Is American or the other the central noun in the equation, the great eqalizer, the dominant word, or is it a simply the modifier?

Another way to consider it: is America a geographical or economic destination only, or a cultural one? Many recent immigrants, especially those who wish to emphasize the heritage left behind, say they only "came to America for a job". They want a chance to work but still want to retain the strength of their cultural identification. They are "multicultural" Americans: America is the land of economic opportunity, not cultural blending...or even definition. Vive la difference!

I was walking down the 3rd Street promenade (in Santa Monica, CA) the other day pondering this dilemma. The first thing that struck me was the multiversity of body tones, ethnicities, races and cultures. My wife and I were going to a movie, and as I looked around, I said to her: " Whether America is a 'melting pot' or a 'stew', America is amazingly diverse."

African-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Euro-Americans, Micronesian-Americans, German-Americans...The list is endless...We were all shopping, eating, or going to the movies. Everyone was spending money (or truly tempted to). All the stores offered goods "Made in....(Somewhere Else)", but they were being bought and sold American-style: gaudy advertisements, garish storefronts, hot dogs, pizza, Chinese food, Mediterranean food, etc...All with a common denominator of service arrangements, quick service and copious portions. Life was filled with speed, generosity, energy, material abundance, pleasure-seeking and the freedom to pursue all that in their own particular manner. Isn't that America...a "cultural" blending of all the other cultures? Should a river be considered any less of a specific body of water because it is a compilation of the entering individual smaller rivers, streams, and rivulets.

"The business of America is business." Didn't American "culture" provide the legal systems, the psychological support and the wide-open-spaces possibility for all these other cultures to succeed here? Aren't "jobs" themselves a product of American "culture"? Can America success be divorced from the laws and political structure that Americans have voted for for two hundred plus years and maintained with their taxes and occasionally their wars? Can an economy, and economic opportunity be divorced from the concept the "culture" which creates, nurtures and supports it?

By now you can intuit which side of the argument I fall on: America is a melting pot, not a vegetable stew. A _____-American is a transformational, spilling, blending, melding of all other immigrant culture-specifics into the ever-changing, and ever-constant "culture" called American. American culture (including economic dynamism) attracts the "other" and will change and be changed by them. American culture is all too often jingoistic, sometimes dead wrong politically, sometimes anti-intellectual, sometimes highly materialistic, sometimes...But it is America...It is a very fluid "culture". That is one of its main attributes. It has its positive and negative aspects, like any other culture; but American culture is specific. And for proof of its specificity, ask any American hater (or lover) and they will give you a very, very list of very specific adjectives that define America.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The formula for aesthetic greatness is: "Truth x Quality x Quantity x Time"; greatness is that which resonates humankind's truth at the deepest individual level for the greatest number of people for the longest period ot time.


Fundamentalism is a cynical belief that humankind is fundamentally flawed; and redemption can only be achieved with outside intervention: God, Allah, Communism, Fascism, etc. Sad.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Merry-Go-Round

When I was younger, squealing with delight as the merry-go-round went round and round, I rode magical horses and painted chariots to mythical destinations. Later, older, flush with certainly and adventure, I stood at the outer most edges of the same merry-go-rounds reaching for the brass ring. Sometimes I grasped it; sometimes I didn't....but I knew victory was only another turn away. Finally, older, settled now, I accompany my grandchildren as they recapitulate my journey. I watch them as they ride painted horses to magical destinations and reach confidently for brass rings, while I sit quietly on the innermost chair--the circular journey on the merry-go-round much shorter now--and ride contentedly its path to nowhere in particular.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


The window
her time line

Startling. A fragment. Illusion?

She is chimera.

My eyes close.
Were they my eyes?

Mine open.
She appears.
I appear.
She leaves.
I leave.
She re-appears.
I disappear.

The usual.

I wake up.
Outside. Nothing.
Within me HER mist is still there.
Grasping. Screaming. I fall.
The floor is hard.

Days later.
They douse my face with water.
I am still above the bar.

Within the room.

Yet, outside.
Waves crash.
More mist.
Louder still.
Open the window.

Ahhhh! My heart.
She is...almost...touching...feeling...

The locals below.
A puff of smoke. Through the crack.

Years later.
Still smoking.

She was there.
A tinted nail.
Outside; gone.
No mist now.

At the bar, the ocean crashes.
The bartender screams: "Closing time!"
Pretty men. Pretty women.

All is ugly.
She is ugly.
I am ugly.
Phosphorescent lights make life ugly.
Chimera gone.

Outside the bar.
All gone now.
Never was?

Endless sleep.


I awake to the sound of my own hollow laugh.
A fool's errand?
Never to return.
Wolfe said it.

All is mist.
Nothing is mist.

She and I...never return.

All is mist.
She is mist.
I am mist.
Time is mist.
Mist is mist.
Where to go?


Downstairs. At the bar.
I pay.
Never to return.

Upon returning home.
My wife.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ABORTION: "To be or not to be."

Abortion should be legal, but it should only be considered, like war or justifiable homicide, a last resort.

Human life is a precious commodity. John Donne: "Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee." There are those who refer to an unborn child as a fetus, and, moreoever, use the issue of viability as a criteria for the emergence of human life, I ask them: isn't viability too non-definitive a criteria? I have a year old granddaughter. If we left her out of doors without human assistance, would she be viable? Could she maintain herself without adult cooperation?

A "woman's right to choose" is killing another human being. What's wrong with owning up to that. It is a solemn obligation; again, like war, under certain circumstances, it may very well be the best path to follow, the chosen option, but it should always be selected as a sad, weighty form of human decision at best.

Abortion should never be chosen lightly, and never as a form of after-the-fact contraception.
"Oops; I forgot" is the height of irresponsibily, laziness and self-indulgence. Take the pill or put on a condom, for God's sake.

Let us consider the hypothetical situation where an unwanted fetus/child is required by law to be carried to full term and then put up for adoption.

If the child is Euro-American, the chances are that the new born will be scooped up eagerly. No orphanages or foster homes for that child.

If black or Hispanic, the child is less likely to be quickly taken, true. But isn't society capable of taking care of a few more children? Let's say 100,000 children would be born (10% of the million abortions estimated to happen annually) if abortion were more weightily considered, is that so much? Aren't we already legally and socially committed to taking care of the newly born children of teen-age unmarrieds (Aid to Dependent Children), and to the children of illegal immigrants. (of which, given the 12,000,000 total undocumented aliens in the country, at least 20%, 2,400,000, must be children). We provide them with emergency room care and free schooling. Would another 100,000 added to the population rolls break us, detroy our economy?

How else can maintain the responsibility of sexual behavior if we deny its legitimate consequences?

What about a woman's mental state, you might ask; have I considered that? Giving a child up for adoption is a traumatic experience? Yes. Isn't all killing? Like war, any death of another human being should always be terrifying...which is why we shouldn't make it easier by demonizing the enemy by calling it fetus or speaking of mass deaths as collateral damage. A woman and her sexual partner should think of the traumatic consequences of refused parenthood and adoption before they have unprotected sex.

What about rape? What about rape? In a physical attack, I could lose a leg or arm. Is losing a resultant child to adoption a lesser loss or pain than losing an arm or leg? What about incest? The same can be argued for this terrible act. Unwanted physical consequences accrue throughout life...we must bare up up heroically under them. It is the noblest part of being human.

Besides, how many children would be born from incest? Is it worth diminishing the value of all human life because of thinning blood and a few slightly 'off' children may result? Are we talking eugenics here: only there hardy and most competent are allowed to become alive?

I launched launch into this aria/diatribe because of a discussion I read in "The Atlantic Monthly" about the possible requirement of pregnant woman being made to view a sonar of the fetus before deciding to abort. Pro-abortion proponents argue said it would be a great deterrent to abortion. Right! Shouldn't we deter the taking of life, be it fetal or unborn, if at all possible?

Allow abortion; but don't take it lightly. That's all I'm asking. Make it a solemn, well-considered decision, worthy or a prosperous, enlightened and humanistic society.

Wait a minute: I have left men out of the equation! Should they get off scot-free? Of course not. It takes two to tango. A society should fight as valiantly to demand--and receive--their total and unabashed contribution to the birth and mainenance of a child. Consentual sex is a mutual act, an implied contract. Strengthen the laws; throw the recalcitrant (especially the upper-middle class ones!) in jail are. Legally require them with extra-zealous enforcement to be as responsible for their sex acts as women.

But even if men are all bastards, beyond redemption, none willing to assume the burden and obligations to their sex life, should all woman be Medea? Willing to kill her children because she is pissed off at the betrayer Jason? I would rather argue: kill Jason, and "suffer the little children unto me."



“You can’t teach an old dog new trick.” This is not a hard and fast rule; in some cases it’s possible. Seniors who want to change deserve some respect for trying to change, even if they can’t right away. Senior citizen's bigooted attitudes may seem bigoted today, but they are in reality outdated conventional wisdom. After all, had our seniors, as children not adhered to the outmoded ideas of their parents and society, they would have been chastised and punished as disrespectful, rebellious, over worse, weird. So as a sign of appreciation and encouragement to present day seniors to reduce their bigotry, every senior citizen should be allowed at least six bigotry slips-of-the-tongues a year.

At the age of sixty-five, all seniors get a little card, good for the upcoming year—to be punched by the Thought Police, if you will, (with right of appeal to the ACLU). Every time a senior says ‘spic’ or ‘Polak’ or ‘right-to-life’ or ‘blacks naturally jump higher than whites’ or ‘crippled’ or ‘crazy in the head’ or ’women require less sex than men’ (I tried to type in the word ‘nigger’ into my computer, but the red line beneath it kept coming up, telling me that the English language didn’t recognize the word; it suggested I substitute the word “Niger”—but I desisted; it seemed prejudicial to the country of Niger) the offending senior’s ‘Senior’s Bigot Discount’ card would get punched. And no societal, legal, social or psychologicalpunishment will accrue for any senior citizen, until he or she exceeds six hole-punches in the given year.

This idea granting some latitude for bigotry to the elderly would be very au current in our free enterprise/regulatory climate today. The same people who monitor the trading of smog-reduction credits could devise a market for trading bigotry-reduction credits. Exchanging their bigotry credits would give an incentive to seniors to restrict their use of bigoted remarks so they could trade their unused one for eyeglasses, hemorrhoid medicine, viagra or...the possibilities are endless.

Fairness, compassion and tolerance for the aged compels us to understand the difficulties of aged zebras attempting to change their stripes (or is it leopards changing their spots?) Bigotry is an old, learned condition. Seniors want to change. They do. They sincerely desire to change, but the bones are brittle, the flesh is weak, and the muscle…especially the brain… grows excessively inelastic as the years accumulate.

Only six slips a year per senior is not too much to ask, is it? A simple ‘fag’ or ‘pussy’ or ‘Chink’ should not be all that threatening to the rest of us, especially when it is uttered by a little old gray-hair lady, or a doddering old man. Remember the rest of us (PC-ly correct people) are only a few decades away from being senior citizens ourselves. Fifty years or less from now we might need the latitude to be politically incorrect. Imagine in 2056 when George Bush turns out truly to be greater than Lincoln, Asians DO demonstrate scientifically higher IQ’s then blacks and whites, we need our guns to fight the worldwide Muslim revolution and future generations have genetically mutated beyond the possibility of conception and yearn to have children more than anything else in life...and we old-juniors/now-seniors are still defending Al Gore, ethnic equality, gun-banning and abortion-rights. Wouldn’t we want the latitude, as seniors, to slip up once in a while—six times a year--and scream: ‘George Bush is a dummy...he stole the election from Al Gore’ ‘There are no differences between races’, and ‘Guns kill!’, and ‘Roe vs. Wade’ is judicial poetry!’ We wouldn’t want to be severely ostracized for it, would we?

A little permissible bigotry for the aged surely can’t wreck a great country like ours.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Slippery Mind

The bane of aging.
I walk upstairs to get my sweater. By the time I clamber up the fouteen steps I forget what the hell I came upstairs for. I finally remember...the sweater, get it off the hook in the bedroom, go downstairs, out the door, get half-way to the car and realize I forgot the keys. I go back inside, upstairs again to get...what? What the hell did I come upstairs for? Keys, keys! I go into my study, get the keys, go downstairs, out the door, cross to the car, turn on the ignition and...Fuck!I forgot my glasses. So...Double fuck. I forgot where I left them last night.
And this is only the beginning of the day.

What is forgetting? I remember the old saying: "It slipped my mind." Good phrase. The receptor's in the brain can't hold onto an idea too long. Like a hand that has losts it's grip (Another great old saying: "I'm losing my grip." Old sayings are wonderful. Modern science doesn't reveal anything new about human's just confirms old sayings with quantifiable facts!!!)

However (and I admit in pursuing the following lines of thought, I'm looking to avoid the incontrovertible: aging is a deterioration of physical skills, inner and outer...but indulge me) aging doesn't make you more forgetful...there's just more to remember: cell phones, hearing aids, long distance glasses, reading glasses, keys to the car, keys to the office, credit cards...not to mention a lifetime of people, places, events and names. I don't care how great a juggler you are...there is a critical mass of balls that finally make it impossible to keep them all in the air...or in your once.

I was reading an article why aging makes you less tolerant of stimuli, more desirous of and needing silence!! Peace of mind. Quiet time...and soft music. It was entitled: "Why the Aging Mind is Driven to Distraction". [more of this discussion later...First I have to re-read the article. I forgot the central point but I know it is relevant to my overall discussion. PS: I forgot another new ball we all have to discover: blogging and the computer!]

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A White Man

I keep getting referred to as a "white man" as in "old white man". I am given that special category of derision generally by people who doesn't fit that category, particularly people who are non male (women) and "persons of color", which means everyone that is not white. Several things are wrong with callling me and "old white man". I am old, I am a man, but I am not white. I am a Turk. I am olive, brown dark, swarthy, but not white. I think what my critics mean when they call me "white" is: I have Anglo-European sensibilities. I will cop to that. I am a brown Turkish-American who likes, respects, aspires to, am comfortable, and would be complimented if you said I am one with Europeran (especially Northern-European) culture. So in truth, I am not white, I am a Euro-American (by affinity if not by birth...although Turkey is getting closer and closer to being considered a part of Europe)! I am a mixure of light and dark, with a Catholic north-European mother and a Turkish Moelem Father...a Turko-Euro-American. So if you persist in calling me white, I will ignore you. Now...if you name-callers want to be known as black or brown, that's OK with me...but please stop being a racist by categorizing me as white...which I'm not. If you're going to deride me, castigate me, dismiss me, even hate me...hate me for what I am, Euro-American, not white.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Los Angeles School System

From the Mayor on down (politician that he is), everyone is bitching about the school board that runs the LA schools. We've all read the newspaper reports. Kids are failing state 12th grade tests and not graduating...when the tests are pegged at 10th grade learning and below! Discipline is horrible. Teachers have lost the will to teach. Parents and kids are fleeing to private schools and magnet schools (where the administation is beyond the everyday tentacle of the school board). The Mayor wants to take over!

A thought passed my mind; stimulated by the percentage of Asian students admitted to UCLA for the school year 2006-2007: over 25%! I know how to solve the problem of the LA public school system: allow only Asian kids in it: you think it much be a better school system?

Perhaps, one of the reasons perhaps that the La school board is having such a difficult time with achievement, standards and discipline is that they are having to succeed in the face of a nasty social tide which is not their fundamental educational charter to handle. They are having to teach mostly African-American students who have inherited two centuries of neglect by the dominant white culture, a black culture that is accused of not overly inculcating or emphasing education in the home (think a legacy of slavery had something to do with that?), and a Hispanic population somewhat overwhelmed by immegrant and illegal immagrant kids for whom English is a second language.

Come on...give the school board a break. Give them mostly Asian students (and their deeply embedded historical culture of hard work, discipline and achievement) and you'll see test scores rocketing, discipline a breeze, and teachers eager and willing to go to school and TEACH...not merely trying to hold the line against a flood of social problems that they should not have been theirs to handle in the first place. Rather than spend time, energy and money politicizng the problem, LA--and the US--should focus on a Marshall Plan of recovery--one that should have been implemented after Brown vs. Board of Education in the 1950's--to enable the Afro-American community to catch up educationally from the legacy of their historial injstice, and accepting the reality that along with cheap labor prices for nanny, garderers and construction people, comes the additonal cost of culturally--and that includes education--smoothing the illegals/undocumenteds entrance into the mainstream society. Cheap is rarely free.