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I became addicted to the TED Talks series of TV pontifications only last week. For that time I’ve watched at least a couple a day, starting with the Animal Voices series, exceptionally impressed by Laurel Braitman: and her lesson on what physicians could (and should) learn from veterinary medicine. Since then normalcy has been restored to some extent: some of these TED Talks speeches are glib, ignorant … wrong headed. First I incorporate here my first couple of scribbles, will edit, coordinate second:
2015 04 21 I watching TED Talks episodes one at a time but sampling from a half dozen or so different series. Loving much of what I see, learning from more than a couple. Right now I’m paused in Zak Ebrahim’s, Love, No Matter What. This Ebrahim is narrating his life in terms of his training in this and that prejudice exposed against experience. Please read enough K. here to see that that’s very much what K. is: take for example my story about discovering around the seventh grade that “half” of my classmates were Jews! How could that be possible? They didn’t strike me as Christ killers, I saw no cloven hooves.
I’ll be back to Ebrahim, son of a terrorist, in a moment: first I want to map my own youth a further step or two. In grade school I assumed a homogeneity for my neighborhood that was partly true but didn’t bear up under expansion. My neighborhood, my class, was “mixed”: between this and that Protestant sect and Roman Catholics. We Protestants were the majority, by a long shot. Catholic hegemony was further diluted by the presence of St Agnes RC parochial school in town: lots of Catholic kids were held out of the public school system. Myself, I went to a Protestant church based solely on geographic convenience: the “Presbyterian” church was within easy walking distance: the Episcopal church would have warranted a drive in the car. Beth and I walked to Sunday School while Mom and Dad slept on. Our house was sandwiched between two Catholic homes, but that was coincidence. The Burks and the Grimms were RC; but everybody else was Methodist, or Presbyterian, or Congregational … Except for Dorothy: I learned in the seventh grade that Dorothy was a Jew! Ah, but then in junior hight, where all the grade schools were absorved into one high school building containing both junior and senior high, “half”, say roughly 40$, of the student were Jewish! This was never announced to us: we just discovered it, one classmate at a time.
So, on my block … oh, wait, once the Steigs moved in, there was a third RC family! Suddenly I’m surrounded by Catholics! According to what my Sunday School teacher had told us we should have been in constant holy war! But no: I worshipped my one male friend. I ignored the other Catholic families (mostly daughters); my girlfriends were Protestant: Babs across the street, then Gene, and down the block, Anne Carol: Anne Carol Stewart.
My favorite people: not just Anne, my great playmate, but Dr. and Mrs. Stewart! Mrs. Stewart was my second mother. Mrs. Stewart was the mother who was on hand round the clock, she didn’t commute to Manhattan to work, she was in the kitchen, or at the back door, or in the garden, all the time.
Anyway, dig it: I was aware that the Burkes and the O’Neils were ethnically “Irish”, that the Steigs and Grimms were German, that the Linblads were Scandanavian … and that the Stewarts, like us Knatzs (in part) were Scottish! Knatz = 3/4 German / 1/4 MacPerson. OK, get the idea?
So TED’s Ebrahim is saying that as a fat outcast he spent his childhood watching TV: where Jon Stewart became his alternate father: his second father, ha ha, a Jewish comedian!
That brought me up short. I’d heard of Jon Stewart, but knew nothing about him: never, to my knowledge, seen him, hadn’t a clue what he looked like … I don’t watch TV.
Oh, I’ve been aware of this and that Stewart, this and that Jon Stewart, on TV for a long time. The name would surely register on me faster than most: Anne Carole Stewart’s bother was John. Beth was two grades ahead of me, I think John was a grade ahead of her. Anne, a year younger, was my buddy; I was friends with John, but not close: too old.
I remained in touch with Anne throough college: in fact I escorted her to her Junior Ring Dance and Mary Washington College. I hears only a very few years later that Anne was dating some guy on TV named Jon Stewart: how funny to go out with a guy with your brother’s name, even if there’s a vowel absent in the spelling: spelling being irrelevant to pronunciation.
So what was this all of a sudden about Jon Stewart, the Jewish comedian?
Well, wikipedia is handy, at all times, I look it up: Jees, his nat’ul born name is Leibowitz!
Now I gotta check this guy out!
Anyway: I tell the story including my childhood demographics to show how layered, how superficialy, how arbitrary, how shallow, how very mixed but not blended our experience is.
Ah, back in the early 1940s German Bund members were knocking on out door, in Jamaica, in Rockville Centre, “Knatz, Knatz …?” Did we want to join the bund?
“No, thank you”, said my mother.
“But your name is Knatz!” said the Bund.
PS Rockville Centre Demographics
Some school-age coalitions formed “naturally” — naturally given the social pattern were were dealt by living in Rockville Centre. There were three cliques among the males in South Side Senior High School in my years there: the Jews were in the Jewish group (or they were isolated); the well-to-do WASPS, were in my clique (I was way below the poverty line in family income, but way above it in culture) (and there were no isolated WASPS) (unless there were self-isolated); the working class whites, grubby catholics … and kept out of sight (blacks) (and who know who else).
A couple of Jews took a couple of steps out of their way to befriend me, but we were all away at Columbia, Cornell … by then.
I may have been the only person in my class ever to become aware of Rockville Centre’s ghetto: thanks to my working on the garbage truck the summer after my freshman year. A black sanitation truck driver had me as a helper one day, and he took me home with him where he had his lunch every day. He didn’t discuss it with me, he didn’t offer to drop me someplace else, he just drove home. This neighborhood wasn’t even on the map! I hunkered down on his front stoop: class reversed.
The Jews who befriended me were even richer than my WASP friends: my WASP friends summered on yachts, but the Jews who took me to the theater had butlers, chauffeurs …
I’m still paused in that piece: before I resume watching, before detailing that it’s really very good, I want to say: in general: Zak Ebrahim’s Love, No Matter What begins,
I am the son of a terrorist, here’s how I chose peace.
We know what he means, immediately, see that it’s nice; I take issue:
Aren’t we all terrorists? Aren’t we all sons (and daughters) of terrorists?
Very few of us are conscious terrorists. (I have posed rhetorically as a terrorist, gone to jail for it, put there by people who wouldn’t understand what I say with or without irony, no matter what language I speak in!)
If you buy a pack of gum anywhere in the US (or almost anywhere not in the US) don’t you pay a penny or two of tax? don’t some of those three or a dozen pennies find their way to the military? or to roads that provide transport to the military? Aren’t you helping to build (and deliver) bombs? mines? Didn’t the US terror bomb Germany? nuke the Japanese? Wash’t that terror? deliberate terror?
Weren’t you threatened with jail if you didn’t to to school, if you didn’t submit to some prescription of propagana? Don’t you support a government that gives choice to the Israelies but takes it away from the Palistinians?
We say the Nazis were evil: and I agree: but I must hasten to add that I also find evil in Churchill and Roosevelt as well as Mussolini and Franco … Weren’t we all fascists? Don’t we all practice terror?
You see what I mean or you don’t.
But I add: re: choosing peace:
I choose peace: by not being violent! That’s all I can do to
chose” “peace”. I don’t choose peace by voting for McGovern: I have little enough control over myself, I have next to none over McGovern.
Peace is something we may pray for, like Chamberlin. We may hope. But how can we choose it? OK, now I’m gonna go listen to Zak.
2015 04 20 One TED episode narrates a history of animal image evolution: bears were once something to be extirminated, like Indians, like roaches, then Teddy Roosevelt, the great white hunter decided not to shoot one particular helpless grissly, and the cute cuddly, teddy bear was born: our infant, in need of our protection. Well along comes W H Taft, toy companies come up with a Billy Possum: and everyone barfed.
God, how I loved my Teddy as a child!
I came as close as I’ve ever come to murder when my “best friend” John, sick of seeing my seedly miserable worn to a sheen toy, threw it off the roof.
Jan gave me an adorable little golden squeezable bear a couple of years ago to console me when she went to Nova Scotia. Nope, no good: nothing can console me when she goes to Nova Scotia: except her return.
2015 04 08 I’ve been absorbed by the TED Talks series, watching several titles, a few episodes each. I’m particularly taken by the animal voices series. The last I watched featured a doctor faulting her profession for snobbery and ignorance with regard to the qualities and relevance of vet skills. She was observing how knowledge of humans can help vets treat non-human animals; but simultaneously vet knowledge can help physicians with human patients: we have a lot in common. Fer instance: we all know of people harming themselves: a watched a painful film a few months back in which Isabel Huppert cuts her genitals with a razor: very neat, rinses the blood down the drain, rinses the tub. Well, animals harm themselves too on occasion, our illnesses overlap. The film showed a bird who had plucked the feathers from its chest.
Ah! And a memory flooded back. I got a cockatiel when I lived in Long Beach. It was a sick bird when I got it, it was sick when I asked a friend to care for it while I went away on business. David and family moved my cockatiel into his TV room already full of canaries, parakeets. Jesus, overnight my bird stopped plucking herself, regrew feathers … and laid an egg! We mated her. She was fine from then on!
2015 04 07 The last couple of days I’ve been sampling an “educational” TV series, TED Talks: Technology-Entertainment-Design. Very damn good, the three collections I’ve tasted so far. One gal talking knowledgably, wisely, about animal mental states, empathy … antrhopomorphism. She said we can’t help but anthroopomorphize, but there’s bad and good ways of doing it. She was tring to guide us toward good ways. En route she talked about social animals: the importance of caring for mental health.
Yes, yes. And I remembered, in every fiber of my consciousness, this morning, feeling Jan adjust the sheet and blanket up around my chin as she rose from the bed to stay up. She was giving herself, and me, a huge jolt of sanity.
Hilary used to wish outloud that I’d “groom” her more: she needed less lust and more gentle affection. Unfortunately lust is what I felt; not gentle affection. With Jan I feel both: lust and gentle affection, flowing, nurturing, in both directions. Bless her. And me too.
Revert to Norm
TED Talks: Into the Abyss, Robert Ballard, Exploring the Oceans
2015 04 10 Cousteau’s Silent World knocked me out in the mid-1950s. I’ve watched everything related that I came across since then: with utter worshipfulness once we got to David Attenborough’s fabulous use of BBC resources. So: I was ready and eager for some TED installments.
For starters, though I found him a little hectic, a little shrill, I was all for Robert Ballard. He seemed to be 100% in my corner when he said that in school to do well on a test you had to give the wrong answer! that is, the orthodox answer: not what Galileo thought but what Galileo’s colleague professors thought. So: for starters he exposes the school and university system. Bravo, go go. A half century late (I founded the Free Learning Exchange in 1970.) And I loved it when he said he’d never let an adult drive one of his hi-tech machines, but he lets kids drive them all the time, and very well they drive them too: the kids having computer game experience, coordination, instincts over their elders. Right on, further along the same track!
It starts to go south when he praises the government’s new information highway, broad bandwidth, fast, etc. And goes totally south when he praises the universities! What? Suddenly, they’ve changed? they’ve learned!?
No: just more horseshit. OK. Ballard and his teams are learning, are exploring, are discovering, but it’s too late: it’s Jewish priests becoming slick after they’ve crucified Jesus.
(Or: it’s like cricitizing the vulgarity of how the Brinks robbers spent their loot, but then praising how their kids spend reinvested residuals.)
2015 04 13 I’ve had a few days to digest the episode featuring Bernie Krause. I entreat you to watch this doc, and listen to it! I don’t believe that human beings are capable of saving themselves, but I sure love the mountain of evidence against us: no part ever more than Krause’s.