28 October 2014

A Nod is as Good as a Wink to a Dead Squid a Blog Post in Three Parts Written Over the Course of Three Days

PART ONE
Written on Sunday
I swear it smelled like someone brought a dead squid on MUNI the other day. I believe the squid was quite recently deceased and the cause of death was a virulent form of dysentery.

I take the MUNI to BART after work. As I’ve previously mentioned the bus goes through Chinatown and many passengers have just been grocery shopping. Some of their purchases are malodorous. Usually the offending odor can be identified as raw chicken freshly killed, or some variety of raw fish. But there’s never been anything as offensive as to the olfactory receptors as the dead sea creature from Wednesday last.

If you had never walked around Chinatown and just rode the #30 through it on a regular basis you could be forgiven for assuming that 90% of all Chinese people are either over 80 or under 18. The other 10% would seem to be people with foul smelling groceries. I don’t know where San Francisco’s Chinese American hide after their teen years and why they don’t come out again until they're octogenarians — except to tote around groceries — but there you have it.

Of course you have to be careful when writing about people of a particular age, nationality, sexuality, ethnic group, religion or with a handicap — I mean special need. Anything you say about anyone in a group can cause you to be marked as a crypto fascist. You can even lavish a group with praise and be called out for gross insensitivity. Try saying that Asians are mostly all good at math and note how many pitch fork bearing howler monkeys come for you. Oh god I typed howler monkey. There’s no telling how that can be misinterpreted. If nothing else the Anti Howler Monkey Defamation League is bound to be up in arms.

I have been at the forefront sensitivity, tolerance and inclusiveness all my life (well not when I was a toddler, I mean, come on). As a teacher I have preached the value of these noble traits long and loud. But as a society we have gone way too far and a by product of this is that those knuckle dragging conservatives sometimes have a point when they complain political correctness and the consequent diminution of free speech. There is a fine line between exercising free speech and being hurtful and hateful. Unfortunately learning to walk it seems beyond most people in our society.

Salt mines, not where I work
PART TWO
Written on Monday
So now I'm resuming this post a day later and a day dumber. It's nearly ten pm. At one point in the day I thought of some really brilliant stuff I wanted to write about. I had the exact wording and it was clever thought provoking and original. I've since forgotten every word. No clue even to the topic. My Monday's at the salt mine are brutal (its not so much as salt mine as an international language school but you get the picture). I followed my work day by paying the gymnasium a call and proceeded to make myself sweat profusely. This felt good. I then came home to be yelled at by the wife. She didn't actually yell she was really quite pleasant and usually is. Imagine being pleasant to a misanthrope like me on a daily basis. Takes all kinds. I made a fruit smoothie and watched a Simpsons episode then caught up on work. Too much. So I guess I can be forgiven for completely forgetting the best writing since the Gettysburg Address that I was going to produce right here on this blog.

Yesterday included a trip to youngest niece's house to celebrate her first born's first birthday. She and her husband are two marvels of creation as they are more incredibly sweet and smart and fun then can be imagined. Their son is in a good place. (I now boast three young grandnephews ranging in age from two to 18 months and a grandniece who recently turned five years.) There were a lot of people at the gathering. Some of them a I knew including a few who I know quite well as they are kin. But there were a lot of people I didn't know from Adam or even from Eve. And still others I'd seen around before and maybe been introduced but couldn't tell you their name or anything about them for $50. This is not my favorite situation and I figured out why.

I grew up going to large gatherings of Finns, most had been born in the old country. I was comfortable with this and not just because I'd grown up around them. Finnish people just have a way in social settings that I'm comfortable with. There is a pace to the gatherings and a way of serving or getting food and talking or not talking to people. I can't really explain because its just in my DNA. It's clearly no better or no worse than the way any other ethnic group gathers and celebrates we're all different after all. After moving from home I continued to go to social gatherings and did quite well because of course I was lubricated with massive amounts of alcohol. I was a real charmer, unless of course I'd had one or twelve too many in which case I was loud, obnoxious and your very best friend or lover for life whether you knew or liked me or not. Anyway I got through all manner of party or celebration by greasing the wheels, so to speak. When I went off the sauce I had nothing. I didn't -- and still don't -- feel comfortable talking to people who I don't already know and like. Yesterday I spent more time petting and talking to a golden retriever than I did any theretofore unknown human beings. I'm cool with children, the younger the better. I'll chat up a storm with a baby and get along swimmingly with a toddler. Unknown adults however I shy away from.

PART THREE
Written on Tuesday
Strange. I was just in a conversation with a co-worker who I highly esteem discussing a topic of mutual interest. Suddenly she just took over the conversation and ran roughshod over everything I said oblivious to my words, actually being down right rude. Too much coffee? Jealous of my more intimate knowledge of the topic or of my including one of my daughter's in the story? Masking some problem she is having through word diarrhea? I dunno. I've never known her to do it before. Usually when a person is a rude conversationalist its a consistent pattern and I steer the hell away from talking to her or him. This was an anomaly. Just strange.

I really like people. I love my students, for example and am very nice to them. In my evaluations they comment on this. I suppose I just don't like engaging in meaningless blather, small talk. I like big talk, silly talk or no talk at all. Oh I'll have idle banter about the weather and weekends with intimates but I never participate for too long and its just to fill the time before more meaningful conversation. In some cases I care what a person is doing over the weekend but for the most part.....Yawn.

Speaking of odd segues...movies. I watched a few over the weekend and can recommend them all. Midnight Mary (1933) directed by the criminally underrated William Wellman stars Loretta Young at age 20 when she was as beautiful a human being as you've ever seen. It's a pre code film and is thus honest about sex, crime and the ways of the world. Young played the title character, a poor waif who through a variety of misfortunes finds herself in juvenile hall, later in prison and with gangsters. Later she finds love with a rich young lawyer Franchot Tone. The film begins with her murder trial and then we see her story in flashback. Wellman directed many of the best pre code films including Wild Boys of the Road and Heroes for Sale. This ranks right up there with those two.

I also took my first look at Gia Coppola's directorial debut (you may be familiar with her grandfather) Palo Alto which is based on some short stories by James Franco who features in the film. There is no plot, per se, which is fine with me. Traditional story structure can place artificial endings or elements to a film. There are several interconnected characters most of whom are high school students. What impressed me most about Palo Alto was -- as with pre code films -- its honesty. It is a very matter of fact depiction of disaffected suburban youth trying to grow up too fast. The performances are excellent and Gia Coppola has clearly inherited the director's gene. I noted that on the Rotten Tomatoes website Palo Alto did far better with critics than audiences. I suspect that a lot of people went to the movie expecting the usual teen fare and were taken aback by the film's bluntness and unflinching look teen's in perils.

John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946) was another film I enjoyed over the weekend. More like loved. Sometimes the recent experience of watching a film is difficult to write about because it was so special. This was such a case. It's  a meticulously made story beautifully shot (in Monument Valley) and centered around a typically strong performance from Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp. It's one of the reasons that I like to own DVDs of my favorite films so that I can watch them anytime.

Okay. Started this post Sunday morning and here it is Tuesday afternoon and I've got work to do before my next class. So.....








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