Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Discrimination in Arkansas?

       Last night I watched a 1944 Hollywood movie I’m from Arkansas. It is what was called a “B movie,” meaning it was low-budget, made to satisfy the film appetite of the large movie going public of that era. If there was a double feature, it would have been the B rather than the A attraction. There were no well known actors or actresses in it. The leading character was played by Slim Summerville, hardly a star, though he appeared in about a hundred silent and sound movies. That's him in the lower right-hand corner of the poster above.
       Only after I watched I’m from Arkansas did it occur to me that there were no black characters in it, not even in menial roles as servants, not even the face of a black or two in a crowd scene. Arkansas is not in the deep South. like Alabama or Mississippi, where blacks are a large minority. But Arkansas is a border state and had about a 15 percent black population in the 1940s. Why then was there not one black in I’m from Arkansas? The director, Lew Landers, was from New York City. He had changed his last name, presumably because it sounded Jewish. It is unlikely he was prejudiced against blacks. Since blacks were confined to menial roles, maybe somebody decided it was better to have no blacks than menial ones, such as the appalling racist black stereotype Stepin Fetchit, billed as “The Laziest Man in the World.”
       Lacking the lazy black stereotype, what I’m from Arkansas does have is an incredibly lazy Appalachian father and son pair, the father played by Slim Summerville and the son by a cretin-looking young actor. When I arrived in Portsmouth back in 1989, I recall a Portsmouth resident observing that Appalachians, or "rednecks," were the last American minority that you could still make fun of without fear of criticism. I’m from Arkansas ridicules Appalachians as if they were all palookas. What's a palooka? You can see for yourself in the 1934 movie Palooka. Both of these movies are available on YouTube.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Post Trump Stress Disorder

Melania Trump's colorful, $51,500 jacket

       As is generally known the acronym PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I saw recently online the christening of Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the need for which arose because we have as president of the United States a mentally unhinged man who illustrates vividly the expression "there is no there there." We wait from day to day to wake up and read what crazy thing the unpredictable Trump has said or done the day before. So perhaps we should speak of both a Post and Pre-Trump Stress Disorder. Trump recently impulsively went on a European  extended tour to distract from the encroaching calamity surrounding the goings-on and "gonnections" (to work in the Great Gatsby) of his White House adviser  and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is the husband of Trump's daughter Ivanka. The issue with Jared, or one of the issues, is his possible political and/or financial collusion with the Russians. In spite of the fact that Trump visited the scowling Pope to sponge on the Pontiff's piety, Trump's trip did nothing to quell the Jared Kushner controversy, which might lead eventually to Trump's impeachment or resignation.

       It is not just Trump and Kushner who keep us wondering what the New York Times will be reporting next about Trump et al. Trump's wife Milania's mania for clothes, and her frequent changes of expensive costumes,  provides grist for the media mill. The minx's colorful puffy jacket alone, which looks like a giddy eskimo getup, caused a sensation. It reportedly cost in excess of $50,000 in spite of not having a scintilla of mink, let alone an inch of chinchilla. There were reports early on that early on in her career Milania had been a high-priced prostitute, but the press respectfully, perhaps out of deference to the oval office, refrained from repeating that rumor. But what male politician has not had to be a high-priced prostitute in his rise to higher office, at the same time keeping any cross dressing jackets and Weinerish sexting tendencies in check?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pillars of Pretentiousness and Hypocrisy

The 1810 House

          There is  an op-ed piece by David Leonhardt in The New York Times dated May 25, 2017, titled “The Assault on Colleges— and the American Dream.” I read it wondering, since there were 171 colleges included in it, if Shawnee State University  in Portsmouth, Ohio, was among them. It wasn’t.  I ended my career teaching at Shawnee State, having retired in 2012, so I have more than an academic interest in it. Having been founded relatively recently, in 1986, SSU is the new kid on the state college block in Ohio, being the newest public college. It is relatively small in terms of campus size and student enrollment. But there is another reason SSU is relatively unknown, and that is  its location. Portsmouth is located in the south-central  Appalachian region of Ohio, the boondocks of the Buckeye state. Historically, there has been a stigma attached to Appalachia as an economically and culturally backward region. This  was the case particularly in popular culture, in radio, movies, and on the stage in the first half of the twentieth century. Li’l Abner did more to stigmatize and poke fun at Appalachia than any other fictional character. Where was Abner’s creator Al Capp (1909-1979) from? Appalachia? No, New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University, which in the first half of the twentieth century was one of the most elite and snobbish colleges in the country. Yale and Dogpatch were diametrically opposite cultural entities.

         One of Portsmouth’s biggest problems is its inferiority complex, which it owes at least in part to its being Appalachian. I have already suggested on this website that the architectural embodiment of Portsmouth Southern hypocrisy is the 1810 House with those pretentious white pillars, which were not there during the Civil War but were added early in the 20th century.* They are not pillars of strength. They are pillars of pretentiousness. Many of the earliest settlers of Portsmouth came not from the South but from Appalachia. They were not plantation people from the Deep South. They were for the most part, at least those who were not carpetbaggers,  hill people from Kentucky and West Virginia.

       The trouble is Portsmouth won’t admit it’s Appalachian. It wants to pretend it’s Southern, not Appalachian. What is its official motto? “Where Southern hospitality begins.”  A more apt title would be, “Where Southern hypocrisy begins.” One of the roles SSU might assume is dispelling the Southern hospitality myth and embracing, as a certain number of Scioto County residents proudly do, their Appalachian heritage.

*Click here: http://rivervices.blogspot.com/2015/09/301-front-st-unpretentious.html

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Some Things a Poem Can and Can’t Do

            Exhibition of Mark Rothko's Black Paintings
                     at the National Gallery of Art

A poem can’t raise the dead, and it can’t
stop a rising river flooding the marsh;
It cannot brook toleration of cant,
cannot sweeten a suite that’s harsh.
A poem can’t wet a wilting flower,
it can’t end even the mildest drought.
It can’t right a slightly tilting tower,
nor relieve a gourmandizer’s gout.
What a poem can sometimes do is inspire,
or sometimes, more humorously, amuse.
A poem can express love, grief, or ire,
but it cannot drink or replace a fuse.
As has been true since at least the Fall, 
it can do some things well, others not at all.

                                    Robert Forrey

The Insane Sonnet

Winking the eye happens everywhere,
early morning, at noon, not just at night.
Winking the eye’s a meme in Shakespeare,
the me and the thee united in sight.
Winking the eye is love’s opening ploy,
the fond first move, the shy winking glance.
It is hard to resist Venus’ sly boy,
who prefers winking to the song and dance. 
Both in the boudoir and crowded harem. 
where females practice winking from the start,
Love at First Wink is love’s hoary anthem,
a song fondly sung by the faint of heart.
And it all begins with winking the eye,
so the me and the thee can deny the I. 

                                Robert Forrey

Friday, May 12, 2017

Tie-less in Gaza

Et tu, McCain?

The above photo of independent-minded Senator John McCain suggests the big tie addiction is pervasive in all wings of the Republican Party from President Donald Trump down to the crotch. 

Trump's bald-faced tie

Airhead Trump as president is a painful reminder of just how far red-state America has come down in the world. We don’t need Freud to remind us of the psychological compulsion of males to over-compensate. The big tie is a conspicuous phallic symbol and for a man with Trump's little hands, a convenient distraction from his frumpy persona, his amorphous personality, and his egregious asininity. Trump is the WASP wimp, the doofus dickhead who introduced the Nu (as in “nu?”) Deal to the White House.

                               Woody Allen, tie-less in Gaza

Not just Republicans but politicians generally are adopting a policy of speaking proudly and wearing a big tie, trying to persuade the American public through nonverbal communication that they are a big prick not a little schmuck. Schmuck is a Yiddish slang word for penis. Schmuck was the linguistic result of the Jewish male’s extended, wandering,  pre-Israel schlemiel period of stateless existence. Woody Allen is the eternally tie-less in Gaza incarnation of the schlemiel, of the nebbish nonentity. Oh, but how nicer it would be to see him in the White House rather than the WASP putz Trump.