Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Where the American Dream Died

If our dysfunctional Congress wasn't already telling us America is in trouble you can look to Los Angeles where the American dream has died. What the dream always required was civility. People treating other people decently. Today, with the walk sign on, someone almost hit me. I now walk without any braces, but six months ago I was wearing four. Aquatic physical therapy has made all the difference. Although I've dramatically improved, living in Los Angeles can be truly frightening. I'm very much for diversity, but we have over 100 different languages used in Los Angeles. We don't seem to be attempting to make sure all those people understand a democracy requires people being careful of other people's rights. I live in an area called Little Persia on the Rand McNally map. As I walked the neighborhood I said hello to people I pass in the street. Most people look at me as if I'm crazy. The people who talk to me are the Latinos who garden for these rich people. While I learned Chinese instead of Spanish, I know how to say "God bless you" in Spanish. It almost universally produces a smile. For me, it's a showing of respect for these fine people.
If you could blame America's problems on poor people that might explain something. But the people I walk among are wealthy. There is no reason that they should have not learned civility in their education.
I will now include my earlier post:
There are days when you start to feel like you've become invisible, and the likeliest place to be invisible is in a large city. I've got a big enough ego that I can transcend this feeling, but it takes me a few minutes to recover sometimes.
I'm disabled and have braces on both ankles and my right knee. I work out an hour every morning and then like to get in a walk. For reasons that you'll see, I usually drive to the dry cleaner that is a block and a half away.
This morning I said to myself that there shouldn't be any reason I can't walk to the cleaners. The fact that I have to cross Westwood Boulevard, I thought, shouldn't be an impediment. Picking up my dry-cleaning I headed out. I stepped into the crosswalk and moved into the intersection. I was gratified when one car stopped for me. Unfortunately it was the last car that would.
By the time I was two steps into the intersection, I counted 19 cars that had crossed the crosswalk at about 40 mph. The further I got into the intersection, I thought, the safer I'd be. This was not to be the case. I was in West Los Angeles and I was prey.
I thought about how this section of Los Angeles frequently supported action against Arabs who would pick on people in Darfur, worry about the plight of those in our inner cities, and disrupt this area in their eagerness to greet Obama. A lot of money can be raised in this area for liberal social causes.
I laud all these actions but at that moment I just wanted to walk across a city street. In California, it's against the law to enter a crosswalk with a car when someone is trying to cross the street. This isn't supposed to be New York, where every pedestrian has a target on his back. People here used to obey the law.
However, this part of town is full of rich people with expensive cars. There are agents and lawyers on the way to important meetings. There are people who see pedestrians as somehow of lesser value. The BMWs the Mercedes and Lexus are all indicative of their high social status.
I've decided to accept their heightened status and promise next time to drive to the dry cleaners. I need to respect my betters.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Pope is my Shepherd (updated)

Once again, my personal hero, the Pope, said plainly what the American people needed to understand. He said Trump was not a Christian, because Christians don't build walls, they build bridges.
He wasn't trying to intrude on the American political process. Trump had started things when the Pope went to Mexico.
A few months ago, Fareed Zakaria spoke about the Republicans and their fellow travelers on the right. They were saying the Pope's comments were communistic and used other derogatory language toward the Holy Father.  Zakaria said they weren't against the Pope, they were against the teachings of Jesus. From my viewpoint, the head of the Catholic Church (of which I'm not a member) is the man I look to for moral leadership in a very scary world.
You have to understand how much this goes against my upbringing. After my father died when I was seven, we went to live with my grandfather for a while. My grandfather never took a drink. He never smoked. He used instant postum instead of coffee and there were no regular playing cards in the house. He played Rook (It had cards  that featured birds that looked like crows).
One day I came home a little bit late from school. He was sitting there waiting for me. He wanted to know why was late. I told him I'd stopped at Aggies drugstore and bought a girl a cherry phosphate. Although I was only in fourth grade, I knew what was going to happen next. He asked me what was the girls name? I told him, to which he replied "do you know what kind of name that is?" he asked. "It's a Catholic name, grandpa." He responded "Do you know what that can lead too? I was being brought up to believe in a Jesus who sets up there with an Uzi waiting for me to make a mistake.
By the time I was 16, I realize that God was about love. I believed that living according to the golden rule was the only way to go. As I mentioned before, when I was a senior in high school in 1962 I suggested to my high school fraternity that we add African-American members. I was glad it was my senior year, because I ended up fighting a guy who was 6 feet four, that I couldn't lay a hand on, and pretty much was a social outcast.
Now in my dotage I listen to the Pope enunciate everything I feel. He is the most Christian man I've ever seen. I'm lucky he's in this world to give me guidance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Best Mysteries

There are many outstanding mystery writers whose books have transcended the mundane to create great reading experiences. Their books are vehicles you can count on to deliver a good read every time. That is until the very end. Probably no one dares tell a great writer that their time is past.
One of the greatest examples of great plotting was Agatha Christie, whose last book "Elephants Can Remember" was just ghastly. Luckily she had some books saved that came out after her death that were skillfully plotted. Christie was great, but it was her fantastic plots, not the depths of her insight that we treasured.
Two men, both with PhD's, were the best mystery writers of the last 50 years. Ross McDonald was someone who made comments about society that were fascinating. One of his great lines went, "I sat down in the Harvard chair and it expelled me." You could see real people dealing with extraordinary problems in his novels. His last novel was really bad and upon his death we learned he had Alzheimer's.
The other guy, who had once been a professor at Northeastern, was Robert Parker. I got to know him because I was assistant to the president at Occidental College. We had this fabulous mystery collection that never had any PR. I was talking to Parker about having him host an event celebrating the collection. He he was a fabulous guy. One day I met him in Pasadena where he was signing his newest book. A raconteur he was a tremendous conversationalist. While we sat there and he signed books he finished off a sixpack of premium beer he'd brought with him. The event at Occidental never happened because the college president (whose dissertation was an annotated bibliography of someone I'd never heard of) didn't want to spend the money. I was never to see Parker again, but I cherished the time I spent with him.
When he started writing the Jesse Stone novels, you could see Jesse struggling with alcohol. Jesse didn't want to stop but the amount he drank scared him. I think Jesse was Parker. Parker died of a heart attack, but his last novel was terrible. His character, Spenser, used logic that made no sense and I made sure I didn't buy another Parker novel, remembering Ross McDonald. Shortly thereafter Parker died. But up until that last book, I was never disappointed. He was truly the King of crime fiction, and a great human being.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Remembering China's Leaders

Remembering China's leadership is hard for many Americans. But more and more, it's more important to know who's running China than it is who's running France (he's a dip shit anyway). I have a song that will help you remember who is who. First some facts:
Xi Jinping is the ultimate leader of China. He runs the Communist Party and the Army.(His father was a famous general and he's heard "whoever controls the Army, controls China." He quickly gathered all the power he needed to begin changing China. His wife is (was) the most beautiful, statuesque singer in the Chinese army. She is adored by millions of Chinese.
Li Keqiang is the premier (the number two) who has been leading the governments unsuccessful attempt to shore up the Chinese stock market. So here's the song:

Xi Jinping has a wife who can sing, while
Li Keqiang says the stock market's wrong
folks say China's economy's bad,
but neither of these guys is looking too sad
Xi Jinping has a wife who can sing, while
Li Keqiang says the stock market's wrong

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Color Blind Turner Reunion

Today I was walking out of physical therapy with an African-American man and I suddenly noticed his T-shirt said "Turner Family Reunion." He told me his wife's maiden name was Turner and told me there were white relatives among the Turners. I told him it sounded like the kind of reunion I would like to go to.
He's 80 and he and his wife bring their daughter every week to aquatic physical therapy. All three of them seem like fine people to me. It's very comfortable to chat with them outside the pool.
In 1962 I proposed my high school fraternity take African-Americans as  members. I was glad it was senior year because all of a sudden I was persona non grata.
I would never have believed that in 2015 unarmed African-Americans were being shot down by police. It's such a long period of time that things should of worked out by now. What does that say about us as a nation. I'm a Mayflower descendent from two pilgrims, but know that the children of the pilgrims slaughtered Native Americans. I know that before World War II Chinese were not allowed to be citizens.
I wish that I could go to their reunions. I wish that my country could grow up and behave itself.
As John Lennon sang, "you can say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one." I'm waiting to join others looking for the same  world.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Hungarian Hatred Quickly Pushed Out Refugees

If you had to pick a European country that would've tried to immediately push the newest refugees out of their country, Hungary should have been first on your list. Of all the racist governments in central Europe Hungary is number one.
Let's once again look at their anti-Semitism as a gauge for how they approach the concept of diversity.
Since the 1930s, Hungary has been an anti-Semitic state. During World War II the Hungarian fascist equivalent of the SS was the Arrow Cross, a group that loved sending Hungarian Jews to concentration camps.
When the Russians took over Hungary, they didn't spend a lot of time reeducating the Hungarian people on their attitude towards Jews. Russia was not as anti-Semitic (that must surprise you) but it wasn't an issue of importance to them.
My daughter is the granddaughter of Hungarians who are Holocaust survivors. I once took a trip with them to Budapest and heard stories of cabdrivers who would refuse to carry Jews in their cabs. People like Tony Curtis gave money to rehabilitate the synagogue in Budapest, and George Soros bought the best restaurant there, but it made little difference.  Hungary was too attached to the practice of hating Jews.
Since 2002 Hungary has moved to the right and become more authoritarian under Prime Minister Victor Orban. The far right Jobbik party controls  nearly 20% of Parliament and has a nationalistic anti-Semitic platform.
So if anybody figured that Hungary would accept people who didn't look like them and let them settle is smoking some bad stuff. This is a country filled with hatred for Jews, Romany, and almost everybody else.