Archive for December, 2008

Childhood in a bottle

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18, 2008 by wally426

18-12-2008    Brooklyn, NY

Suddenly, the formidable oak tree of time had been gashed, peeled back like an onion, leaving an old feeling of comfort, invincibility, and wonder that hadn’t been felt in years. I was recently informed of a new development that almost brought me to tears with happiness.  Upon hearing the news, a feeling that is only felt in certain situations rushed over me.

…Crawling under the covers on a cold winter night, having coffee and bagels in bed while reading the paper and listening to jazz music, watching Saturday morning cartoons, puddle jumping in the midst of a summer downpour, and gazing at the stars from a soft cushion of warm grass…

The wonderful announcement was that one of my favorite books, sometimes called the “Koran of childhood”, was being made into a movie. I remember reading it aloud to my class in second grade during story-telling time, trying my best to impersonate the monsters depicted within its pages. I’m not sure how an adult managed to encapsulate the imagination of a child in this book, but where the wild things are was a nearly perfect adaptation.

Most children you speak with have an irrational fear of monsters. They’re a genetic manifestation of the real horrors our distant ancestors had to deal with thousands of years ago. With our poor night vision and no fire to light the way, we had good reason to fear beasts lurking in the darkness, hunting humans with superior senses after the sun went down. I firmly believe that instilled within every human is an age-old fear of the what we cannot see when the lights go out. What Maurice Sendack, the author of the book, did was create a character that was able to tame these imaginary beasts and soften their edges. Even though they “roared their terrible roars” and “gnashed their terrible teeth”, deep down they were just like a family pet. They could suddenly become part of the family (albeit contrived) that lived in the closet and only came out when the lights went out. While it will be odd to see these imaginary creatures on the big screen, being able to revisit those warm feelings of childhood is an experience I’m wholeheartedly looking forward to.

Historical Anomolies

Posted in Uncategorized on December 4, 2008 by wally426

 

3-12-2008  Brooklyn, NY

My latest read is called Lies my teacher told me. The author, James Leowen, details the many fallacies present in the twelve most commonly used high school American history textbooks. Not only is it a fascinating perspective on the editing of school textbooks, but also gives a different twist to American history itself. Leowen’s attempt at illuminating revisionist history doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, only to establish widely accepted views on important historical events in completely outdated (Euro-centric) textbooks. Some of the things I’ve learned so far:

~Most explorers (including Columbus) knew that the world wasn’t flat. They had seen the curvature of the Earth plenty of times in calm seas as ships disappeared over the horizon hull first, then sails followed.

~It took Columbus only one month to reach Hispañola, not two. He sailed on mostly calm seas and there wasn’t any threat of mutiny.

~The people that landed on Plymouth Rock weren’t all pilgrims.

~The English who landed in Jamestown had no clue how to farm the land. They realized this only after they had massacred most of the local tribes. They had to resort to eating the bodies of the people they’d killed in order to survive the first winter.

~Without the Native Americans (the Pequots), the English that landed in Massachusetts most likely would have suffered the same fate as those in Jamestown. The first thanksgiving was celebrated when the Pequots brought the English immigrants food. A few years after learning these farming techniques, the English allied themselves with a rival tribe and were ordered to burn the Pequot village. William Bradford described the scene “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.”

There are plenty more interesting events that high school history books omit, and it truly is a shame that this is the case. The main argument seeks to prove the old saying that if we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it. Do young folks nowadays really care about history though? It seems as though our culture has been somewhat homogenized in the last twenty years. This is evident in my brother’s generation (X), a culture of complacency has developed. There is more of an emphasis on what goes on in the entertainment and financial worlds. It’s tough to have a conversation with kids my age when it comes to history and philosophical ideals. Are cash, fame and glory the kings of our new world?

We just went through an election that had so many implications, both historically and culturally, and I find myself wondering if most people are still just looking at skin color as the main factor for ‘change’? While his stump speeches focused on changing many of the current political agendas, Obama seems to have selected a cabinet of former Clintonites. Are we content as a people with trying to repeat the Clinton administration’s policies in the current environment? It seems to me that people think that now the election is over, there isn’t anything to worry about. How many people knew that, in a really disturbing move, Obama left Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, at his post for a time frame that was described as “open-ended”. What!!!??? Where’s the big change we asked for with you, Barack? Granted it’s still early, but if current picks like Gates and Hillary “Hawk” Clinton keep rolling in, I’ll be pissed at the direction this new administration is moving towards.

In conversations I’ve had with people about these developments, it doesn’t seem like people are paying attention. That worries me. There doesn’t seem to be any public outcry, perhaps because the general populace is too busy watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show? Now that the election is over and America begins to move forward as a ‘colorless’ state, will complacency become the norm once more? We still have troops abroad, we’re still one auto sector away from a depression, and we still haven’t seen the worst. Just as Leowen warns in his book, we cannot ignore the past and see the election as the saving grace. It’s a blip on the radar, a band-aid on a gaping wound that is our country at the end of 2008. If Obama looks to keep the status-quo of the Clinton and Bush administration, don’t expect change to come anytime soon.