Friday, February 17, 2006

Washington Post's Pundit, Cohen, Celebrates Stupidity

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Once again, the editorial pages of a top newspaper is used to proclaim the utility of being stone stupid. Mr. Cohen's inability to use logic and forethought meant he couldn't learn even simple algebra or even percentages. He is proud of his poverty of mind and thinks this is a great way to think. I explain why it is not a good idea.

From the Washington Post:
The L.A. school district now requires all students to pass a year of algebra and a year of geometry in order to graduate. This is something new for Los Angeles (although 17 states require it) and it is the sort of vaunted education reform that is supposed to close the science and math gap and make the U.S. more competitive. All it seems to do, though, is ruin the lives of countless kids. In L.A., more kids drop out of school on account of algebra than any other subject. I can hardly blame them.

I confess to be one of those people who hate math. I can do my basic arithmetic all right (although not percentages) but I flunked algebra (once), barely passed it the second time -- the only proof I've ever seen of divine intervention -- somehow passed geometry and resolved, with a grateful exhale of breath, that I would never go near math again. I let others go on to intermediate algebra and trigonometry while I busied myself learning how to type. In due course, this came to be the way I made my living. Typing: Best class I ever took.
I was at the top of my class in America, even had spent a summer taking university level courses at Kansas University and I won a scholarship to study in a German Gymnasium. Going to school in Europe was an eye-opener. The yawning chasm between where I was in math and science as well as literature compared to what was required in Europe was nearly a hopeless barrier for me. I had to demand the teachers grade me because they were too embarrassed to let me know how far behind I was. After huge struggles, I managed to begin to catch up only to come back to America and discover I was way ahead of my fellow university students at the freshman level and got permission to take much higher courses.

"Dumbing down" is a slippery slope. After Bush, the dumbest man on earth after Cheney, demanded we have more science, more math, a poll of parents of high school students was done and,57% of parents polled thought we are doing just fine in school and we need no changes. What Mr. Cohen wants are fake diplomas so students can go to college and fail there, too. The WP pays him a lot of money to say irrational or stupid things so I suppose he imagines everyone will be kicked upstairs if only we just ask them to not bother their pretty little heads over trivial stuff like math.

I yell every day about numbers and amounts and point in despair at where graphs are going, how plotting out mathematical forms clearly show danger because we can't ignore the numbers and here we are, fuzzy numbers hiding reality!

The history of the words for counting things and figuring them out, "math" and "reckon" and "number" have a revealing history. Let's start with "math." In ancient Rome, the word for mind was "mens" and indeed, there is a connection between "math" and "mind". You can't do one without the other! In Greek, the word "menos" meant spirit and it is the root of the Greek word for "remember".

The oldest roots of this word are Sanskrit. "Manas" is "mind" and "medha" means "intelligent." This is, in turn, connected with words concerning meadows and hay. A "matha" in Sanskrit means "straw hut" which is where the intellectual would sit and think for this is the name for Hindi monastaries. Note the "monas" here, too!

"Number" comes via the Latin word for "nimble". " Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick," sort of agility. In Old High German, the word mutated into "to take" which I suppose reflected a past history of taking things from Romans, back at the beginning of the Dark Ages? Anyway, going way back to long ago when animals were just beginning to be domesticated on the great plains of Eurasia, the word "nemein" which is the ancestor of word "number" meant "meadow" or "pasture" and "ordering the distribution of various sheep or cows." Those who could count controlled the tally of animals and assigned their proper order in herding them about.

All of which is deeply connected to kinship relationships, religion and dynastic controls.

"Rational" comes from the obvious thing: to divvy up something. It is closely akin, in thought, to "number" in the sense of deciding who gets how many and apportioning land according to various formulae. In Old Frisian, "reathe" means to prove your case in the various Allthings. In Old High German, it means to bring matters to an accounting (note the word "count" here!). In Greek it becomes "arariskein" which means to fit, to shape something, molding it to the body which spawns the word "arms" and "armor". Namely, the rational mind is one that can build a suit of bronze armor and since this is heavy, heavier than steel!--in the bronze age, it had to fit snuggly. I have fought in steel armor and if it is loose or ill fitting, it becomes a great burden but being able to forge and hammer steel, I cunningly shaped each piece to fit snuggly and closely to my limbs and chest so they rode lightly, comparatively speaking.

To do this requires intelligence and care and all the words having to do with calculations and math are words frought with needing intelligence, using the mind, being sane and careful, proper handling of animals and materials, figuring out how to use these jointly.

This is why the inability of our government to function, the inability of businesses to function, we see a nation wide collapse in rationality. The numbers don't add up at all, they are way out of whack and growing worse by the hour and we are told, numbers don't matter, don't project them into the future, don't think! Stop being rational! We are happy with this deadly status quo!

It is like pasturage: the tendency to overgraze, to poison the pastures, is very strong. All of Africa is being turned into desert by out of control herding done by tribes that have no more control over their rational use of the land. Everyone strives to have as many sheep or goats or cattle as possible. And since raiding is now controlled by the states, the herding is out of control since there are no tribes of raiders redistributing the animals, mostly by killing them and selling or eating the parts.

In Medieval Europe, many lawsuits, laws, regulations and directives were passed out by the nobility to control the peasants, what they raised, in what numbers, how to distribute all this. Mostly, the nobles killed each other and the peasantry, it was the simplest solution for untrained minds which simply went bezerk when they gazed upon a neighbor's flock.

But the Church liked percentages and divvying up everything, they were semi-communistic and wanted x amount of y divided by 3, for example, which is where the "Baa baa black sheep have you any wool" nursery rhyme is all about. "One for my lord and one for my dame and one for the little boy down the lane (which was the Church, by the way)". So the Church elevated Mathematics to one of the highest callings and they strove hard to resurrect it from the mess of the Dark Ages where counting consisted of, "One for me and none for you, two for me and, forget it, *whack*." The shifty Venetians, living on very limited lands, sucked up as much math as they could over the years and spent some pretty happy days starting with the Second Crusade, making bad deals with illiterate, unnumbered kings and emperors. They had a hard time trying to not be cheated which takes me back to today.

We are being cheated because we are kept stupid concerning numbers and numbers matter and I wish people would start being rational and take off those shoes and count on the fingers and toes...we are being cheated!

And Cohen should be fired. But then, he is counting on a lifetime paycheck from the Washington Post.

On an aside here, the BBC reports babies can count. From the BBC:
Babies have a rudimentary grasp of maths long before they can walk or talk, according to new research.
By the age of seven months infants have an abstract sense of numbers and are able to match the number of voices they hear with the number of faces they see.
I think we should put some toddlers in Congress. Maybe they can do the budget for us. So long as we outlaw giving them lollypops by lobbyists.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Teacher Harassed Viciously For Showing British TV Show "Who's Afraid of Opera" In Classroom

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Bennett, Colorado parents are persecuting a teacher who showed a video of Dame Sutherland and some puppets discussing Gounod's "Faust". They object to the fact that the opera has a devil in it. They think their kids will admire and love him. In opera, many basses sing roles of villians, devils and despots. Maybe they should feature only castratos? Heh.

From Associated Press:
Some parents in this prairie town are angry with an elementary school music teacher for showing pupils a video about the opera "Faust," whose title character sells his soul to the devil in exchange for being young again.

"Any adult with common sense would not think that video was appropriate for a young person to see. I'm not sure it's appropriate for a high school student," Robby Warner said after two of her children saw the video.

Another parent, Casey Goodwin, said, "I think it glorifies Satan in some way."

Tresa Waggoner showed approximately 250 first-, second- and third-graders at Bennett Elementary portions of a 33-year-old series titled "Who's Afraid of Opera" a few weeks ago.
The insanity here is multilevel.

&spades This was by far, the most popular opera in the Victorian era, bar none.
&spades The devil in Gounod's Faust is the bad guy. This is made abundantly clear from the minute he steps on stage.
&spades Faust makes a deal with the Devil and it turns out very badly for him. He has to be saved by Marguerite.
&spades Marguerite doesn't have an abortion. But in despair, she drowns her baby when Faust abandons her.
&spades She goes to heaven after begging Jesus to forgive her.

OK, I do believe I found the real reason why the parents hate this great opera. Marguerite is forgiven her sins!!!! I happen to know the nut-case religious types out west, I grew up in the south and west and got to see them close up. The place is wall to wall hypocricy and lies. They all want to drive out the devil and then hop in their trucks to meet him on a back road to make a deal. This is why they are plagued by all sorts of unhappy circumstances.

Who is this devil, anyway?

Well, the Bush family knows, they worship him at Yale and love to make the Evil Eye sign, haha. They are satanists. Many people in the back hinterlands are satanists, too. The best way for Satan to function is to hold court in a church. Becoming a Pope is wonderful for the devil.

He makes deals. "Want to be rich? Kiss my ring and bow to me," he whispers. Many churches are all about becoming rich and the Pope lives in one of the biggest palaces on earth. "Jesus says, give to the poor and trust him and to not worship money but we know, money is God and just sign here on the dotted line and I will help you cheat your neighbors, steal, gamble and lie. OK?" And they all sign the dotted line.

Why is gambling roaring across the Great Plains, thriving best where the anti-devil Jesus lovers live? Why is speed ravaging them all? Why is our country spending much more than it earns? Aren't we in the grip of a very powerful devil, one that tempts us? Isn't this what temptation is all about? "Vote for me and we will pay no taxes while spending tons of money on ourselves" type temptations?

And gluttony. Jesus warned us to not stuff our faces but instead, share our bounty with the hungry. Are we doing this? Which politicians are voting this last month to cut foodstamps, healthcare to the poor? Bet you, the devil representing this town voted that way. Bet he votes for all the devil's programs.

Aside from that, the striking thing about American right wingers is their degraded cultural condition. They want to call driving in a moronic circle endlessly, a "sport" along side cock fighting and bull baiting. They hate anything even dimly resonant of higher culture. Painting, sculpture, music, history, science, the Muses bemuse them and they react by tying the fine arts ladies to the nearest stake and torching them.

These people want eternal gray mushiness. One of their favorite TV shows for their kiddies feature talking vegetables that are crosseyed and speak in goofy voices who comment on stories from the Bible. "Did you see that, Tomato(e)? God killed everyone but Noah! I am glad God asked him to save the vegetable garden too, yuck yuck yuck." This blasthmeous show mocks and belittles the Bible more than a million Muslims swinging swords and screaming "Death to Christians." Indeed, many entertainments these right wingers choose smack entirely of the Devil.

One teacher has been chased out of her classroom in a right wing community because she talked about "peace" and this offended war mongering, right wing, "Let's have a massive world war with the Mulsims" parents. This is the ultimate Devil at work. Jesus=man of peace and love. Devil=war and hate. So guess who these people really worship.
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Saturday, January 21, 2006

After Wasting Millions of Dollars, FEMA Launches A Kiddie Web Page

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

After a year of hard work and millions of dollars, FEMA comes up with a promo for kids so they know what to do when a hurricane or terrorist attack happens. This monumental waste of money is also on the surface, insane. A hermit crab as mascot? How about an even more appropriate one like Square Pants Sponge Brownie?

From CNN:
After more than a year of delays, the Department of Homeland Security says it plans to launch a preparedness program next month aimed at alerting and preparing children for terror attacks and natural disasters.
FEMA, an agency within the DHS, already has a program preparing children for disasters. "FEMA for Kids" ( includes a pudgy and nervous-looking airplane leaking a trail of smoke, a hermit crab mascot named "Herman," and a song with a rap beat:

"Disaster . . . it can happen anywhere,

"But we've got a few tips, so you can be prepared,

"For floods, tornadoes, or even a 'quake,

"You've got to be ready -- so your heart don't break."
Stop! Stop! You're killing me! Osama is laughing to death! The hurricanes are hurrying away! America is prepared! I suppose they could film kids singing this in front of the Super Dome, too!

Who are the psychotics designing all this? One character is a smoking airplane? What???? Is the plane's name "Atta boy"? Herman the hermit crab, geeze, someone is channelling some old 1960's pop singers, aren't they? "I'm 'Enry the Eigth, I am"?

They are having a contest to pick a new mascot. I nominate Squarepants Sponge Brownie. He sponges off the public till, he is clueless and lives in flood waters so he doesn't mind it if everyone is drowning, he would get along with 'Enry, the Hermit Crab and the plane dude can just go crash on someone else's couch.

Like, Dr. Freud's.
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Even College Students Can't Understand Basic Economic/Mathematical Matters (I say, ditto a lot of people running America!)

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

According to this study, most Americans can't read credit card offers. No surprize: they are written to be impossible to understand unless one is very clever or very suspicious or downright evil---like me.

From CNN
More than half of students at four-year colleges -- and at least 75 percent at two-year colleges -- lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers, a study found.
OK, several things here. Ever try reading credit card offers? First, the fine print is not only fine, they print it in light grey! I have to turn on search lights to see it, it is like getting a super secret message from a CIA spy! Worse, it is written in an archane language called, "Ponzian" which is similar to German, all the verbs are at the end and everything you don't need to know are capitalized.

Anyway, they haven't sent any in cuniform or Chinese but I suppose that is in the developmental pipeline, no doubt.

I actually do sit down and read these documents in my mail, after all, I write about economic matters. It is difficult, at best. I remember the Democrats passing a bill calling for simpler language in credit offers. Well, kiss that goodbye!

Several years ago, I applied for a fixed rate loan. I even asked the banker in front of several witnesses (always, always bring witnesses when talking money with anyone!!!!) if it was a fixed rate and was told, it was. So one day, I get the monthly statement which we go over carefully, and we saw that the payment schedule was altered and then noticed the new interest rate being charged.

So we charged down to the bank who tried to weasel out but we brought the witnesses and pointed to my notes and they had to recind the rate increase but I closed the account.

See? It isn't mere "are you able to understand the Rosetta Stone?" but really nailing down these slimy bastards when they openly, verbally, lie.
The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.
In Europe, you aren't allowed to stint on the tips, especially in France which is why the waiters are rude, heh. It is automatic. Ditto in most of Manhattan.

Most fine dining establishments, one passes the American Express to the waiter and checks off which percentage one wants to pay. Then they bring back the paper, you check to see the balance due and then OK it. Sounds simple enough.

Calculating in the head is a nice skill which I strongly encourage. One must be able to see instantly relative figure values like the difference between $4.2 trillion red ink under Clinton and $8.1 trillion under Bush, Bush doubling, roughly, our collective debts from all Presidents up to the end of eight Clinton years! Heh. Seems simple math to me and why do so many powerful men seem utterly unable to understand this number and what it means? Can't they read the writing on the wall, "Yo, dummies, we are going bankrupt"?
Without "proficient" skills, or those needed to perform more complex tasks, students fall behind. They cannot interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

"It is kind of disturbing that a lot of folks are graduating with a degree and they're not going to be able to do those things," said Stephane Baldi, the study's director at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social science research organization.

Most students at community colleges and four-year schools showed intermediate skills. That means they can do moderately challenging tasks, such as identifying a location on a map.
American students are famous for not finding things on maps. We are lucky we can find our own asses in broad daylight. This is why we want to dominate the world. Then, everything is "USA" so we won't be lost.

What really disturbs me is Bush. He got, I would bet, through fraud and cheating, degrees from our top universities, Yale and Harvard. Yet he seems to not only not know very much about virtually anything, he can't even speak English. So how did he crib those tests?

Another Skull and Bones mystery! Yeah, that is it.

Greenspan is supposed to be a genius yet he seems clueless about his own field of expertise much less archane stuff like the declination of High Middle German verbs, for example, or the history of Mesopotamia from 6000BC to modern times. We just want him to be honest and open about simple things like how much money is the Fed printing these days and how is it impacting on inflation and is the budget deficit really under $500 billion a year, if so, how could Bush run up over $2.5 trillion in red ink in less than five years? Some dead cat is bouncing somewhere.

Last I looked, we never went over $425 billion, mostly in the $300 billion range. So where did the mysterious extra trillion missing dollars go? Hmmm. Maybe they do know their math, these clowns, and are really thieves.

Well, arrest them all. And force our students to learn real economics for once. Of course, this means changing our entire school system. Arg. Students who figure out figures: revolutionary. Dangerous.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bush Babbles Bizarrely About Need To Learn Language Skills

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Bush babbles about how we should all learn foreign languages. He doesn't pause to wonder why he can't speak English better than a stoner taxi cab driver from Jamaica.

From Smirking Chimp:
We had Bush sum up his Iraqi Crusade thusly: "It's tough...And it's hard work. What you're seeing on your TV is hard work." (I'll say. Watching Dubya speak in public is like watching a twitching "Monk" marathon on cable. )

We had Blinky state before a U.S. University Presidents' Summit on International Education: "We're going to teach our kids how to speak important languages. (As opposed to those UNimportant ones.) We'll welcome teachers here to help teach our kids how to speak languages. (Instead of teaching them how to grunt and point at shiny objects.) But we're also going to advance America's interests around the world and defeat this notion about our — you know, our bullying concept of freedom by letting people see what we're about. Let them see firsthand the decency of this country." (WTF? This is addled even for Blinky!)
As a person who had gotten scholarships in German language studies, I will now scream something very loudly: my life was personally messed up by all the schools, high and low, from the University level on down, stopped hiring German language graduates. SUNY, for example, fired their entire German language staff! Amazing! And all the languages, if they can hire foreigners to teach, they do. Even when I went overseas and learned a lot, it was useless.

I did get hired for a short while by a German firm with offices in NYC. But that is a different story.

The main thing here is, what is that babbling idiot doing, talking about learning languages? He speaks English worse than a taxi driver in Manhattan who just arrived at Kennedy Airport from Uzbekistan!

What is very Freudian about babble boy is the "our bullying concept" statement. Obviously, the dark corners of his mind are at work here, he thinks about being a bully boy and inside his pathetic bubble, he struts and preens desperately, hysterically, his feeble chin all aquiver, his pencil neck thrust forwards. And the "decency of this country" is particularily funny.

From the Yahoo picture site
You know, watching a heavily painted, primped whore bloviate about morals is particularily funny. I mean, I don't care, but then I don't run around talking as if I were some blue stocking Puritan. Shudder at that.

Learning languages in this immigrant country has been entirely aimed as getting people to learn English which we English invaders foisted upon this continent, years ago. The lack of interest in learning languages is heightened by the fact that English, thanks to the British/American imperial efforts, is the Lingua Franca of the world right now, superceding even Latin.

I will note that Bush won't say what languages we ought to learn. French? Bon! German? Ich glaube nicht. Spanish? Well, one must talk to the gardener and servants in the kitchen! Heck. Learn Chinese? Ahem. A good idea. Japanese, ditto. It pays to know the nuances of another language especially when one is doing diplomacy. The Chinese and Japanese ambassadors and all their staff and everyone learns English and they happily chat in English with us but when doing diplomatic work, they revert to their home languages and this is a severe handicap for our stupid negotiators who probably are being paid by these foreign powers anyway, but they can't figure out what is going on during translations and believe me, no translation of anything is straight forwards!

All languages have their idiosyncracies! And Chinese is famous for the many permutations and levels of meaning surrounding diplomatic language. They carefully crafted this over many centuries, forged by hundreds of emperors served by a history of vast numbers of servants and advisors, it is a complex and difficult Mt. Everest of Meanings. One can't climb this mountain using English only.

But of course, the entire point of learning a language means knowing how to use it and this takes us back to Bush and his lunatic asylum crew. They think language is an old hack one can whip into any direction. Far from carefully perusing words, they blabber and blubber all over kingdom come, the laughing stock of the world. To use language is more than talking like an ill trained parrot.

It means thinking and speaking intelligently. And only by rewarding intelligent speakers and punishing babbling idiots can we expect our youth to be inspired to take the trouble to speak English well and to learn to be coherent in other languages.

Someone, please shut up Bush. Thank you.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bush's Staff Lies About His Reading Books

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

They lie all the time and they particularily like to lie about trivial things. Everyone knows Bush can barely read 3x5 cards. He even admits to barely scanning headlines. Yet he has his servants issue rank lies about him reading books for fun and to learn something.

From the Waco Tribune
Read nothing into President Bush's current choice in books, the White House says.

The president is reading "When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House," but presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush is not thinking about his post-Oval Office days.

"He is an avid reader and the president knows full well that he's got a lot of time left in this second term and he's going accomplish big things," Duffy said here Tuesday where Bush is relaxing between Christmas and New Year's.
They think they are so cute with the "read nothing into this..." crap.

And the stuff about him reading, "Imperial Grunt." I would suppose he thinks this is about a fat little piggy eating at the emperor's trough, a Halliburton hog fable? If this idiot wanted to find out what a grunt goes through fighting, he should have volunteered during the war in Nam like so many Democrats did. But no. He even said, he didn't want to get muddy, the little baby.

Why he issues these lies baffles me. I doubt his mother believed him when he pretended to read, holding the book upside down. By the way he talks, I doubt he read even the comix.

American youth is reading less and less. Functional illiteracy or rather, reading minimalizm is sweeping our culture just like it did in ancient Rome after the empire reached its zenith. There must be some sort of connection here for I always wondered why reading petered out in ancient Rome but then, see here! Language is debased daily as our media and many authors openly lie, openly misuse words and concepts in a frantic attempt to con people into doing things that are dangerous or bad for them.

Since businesses want customers who can't read the big print much less the fine print, our business leaders always urge us to get more education, to be more and more literate yet at the same time, they absolutely hate to deal with a literate, aware customer so they conspire along with others to keep everyone dumbed down. This is true of any dictatorship, when they desperately try to get their youth interested in education only to try to get them uninterested in thinking for themselves. This is why all rulers keep a wary eye on the schools and campuses.

Bush, like several famous emperors who were born into the office and took over very young, knows he doesn't have to master any skills to be a ruler, just issue orders and wishes and bingo! Everything goes his way. So why extend the mind? After all, he just has to summon a courtier or servant and have them explain everything and then cease when he waves his hand. This is why this incurious, stupid man could claim he read "Issac's Storm" which is all about the disasterous Galveston hurricane 100 years ago but when the identical hurricane hit in reality, claim he had no idea it would be bad, would kill thousands, would flood New Orleans.

I read the book which is why I sounded repeated alarms about Katrina before it hit. Maybe Bush should try reading my blog. Har.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Barbie Dolls And Children: Many Mutilations and Mock Deaths

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

British researchers are shocked (well, maybe not all that shocked) to learn that both little boys and little girls love to maul and mutilate and even utterly destroy Barbie (tm) dolls. I will explain some of the background of Barbie and why this might be happening today.

From Yahoo:
"The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity, and see the torture as a 'cool' activity," said Agnes Nairn, one of the University of Bath researchers. "The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving."

Researchers from the university's marketing and psychology departments questioned 100 children about their attitudes to a range of products as part of a study on branding. They found Barbie provoked the strongest reaction, with youngsters reporting "rejection, hatred and violence," Nairn said.

"The meaning of 'Barbie' went beyond an expressed antipathy; actual physical violence and torture towards the doll was repeatedly reported, quite gleefully, across age, school and gender," she said.

While boys often expressed nostalgia and affection toward Action Man — the British equivalent of GI Joe — renouncing Barbie appeared to be a rite of passage for many girls, Nairn said.

"The most readily expressed reason for rejecting Barbie was that she was babyish, and girls saw her as representing their younger childhood out of which they felt they had now grown," she said.
If only! But this is not the end of it. Children today are literally mutilating themselves. I remember distracted, out of sorts children in my earlier years, mutilating themselves using knives or needles or pens. By the time I was thirty, it became fashionable to mutilate one's self. Indeed, the speed pill popping that is sweeping parts of America are Barbie-inspired: rail thin. Actresses mutilate themselve to become Barbies: big tits and starved to death.

Barbie wasn't always the way she is today. In 1960, I possessed a real live Barbie doll, myself. None of the dolls came with anything more than her traditional birthday suit: a zebra striped swimsuit. These dolls had serious faces. They didn't smile and their eyes darted to one side as if to avoid looking directly at any girl daring to manipulate her. She was expensive so getting just one was just fine, you had to care for her. There were two hairstyles and four hair colors. Bobbed or ponytail. The bobbed doll looked remarkably like Jackie Kennedy which made her exotically and seriously elegant. The ponytailed one was the sillier teenager doll. Naturally, I took the bobbed Jackie lookalike.

You were supposed to buy lots of clothing for her but my mother wouldn't do this, being pratical. We had to make clothes for her so I happily sewed away. Then I discovered something: I don't want to play traditional doll games. I liked playing with the supersized Tonka toys. The backhoe was a favorite. So Barbie worked a backhoe. Then I decided she also would be part of an insurrection so I created Resistance Barbie in 1961. She used molotov cocktails and we had a shortwave radio so I would have her tune into broadcasts coming out of Radio Bulgaria and she would leave mysterious messages. She worked in the Himalayan mountains and stormed Prague. Her little molotov cocktails were real. I really did put some gasoline in a small pill bottle and would light the fuse and throw them. Very verboten but then, Resistance Barbie wasn't exactly all about following the letter of the law, was she?

And what happened?

I grew up, put her aside and ran around Europe, street battles galore! More than one government nearly toppled! The Russians invaded Prague and I was arrested and deported! Resistance Barbie flew into Berkeley and had a very joyous time.

Eventually I got my own backhoe and now use it all summer long, a happy situation. When I first mounted a backhoe, I was thrilled. I wondered if it would scare me or be too much. Instead, it was a duck to water! Barbie helped me grow mentally capable of using a backhoe and of course the street fighting and revolutionary actions. Heh. Why did I do that?

Lord knows. But I did. Ask my mom.

Back to Barbie. In the seventies, to popularize her with younger children, they redesigned her face. They turned her into Bimbo Barbie, the vacuous smiling automatom which looks directly at the child. A mommy doll. No longer cold and remote and mysterious, she became a bubble headed gad about who wanted to possess things with a vengence. Namely, she became cheap.

Cheap comes from the name of Cheapside, Britain. In Medieval times, this was where one went to the Faire to buy goods. Then it degraded until it became a place where vagrants hawked ribbon and odds and ends. Thus the word, "cheap" meaning inexpensive and useless.

Now, all Barbies came with various eleborate outfits. The price continued to fall as merchandizers expanded the market. Expensive, collector's dolls flourished right alongside the ever cheaper dolls. Like mistresses of wealthy men, the collectible dolls stayed aloof from the street walking cheap dolls below. As Mattel sought out ever cheaper workers to exploit to churn out these dolls they discovered the Chinese who can crank them out with maniacal determination. Now the world is flooded with these vapid dolls. In response, children now get them a dime a dozen and being smart in a horrible way, they instinctually know the dolls are worthless so they treat them accordingly. As younger and younger children get cheaper and cheaper dolls, they abuse them more and more. Carrying around the Barbie by her long, tangled mess of hair is typical. Once the long hair is messed up, anger causes the child to extend the destruction because the doll now looks like an used up heroin addict and so the child literally will kick the doll around and throw her into the gutter.

Adults my age who remember the fashion conscious Jackie Kennedy style Barbie have kept her from being totally destroyed but the younger generation is certainly increasingly alienated from this doll and indeed, from any dolls at this point.

This is the dark side of capitalism and mass manufacturing. Everyone has the same item which has to seek increasing sales so it grinds out ever more until public revulsion makes it suddenly cease. Kwepie dolls went through this cycle 100 years ago. Barbie has had a longer run only because the sales had to extend to other nations that have had the doll for only the last 20 years. Nonetheless, she is ten years younger than me and aging rapidly.

Children, when given many gifts, end up treasuring none of them. Sometimes, they might cling to one special toy or blanket from the sincere early years when they were aware of only a few select items but by seven, they usually hide these precious things because of public mockery and try out other toys. When there is a flood of such, they sort of jumble together and end up making no impressions on the mind or the delicate psychological landscape of the child's mind and end up a swirling chaos of unattached things. No memories, no history. Just here today and gone tomorrow.

This is a shame for I think it ruins the mind and soul because as we age, we need things to cling to in order to keep our sanity. Having little stable, long time memories can be damaging in unexpected ways.

I once knew a gentleman who used to pose for a famous illustrator 90 years ago. When this gentleman was over 90 himself, he had to move to a nursing home. His mind was going. I came over with an antique toy assessor to go through his attic.

There were many very valuable toys up there. One was a great big teddy bear made in England in 1902. I took it to him and asked him if he remembered it.

"My best friend!" he said, a smile breaking out. He took the bear and hugged it and then began to talk to it. "We should go outside and play! But don't tell nursie," he whispered. He kissed the bear. He then turned the bear to me and had me talk to it. "How did you tear your ear?" I asked it. "We were running around outside and I got snagged on a thorn bush and that is how it was torn but nursie sewed it back on before Mother could see what happened!"

It was so lovely as well as heartbreaking because he normally just sat around, doing nothing. The bear which his child's mind animated reactivated his mind. It went into obvious high gear. Very impressive to see. This valuable bear is now on display.

After all, all that we really have in the end is our memories. And creating them is like any artistic enterprise: if you do it right, you will have many memories, beautiful, painful, glorious or serene. Collecting them and attaching them to parts of one's mind is what life is all about. Not opening presents but opening the present up. Today is tomorrow's treasure.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Finding Kit Carson's Graffitti Out West


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Kit Carson was a romantic figure in our history...To invaders. He "opened up" the southern route to California via Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. I grew up out there and often saw his name scratched into rocks at various picturesque places. He left a bloody trail in a bloody land that was wracked by warfare with the introduction of the horse.

From Wikipedia:
Under Carleton's direction, Carson instituted a scorched earth policy, burning Navajo fields and homes, and stealing or killing their livestock. He was aided by other Indian tribes with long-standing enmity toward the Navajos, chiefly the Utes. Carson was pleased with the work the Utes did for him, but felt some irritation when they went home in the middle of the campaign, having collected what they thought was sufficient booty.

Carson also had difficulty with his New Mexico volunteers. Troopers deserted and officers resigned. Carson urged Carleton to accept two resignations he was forwarding, "as I do not wish to have any officer in my command who is not contented or willing to put up with as much inconvenience and privations for the success of the expedition as I undergo myself."

There were no pitched battles and only a few skirmishes in the Navajo campaign. Carson rounded up and took prisoner every Navajo he could find. In January 1864, Carson led forces, including Utes auxiliaries, into Canyon de Chelly to attack the last Navajo stronghold under the leadership of Manuelito. The Navajo were forced to surrender due to the destruction of their livestock and food supplies. In the spring of 1864, 8,000 Navajo men, women and children were forced to march 300 miles to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Navajos call this “The Long Walk.” Many died along the way or during the next four years of imprisonment. In 1868, after signing a treaty with the US government, remaining Navajos were allowed to return to a reduced area of their homeland, where the Navajo Reservation exists today.
Kit Carson cut a dashing figure. He dressed in the classic "Byronic" fashion, the penetrating glare into the firmament, the locks of unruly auburn hair, streaming over the shoulders, the sensuous but determined mouth, the constant need for activity and movement, ever seeking conflict and glory.

This is what undid another classical romantic, Col. Custard. Like Carson, he stepped into an ancient world to wreck chaos and bring wealth home.

When I was a child in the 1950's, America was undergoing another imperialistic spasm similar to the 1848-1890 period and the iconography used to express this was the same used back then: the romatic frontiersman overcoming nature and natives to take over and exploit. This topic was all over the movies and the brand new TV channels. Every kid was playing cowboys and Indians with the Indians as the bad guys, naturally.

I knew real Victorians who grew up in the Wild West, they were very much alive if very elderly. Their tales were quite different from the TV or movie's tales. It was all so schizophrenic to a child who is trying to figure things out.

Kit Carson, in classic fashion, first lived amoungst his victims, learning their lore and their ways. Then he hired himself to General Fremont to find a secure southern route to California. At that time, sailing ships had to go around South America, a long and very dangerous journey. Lewis and Clark had found a credible northern route to Oregon and Washington but California was difficult due to the Sierras and Death Valley. Carson knew, thanks to living with the natives, all the watering holes, streams and hazards of the complex landscape of New Mexico and Arizona. One of his graffitti marks I found as a child was at Sawtooth Mountain in Texas. I got to spot others in south Tucson, in the mountains in New Mexico, he marked significant rocks with his name so he could insure his trails were true.

One of his more gruesome actions was to subdue the Navajo tribes. In the 1950s, many Hollywood movies were made where the Navajos were rounded up, it is a very striking landscape. Scene after scene featured those amazing stone mesas and mountains, glowing blood red in a stark setting. It is now a great tourist site, like the Grand Canyon, breath taking. It is also a land of mineral wealth which is why Carson and Fremont were so eager to find a more direct route to the Golden Land of California.

Subduing the natives on the Great Plains and the Southwest Desert was very difficult because unlike the natives in the east, these people got ahold of horses from the Spanish and took to them like a fish to water. This gave them mobility and power which caused great changes to rip through the native tribal communities as the horse users harrassed and harried the farmers who didn't use horses like the peaceful tribes in southern Arizona. These people wanted the strange "white" men to help them fight off the horse raiders.

Divide and conquer. During the fifties, it was difficult being a native because of the flood of propaganda exaulting the exploits of our exploiting forebearers. The romance of the wild west faded rapidly during the Vietnam war. The natives were not being herded into camps and tamed, they fought us toe to toe and shoved us out of Vietnam entirely! We became morose and our propaganda became one of victimization whereby we complained about our men being tortured as prisoners. In addition, the American Indian Movement arose and today, the tribes are finally finding wealth and prestige again. Kids want to be Indians, not Cowboys, in fantasy play.

Well, full circle yet again, no? Only now, to "heal the wounds" we inflicted upon ourselves in the Vietnam orgy which grew out of the Wild West fantasies, we are again involved in a new Wild East venture that is more like Custer's last stand rather than Carson's victory in Chelly Canyon. And unlike the military suppressing the natives using cheap technology and few soldiers, we are doing this romantic (sic) venture gold plated and reckless about losses.

I suspect that 100 years from now, the people in the Middle East and there abouts will be romanticising thier war with us and replaying scenes of American soldiers being blown up after showing the evil invading soldiers torturing the Muslim heroes with various ingenius, ugly ways.

Yup. Ride 'em, camel jockey!

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