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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Thing of Rare Computer Beauty

Experts in aesthetics might disagree, but I don't think of computer hardware as being into much when it comes to their appearance. But every once in a while something of real beauty appears on the market. Certain case and mouse designs come easiest to mind.

The other day I saw a good buy on Directron, for a LaCie external 1 terabyte drive that was touted as having been specially designed by someone named Neil Poulton. So I went for it, in spite of it being recertified.

And it turned out to be a real art object that looks great wherever it sits. It is bigger and heavier than the usual external drive, being a little over 1 inch high, a little over four inches wide, and a little over seven inches long, and it weighs a relatively hefty two pounds. But all you will see sitting on your desk or on top of your computer case will be a glossy, jet black, and very solid-looking rectangular block, for which the designer must've had in mind that mysterious, black, and perfectly smooth oblong that the prehominids find in their midst in the opening scenes of Stanley Kubrick's classic, "2001." (What a terrible mismatch that turned to be! That year was inferior to the movie in every conceivable way. But how was Kubrick to know? That's the chance you take when you throw your fiction for any distance into the future.)

The only things interrupting the perfect smoothness of this drive are a tiny receptacle for the power supply, a tiny receptacle for a USB cable, and a tiny on-off switch. But they are all on the end of the drive that you keep turned away from you anyway, because the other end, the front end, has a small strip on its underside that throws a non-obtrusive blue light to indicate when the drive is turned on, and the power switch is easy to find just by feel.

I got this drive because, going along with my philosophy that we should always have two of everything, I wanted a second external hard drive, to go with the Cirago 80-gig external drive that I already had, and to serve as a backup to that, which I use all the time stashing all my writing stuff over my several computers so that I won't lose anything. I also liked the idea of having all that storage space, though there's no chance that I will ever come close to using it all. I really wasn't even there with the Cirago.

I was taken through some real changes, though, after the UPS man brought it here. A hole bigger than a silver dollar had been punched in one side of the box, which also contained a new DVD drive, and the hole looked as if the box had been hit so hard that just the shock must've damaged one of those two drives, even if there wasn't any damage to be seen inside the main box.
I mounted the DVD drive first, and it worked great. Then I installed the biggie, the LaCie, and the computer found it just fine, so that was something. But the instructions said that it wouldn't work without first using a formatting utility that had been included on the drive. I found that utility but got an error message preventing me from doing anything else. But I "scratched around" and eventually got the drive working, and now I have, not 1 terabyte, but 931 gigabytes, which is plenty close enough.

I think the disparity in capacities must have something to do with the fact that, no matter what Windows XP might prefer, I don't have anything but FAT32 files, instead of the recommended and more efficient, newer NTFS files. A lot of my favorite programs -- mostly word processors and games - date from the now ancient Windows 95 and 98 days, and maybe even from Windows 3.1 or even the Atari 800 days, and I'm trying hard to keep my lines of communications open to those, and never mind about Microsoft's bottom lines.

Stealing a Day

One of the drawbacks of only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep at a stretch is that you build up a deficit that has to be paid eventually, though in my case I doubt that it ever is, in full. I mean in terms of amounting to what the so-called "normal" amounts of 8 hours a day would amount to.

At about 5 yesterday afternoon, suddenly, after watching a Netflix episode of "House," on my computer, I became very sleepy, and I laid down to rest. (Pardon my troubles with the correct use of those two verbs, "lay" and "lie." In the sense of reclining, in my mind they're so much alike that they've always been been a big muddle for me, and it's usually too much of a pain to try to sort them out, and this morning is a part of "usually.") When I awoke, my bedroom clock said that it was now about a quarter after 8, and I was positive that, because time always keeps going so fast, it was now Sunday morning.

So I did all my regular Sunday morning things, which are on the sparse side compared to the way that I imagine that they go for normal human beings, and they are in no way different from things on any other morning, except that I noticed that for a summer morning it was unusually dark outside, and it seemed to be getting steadily darker. Rain was coming, and a goodly amount of it, too!

I went on and fixed and ate my regular "first breakfast," which didn't take long as it consists of only a big slice of pound cake cut into 11 small chunks and some instant caffeine-free coffee liberally dosed, as the coffee of any sane person would be, with sugar, cream, and milk, and I also, as usual took my Sunday pills, five pills (actually four, with one large one cut in half), of a size that House would swallow all at one time without even thinking or even so much as any sign of swallowing, which leads me to think that the actor actually spat them all back out as soon as the shot was done, but for me involves five individual swallows while being careful to keep looking upward, so that I won't choke). And meanwhile, because I didn't think that this Sunday had been forecast to be a stormy day, I brought up Weather Underground on the internet, and was puzzled to see that they were calling the weather here "clear," when it was as plain as day that outside the world was being steadily overhung with some intense storm clouds that could break into something serious at any minute. (Note that I am a weather nut, meaning that for me a bad storm gathering is an occasion for joy instead of being something to dread, and so I always look forward to them, secure in my thinking that too much rain is much to be preferred over getting none at all.)

Finally it came to me. It was not Sunday morning. Instead it was still Saturday, and even still early in the Saturday evening, and that darkness was not a storm coming but instead was the usual night falling. Yet, my mindset was still such that during the next several hours, when I went out to the workshop and put in another several hours at my stained glass project, it was still Sunday, and that the next day, today, would be merely the same day, repeated, and so it has happened.

The fact that I am nearing the end of a second week while having seen only one other human being (on a planet swarming with 7 billion of them!), and that was for the regular brief Tuesday chess game, because wife is once again doing her twice-a-year thing of visiting family and friends in Florida for two weeks at a time, and that has caused me to lose some of my regular time cues, especially those furnished by her much more consistent, clockwork sleeping hours. Or you could chalk it all up to just regular elderly forgetfulness.

But there is an upside. It appears that in the face of my frequent complaints about how fast the passage of time keeps accelerating for me, this time I have done the impossible. I have stolen from time an extra day. That must be one of the purposes for that forgetfulness.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Latest Newsweek Cover

Below is another post that I wrote to protest the latest Newsweek Magazine cover, which I still can't understand how anyone in their right mind would want to publish, and yet they did. That "they" includes first and foremost Andrew Sullivan again, he of "The Dish," and to whom I directed this post or email, that, however, like the first one, I have not yet made up my mind to send to that totally guilty party.

You and Newsweek are to be roundly condemned for your surpassingly stupid cover crowing in big letters that B. Obama is America's first gay President, without any qualification whatsoever. That designation is not only dumb, but also it is false, unless you have access to private information about the President's sexual leanings that nobody else except him has. Did you clear this with the President before you talked to the Newsweek editors? I'm guessing the answer is no, because I can't believe that he is at all happy with being called "gay." By all accounts he has been happily married to a nice woman, not a man, for many years, and he has apparently had no problem with bodily cooperating with her in producing two daughters and raising them.

I understand how you can be so deeply committed to the legitimacy of being gay and of gay marriage. But in your complete obsession with being gay, you don't seem to have understood that with people who are not gay, there can be a big difference between supporting marriage equality and being thought of as being gay.

You reasoned that the cover wording was all right and even catchy and apt, because of the thing of Bill Clinton being called the "first black President." But there's a big difference there, too, that may not have occurred to you, though it should've been all too visible. Clinton is obviously not a so-called "black" person and has never claimed to be. So the subtlety of that designation is easy to see in his case. It's not so easy at all when it comes to being gay, because that is not something that can be detected right away, or at all, in a person's appearance. For instance, for all your pride in being gay, you don't look gay in any respect, going by those "Ask Andrew Anything" video shots, or like much of anything else unless it would be a grizzled old Welsh coal miner with his gray beard dyed black, freshly emerged from another day's work in the pits, with a harried, exhausted wife and 10 kids at home.

So I think that, for all your gratitude in Obama's having finally come around to taking that stand without any equivocation, you and Newsweek could at least have done him the common courtesy of asking him first if he wanted to be called a "gay President," even though I realize that common courtesy may not be a familiar concept to you.

Finally, did I detect a bit of guilts in how you cited that cover on The Dish? You must've suspected an inch or two down deep that what you did wasn't right, because you said nothing in defense and instead continued your complete cop-out by passing the reader off to a video of the Newsweek lady being interviewed, during which she, mostly likely also realizing that she had only two extremely weak legs to stand on, also copped out, by saying little that made sense and that she did it mainly because she had your okay.

You all ought to be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves in your hunt for pure sensationalism instead of using ordinary common sense, especially of how things go in American life, and you should realize that a cover as dumb as this has a much bigger chance of ultimately hurting Obama in this campaign than it has of helping him., because there are more people who regardless of all, still don't think that being gay is all that cool. They are not about to sell all the attractions of women that short. You say it's an orientation and not a choice, but to most it's still an orientation too close to the edge of the cliff for comfort. You can be comfortable with it all you want but it could not have been helpful to try to drag the President over there with you.

Or were you thinking that, with Obama having already been called so many other completely absurd things, that being called this for a good cause couldn't hurt anything? But that still doesn't fly.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Interest in Israel

Regular readers, if there were any (to the best of my knowledge no such people exist, at least in the plural), might wonder what it is about Israel that causes me to mention that entity so often, usually not in a complimentary way. I wonder about this myself.

There are so many answers to this that it's hard to decide where to begin.

"Begin, then at the beginning, and go on until the end. Then stop!" --The King's wonderful advice to the White Rabbit, in "Final Alice" (in Wonderland), a tone picture by David del Tredici.

Well, okay then. The reason that Israel interests me above all is because its founding in or around 1949, the year I graduated from high school and concurrently first started looking at the larger world, is strangely analogous with what was to become part and parcel of the Rainbow (i.e. "black") experience in previous and later years. I mean what was so likely to happen whenever a Rainbow family moved onto what previously had been an all-"white" street or neighborhood.

In the city the usual reaction to these unsolicited and newly moved-ins was that in very short order the street would empty of all its previous lighter-visaged inhabitants. Things were a little different in a suburb and still more in a rural setting, yet the theme was generally the same for all those locations, as it was when the Jewish refugees from the German expulsions and genocides of World War II moved into a previously mostly Arab region of the Middle East after the War. The people who till then had inhabited those streets, neighborhoods, or regions generally resented the newcomers with a purple passion that would never really die in any of the cases that I've just mentioned. Nor can I ever be certain that it did even in the several cases of it that by chance related to me, by direct participation or by the experiences of my forebears in New Orleans, long before I was born.

Of course the people who quickly came to be known as "Israelis" didn't merely move into already existent houses, bring in their furniture, fence in their yards, and notify the local post office of their new addresses, nor did those who were already there pack up and move out in very short order, of their own volition. Instead they stayed put for as long as they could, and they resisted, upon which these latter-day "settlers" from overseas used force to drive out or otherwise appropriate all the current inhabitants of that land, and they terraformed the whole region into a nation meant for them alone. As their rationale these newcomers used the circumstance that other people that they claimed as their forebears had lived in and had dominated that same region before they were driven out, summarily and with maximum cruelty, by the Romans, and these current arrivals saw it as of no relevance that that had happened nearly two thousand (2,000) years ago, making it highly likely that not for at least the last 1,500 of those years had anyone in this modern group been able to trace their family lines or reference their property deeds back to anyone or any offices at all in ancient Judea.

One of the many highly interesting aspects of this birth of a nation is that no one can miss the fact that this other and much larger nation in which we live so happily and with such great self-satisfaction was founded under almost exactly the same circumstances, save for the 2,000-year bit, and that has to be why the U.S. is usually Israel's main and sometimes only supporter during its never-ending quarrels with everyone else in its immediate neighborhood, fostering bloody hostilities and hatreds that continue up to this day, unabated, with no prospect of ending any time soon, or for the next 2,000 years.

I can't help thinking that those who so staunchly defend the Israeli cause are also intensely embarrassed by being joined at the hip with the Israelis, because it keeps alive the doubts about how the U.S. itself came to be "settled" and founded. So, as long as the Israeli cause keeps that question open and bleeding, there is no way that the entirety of the legitimacy of the U.S. can be safely retired and put away, forgotten, in the dusty tomes of history.

Didn't I read a news item just yesterday about a group somewhere or other demanding that the U.S. return some area to its original Indian inhabitants?

The Israelis never hesitate to bring up the Holocaust as another big justification for their actions. But ironically the direct experience of the Holocaust by family members to whom the Israelis can directly trace themselves also totally rules out any chance of being able to use the German "final solution" to get rid of the Palestinians, completely and permanently, which makes one wonder why Israel has several hundred nuclear missiles and some submarines to launch them.

Like the Jews, there will always be people called "Palestinians" and "Native Americans," among other names, who can never be simply gotten rid of. It's an ineluctable law of nature, these days.

But I have digressed, and I didn't even stop at the ending, because I haven't yet reached the ending that I had in mind. Well, what can you do?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day of the Ignorants

In the Pre-Integration days it seemed to me that a great many of the rainbow thinkers who were in the forefront of striving for racial equality did not consider recalcitrant eurocentric people as being the biggest obstacles to rainbow advancement. Their abiding faith in the intelligence content among that majority population prevented them from seeing things that way, and even now I would bet that that faith remains, due to events as astounding as a rainbow being voted in as the first rainbow governor, and of a former slave state at that, in Virginia. And that was later followed by an even bigger shocker -- the election of the first rainbow U.S. President, who, moreover, despite every effort having been expended by the Republicans on trying to make his first term as unsuccessful as possible, still has at least a 50-50 shot at being reelected to a second term. And also, while some formerly blue states have turned red in the continuing rage purely because of Obama's skin color and hair texture, other states that were formerly red now and then start turning purple, signifying that all is not lost just yet.

Instead, as I was saying, the rainbow thinkers of the past saw the ignorants among the rainbow membership as being the main obstructions to the cause, and therefore they bent the strongest of their efforts toward learning, and they saw education as being the key to the Promised Land. But as it turned out it wasn't the educators but instead the religious figures who did the most toward carrying the day -- people such as Martin Luther King, Jr, Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, and others.

There is an irony or two to be seen in all that.

Today, it isn't so much a matter of achieving civil rights. Instead the problems that rainbows face have much more to do with holding on to the rights that were gained during the Civil Rights era, as one of the two major political parties bends all its elephantine efforts, behind closed doors, to rolling all those advances as far back as they can toward the Jim Crow, lynch law, and even slavery days, as expressed in one of the favorite slogans of their spokespeople, "taking our country back." And religion, after playing such a salutary role in gaining civil rights, is now being used in huge doses in the continuing drive to throttle not only rainbow aspirations but also any other effort that is not only desirable but absolutely essential, including dealing with the biggest threat of all and one that is looming over everybody on the planet: the inexorable heating up of Earth,

In the process what is sold as being Christianity has been so thoroughly twisted in with the political process by the Conservatives that it is scarcely recognizable as being religion, and this subversion of its substance now keeps Christianity from having any way to take a hand in preserving the civil rights of minorities, and so far nothing has been found to replace it in that cause. And a side effect of this sharp diminution of religion in the larger community, coupled with rainbow educators still having their problems, as always, and with rainbow religionists no longer having their former influence on anybody, is that a third force that had long been feared has now been unleashed and allowed to do as it will , in what can be called the "Day of the Ignorants."

In the case of rainbows, the spiritual parents of these people were the former General named Colin Powell, and the former Secretary of State named Condoleezza Rice. They are commonly thought of as having been generally benign and even role models of a sort. But time is showing that, unlike other rainbow figures who are celebrated every February, the principal and perhaps only things that Powell and Rice ever advanced were themselves. Meanwhile they also paved the way for a string of worse Judas goats, almost all of them likewise Republicans. The most well known were and are a Supreme Court justice named Thomas, a perennial Presidential aspirant named Keyes, a U.S. Congressman named West, and an end man in the now concluding Republican primary vaudeville show, a former pizza magnate named Cain.

Just recently another public figure, a New York state senator named Ruben Diaz Sr., put in his bid to join that less than stellar group by pulling out one of his old arguments against abortion, a stance in which he is nearly alone among the Democrats in the N.Y. Senate, and he found a way to restate his case that brought him instant attention, though not as nationally as he might've wished.

From his photo Diaz appears to be about as dark-skinned as I am, though I think I read that he is from some place such as Puerto Rico, in which case English-speaking rainbows are spared from the humiliation of having this man in their membership, though that is no solace at all. In any case he said the following.

Hitler was pro-choice. He chose to send the Jews to Auschwitz. That was not their choice, that was Hitler’s choice. Murderers, assassins and criminals are pro-choice. They choose to put a gun to your head and take your life.

This statement absolutely boggles the mind. What could this rascal have been thinking that he would mash up three old but still hotbutton issues -- fascism, the Holocaust, and abortion -- into one brief, staggeringly illogical remark and drop this evidence of the condition of his twisted mind on an already somewhat befuddled world at large?

Pregnant women have always been my idea of how a goodly chunk of humans can suddenly achieve true saintliness without needing the people in the Vatican to verify it, yet this guy would equate pregnant women with the world record-holder of mass murder. Ending a pregnancy is never something that any woman, even the flightiest of teenage girls, would take lightly, since being a mother is an instinct that is hard-wired into women in general. Therefore female judgments on going on with it should be respected and heeded above those of all others, especially, especially crusty old men such as Diaz (b. in 1943, this dummy is almost as ancient as I am, and guess what? He is also a minister -- Pentecostal!) who are more distant from the all important and delicate business of bringing new people into the world than anyone else, and yet are the ones who have the most to say and scream about the matter.

This is what happens in a world in which education is given such short shrift and ignorance is granted such free rein -- and reign. ...And rain, if you really want to take the homophones out there.

But maybe, in today's atmosphere of every man for himself, I'm taking this too seriously, so that every group can be forgiven for having its ignorants. After all, the Euro-derived people have always had a matching proportion of these losers in their ranks as well, and that was glaringly obvious this year, when the Republican primaries paraded an unbroken string of obvious lamebrains across the national consciousness -- depending on how many people happened to be conscious at the time.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Wise Old Skink

It's always great to see in the Spring, after the vegetation is almost finished with turning green, to see that all the moving little creatures have come back from wherever they go and whatever they do in the long, cold winters, when nothing is seen or heard of them. In the cold weather their absences are so total that it seems it will be permanent. Though maybe it's not so permanent. Maybe, every once in a while, my senses -- challenged these days in several ways -- do nevertheless catch little indications but they're not loud or vivid enough to cause me to take special notice -- a slight trill in the wind, a small scurrying under the dead leaves, a quick darting of something small and dark just past the corners of my eyes.

But now all the little moving things are out and about again, in the same numbers as always, in full color, sound, and definition, as if the cold and the darkness didn't diminish them in any way.

For the last several years an old five-lined skink has been living on the front deck of my workshop, under a big box where I store firewood, and yesterday I was glad to see him for the first time this year. And I know I will see him again and again, not always but often when I climb the three steps onto the deck. He likes to scurry into sight from the edge of the deck, stop suddenly, and stand there motionless for quite a long time, staring at me, and it's as if he's waiting to hear what I have to say for myself. After a minute of that, he decides that I quite idiotically can't speak five-lined skink, and he scuttles on under the wood box, disappearing.

I call him "the wise, old skink," or "George," and I'm sure though I can't know that he's the same one that reappears there, year after year. I know he's old because he's a dark grayish brown all over. Those who haven't looked it up always call his species just "lizards," though the graduates of MIT who are responsible for such things have classified them as being "five-lined skinks." That's because when they're young their bodies are marked by a series of stripes that extend from their tails to their heads. These lines, which must be there because of the usual reproductive purposes, are a yellowish brown that alternates with a same-sized blue that is so bright that the skinks are one of the most colorful and beautiful things to be seen in the animal kingdom around here.

This year the wise old skink looked slightly different. He stood higher off the deck than I remembered, and his body looked larger but shorter and more rounded. Maybe his legs have grown longer, and maybe he's gotten a paunch.

I wonder if he saw comparable changes in me. I'm sure he did. But as always he kept his observations to himself and eventually stopped waiting for me and hustled on off about whatever his business might be.

It's sobering to think how little we fit into the equations of the wild life around here. They stop and wait for us to follow whatever whim comes into our minds or otherwise get the hell out of their way. Meanwhile they always do the same stuff that they always do and always have done and always will do, give or take an eon or two, and they don't spend a lot of time showing up for examinations or applause. I doubt that the same will ever be said of us, on the cosmic scale of things.

Friday, May 04, 2012

As a Man Without Any of His Original Teeth...

--And having a neighbor who just recently had all his teeth removed and his jaw reconfigured while getting ready for implants, I took special interest in a news item about a lady dentist in London who, angry at having been dumped by her boy friend, agreed nevertheless to attend to him when later he had a toothache, and she got back at him by putting him under -- boy, did she put him under! -- while she pulled out all his teeth, after which she wrapped his head in bandages so that he wouldn't know anything was amiss, till he got home and, sensing that something wasn't right, he looked in the mirror and--

Now she is looking at a possible three years in jail for "medical malpractice and abusing the trust of a patient."

It seems that every few months you will see a news item like this, about some woman finding an unusual and drastic way of getting back at a man "who done her wrong." I saw mention of another such case just three or four months ago, but I can't remember what happened.

Oh, well. It's not as if women have not been doing this ever since the caveman days, getting back at their bigger and stronger male mates in a great variety of ways. There's probably a whole shelf of books on this subject, about as many as the number of stories written about equally enraged husbands who killed their wives and then tried to hide the bodies under the flagstones in the basement.

As to this guy suddenly minus his molars, cuspids, and the rest, I still have one all-important question, and that is, how many teeth did he have to begin with? The tragedy of this story stands or falls on this one crucial fact. Unfortunately that highly important information is omitted in the news account that I read, and all it says is that she took out "all" his teeth. I think the guy is in his middle 40's or thereabouts. This could mean that he still had his original 32 or so, or it could mean that he only had five or less. The difference makes all the difference.

If he had a lot, then that brings up a second question and that is, can an anaesthetic really put a man so far under that he doesn't feel anything when an angry woman is jerking out 30 or more of his teeth all at the same time? The pain of even one extraction always struck me as being so extreme that it seemed impossible that anyone could be drugged deeply enough not to feel a couple dozen of those babies being torn out of his gums one by one at intervals of just a moment or two.

Now the guy is comforting himself, saying he's going to get "some indents or something." He either mispoke there, or this is yet another case of the English misusing the English language, though the principals in this case all have distinctly Polish names.

That also was of interest, because of the implants that this neighbor across the road is getting. It led me to thinking whether I should have given more thought to getting implants, too, when, having lost patience with them, I had the last few of my original teeth taken out. But the technology was new, those 12 or 13 years ago or whenever it was, and it was on the expensive side, and I thought I'd make out well enough with false teeth. Besides, the idea of having modular teeth appealed to me, just as modular anything else would now -- that is, if I could carry a plastic heart or an aluminum liver or a couple of kevlar lungs around in my pocket if not in an attache case, and provided that they worked reasonably close to the way that my birth organs are still doing. But that day, sad to say, has no chance of coming in my time, and maybe not in yours either, but eventually--.

Nowadays, approaching the Moms Mabley style (that great comedienne of yesteryear seemed never to wear hers, or maybe she went bare-gummed only when she was onstage, for comic effect), I don't wear my portable teeth for much of the day -- except when I'm thinking that a nice lady might catch me first thing in the morning working in my shop without them, although the only women who might do that are the kind that wouldn't put me down on that account. But later in the day I still have to eat something that drives me to putting in those dentures, if I don't want to choke, a disorder to which I am especially vulnerable.

Every once in a while they will hurt one or the other part of my gums, but that's much more bearable than all those toothaches that I used to have to endure, and I was glad enough when all that candy that I had eaten in my time eventually swept away every last one of my original teeth, and I can't say now that I miss them.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Bye to the Morning Internet

In the interest of getting my days off to a better start, I want to wean myself from my present habit of surfing the Internet first thing in the morning. I want to save that till some time in the afternoon or in the evening. That's going to involve doing something about curbing my great curiosity about what's going on in the great Outside World, which for me is far more Outside than it is for the great majority of people. But with a little effort I think I might be able to manage that.

As it stands now, the first site I check in the morning is Weather Underground, followed by Google News, and then on to various weblogs and other sites of that kind. This is all well and good, but those other sites after the Weather cause the trouble, because far too often it involves being told what the Republicans and the other ubiquitous forces of evil are doing. That is a true poison to the mind, and it makes no difference even if the news item is speaking of some way in which, rightfully, they've been foiled in their dark designs. The peaceful, balanced mind is roiled and repelled by just the mention of their names.

But it could be worse, and even now I am in not nearly as bad a fix as all those for whom watching or reading the Fox Cable News Network is a staple of their lives.

A person is in a truly horrible bind if he or she should happen to live in a country where any large number of its citizens depends on Fox News for getting any percentage at all of its information on what is going on at home and abroad, along with takes on what it means.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Folly of Calling People "Black"

Speaking of falling on billions of sensationally deaf ears--

In my younger days I was never comfortable with being called "black," and now I am even less so.

It could be completely unknown among Americans with mostly European roots and also among the younger generations of those with African roots, but before the Civil Rights era, in the communities of what were then called "Negroes" or "colored people," "black" was a highly pejorative term, most often used as an adjective to intensify the evil, as in "You're a black son of a bitch!"

As a result, when that word was turned respectable, largely due to the efforts of the "black militants" such as Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and the others, one of the most respected authorities on the use of language in the "Negro" world, a literature professor at Howard U. in D.C. named Sterling Brown, now deceased but from whom I took many classes, couldn't go along with it, and though he was as militant as any scholar can get, he is recorded as saying in no uncertain terms, "I do not use the word "black." I hadn't been in his vicinity for years when I heard that, but I never use the word in that sense either, unless I'm not up for explaining myself as I am doing here.

It is difficult and maybe even impossible to drop the connotations and denotations of words that they had when a person learned a language, but with regard to calling people "black," or, just as imprecisely and sloppily, "white," there is much more to it.

I greatly prefer to apply the term "rainbow" to the people with whom I am grouped, and I don't care how enraged certain parties might get at the idea of applying the name of such a beautiful weather phenomenon to a people that they have been taught to despise. I have experienced that disgust a time or two. But the solid logic of this can be seen from viewing any large group of the descendants of the slaves brought over from Africa. In appearance they will range from something that approaches Swedish Nordic all the way over to the most sun-burned pygmies in equatorial Africa, and therefore they take in the entire human spectrum, and in this respect they could be unique in the world.

Add to that the fact that applying the term "black" to people suggests that they are the complete opposite of those who are called "white." The trouble with that is that only those who have seen nothing of one group or the other would be unaware that nothing could be farther than the truth.

Those are just two of my reasons for cringing whenever I hear even so simple a phrasing as "the blacks." (Yet another reason, that I can't help adding here, is the likelihood that some in the Eurocentric population might in fact actually know all about the derogatory earlier connotation of "black," and referring to a member of that minority as such allows them to speak ill of that person while not appearing to do so, and in that covert way the word "black" becomes one more weapon to use in today's world of engaging in deception and double-talk whenever possible.