Humans Versus Animals

“What a piece of work is Man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.”–Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Yeah, yeah, we are all that, but are we? Humans seem to have this chauvinistic and arrogant notion that we are the superior beings of all living creatures. It was the Swedish taxonomist, Carolus Linnaeus, who dubbed us homo sapiens, “wise man” (sexist, egocentric arrogance in itself). Homo, at root akin to humus—from which we also get human—is the Biblical clay from which God allegedly kneaded Adam when allegedly giving him his sapience. Linnaeus would have done better to call us homo loquens, “speaking human” or “the clay that speaks.” For though our racial sapience may be in doubt, our loquacity is beyond question and is what sufficiently distinguishes us from the so-called lower forms of life. Human is the critter that uses spoken language.

So, other than having the power of verbal communication, what else can we do the best? We can’t fly on our own volition, like the birds and some insects do. We can’t breathe underwater unassisted, like the fish and the aquatic mammals. As a species, we have relatively very short lifespans, unlike some tortoises and trees that can live for hundreds and thousands of years. We’re not the biggest, by any means, but size does not determine superiority anyway. I read somewhere that in proportion to his body, a male flea has the largest penis of any living creature. We’re not the strongest. Even an ant has it over us.

Animals have built-in defense mechanisms, like horns, armor, poisonous stingers, bites and venom, that can harm us and even kill us, as well as other creatures. Other than our limbs and possibly our teeth, we humans usually have to resort to outside tools, weapons and other gear to inflict harm on others. We’re not the fastest, all things being relative. We’re not the most adaptable. A cockroach can live off the glue on a postage stamp for months. We are certainly not the most beautiful, by some aesthetic standards. Our basic senses are not the most developed. Many animals have much better eyesight, hearing and sense of smell than we do, for instance. And it’s highly debatable whether we are the most intelligent.

In fact, with all things considered, I think that your insects are really the most supreme of all living creatures. They can fly, they can defy gravity (can you walk up a vertical surface unassisted?), they can swim, they have heightened senses and lethal defenses, they are creative, intelligent, resourceful, incredibly strong, fast, adaptable, and they have big dicks! They have also mastered resistance to exposure to the most deadly force known on earth—radiation. It’s been said that if (and when) there is a nuclear holocaust, the insects will probably survive it. I believe it.

And don’t let size fool you, because there is strength in numbers. I learned that there are several billion insects to every person on earth. If they ever decided to band together and turn on us, we wouldn’t have a chance. They could easily take over the world. Look at how those locusts travel in massive swarms every few years, eating up all the vegetation in local areas. Suppose that they summon the rest of their friends sometime and go on a feeding rampage? After they have consumed all the plant life on earth, they would then have to start in on us and all the other animals, wouldn‘t they? We already know about those fearless, carnivorous army ants, who are able to cause plenty of damage in great numbers. Even if they eventually have to start eating each other, they proliferate so much and so often that they probably would always maintain a supply of and for themselves.

Just because a creature cannot verbalize their thoughts, it does not in any way mean that they are less intelligent. Certain members of the ape family, for example, have been taught to communicate via American Sign Language. That would make them at least as smart as any deaf person. Dumb (mute) does not necessarily mean stupid. I absolutely abhor the common practice of referring to a deaf-mute person as a “dummy.” Just because they can’t speak or choose not to, does not make them mentally deficient. A person learns to speak by repeating from what they have heard others speaking. Since someone born deaf has never heard spoken language, how would they be able to imitate it? It is those who do speak who reveal their stupidity. If one doesn’t say anything, how do you know what they know? Deaf and blind Helen Keller was thought to be a hopeless case until her teacher, Annie Sullivan, got a hold of her. Helen turned out to be quite intelligent. How many of us with normal hearing can read lips and knows Braille and Sign Language? I learned that a tame gorilla is able to operate an iPad!

A guy I know once proclaimed at a party that “animals can’t think.” I said, ‘How in the hell do you know about their mental capabilities?’ Why wouldn’t animals be able to think? They have a brain just like we do. For example, my cat liked to sleep with me, but when she was just a kitten she was too small to climb the ladder to my loft bed. But I never carried her up there; I wanted to see if she could get there on her own. And she did! I could see her casing the situation, then she must have figured it out to maneuver each rung of the ladder until she reached the top. That must have required some thought and logic. Of course, as she grew, she was able to accomplish it more easily and subsequently was able to run up or down the ladder in one fail swoop.

A polar bear’s being white allows them to be able to blend in with their snow-covered surroundings. But their black nose is a sure giveaway when they are trying to sneak up on a seal, their primary food source. I learned that a polar bear will cover its nose with its paw to camouflage itself. Now how do they know that their nose is black, unless they figured it out from seeing the other bears and then knew enough to hide their own in order to stalk their prey? That must have taken some thought on their part. In a study of the mating habits of kangaroos, it was discovered that females tend to go after the males with the bigger arms!

Some dismiss animal behavior as mere instinct, but I think that even so-called instinct requires some kind of mental assessment. When they need to eat, they know enough to try to obtain food to satisfy their hunger. Otherwise when they got hungry, they would just starve to death, because they wouldn’t know what to do about it. With some creatures, all they do in life is eat and breed. Have they figured out that they need to breed in order to sustain the species, or is it that they just like having sex? How do they know about gestation and self-birthing and parenthood? They know their own children and will go to any length to protect them.

Animal mothers teaching and training their young how to hunt and how to survive in the wild must result in telepathic communication. How do baby animals learn about their particular skills and defenses, unless their parents somehow teach them what they need to know? Do birds realize that they can fly from seeing others of their kind do it? Then what about the ratites, birds that can’t or won’t fly–like your cassowaries, emus, kiwis, ostriches, penguins and rheas–did they a long time ago decide that they didn’t want or need to fly, so they never developed the proper wings or body type to do so? It couldn’t be about their size, because I’m sure that a condor is bigger and heavier than an ostrich, say, and it can lift off, despite its weight.

I have so many questions about animal behavior. Do animals that compete with each other–racehorses, greyhounds, fighting cocks, jumping frogs, whatever–know that they are being tested? Do they themselves have a competitive nature and actually want to win the race or fight or athletic event? Do they know when they win or lose and do they care? For that matter, do horses and other animals really like being ridden all the time? I realize that they put up with it, but even we humans often tolerate things that we don’t particularly enjoy. Some of these beasts of burden might think, “Well, he feeds me, grooms me and talks nicely to me. I guess I can let him ride me in return.”

I am pretty sure that animals on screen know that they are performing. Lassie, for one, was a great actor. He (the role was always played by a male collie) would display a range of emotions, depending on the situation. He could register excitement, despair, pain, affection, whatever was required of him. Mike, the chimpanzee who played Cheeta in many of the Tarzan films, was also a consummate and versatile actor. He had to have known what he was doing. James Stewart relates in a documentary how the horse, Pie, that he worked with for 20 years in 17 western films, always knew when he was being filmed, and they knew each other so well that Jimmy could talk to him and give him directions and the horse would obey and do his part.

There is a story about the making of Mike Nichols’ The Day of the Dolphin (1973). It is said that the two dolphins that played a big part in the film would show up on the set every day at the same time, or at least when they were shooting, and then would go away when they were finished for the day. And they somehow knew when the movie was finished as well. At the various Sea Worlds across the country, the dolphins and whales do perform for the attending spectators. They jump out of the water together and juggle balls, so they must know that they have an audience.

How do certain animals form groups and perform common actions? How do birds get into that choreographically-synchronized formation when they fly south for the winter, for instance? When the lead bird gets tired and drops out, another one will take its place. Does that one volunteer or are they chosen by the other birds? A pet “homing” pigeon, when left some place other than where it resides, can find its way home, even if it’s thousands of miles and through any kind of weather condition. If you woke up in unfamiliar surroundings many miles from where you live, would you be able to find your way home, without the use of any maps, signs, conveyances, protective covering, or asking anybody for your location and directions?

Who told all those cattle to stampede? Is there an ant and bee foreman who tells the others what their particular tasks are? There must be some mental communication, or do they just decide on their own what needs to be done? How do they know who their queen is? Is she elected or self-appointed? Since most insect species reproduce many offspring at one time and often, are the breeders able to keep up and recognize their spawn and regard them all equally? Is the mother cockroach aware that that was her baby that I just smashed in the sink?

I believe that communication is accomplished via their antennae, something that we humans don‘t have. Consider the architectural prowess and aesthetic sensibilities of some creatures. A bee’s honeycomb is made up of symmetrical, adjacent six-sided cells. How did they figure that out? How did they learn to make honey, for that matter? Is the pearl inside an oyster’s shell an unwanted, resultant growth like a gall stone, or is it intentional on the oyster’s part? Birds build nests for themselves and their young, and beavers build dams, using material that is available to them. When the lemmings are heading to the sea to commit suicide, does any of them ask, “Where are we going, what are we doing and why?“?

Then, too, most animals make audible sounds that they most likely understand between like species, just like humans have created our own languages by which to communicate with each other. Just because we don’t understand their “zoosemiotics,” does not mean that their utterances don’t mean anything to them. We just don’t speak each other’s particular language. And whereas humans use many different sounds that mean all different things, a cat’s meow or a pig’s grunt sounds pretty much the same, at least to our ears. So they must have a more specialized way of conversing with each other. They more often seem to use non-verbal communication, which must mean that there is mental connection between them. A dog’s wagging their tail, for example, is a kind of sign language. They are trying to express something that’s on their mind when they do that.

I think that creatures that are able to communicate telepathically, therefore have it over us. Moreover, our pets and other animals can be taught to respond to our verbal commands–in all languages, too, depending on who is speaking–which suggests some sort of comprehension on their part. A Chinese dog, for example, responds to spoken Mandarin just as an American one knows English. You tell them to sit, and they will sit.

In Water for Elephants (2011) one of the characters attempts to train a female “bull” elephant that he acquires from another circus. When the animal doesn’t respond to his spoken commands, he proceeds to poke her in her side with a pointy prod. This doesn’t work, and of course, it enrages the elephant. They eventually figured out that the pachyderm understands Polish, which she learned from her previous owner! So it appears that animals learn whatever language is spoken to them and then respond accordingly, just as we humans do.

But we still haven’t learned what all their sounds mean. When a dog barks, we will say, “What’s the matter, boy? What do you want?” But if we knew Dog, we wouldn’t have to ask, would we? He understands you, but you don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. So, who’s the smarter?

Humans have the propensity of measuring and assessing all universal accomplishments against our own limited abilities. If Man [sic] can’t do it, it can’t be done. I was annoyed by a line in the movie sequel Aliens (1986). When the power went out in the complex and somebody blamed it on the creatures, one guy of the squadron said, “What do you mean they killed the power? They’re only animals!” I said (to the screen), ‘Well, what do you think you are?!’ With all that we had seen that organism already do, I don’t think that a little power switch would pose that much of a challenge.

Moreover, the astronauts in all four films of the series were on some foreign planet, dealing with an indigenous creature. But the titles and the movies themselves all implied that the monsters were the aliens, when in actuality, it’s the errant humans who are the real extraterrestrials and who came from someplace else. If we ever get to Mars, for example, we shouldn’t refer to the “people” already living there as aliens! That’s such an egocentric viewpoint. It’s like when we used to think that the Earth was the center of the Universe and everything else revolved around us.

I know it’s only a movie for our entertainment, but I also don’t like the fact that the humans’ prime mission is to wipe out all the creatures. Still referring to the “Alien” films, now Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) managed to survive the first film and make it back home to Earth. So then in the sequel, they get a whole new team together and go back to that same planet with the sole purpose of killing all of the creatures, who are there going about their own business. She got away, so why didn’t she keep her butt at home instead of going back there to antagonize them further? Naturally, the things are going to retaliate. The creature tried to impress upon them in the first film that the Earthlings were not welcome there, so why would they want to keep going back to where they are not wanted?

In Aliens, the second installment, just after a female creature has laid her eggs in the complex, Ripley goes in and destroys the nest and all the eggs. I don’t blame the mother for going after Ripley for that. Most anyone would do the same thing for their own kids. I don’t hate space creatures and monsters for being different from us, and just because the humans are actors that we know and love, doesn’t mean that their characters are always doing the right or honorable thing.

All living creatures are part of the Circle of Life, and if we would just leave everything and everyone alone, Nature would be able to operate as it’s supposed to. You know, it always bothers me how animals are treated, especially in their own habitats. Like in the jungle safari movies, for example, the explorers will be making their way through the brush when they encounter a big cat, maybe looking for food or just passing through on its way home. “Eek, a lion! Shoot it!” Look, if you’re afraid of dangerous jungle animals, then keep your butt out of there! Their rationale is that it is either them or the animal—you know, self defense. But who is in the wrong here? Doesn’t this animal have a right to be where it is? It’s at home. Those people don’t live out there in the jungle! They’re the intruders, not the lion. If someone breaks into your house and you both have a gun and you shoot and kill the intruder, you would be declared to be in the right, since it was self-defense and you were defending your turf. Well, these wild animals should have the same right. The humans are the interlopers, but they can just walk into these animals’ homes, kill them and destroy their homes, and nothing is done about it. The innocent animals have no rights or recourse.

Another time they will disturb a tree and a python will drop out of it, most likely startled and frightened. So what do these white men do? They kill the snake! Now, this poor little snake is in its own home minding its business, and just because these assholes don’t like snakes or are afraid of them, they decide to kill it. Once when a friend of mine was visiting his sister in South Carolina, his teenaged nephew and niece found a snake in their yard and promptly killed it. I asked him why did they kill the snake, and he told me, “Because it might be poisonous.“ I said, ‘What?! Just because this innocent creature may or may not have a built-in defense mechanism, it deserves to die?‘ With that thinking, why don’t they kill everything for their mere being, and then why not go farther than that and kill everybody they encounter in life, too, because they just might have a gun or knife or some dangerous weapon on them? Some people will use any excuse to justify killing something.

So the way things are, if you don’t like a certain creature, it does not deserve to live. I would bet that more snakes have been deliberately killed by humans than people have been attacked by snakes. Where does one encounter a snake? Where they live–in the wild, in the jungle, in bodies of water. They tend to stay to themselves. They don’t get their friends together and go into the village or big city on a killing spree. If you find a snake where it shouldn’t be, it’s because somebody probably put it there. Okay, maybe I do like snakes, but that doesn’t excuse these animal killers.

It’s been said that most animals can smell and sense fear. They have learned that when someone is afraid, they will strike out at the object of their fear. So the animal, in turn, will then attempt to defend itself against the other’s aggression. I don’t consider any animal to be vicious by nature, who attack people unprovoked. We are usually the catalyst. Just like when a bumblebee buzzes by, a common reaction is to swat at it, which the innocent bee takes to mean that the person is trying to harm or kill it. So naturally it will retaliate by stinging the aggressor, which is their defense mechanism. When a bee loses its stinger, the result is death for the bee. I don’t think that they just go around committing suicide at will. If you don’t bother them, they most likely will not bother you. I am pretty sure that bees, hornets and wasps don’t go on regular stinging sprees, attacking everything that they come in contact with. I have encountered many stinging insects during my lifetime, but I have never been stung by one. I just remain calm and let them go about their business, which they always do.

Wild animals behave much in the same way. Most tend to avoid and retreat from humans when they can. Unless you are their intended prey, they don’t just attack innocent humans for any other reason. In my opinion, it is Man himself who is the most vicious of creatures. Humans are the ones who kill other living things and each other indiscriminately at will. As I said, animals seem to sense fear. If you freak out in their presence, it causes them to freak out as well. They wonder, “What’s happening? Why is that guy acting so nervously? Is he about to hurt me? I’d better put up my guard.” I’ve never been bitten or attacked by any animal (discounting mosquitoes), because I must not be threatening to them, I guess. I don’t bother them, so they leave me alone as well.

There was a news report a while ago that a Siberian tiger had escaped from his cage at the San Diego Zoo and killed a man in the process of trying to get away. So, of course, the poor tiger was shot and killed, because we can’t have a wild animal running around killing innocent people, now can we? But I am on the side of the animal. How would you feel if you were abducted from your homeland and then imprisoned in a tiny cell, er, cage, as if you were a dangerous criminal but you hadn’t done a damned thing to anybody? Wouldn’t you try to find a way to escape and strike out at anyone who tried to stop you? Some people think that animals have no feelings at all and think that they can do anything they want to them. But apparently the tiger was unhappy being confined like that or else he wouldn’t have tried to escape. They didn’t have to kill him. They could have used a tranquilizer dart on him or something. The fact that tigers are now on the endangered list, makes his murder all the more unfortunate and maddening.

A new scandal has arisen with the recent slaughter of a celebrated Zimbabwean lion named Cecil by dentist Dr. Walter Palmer. The country is in an uproar, deeming Palmer as “the most hated man in America.” The excuse that he proffered was that he didn’t realize that the lion he killed was famous or beloved. But that’s hardly the point, is it? He shouldn’t be killing any wild animals, regardless of their purported notoriety. “Oh, I thought he was just some old, anonymous, insignificant, ghetto lion. I didn’t know that he was beloved by many and was actually known by name.” And Cecil isn’t even the first lion that Palmer has killed. It’s just that this last time he was found out and called on it. Another sick aspect of it all is that Palmer paid $55,000 (!) for the privilege of going on one of these big game hunting safaris. As of this writing, Dr. Palmer is in hiding somewhere, as there are a bunch of people after his hide. Somebody said, “I’d like to mount Palmer’s head on my wall!:

Another recent incident of public outrage concerns the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla who was shot and killed when a toddler managed to get into the animal’s enclosure. Many, including myself, want to know how the child got into the gorilla’s space in the first place. It appears that he crawled under a fence and then dropped down ten feet into the enclosure. What was the child’s parents doing at the time? They must not have been watching him. The kid was deemed to be in serious danger, but the news footage that I have seen of the encounter appeared to me that the gorilla was not intentionally trying to harm the child. They looked as if they were merely playing. The animal was holding the kid’s hands and romping with him on the ground, perhaps a little too roughly it was thought. But just as with the murdered tiger, this innocent gorilla, although also endangered, its life was not as important as a human child’s and had to be sacrificed. It’s a good thing that there weren’t any trigger-happy hunters around when those jungle apes encountered Baby Tarzan.

I think that some blame must be put on the parents and the zoo officials as well. The fact that any visiting spectator can get that close to the animals should be addressed. I suppose now they will do something about the lax security and safety features at that zoo. And instruct parents to keep an eye on their children while there! I remember a sign on the wild birds’ cage at the Bronx Zoo years ago that read, “Keep your hands outside the bars. These birds will bite your fingers…OFF!” Thanks for the warning.

But speaking of dangerous, uncontrollable simians… Remember King Kong (1933, 1976, 2005 and 2017), that giant, vicious gorilla? Now Kong had lived on that island all those years, staying off to himself, minding his business, not bothering anybody. The natives there even revered him as a benign god. Sure, he abducts Miss White Child, who is given to him as a sacrifice, but he doesn’t harm her in any way. In fact, he keeps trying to protect her. When the marauding interlopers arrive to rescue “the girl,” the first thing they do upon encountering the ape is to start shooting at him! “Let’s kill that savage beast! How dare he run off with one of our women!” Well, how did he get her and why was she there?

But then the head guy gets the bright idea to take Kong back to New York to exploit him for his own gain. But as soon as Kong displays the slightest displeasure of being in this new environment, well then, he has to be destroyed! So those bastards go to all that trouble bringing him here, against his will, only to have him killed when they realize their mistake. They should have left him where he was. Then the jerk who is responsible for what went down has the nerve to blame Ms. Thing. “It was Beauty that killed the Beast,” he declares at the end. No, it wasn’t. It was you greedy, exploitative assholes who killed him!

By the way, if I may digress for a moment, I have always wondered about this aspect of all the films. When Kong is knocked out on the island with something so that they can transport him, the very next scene shows a big, flashing neon sign announcing Kong’s premiere unveiling at a theater in the middle of Times Square! Now, how in the world did they sneak that big-assed ape into midtown Manhattan and into the theater without anybody seeing them do it?! And Times Square is not near any waterways. They would have to maneuver the narrow streets to get there. He would have to be unconscious still, too, to accomplish it. How did they move him, and on what kind of transport or conveyance would he even fit? So at the most populated section of Manhattan at any given time, there was nobody in the area when they were sneaking him in? Kong’s subsequent unveiling was a big surprise to everybody.

That editorial omission is a transitional scene that is never shown in any of the film versions, and nobody even explains how they did it. We viewers just have to accept it without question. I question everything. I can accept the unreality of the main aspects of the plot of a movie for the sake of the story, even if it is a fantasy, but I wish that the producers would make the minor details of the action plausible as well. When they do something that requires some kind of explanation, tell us how it was done or how it might be possible. I like to have the feeling of, ‘Okay, I’ll buy that. That could happen,’ instead of, ‘Aw, come on, that doesn’t make any kind of sense!’

A case in point. I have written a mystery screenplay that deals with a serial killer. As my killer character is very methodical and pays close attention to detail, while going through the story to check for mistakes, discrepancies and such, I found myself asking certain questions, just as I do when I watch movies and TV shows. I have characters doing things for the sake of the story, but then I stop and wonder why or how they did that. So, for my own satisfaction and for it to make sense in my own mind, as well as my readers and viewers who may share my tendency to scrutinize everything, I then attempt to answer my own questions and explain how it was accomplished.

In some of the older werewolf movies, a man (or woman) turns into a real wolf, but what happened to the clothes they were wearing? Then when they turn back, their clothes miraculously reappear. It’s a similar situation when someone is rendered invisible or when their size is extremely altered. It’s their physical body that is effected by the transformation or serum or radiation or whatever, not their clothing. If the story calls for a person to turn into a creature of some sort or shrink or increase in size, then the director should make them get naked first. You know? Reality within the fantasy.

There is an old “The Twilight Zone” episode entitled “People Are Alike All Over,” in which Roddy McDowall is an astronaut who lands on Mars and is met with friendly Martian hospitality. They appear to be human (although everyone is Caucasian), they wear clothes and speak English. They escort him to his lodgings, a house equipped with all the normal comforts of an Earthly home. But when Roddy tries to leave the house and discovers that his door is locked and there are no windows to his humble abode, he starts to freak out. Then a wall panel opens up and he is confronted with iron bars and sees a throng of Martian people staring in at him. There is a sign just outside of the bars that reads, “Earth Creature in his natural habitat.” He then realizes that he is on display, like in a zoo, and will have to remain there for the rest of his life. He concludes that people are the same everywhere!

I am not against zoos in themselves. I like the fact that we can view all kinds of different creatures without having to travel to their various natural habitats. But I do object to confining them in cages. There are some zoological gardens that maintain large, unbarred areas where the animals can roam free. Visitors can drive through and look at the animals from their vehicles or get out if they want to take pictures. Why can’t all zoos take this same approach and do away with cages and confined spaces? We have the room.

In 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) a space crew returning from a trip to Venus brings back with them a creature from the planet who is not vicious at all but on the contrary, innocent, confused and frightened. It subsequently escapes its original confines and gets away. While hiding out in a barn, a farmer jabs the “Ymir” with a pitchfork, causing the creature to fight back. So whereas William Hopper and his guys want to protect and study the creature, now some others want to destroy him because he hurt a man. Well, the man attacked him first! He wasn’t bothering anybody. Just like with Kong, they bring this Venusian animal from his homeland, against his will, and then are hellbent on killing him as soon as he gets here. Why don’t they leave things alone?!

(# Who’s afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?… #) The poor wolf is always depicted as a vicious marauder in folklore. They are always stalking and preying on innocent animals like pigs and even little girls. From what I know about them, wolves are not aggressive like that at all. They’re gentle and they stay to themselves most of the time. They’re just a breed of wild dog who have to eat just like everybody else. So what if that wolf or fox raided the hen house? Now, come on, admit it—I’m sure you’d raid it, too, if you got hungry enough! My sympathies always lie with the creatures rather than the humans. In all those giant monster movies, the animals got that way due to some sort of experimentation, radiation tests or ecological negligence on the white man’s part, but then the creatures are punished for being in the situation that the men themselves caused. It’s the same thing that they do with each other.

Let’s consider the plight of our sea creatures. The great white sharks in the Jaws movies and the giant squids in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Beast are made out to be monsters and the villains of the story. Why is that? A shark’s only raison d’etre is swimming and eating. That’s all it does. And being a fish, it can’t leave the confines of the ocean, so that is where it must find its food. So if that group of sport divers were eaten by sharks or other sea creatures, how are the animals in the wrong? They were hungry, and the divers were available. We do the same thing. And don’t smaller fish go after what’s dangled in the water at them? So, people are bigger, but they are still considered bait just the same. “I’m going to destroy that shark for killing my son!” But, which shark did it, first of all, and what was your son doing lurking around the shark’s domain? It didn’t come up on the shore to get him, did it? Captain Ahab is obsessed with killing Moby Dick because the whale bit off his leg. How did that happen? He didn’t bite off my leg! Ahab has to take some responsibility for being in that situation.

As life imitates art and vice versa, some years ago a 13-year-old surfer girl named Bethany Hamilton, was relaxing on her surfboard off the coast of Kauai, when a large tiger shark swam up and bit off her entire left arm all the way to the shoulder. The girl survived—she didn’t even freak out about it—but her father and some of his friends subsequently went after the alleged shark to destroy it, which they did. How dare that shark look for food in order to live! I mean, what was it thinking? Couldn’t it distinguish a little white child from a sea turtle?!

Another woman was out marlin fishing one day, and I suppose the marlin that she was struggling with just got fed up with people trying to catch it all the time. So the marlin swam up to the boat where the woman was standing, jumped out of the water and speared the woman through her body while trying to pull her into the water with it. The fish was probably thinking, “Bitch, you are going down! I am tired of y’all fuckin’ with me!” Miraculously, the woman survived the attack.

I don’t expect ever to be eaten by sharks or whales, because I’m not intentionally going to be out there where they are! But if it should ever happen, then it’s too bad for me. I certainly won’t fault the animal. People need to take responsibility for their own actions. The animal shouldn’t be blamed for doing what it is supposed to do. Again, an arbitrary value is put on a creature’s life. Humans, especially white men, think that they are certainly more important than an insignificant shark, some stupid snake or tiger. But in Nature’s eyes, we are no better than any other creature. What humans need to realize is that just as we prey on other animals, we have to accept the fact that we ourselves are also prey for other creatures. We kill and eat things from the sea, hence the term seafood, and sea creatures themselves eat other things that they find in the water. So if some guy is swimming around in there with the sharks and other hungry sea creatures at mealtime, then they should expect to become the potential “seafood dinner.“ How dare we blame them for doing the exact same thing to us that we do to them? It’s survival of the fittest, or most clever. The difference is, however, that most animals kill only for self-preservation or to protect their young. Only humans kill other creatures for mere sport.

Being a major carnivore myself, it would be hypocritical of me to protest the killing of all animals for our food supply. But I do object to killing an animal just for the sake of killing it. The hunter who will shoot a deer or a duck out of the air and then walk off and leave it lying there seems senseless to me. Even fishing just for sport with no intention of eating the fish caught seems a bit pointless and wasteful. If you’re not going to eat it, then let the thing live out its natural life. It’s bewildering to me that there are people who actually take great pride in their ability to outwit a fish.

I don’t think that we all should become vegetarians, necessarily. If everybody in the world was a strict vegetarian, there would probably then be a shortage of fruit, vegetables and grains. And then, too, plants are living things that we kill and destroy when we pick them, cut them down and dig them up. But I believe that these things are put here for our own use. We have to eat something, don’t we, to nourish ourselves and to survive. But we carnivores are part of the balance of nature ourselves. At this time, however, there does not seem to be a noticeable shortage of beef cattle, porkers, poultry and seafood. But as soon as any of these creatures become endangered, only then will I worry about giving them up.

Slaughtering poor, defenseless animals just for their furs is cruel and barbarous, too. As I am all for conservation and recycling, I don’t object to the use of animal by-products, but why can’t they wait until the animal dies a natural death? There is nothing that we need so urgently that we should kill an elephant to obtain its tusks. If they want it that badly, find the secret elephant graveyard and get it from the dead animals. Oh, but that’s too much trouble. It’s much easier just to kill the ones right there in front of me. Or as an alternative, plastic piano and organ keys work just as well as ivory ones.

Supply and demand should be determined by natural availability. “I would like a silver fox coat, please.” “I’m sorry, ma’am, but there are no deceased silver foxes at the moment. You’ll just have to wait. Or better yet, why don’t you select one of our imitation furs instead?” The appearance and feel of fake furs are just as nice and they are just as warm. Why do they have to be real? Sure, I love leather, but I can do without it. Please don’t kill anything on my account.

I don’t personally indulge in the killing of any living creature, except for insects that get into my apartment. My justification is that they are unwanted intruders in my domicile. I don’t mind spiders, but I don’t like flies, ants, termites or cockroaches in my house. So with them, it’s either get out or die. Anywhere else, I don’t care what they do. I don’t like gnats and mosquitoes anywhere, indoors or out, but I don’t bother bees, butterflies or any other outdoor insects. I have seen mice in my place on occasion, but I don’t kill them when they get in here, however. I think that mice are cute, and basically harmless. When I had cats, they would get rid of them and take care of any other invading vermin. Mice don’t come in your house to make social calls. They’re looking for something to eat. If they don’t find anything lying around, they will go away on their own. I don’t have to kill them. They don’t say, “I am going to stay right here until you feed me!”

Ogden Nash has a verse that goes, “God in His wisdom made the fly, / And then forgot to tell us why.“ I feel the same about cockroaches and waterbugs. What earthly purpose do they serve anyway? All they do is proliferate, crawl around on anything and everything and eat anything that they are able to. I feel no guilt or remorse when I kill one. My roaches seem to be remiss in their communication skills, incidentally. They most likely have a nest in my kitchen area behind the sink, as that is where they usually emerge from, crawling around on my counter and in the sink itself looking for water perhaps. As they are not very fast in their retreat, I am able to smash them or scald them with hot water from the faucet. Sometimes I will leave them there as a warning to the others, so I would think that when one comes out into the sink and sees their dead homies, they would alert the others and tell them, “Hey, guys, stay in your hole and don’t come out! There is a mad serial killer on the loose! Nobody is safe!” But they never seem to learn and keep dying by the droves. And the fact that I don’t leave any food lying around, their quest for same is futile anyway. As it turns out, their venturing out into the open tends to be a potential suicide mission for them.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s take on his 1963 thriller The Birds, he explains how humankind constantly takes nature for granted. In the case of our feathered friends, they are always being shot at and killed, throttled, strangled, eaten and/or confined in cages. Is it any wonder that they would some day all band together and fight back? In the movie itself, it’s never explained why the birds attacked or if something or someone were compelling them to do so. Mr. Hitchcock has left it up to us viewers to draw our own conclusions about it. I suppose these films, as well other similar ones, could serve as cautionary tales to warn us that if we oppress living beings long enough, whether they be human or beast, they may eventually turn on us, and the resulting situation will be our own undoing.

I have another thing to say in defense of animals. We should stop attributing our negative human traits to innocent animals. “Men are such animals!” you’ll hear people say. In actuality, men are such…men! “My boyfriend treats me like a dog. He beats me and even tried to rape me last night. He was like an animal.” Really? What animals do you know that beat and rape their mates? My guess is that he is an abusive man who treats you worse than he would his dog. An unattractive woman is not a dog either. She’s an unattractive woman. Most dogs are considered cute. To a person who overeats, we might say, “You eat like a pig!” instead of “You eat like a voracious person!” Pigs don’t eat any more food than they require. “He drinks like a fish.” Uh, I don’t think that fish actually drink. Don’t you mean that he drinks like a lush? Let’s stop using animals as, if you’ll pardon the expression, scapegoats for our own human shortcomings, you male chauvinist…men, you. I shall work like a dog, er, I mean, a diligent individual, to obtain some common respect for our animal friends.

We do the same sort of thing to children. Adults refer to many of their own actions as “childish” behavior when they are, in fact, quite adult-like behavior. Childishness should not be synonymous with immaturity. One can act immaturely, but not necessarily childish. Many children are quite mature, regardless of their age, just like many adults can be quite immature, regardless of their age. So in my opinion, the term “childish,” when used in this context, as an insult, is inappropriate, unjustified, disrespectful and condescending. What’s in a word? The verb to kid means to fool, deceive, tease or joke, which suggests that children shouldn’t be taken seriously and everything they say is a joke. “Are you kidding me?…You’ve got to be kidding…I kid you not.”

Why I find that term to be inappropriate and disrespectful is because it is usually adults, not children, that indulge in misleading or derisive behavior. What I consider to be childish attitudes are innocence and unbridled honesty. Children usually speak their minds and call it as they see it. They have not yet learned the adult games of willful pretense, deceit and social decorum. It’s “out of the mouths of babes“ with them! Of course, youngsters can be deliberately cruel, too, especially to their peers, but I think that they pick up that tactic from their elders. In the case of your school bullies, for example, more often than not, you’ll find that they have a guardian or family member who is also a bully.

We should not presume that God makes mistakes of Nature. Whenever an animal or plant specimen is discovered to be different from the accepted norm, it is considered to be a new variety, breed or species. But when a human is born abnormally, it’s regarded as a freak or monster. Why should so-called normality be based on majority? They are just different from somebody else. Let’s consider the canine family, for instance. There are countless breeds of dogs of every shape and size who don’t look anything like each other. You put a Chihuahua, dachshund, pit bull, great Dane and St. Bernard together. Which one is the “freak“? We recognize and accept them all as dogs. They are just different. The same can be said of birds. Look at all the different kinds of birds there are in terms of appearance, but each species is accepted as being what it is and not criticized for not looking like another kind. Maybe these human anomalies are evolutionary mutants, members of a new species themselves or perhaps misplaced prototypes of creatures from somewhere else in the Universe.

Let me now give you a couple of human for-instances. Have you noticed that children born with Down’s Syndrome all have similarities in appearance? They look as if they could be related genetically. The condition is caused by a certain chromosome that occurs in the parent’s genetic makeup. Maybe they belong to their own sub-species. They are not unique, as there are approximately 400,000 Down’s Syndrome people in the United States alone. The same can be said of Little People. I find that dwarves, particularly, have a similar facial resemblance, as if they, too, are all genetically-related. I don’t believe that is coincidence. Just as it is with dogs, birds and all the other generic creatures, these people have a commonality among them but are still different from one to the next.

There was a television commercial for Bell Helmets that displayed the caption, “Humans are the only species with the ability to reason, and sometimes, they even use it.” I have come to the conclusion that this ability to reason is more often a discredit to our imagined superiority than it is an asset. Our trouble is that we tend to over-intellectualize everything. Thinking makes us too judgmental and moralistic. There is an old adage that says that ignorance is bliss, and it’s true in many cases. Certain knowledge is dangerous and/or unconstructive. It seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the more knowledge that humankind obtains, the more stupidly and irresponsibly we behave with that knowledge. In many ways I wish we were more like the animals—more simplistic or less-complex. By animals, I refer to non-human lifeforms.

If animals could talk to us…gee, could they teach us a thing or two! I love the section of Gulliver’s Travels where he visits the land of the Houyhnhnms, a superior race of rational, moral horses, and the life-changing lessons that Gulliver learns from them. They show him that complete honesty in communication is necessary for true knowledge and understanding, and purposely to utter untruths is senseless and counterproductive. He also comes to realize the needlessness of material things. Clothing, for example, is a manmade invention, as we were all born naked. With clothes we need pockets, then we need things to put into those pockets. And that’s where our lives become so complicated. Animals don’t need clothes or pockets (discounting the marsupials) or things with which to fill them.

Whereas animals don’t use any kind of currency or even need it and are not at all concerned with money, our very existence is motivated by it. Our society and civilization have been set up so that we cannot possibly live without it. In fact, we need it to come into the world, certainly to stay here, and even to go out of it. Money may not be at the root of all evil, but it certainly is the motive for much of the wrongdoing in the world. Some people lose all moral sense when it comes to money. They will do absolutely anything for it. They lie, cheat, steal and especially kill for it. It causes avariciousness and it makes people crazy and irrational.

What if there was no such thing as the concept of money, if everything was free? If money was not the end result or motivation behind all human action, people would do things out of mere necessity or their desire to do them. We all would still have to work to create and manufacture and maintain the things we need to live on and give us pleasure. Most money-related crimes are committed because we need something that we can’t afford or we are just greedy and want something that doesn’t belong to us. If no one needed money for anything, there would be no good reason to rob or steal. We could simply go to the store and get what we need or want.

Animals are not into social status and don’t try to impress each other with their appearance and how much they have. I imagine, too, that animals accept the way they are and how they look. Even if they don’t, what can they do about it? They don’t wear makeup and have cosmetic surgery done on themselves. They seem content to be the shape and size that they turn out. If a species specimen does find itself discontent with any aspect of its being, it will employ the process of evolution to effect the necessary changes in future generations. They don’t have the luxury of instant gratification like we do. If we want to change our nose or our whole face, we can get it done more readily.

Animals have no modesty or shame whatsoever. They don’t get embarrassed and have no humility. They are totally uninhibited when it comes to the sex act, for instance. They will sniff each other’s asses and indulge in unprotected sex right out in the open with people watching them. They don’t care. They’re just doing as nature dictates. Animal mothers breast-feed their young in public and no one seems to mind. But people aren’t as unfazed when their own human counterparts do the same thing. Breast-feeding mothers have been banned from the mall, and some have even been arrested for indecent exposure. Animals will relieve themselves in public wherever they please, and they run around without any clothes on and are not at all concerned with what anybody thinks about it.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we just take dumps wherever or whenever the mood strikes us, but then again, if we use some discretion and then clean up after ourselves like we do our pets, then I don’t see anything all that wrong with it. And I’m certainly not against public sex. I am an exhibitionist as well as a voyeur. If I like to watch other people exposing themselves and having sex, and who doesn’t, judging from the success of the porno industry, then in all fairness, I shouldn’t mind showing myself off to others. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. You don’t have to look if you don’t want to. And you had better not mind my looking either. If you don’t want me to see your “bidness,” then cover the shit up! (Check out my piece on censorship.)

That’s another thing I’ve noticed about human beings, is that they like to hide and conceal their activities from each other, as if nobody else in the world is doing the same thing they are. If that weren’t enough, we can’t just be content committing the consensual sex acts that we enjoy among ourselves, we have to be concerned with what everybody else is doing with each other, and then passing judgment on those activities that we ourselves may or may not engage in. No matter what sexual activity you engage in, no matter how benign or perverse, there is going to be someone who disapproves. Who has the right to decide what should be taboo? Taboos are perpetuated by narrow-minded individuals and remain so because of people’s otherwise desire to keep their regardedly shameful activities secret, often not realizing that there are many people all over the world doing the very same things. We can break down some of these taboos when enough indulgent people decide to bring the matter out into the open for discussion toward acceptance. I believe in chacun à son goût—each to their own taste. Live and let live.

“For my flesh is meat indeed and my blood is drink indeed; He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him.” Well, now! Those are lines from a motet that I get to sing on occasion at church. Human beings are a highly-judgmental lot, but we are often guilty of the very things for which we condemn others. People tend to be hypocritical about cannibalism, for one thing, but those practicing Christians sound like a bunch of cannibalistic vampires to me! Cannibalism is defined as “the eating of the flesh of an animal by another animal of the same kind.” Now, by our own standards, it’s all right for humans to be carnivores, that is, to eat the flesh of other creatures, but it’s sick and perverted to eat the flesh of other humans. Why? Other animals eat each other. What’s the difference? Meat is meat, isn’t it? There are animals that would eat a human or another of its kind if given the chance, and they would not be considered sick or perverted. It would just be a matter of hunger and availability.

Humans, as a species, have been known to consume virtually any and every kind of creature, whether it be mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish or insect, and not only the creatures themselves, but their by-products as well. Some current epicurean “delicacies” are ant eggs, frog fallopian tubes, crème brulee made with bone marrow, exotic cheese which contains live maggots, and coffee brewed from civet shit! Now someone is marketing human breast milk for commercial public consumption, and there are those who are repulsed by the idea. Don’t they realize that all milk and cheese products that they consume on a daily basis come from the teats of animals? And then, too, humans are the only creatures who drink the milk from other animals! Just because it’s your own or your mother’s, why should that give you pause to partake of it? How can people be so hypocritical about practically everything?

Most creatures of the world I would not eat voluntarily under normal circumstances, because they don’t appeal to me. But if my life depended upon it, I guess I could stomach a bear or a cat or a snake or a rat, or a human being. But human cannibalism is still a taboo activity, which incites shock and repulsiveness. It is a common plot element in good horror stories and holds more fascination in true-life incidents. Some people will willingly eat a cow but would rather die themselves than eat a cowboy—that is, if they are aware of it. People frequently eat things without knowing what they are. I know that I have come across “mystery meat” on my plate from time to time. I was enjoying some unidentified hors d’oeuvres at a party once, then later discovered the tasty morsels to be smoked eel! Had I known what it was initially, I probably never would have tried it. But considering it, why not? Although snakelike, an eel is just another kind of fish, so what’s unusual about that?

People are even gastronomically selective with certain animals, not just with human flesh. Your basic carnivores don’t have any qualms about eating their favorite fowl or other creature, as long as they don’t know who it is or where it came from. But they feel differently when the Thanksgiving goose or the Sunday dinner pork roast was originally the family’s beloved pet or an animal that they knew. I suppose the rule of thumb is that we don’t want to eat things that have a personal name. If we deign to eat it, we don’t want to know anything about it.

The premise of the sci-fi thriller Soylent Green (1973) is not so far-fetched and quite practical, in my opinion. For those of you not familiar with the film, it takes place in the year 2022 (not too long from now) when the earth is grossly overpopulated and there is a definite food shortage, especially in overcrowded Manhattan. Spoiler alert! By the end of the picture we learn that the coveted, precious foodstuff known as “soylent green” is made of soybeans, lentils and people! Considering that the world is already experiencing widespread hunger, which will only get worse as time goes on, I don’t see anything terribly wrong with finding a way to process human remains into palatable food. That’s better than wasting dead bodies like we do now. I think that we should reuse and recycle whatever we can, even ourselves! I also think that Mrs. Lovett had the right idea, short of murder, that is. (# …What a downright shame, what an awful waste… #)

It seems that modern technology is making us lazier as time goes on. We have virtually all the conveniences of life at our disposal, and we (well, I don’t) take so many things for granted. Fathers used to tell their kids, “Boy, you don’t realize how good you’ve got it. When I was your age, I used to have to walk 5 miles to school and back every day through the cold and snow!” Now these same fathers can tell their grandkids, “Back in my day, we actually had to get up and cross the room to change the TV channels!” I was glad when they came out with Touch-Tone phones and I think that Speed-Dialing is a pretty nifty thing, too, but I have a manually-operated pencil sharpener and I still use a basic, hand-operated can opener. I don’t mind at all putting out that little bit of manual energy to sharpen a pencil or to open a can. It certainly does not save any extra time.

Now they’ve even improved upon speed-dialing by coming up with voice-activated dialing, where instead of having to push one or two buttons on your phone, all you have to do is speak the name of the person you are calling into the phone. We don’t even have to do our own typing if we don’t want to, as that feature is now available for our computers. I happen to love typing. It’s conducive to my digital dexterity. But I think that the height of indulgence is the new voice-activated remote control! This is for the guy who is too lazy even to press a button! I suppose, however, that this gadget would be useful for a paraplegic or a person with missing limbs, who would be unable to push a button manually.

Don’t get up to turn off the lights. Just clap your hands once or twice. Why bother to be constantly changing records during your party or while you’re working on a project? We now have CD players which can play nonstop for several hours. Automated Teller Machines allow us to do our banking and get ready cash anytime we need it, at any hour of the day. My toaster oven bakes, toasts and broils, and my microwave oven can cook a large potato in about five minutes. What a great invention is the word processor! How did we get by so long without it? And with the growing internet and World-Wide Web, all human knowledge is now, literally, at our fingertips. We don’t even have to leave the house to find out anything anymore or even to buy anything, when virtually all consumer products and services are available for purchase via one’s home computer. Practically everything has been computerized, including your daily news and weather report, postal services, all manner of games, books, music generators (sound and notation), TV cable boxes and other common household gadgets and appliances, even clocks and watches.

I enjoy most of these great conveniences just like everybody else, so why is it that the more neat stuff that becomes available to us, presumably to make our lives less hectic and less stressful, are we never satisfied? We always want more. One would think that these products would make people more amiable with each other and appreciative. But on the contrary, people, in general, seem to be more hostile and more ill-tempered than ever before. They are rude, inconsiderate, and sometimes would rather throttle you than utter a friendly “good morning.” There seems to be so much unhappiness in the world, and I don’t understand it. I have to live here, too, and I am subject to the same crap (more, in some cases) that everybody else has to endure on a day-to-day basis. But even in adverse situations, I manage to maintain my composure and good humor and common courtesy toward my neighbors. But then, of course, I guess I shouldn’t expect everybody to be like me, should I?

I think that humans, in general, have a problem with non-conformity. I’m always hearing about someone being picked on or ostracized by their peer group because they are “different.” Different than what, I ask? By whose ken do we measure human difference? Every living creature is different in some way. There are no two people exactly alike, not even so-called identical twins. So in reality, everyone is “different.” And since everybody is not the same, then, who are you trying to be anyway? If everyone were exactly the same, how boring would that be? We wouldn’t have our own distinct identities. How could we tell one person from another? That’s one of the arguments against genetic engineering and human cloning. And who should be the prototype on which everyone is modeled after? Whatever one they pick, it would destroy all human diversity and our freedom of choice for different types. But I’ll bet that people would behave the same if members of a group each were told to wear different kinds of shoes, let’s say, and one guy comes in wearing a pair exactly like another person’s. They would probably then get on him for not being different. You know, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You can’t win sometimes. I think that just to be yourself is the way to go.

I, for one, pride myself on my individuality. I purposely avoid conformity. I’m not one to follow fads or the changing fashion trends of the day. I don’t feel a need to “keep up with the Joneses,” as it were. I would rather try to bring them down to my level instead! Even as a kid, I never gave in to peer pressure. I never did (and still don’t) do something that I didn’t want to do, just because all the other guys were doing it. I am not intimidated by dares and name-calling. “I dare you to jump, you chicken!” Well, I’d much rather be a live chicken than a dead duck, thank you. Humans, for the most part, tend to be gregarious beings, too, indicated by their need for marriage, companionship and family. Some people cannot stand to be alone and need people around them at all times. I mention in another post (On the Road with Cliff) how some people, even when they have the space, choose to live in close proximity to others, instead of spreading themselves out.

The human animal is also good for justifying everything that they do. That way, it relieves their guilt and responsibility for their actions. Take, for instance, the centuries-long practice of castration for the alleged purpose of serving God in song. Since no women were allowed to sing in the church choir (or the stage) during the 16th century, their high pitch of voice had to be provided otherwise. Young boys could do so, but they eventually grew up and their voices changed. So why not just replace them with other young boys? But somebody got the bright idea that by cutting off their balls, they could preserve these boys’ precious soprano voices for “the glory of God,” you see. There soon opened up a number of “eunuch factories” in France, which supplied these castrati to the Roman church choirs and stages of Italy and Spain. I suppose that the wealth and fame that these young men achieved outweighed their genital sacrifice, because nobody seemed to mind or thought that anything was wrong with this barbaric practice.

So this went on for over 200 years (!), until Pope Clement XIV woke up one day in 1770 and thought, “Hey, you know what? Instead of mutilating all these boys, why don’t we just let women sing in their place?” Well, duh! Gah, I coulda had a V-8! And this is the creature (i.e. White Man) who is supposed to have such superior intellect?! And of course, Americans would like to think that we are smarter than everybody else. NASA spent millions of dollars trying to come up with some kind of writing implement that would defy gravity to be able to write in outer space. Well, those wily Russians, for one, beat us to the punch. They used a pencil!

Man has always been imaginative in ways of mutilating himself and others. A less severe operation than castration that is still perpetuated even today, but nonetheless is pointless and unnecessary, in my opinion, is forced circumcision. They have all sorts of excuses and justifications for that, too, but I’m sorry, to cut off part of a boy’s penis without his consent should be a punishable crime. If that’s not child abuse, I don’t know what is. First of all, the procedure must be traumatic for the child, and then he doesn’t have any say-so in the matter. I give you the Judaic explanation for the ritual, absurd as it is, in my blog, For the Bible Tells Me So.

I once asked my mother why I was spared the ordeal of circumcision, as my older brother, Earl, was not so lucky. She told me that it was my father who forbade it. Earl’s delivery physician, Dr. Mott, apparently took it upon himself to circumcise my brother without first getting my parents’ consent. Fortunately, my dad made sure that the same thing would not happen to me. He, like me, thought that it is an unnecessary and cruel procedure. I’m glad that he did.

I am aware that there are tribes all over the world that practice all sorts of tortures and mutilation rituals on girls as well as boys, but that doesn’t make it right or acceptable, does it? The centuries-long tradition of foot-binding of Japanese women, for example, was certainly a senseless and inhumane practice. But we, in this country, are supposed to be more civilized than that, aren’t we? Do you still think that male circumcision is a harmless, relatively insignificant practice? Then how would you like to have all of your penile skin removed? There was a procedure (at least I hope it is no longer performed) by some sadistic tribesmen somewhere in the world, in which the penis of a boy was stripped of the skin along its entire length in front of his father and his intended bride. If the boy cried out, his father would kill him for being a coward and unworthy of manhood. A great percentage of the boys died anyway from trauma, as a result of the operation. I wonder how they are supposed to accomplish intercourse with a skinless penis? In some primitive ceremonies the penis was slit along its length as deep as the urethra. Now I ask you, how can anyone justify such cruelty on their own children?! I just don’t get it.

I attribute many of humankind’s prevailing conservative and prudish attitudes about a lot of things to the Victorian era, the influence from which we have never fully recovered. Queen Victoria reigned for 64 years, so that’s several generations of influence. When she ascended the throne in 1837, she issued a “Proclamation for the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue and for the Preventing and Punishing of Vice, Profaneness and Immorality.” In other words, “Life is not to be enjoyed.” Among other things, the document outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages and the playing of cards, dice, or any other game on Sunday, either in public or private, and it commanded that people attend church. One Victorian Era manual of decency and decorum, Lady Gough’s Book of Etiquette, cautioned against placing books by female authors next to books by male authors on any bookshelf. The only exception was if the authors in question had been married to each other in real life. How silly is that?

A pamphlet on marital sex practices warned that fellatio causes cancer of the tongue. If that were the case, mine would have rotted off decades ago! Another claimed that seamstresses were apt to become sexually aroused and that inadvertent orgasms often resulted from the up-and-down motion of their legs while using their sewing machines. But so? I think that people should be allowed to get it where and how they can! Of course, the very idea of contraceptives was completely out of the question. Birth control advocates Edward Foote and Margaret Sanger got into loads of trouble for distributing “obscene” and “heretic” literature which advocated the right of women to decide when, or even whether, to have children.

During the Victorian era, masturbation caused such hysterical anxiety among doctors and parents, that curing it became an obsession. It was believed that masturbation caused everything from acne to epilepsy to mental retardation to death. Some of the torturous and extreme “cures” that innocent children had to endure were: erection alarms, straitjacket pajamas, ice water enemas, spiked cock rings, infibulation (that’s fastening the foreskin shut with clamps, staples, or by sewing!), the German bandage (a genital suit of armor with lock and key, similar to a chastity belt), Kellogg’s breakfast cereals (?!), and ultimately, castration.

(# Beat it, just beat it!… #) It would seem that some corporate attitudes about this practice have not changed, when former Surgeon-General Jocelyn Elders can be fired for merely suggesting that masturbation should be taught and encouraged as a safe-sex alternative. At least, that was the excuse they gave for her dismissal. But ironically and hypocritically as well, during the same period, when women in the throes of hysteria were put in asylums, the staff there would induce these women to orgasm to relieve their stress. This certainly alleviated their suffering; it must be what they needed. But they didn’t refer to it as induced orgasm, as masturbation was not permitted, you see. They called it “hysterical paroxysm.” Don’t you love that? There is a 2011 British film called Hysteria (or rather “Hersteria”), which deals with that very thing. It also depicts the inspiration for the invention of the vibrator!

[Related article: Pet-purr-i]

Happiness Is_____–(You fill in the blank.)

“I just want you to be happy … I’m going to make you happy.” People often meddle in each other’s lives with the excuse that they are concerned about their happiness. I think that a person’s happiness is not anybody else’s business but their own. Happiness means different things to different people. It is a personal, idealist concept that cannot be defined in definite terms. So how can you guarantee someone else’s happiness when maybe you don’t know what being happy is for that person. Therefore, I think that everyone is responsible for their own happiness and needn‘t be anybody else‘s concern.

Happiness for me is self-contentment, which I can honestly say that I have. I am happy when I am providing pleasure for another person, either through my art or by way of personal interaction. Whereas I feel happy to be single and living alone, some people hate to be alone and think that happiness is synonymous with marriage or mere cohabitation. Many women declare that their wedding day or the birth of their first child was the happiest day of their life, for instance. If that is what I have to look forward to, to achieve true happiness, then I guess I’m doomed, since I don’t expect ever to experience either of those events.

I can’t determine my life’s happiest day until my life is over, then I can reflect. I don’t think that my happiest day has occurred yet. I have had many good times throughout my life, but I can’t discern which has been the absolute happiest. I am always expecting one good experience in my life to be topped by another. If one has already experienced the happiest day of their life, then everything else must be downhill from there. That doesn’t leave much to look forward to, does it? I don’t think that one’s overall happiness can be determined by single, isolated events anyway. It is an ongoing state of being.

Someone on TV once posed the question, “What was your best decade so far?” I thought about that and decided that I have two that qualify. The ’70s for me were great years, all things considered. I served in the Army, which certainly was life-changing and fulfilling in many respects. Then I came to New York and started a new life for myself. I got to travel and see the country while performing, here as well as abroad, I got into the opera chorus scene, I obtained and maintained two apartments on my own, and I had the most and best sex that I’ve ever had.

The other candidate is the ’90s. I worked with The Flirtations for five of those years, which boosted my career considerably, it was the most financially profitable, enabling me to acquire a substantial savings and produce my solo album, which I entirely paid for myself, and I also wrote a symphony, which was one of the greatest joys of my life. Of course, I lost a lot of good friends during that period, including my father, but people close to you are always dying. That’s unavoidable.

In life shit happens all the time. It’s full of alternating highs and lows, and you are either a generally-happy person by nature or circumstance, or you live your life in a constant state of depression and misery. You can’t make someone happy, if they don’t want to be. Therefore, happiness is a choice, just like everything else in the world. We can either choose to dwell on all the adversities of the world and be miserable most of the time, or we can choose to rise above it all and not let it get us down.

I am always cheerful, fun-loving, witty, and have been blessed with a wonderful sense of humor. I am the type of person who has the same demeanor anytime you see me. You never have to speculate, as with some people, “Oh, Lord, I wonder what kind of mood Cliff is in today?” because you will always find me amiable and in good spirits. I am never deliriously happy one day and then totally miserable the next. I do get annoyed about some things upon occasion, but I never lose my temper. I am seldom depressed and I have never contemplated suicide. Life is too short as it is, and I’ll be dead soon enough without rushing things along.

Of course, there are certain things I don’t have that I would like to, but no one has everything they want. I am one who is grateful for the things I do have, rather than pine for and kvetch about the things I don’t have. Keep in mind that there is always somebody somewhere who is much worse off than you think you are. I try to find the positive aspect in all situations, however grim. Call me Pollyanna.

Here is one minor example. My favorite grocery store used to be down the block and around the corner from where I live. But they closed eventually, and I started going to the one a couple of blocks away from there. Then they, too, moved a couple more blocks further away, but instead of complaining that my store is now five blocks away from my house, it allows me to get more walking exercise than before, which I need.

(# …All’s for the best in this best of all possible worlds… #) So sings Candide‘s Dr. Pangloss, whose agathistic philosophy I also follow, although as I get older, I find myself being somewhat cynical about little things in life. But my cynicism is based on personal experiences, observations and predictable reoccurrences. I keep my expectations low, therefore I am seldom disappointed. My cynicism notwithstanding, I try to maintain a positive, optimistic attitude about all aspects of life, because I have found that in the long run, everything seems to work out for the better.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. When one door closes, another one opens. I never worry about unimportant things, especially things I can’t do anything about. I am able to deal well with occasional stress. I have great patience and I am quite easy to please. I certainly don’t want to be any older than I am, but I really don’t want to be any younger either. I’m not interested in reliving the past. Been there, done that. So I have accepted growing older with the passage of time and choose just to be content with my present age. Age is something that none of us can do anything about. If we stay here long enough, we will get old. It’s unavoidable. Just accept it and deal with it.

All things considered, I am a quite contented, well-adjusted individual with positive self-esteem. I’ve known so many people who have these humdrum jobs which they hate, but they keep on doing them because “it pays well,” never mind that they dread their work and are miserable because of it. That’s what causes undue stress and ulcers. I don’t need any of that. My idea of success and having a happy course in life is being fortunate enough to make a living doing exactly what I love to do. That is my best advice to everyone—decide what it is that you love to do, and get somebody to pay you for it!

Important Tips for Writers

1. Subject and verb always has to agree.
2. You and me know to use the correct case of pronoun in writing and speaking.[That goes for others and I, too.]
3. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with. [This is not a hard-fast rule. Sometimes it just sounds better to.]
4. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. [But I don’t agree with that either.]
5. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive. [It appears that most did not get the official memo to not do that.]
6. Being bad grammar, the writer will not use dangling participles.
7. No sentence fragments either.
8. Parallel construction with coordinate conjunctions is not only an aid to clarity but also is the mark of a good writer.
9. Do not use a foreign term when there is an adequate English quid pro quo.
10. If you must use a foreign term, it is de rigor to use it correctly.
11. It would behoove the writer to avoid archaic expressions. [I, however, do vouchsafe to employ them, due to their fewness of use.]
12. Avoid clichés like the plague. They’re so old hat.
13. Comparisons are just as bad as clichés.
14. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration. [I don’t agree with that either. I happen to like alliteration.]
15. Mixed metaphors are a pain in the neck and ought to be thrown out the window.
16. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
17. In scholarly writing, don’t use contractions.
18. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary, as it is highly superfluous. For example, a truly good writer is always especially careful practically to eliminate the all too-frequent use of adverbs.
19. For sentence construction, only pay attention to misplaced modifiers.
20. One should never generalize. Everyone always does that.
21. Don’t use no double negatives.
22. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations etc., whenever possible.
23. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
24. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
25. The passive voice is to be ignored.
26. Using a comma before nonrestrictive clauses which are a common source of difficulty.
27. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
28. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
29. Never use a big word when substituting a diminutive one would suffice.
30. Please avoid excessive exclamation points!!!
31. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
32. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.
33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
34. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
35. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times—resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it effectively.
36. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
37. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
38. Who needs rhetorical questions?
39. Avoid “buzz-words”; such integrated transitional scenarios complicate simplistic matters.
40. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
41. Consult the dictionary frequently to avoid mispelling.
42. I got the notion to accept “got” as a present tense verb.

Conspiracy Theory, Part III–“9/11”

#Try to remember that day in September…# Try not to remember, as we get a yearly reminder about it.

More evidence of U.S. Governmental “bait-and-switch” concerns the events of September 11, 2001. Many still believe that the so-called terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that day were totally unexpected by the Bush Administration, that we were caught completely off-guard and unprepared, and that there was nothing we could have done to prevent the attacks. Well, my take on the matter is, why would they try to prevent something that they had planned themselves? There is apparently great profit in war. Somebody must be benefiting from it for it to be such an ongoing occurrence with this country and other places as well.

I have always suspected that Bush and his staff masterminded the attacks to justify our going to war. It was the same with World War II. They knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor before it happened. So that the United States could get into the game, too—“Why should all those other nations have all the fun?—we’ll just let the Japs bomb us to give us an excuse to join the festivities.” They just as easily could have flown over a major city and kill masses of people, but instead they attacked a military base located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii was not even a state at the time. Just mark the damage and few ensuing deaths as casualties of war. No big deal really.

The disturbing theory about “9/11,” that I am not willing to dismiss entirely and most are not willing to consider or accept, is that there was no foreign terrorist threat at all, but was our own Government who destroyed the Twin Towers and attacked the Pentagon. The whole thing was all carefully planned and successfully carried out. Consider that our Government maintains certain agencies that monitor the entire world at all times and know what goes on everywhere. They are constantly in everybody’s business. Nothing happens that they don’t know about. Our Defense Department and other Government agencies are supposed to protect us against such actions. Isn’t that why they are there?

So how could mere civilians pull off such an elaborate plan that our guys were totally unaware of or couldn’t at all prevent? I would think that the Pentagon would be the very seat of national security. But they could not protect their own facility? But why would our guys attack their own building, you may ask? To divert suspicion from themselves, that’s why! And if somebody can accomplish a Presidential assassination in a public setting in broad daylight, then somebody’s not doing their job. In the case of 9/11, the way I see it, either somebody must have been asleep at the switch, or they were the very ones responsible for what happened. They themselves would have to have been in control of the incident.

Although they are supposed to be fictional accounts, one can learn a few things from watching movie and TV crime dramas and murder mysteries. In the cases where someone is deemed the intended target of an attack, but the person does not die but is only slightly wounded and sometimes not even that, it often turns out that they are the one who is behind it all. Of course, everybody else in the story rules them out as “The Guy” because he wouldn’t shoot or stab himself or she wouldn’t poison herself. But they are the very ones that I suspect, and I am always right. So don’t think that we would never attack ourselves and try to frame somebody else for it, because that would be one way to try to avoid suspicion.

Don’t we learn anything from history? Must I remind you that all of our past political crimes and scandals–Watergate, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy assassinations and others–have been proven to be done by those in charge? How is this one any different? It is those with the most power and influence who would be able to pull off such coups. Take the crime of embezzlement, for example. That is always an inside job. How could someone off the street steal money from a company or large corporation unless they actually work there and have access to the money? I couldn’t do it. How could a mere commoner overthrow the Government? It would have to be someone in power who works within and knows how the system works.

Those who are of age–my, has it been 17 years already?–remember how the two towers collapsed that day. They both imploded as if an explosive charge had been set off from within. I don’t accept that a mere airplane could cause that much damage. The crashed planes were merely a divertive tactic. There have been fires in other high-rise buildings that burned for many hours, and none of them ever completely collapsed from the ensuing heat. What made the Twin Towers so fragile and vulnerable that day? I think they had some help.

I don’t believe that George Bush was the mastermind behind the plot, however. He is not smart enough to carry out such an elaborate plan. I suspect that this was Dick Cheney’s baby. It has already been suggested, even proven, that Bush and Cheney were friends with Osama Bin Laden. I believe that they struck a deal. Maybe Bin Laden agreed to take the rap for the attacks in exchange for permanent immunity after the fact, or some such agreement, which he was paid very well for, by the way. If he was responsible, why had he not been dealt with for all that time? He could have been found if anybody was actually looking for him. I mean, the man must have been somewhere!

How do we even know for sure that Bin Laden is actually dead? Now that he has served his purpose, declaring him dead gives the American public and everybody else closure. Justice has been served, and we can now get on with our lives. I didn’t see Bin Laden’s corpse or personally check to see if he was dead. We have only the news media’s word for it. And you will pardon me for not believing everything that I hear on the news. And what was his reason for doing it then? He never made any public statements of demands, nor has there been any follow-up. We had only Bush’s word. Where and from whom did he get his information?

Now Mr. Bush, on the other hand, or rather then Vice-President Cheney, needed an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. So what if a lot of innocent citizens had to die in the process? There are always “calculated risks.“ This is nothing new either. We blew up our own ship The Maine to get in on the Spanish-American War. And just as the Japanese had their kamikaze pilots, Bin Laden, or whoever, found men who were also willing to die for the cause, as it were. Very influential individuals can get some people to do anything. Remember Hitler and the Reverend Jim Jones? You see, if we use somebody else rather than our own people to do our dirty work, then they are the ones who we can blame.

It’s even possible that the pilots who did the deed were not aware of what they were doing. They might have been brainwashed or under some post-hypnotic suggestion. A similar tactic was used in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and in Conspiracy Theory (1997) as well, in which certain individuals were turned into oblivious assassins by military and government agency leaders. In Seven Days in May (1964) a well-respected general working at the Pentagon plots to overthrow the Government.

Some people seem not to want to acknowledge that what happens in movies can often be accomplished in real life. Life frequently imitates art.  If a writer and/or filmmaker can come up with a way to do something, what is stopping us from attempting it ourselves?   In National Treasure (2004), for example, Nicolas Cage wants to steal the Declaration of Independence out of the National Archives in Washington, DC. He was told, “That’s impossible!” No, he showed how us how it could be accomplished and succeeded.

In the sequel Nick pronounced, “I’m going to kidnap the President of the United States.” Again, he was told, “That’s impossible!” No, he then proceeded to show us how it could be done. We have seen masterminded thieves in the movies steal valuable art items and priceless jewels from museums by circumventing their security features. Locks and safes don’t stop them, not even lasers can stop them. “Let’s destroy the Twin Towers and get somebody else to take the rap.” “That’s impossible! You‘ll never pull that off.” Well, they did, didn’t they?

But how about what a common teenager accomplished in March 2014? Justin Casquejo, a 16-year-old New Jersey boy managed to breach security and climb to the top of the new World Trade Center building. He was discovered early in the morning when a construction worker spied him. How did he do it, everyone wanted to know? This was supposed to be the most secure building in the world. The boy first squeezed through a section of broken fence on ground level, got into the building somehow, took the elevator to an upper floor and then climbed to the roof over a hundred stories above the ground, pass sleeping and otherwise inattentive guards who were supposed to be watching the place. The boy was charged with unlawful trespassing, but did he commit a crime? He didn’t hurt or do anything to anyone, including himself. He was a mere thrill seeker who did it for kicks. Those at fault would be the ones who allowed it to happen. If a mere child can accomplish such an “impossible” feat, then I think they need to rethink their so-called security measures.

If the night watchmen and guards think that it’s all right to sleep on the job because nothing ever happens there anyway, then why have them there at all? If someone is not vigilant every second, they should expect that will be the time that someone will sneak by them and get to where they want to go. That is rather my point. Who really can be everywhere at once? Everyone needs to blink or even look away at some point during their shift. No one can or will constantly stare at a video screen for hours and a time. I contend that ultimately security measures are basically futile. Even the most diligent of guards are not impervious to personal harm. Determined interlopers will always find a way to accomplish their goal.

Even before Casquejo’s caper, in 1974 French high-wire artist Philippe Petit realized his dream to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. He and his team of recruits got surreptitious access to the buildings and managed to string a wire between the two towers. Nobody knew what was happening until Petit was actually on the wire executing his incredible, death-defying walk. He was later charged with unlawful trespassing, but since he did not harm anyone–it was only himself that was in imminent danger–and caused such a sensation with the public, the charges were subsequently dropped. Shouldn’t the Center employees who allowed him to accomplish the feat be held accountable as well? He couldn’t have done it without their negligence and cooperation. Petit was even asked to give a public performance, closer to the ground, to demonstrate his wondrous skill. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brilliantly portrays Petit in The Walk (2015) and Petit has his own 2008 documentary, Man on Wire, which recounts the event.

Since I first wrote about this, a documentary film, called Loose Change: The Final Cut (2009), has been released that confirms everything that I originally suspected about what when down that day, although the whole thing is still only of conspiracy theory status. So apparently it’s not only my idea, but a lot of other skeptics and free-thinkers smell a rat and don’t readily accept and believe everything that the Government or the media tells us. If we are not actual witnesses to an event, then we have to rely on news reports to get the details. But you should be aware that it’s not such a reliable source, because they will tell us only what they want us to know. This recent incidence of “fake news” is not a new thing at all, but has been around forever.

I have seen political dramas where they have shown a major character being murdered right before our eyes. Then the next scene will be a news conference or report announcing that the guy that we had just seen get blown away, died of a heart attack or some such false demise. It made me come to realize that just because it’s on the news or in print, does not make it true. The entertainment tabloids, for instance, make up stories about celebrities all the time that sometimes have no basis of fact whatsoever, but their readers tend to believe it just the same. I wish that people weren’t so gullible as to believe everything that the politicians tell us either. The reason that they get away with stuff is because of people’s willingness to trust them unconditionally.

People, especially the higher-ups, don’t even like to admit when they fuck up. Rather than confess to an embarrassing or irresponsible situation, they will pass the buck or play the “nut role,” meaning that nobody knows anything. Patrick Tillman Jr. was an accomplished and well-regarded professional football player, who gave up his lucrative salary and career to enlist in the Army. He even requested to be sent over to Afghanistan. The Army Brass, knowing who Tillman was, had vowed to look after him and keep him safe, as best they could. So when Patrick turned up dead as a result of so-called “friendly fire,” instead of admitting what really happened, the Army and Defense Department opted for a major cover-up and concealed the true events of Tillman’s demise to his family and the American public and press. President Bush even got on TV and announced that Tillman had been killed by the Taliban. That’s right, blame them for everything!

Patrick’s mother and brother, however, did not just accept this simple explanation and pressed the Army to tell them what really went down. There was a published memo that did explain the whole incident, but it somehow eluded everybody who was asked about it. There was a hearing called with the entire chain-of-command in attendance, and when questioned, nobody knew anything. “Uh, I don’t recall ever seeing that memo.” “I missed that somehow.“ “What was that date again? I must have been away that day.” To this day, they still haven’t come clean. They refuse to admit their culpability to us. There is a 2010 documentary film entitled, The Tillman Story, which recounts the events.

In Changeling (2008), another purportedly true story that takes place in 1928, a woman’s 9-year-old boy is kidnapped. When the child is eventually recovered and returned to his mother, it’s the wrong kid! But rather than admit their mistake and endure the embarrassment, the police department tried to convince the mother that she was the crazy one! If you can’t trust our military and the police and the Government, then whom can you trust? The answer of course is, nobody! If they hadn’t claimed that this was a true story, I wouldn’t believe it. I’m still not sure if I do anyway. The things that those guys put that poor woman through just to save face is hard to swallow.

On this other matter, too, George Bush got up and spouted all that bullshit about our patriotic duty and its being our responsibility to combat terrorism, and the people just went along with anything that he said. He even tried to guilt-trip us with his, “You are either with us in this, or you are against us,“ as if that was the only choice we had in the matter. Fortunately, there are some of us, me included, who were able to read between the lines and could discern the real meaning behind his sometimes inane rantings. We are not over in the Middle East to root out terrorism. That’s just a ploy, because Bush’s bigger plan was global domination. That area is the richest source of oil in the world, and the nation that is in control of it will be the leader of the world.

Dubya made no secret about wanting to be the King of the World. He practically admitted it to the public. I am not even convinced that Mr. Bush won his re-election fair and square. He cheated the first time. How do we know for sure that he didn’t get his friends in high places to rig the election once again? I didn’t personally count all of the votes, did you? Whereas the time before they publicly admitted that they had put him into office, they didn’t think that we would go for it a second time, so they just kept quiet about it. I’m not the only one who thinks this way, by the way. There is even some doubt about the legitimacy and fairness of the most recent election.

This whole affair has created a certain degree of “Islamophobia” among many of our American citizens. A recent controversy was centered around the proposed building of an Islamic Cultural Center at Ground Zero, which is the site of the former World Trade Center in Manhattan. Many were against it, complaining that it was in poor taste or disrespectful to honor the people who attacked us and destroyed the Towers. Why should we embrace and accept these “terrorists” in our midst? Well, your so-called Christians have been the worse terrorists for all time, but there would not be such protest if the City had decided to build a cathedral on that same spot. You must be aware that Anglos can get away with anything and still retain their societal trust and respect. The rest of us don’t have that privilege, however. It’s just another excuse to exercise their prejudice and bigotry towards certain people. But suppose that the Moslem community had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks and that it was totally the work of our own Administration? We would be holding these negative feelings for people who are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.

Bush had already been caught in that bold-faced lie about Iraq harboring those “weapons of mass destruction” as an excuse to go to war with them. But even if it had been true, what, aren’t we harboring weapons of mass destruction ourselves? So it’s all right for us to have all this dangerous shit, but nobody else is allowed to have anything? The difference is, however, for all the nations who now do have the Bomb, we are the only country who has actually used ours! How dare we sit in judgment of somebody else?! I abhor such hypocrisy.

Please pardon my spoiler-alerts, by the way, in case you have not seen these cited films. In the film V for Vendetta (2006), which is set in futuristic London, the media had everyone convinced that a covert terrorist group was responsible for a series of catastrophic events, including a viral epidemic and the genocide of hundreds of children. It is eventually revealed that “The Chancellor,” the self-appointed leader of the country, is the person behind all the destruction. So it was a covert terrorist at work all right, but not who the people thought, or still think, it was.

Another disguised political allegory is RED (2010), in which a team of “retired, extremely dangerous” undercover CIA agents are being targeted for elimination by some other CIA agents, to cover the tracks of the person who had committed some heinous crimes in Guatemala. The person responsible and who has ordered the hits turns out to be none other than the U.S. Vice-President! In cahoots with him is a character played by Richard Dreyfuss in the film, who coincidentally portrays Vice-President Dick Cheney in 2008’s W.! Just like our Dubya, the guilty party always has to blame somebody else for their own nefarious misdeeds and to justify their subsequent actions. I hope that the truth of those men’s machinations will come to light eventually as well. Only time will tell.

Some underlying, cautionary messages are revealed in White House Down (2013). When a group of unknown terrorists take over the White House and retain hostages, the TV news comes on and reports that Al-Qaeda is responsible. This is before we know anything, and they are already pointing fingers. Just blame them for everything. It’s a wonder that they didn’t try to blame the Al-Qaeda for Watergate! We eventually learn that the U.S. President’s head of security is behind it all and is in consort with the Speaker of the House to help him eliminate both the President and Vice-President so that he can become President in order to destroy the foreign nations who he feels is responsible for the death of his soldier son. Yes, it’s a preposterous premise, I admit, but it shows the lengths that someone will go to accomplish their own personal goals.

In the film, the Speaker is also trying to thwart the efforts of the President to negotiate peace between conflicting nations, as he himself does not condone world peace. As I said before, there is great profit in war. Don’t you think that if any of these real-life disagreeing factions (religious, governmental or otherwise) wanted to stop fighting, they would just do it? Apparently, they don’t want to! It seems that they always need somebody to hate. I have queried before, suppose they gave a war and absolutely nobody participated?

In all the aforementioned scenarios, someone else is blamed for elaborate, heinous acts done to our own people, that all turn out to be in-house operations. As far-fetched as this White House Down story is, perhaps people will come away from it with the thought, Hmm, the media swore to the public that Al-Qaeda was guilty of the attacks, then we find out that they had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Maybe Bin Laden is also not guilty and we should look closer to home for the answers.

In fact, we now have a new scapegoat to blame everything on, and that is ISIS. Now whenever somebody commits mass murder in this country, the news reports that it’s the work of ISIS. But is it really? Why would a secret organization want to take credit for committing genocide? They would either do it and just keep quiet about it and let the people draw our own conclusions, which we tend to do anyway, or they will point the finger at somebody else. All of our recent thought-to-be terrorist attacks have been committed by individuals with their own agendas. Nobody put them up to it. Or if they did, just as in those movie scenarios, it may not be who we think, or whom we are told, it is.

You will notice that in practically every instance it’s a Middle Eastern faction who gets blamed–Al-Qaeda or ISIS or Jihad or the Taliban–but in reality, to wit, Columbine and the other school shootings, the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, the San Bernadino office party, the Boston Marathon bombings, even the recent Orlando bar massacre and the Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting, were all perpetrated, not by foreign Moslem radicals, but by our own American citizens! Consider, too, that we don’t really know who ISIS is exactly. It’s not one person. If it is a secret organization, its membership can be made up of anybody. They don’t all have to be Muslims necessarily. It might be any disgruntled anarchist who is using ISIS as a cover to promote his own agenda.

On an episode of “Major Crimes” last season, the detective team receives a video of an unidentified man being decapitated by another unidentified man. Just before he makes the fatal cut, he announces to the camera that he is acting on behalf of ISIS. During the ensuing investigation, however, it is discovered that both men are U.S. soldiers, friends, who served together in Afghanistan, and that is where he obtained the murder weapon blade that he used. By accusing ISIS it puts the FBI on the case, deeming it to be an act of foreign terrorism. By blaming a whole group of people, makes it more difficult to convict anybody. It turned out that ISIS was in no way involved, but rather it all had to do with greed and personal financial gain.

It’s gotten so that whenever any of our people goes on a killing spree, just blame it on those evil Moslems, which only creates and perpetuates dislike and unwarranted mistrust towards them all, when most of whom are innocent, hard-working, law-abiding citizens. So instead of trying to keep Moslem immigrants out of the country, Mr. Trump, why don’t you suggest that we get rid of these crazy, “Christian” American gunmen who are already here, going around shooting innocent people at will?

If my theory about 9/11 is depicted on screen within the context of a plausible story, maybe people won’t be so quick to dismiss it as a ridiculous notion. Of course, I don’t know what the real truth is, but I like to think for myself and explore other possibilities, rather than just accepting what I have been told by those who actually may be the guilty parties. I hope that someone will produce a movie that will reflect the scenario that I have laid out. Show them how it could have really happened, and they might come around to believing it. It would at least, hopefully, create some reasonable doubt. It must sound as if I want us to be guilty. No, I just don’t like blaming innocent parties for something for which somebody else may be responsible. I would like to know the truth, whoever the real culprits are, that’s all!

You know, not being right there and not being a witness to anything that goes on in Washington and with our Administration, I have come to the conclusion that none of us regular folk can know for sure what is true or what’s not. We don’t know what to believe. As I have said before, the media reports only what they want us to know, and that is no proof of anything. They intentionally lie all the time. During the most recent election, for example, they made up all kinds of shit about both candidates to discredit them and create disfavor for them.

I have been told by individuals that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya, and his birth certificate was suppressed and then fabricated when he eventually had to produce it. It’s even been said that Obama is the one who created ISIS! I don’t know. Maybe he did. I’ve been told that Hillary Clinton is a crook and is guilty of all sorts of nefarious deeds. I suspect that every politician has done something that they don’t want the general public to know about. That’s why my thoughts in this article is all merely theory and suspicion. I can’t prove any of it. It all comes down to what you choose to believe.

Conspiracy Theory, Part I–1969 Moon Landing

This is the first of a series of four conspiracy theory essays. In chronological order, first we will deal with the alleged moon landing of 1969 (as a companion piece to my blog entitled, We Are Not Alone), next is the AIDS epidemic from 1980 until the present time, then a discussion about the events of “9/11,” and finally, some current ongoing suspicions.

I don’t agree with anything that involves all of us to be “Top Secret,” “classified” or of “national security.” Let the people know what is going on. If we are in fact being visited by extraterrestrials, how is that not everyone’s business? When they landed, did they say, “Take me to your leader” and did not want to deal at all with the general public of Earth? Why should this be privileged information for only a few to know about? Some of the excuses given were that the news would cause a panic, or that we are too unsophisticated to be able to handle the truth, as Jack Nicholson‘s character in A Few Good Men (1992) suggests. Has the Government so little trust in the American public? I’ll bet the extraterrestrials wouldn’t keep our visitations to their planet a secret.

We receive shocking and disturbing news all the time, but we deal with it and get over it eventually. But these matters are not even disturbing and not all that surprising, when many people have witnessed UFO sightings everywhere for decades, and during all that time our Government has employed secret agencies to protect, investigate and conceal what they know about their activity and interaction. The “Men in Black” are real, y‘all! I don’t care nearly as much about who got shot today or whose house caught on fire in New Jersey, people I don’t know, but I certainly would like to know that a spaceship from another planet just landed on the Washington Mall! I don’t know why if they let everybody know when we go into space–and certainly if we made it to another planet, it would be worldwide news–why would they not let us know when somebody from somewhere else arrives on our planet? What would be a bigger news item than that? I would think that we would want publicly to welcome them rather than secretly hide them away somewhere. I only hope that they are not greeted with guns and Army tanks and such, thinking that they have come to attack us.

I believe that there is a Governmental cover-up, and I am quite certain that they know more about it than they are telling us, the American public. There was the Roswell (New Mexico) incident of 1947, where allegedly an actual alien spacecraft crash landed (or was it shot down?) and all evidence was tampered with or destroyed, including the inhabitant beings discovered therein. What are they doing out there in Area 51 in Nevada that is so Top Secret that even the facility itself is a secret? The area, including the rather large lake that it’s on, is excluded from all maps and charts.

And what are they hiding in that Hangar 1? If there is nothing going on, then why all the secrecy? But then, if it is a secret, how do we know about it? As with any secret, once you divulge it to anyone, it’s not a secret anymore. So somebody must have said something to somebody for us to know about the place’s existence. Someone’s denying something that we believe in does not erase it from our own consciousness. All the U.S. Presidents since Harry Truman have had privy to the information, but they all were sworn to secrecy as well. In addition to Truman, when UFOs actually flew over the White House in 1952, Carter, Ford and Reagan admitted to definite sightings, and it’s rumored that Eisenhower and Nixon actually met the captured aliens in person!

There is a new TV show entitled, “Salvation,” with this contrived, though preposterous, premise. For those who have not seen it, here is a synopsis. A Harvard science student discovers that a massive asteroid is plummeting directly towards Earth and is due to collide in 180 days. As this is an ongoing series, that will give the characters sufficient time to do something about it, you see. So this young man contacts a friend of his who in turn tells someone that he knows in the Defense Department at the Pentagon. It turns out that this guy already knows about it and swears the others to secrecy. “We can’t let this news get out.” He never says why not. What?! So there is an asteroid that is destined to kill us all in a matter of months, and they can’t tell anybody? How irresponsible is that? We are always getting into everybody’s business when it doesn’t concern us, but then when something does involve other nations, we tend to keep what we know to ourselves. Plus, they need billions of dollars to build some kind of defense mechanism to counteract the asteroid, money that the U.S. government does not have.

But wait, get this. The few people in the know are trying to come up with a solution. So one of these scientists figures out a way to blast the asteroid, but in doing so, it will cause the thing to shatter into other chunks. But the good news is, all the pieces will miss the western hemisphere entirely. “So, where will it hit?” someone asks. “Oh, Russia and basically all of Asia.” Oh, well, then. As long as we are safe, who cares about all those other billion innocent people who will have to die? And nobody seems to think that there is anything wrong with that. We always have to be on top and look out for Number One, don’t we?

In their arrogance and self interests, what none of these characters have yet taken into consideration, what if Russia, China or whoever are doing exactly the same thing that we are doing? We are not the only nation watching the skies. Might they, too, know about the careening asteroid and are also keeping it a secret? How could these few Americans be the only ones in the entire world who are aware of such a thing? How do we know that somebody else has not come up with the same solution that our guys have, but are fixing it so that it would avoid them and hit us instead? Since it involves all of them as well, to me it would make more sense for all of the world nations to put aside their petty competitiveness and secrecy to combine our resources and technology to work on the problem together.

Of course, this is merely a drama for our entertainment, but I mention it because I wonder, if it were a real occurrence, would the Government try to keep it all hush-hush, too, like they do with the UFOs and extraterrestrials situation? Come on, guys! Let the people know what’s going on. We can take it. If the world is going to end pretty soon, I, for one, would like some warning. There are some things I would like to do before it’s too late.

# Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars…#   As if! After seeing the film Capricorn One in 1978, in which NASA faked a manned trip to Mars, it started me to wonder if the widely-accepted moon landing in July 1969 was not itself an elaborately-staged hoax. I had thought that I was the only one who had my doubts until the Fox TV network did a special some years ago that makes very compelling claims that the event never happened, and reported that there are millions of other Americans who are fellow disbelievers.

I believe that there is a reason why this happened at that particular time. In the fifties and sixties, the United States was in this stupid space race with Russia, and our Government’s main goal and ambition was to be the first nation to the moon, before the Russians got there. All the better if they claimed the conquest before the decade was out. So 1969 was their last chance. But despite the deadline urgency, what practical purpose does going to the moon serve? As far as we know, there’s not a damned thing up there. Never mind that the project would cost us $20 billion, the politicians just wanted the chauvinistic satisfaction of saying that we got there first. But since they did not yet have the know-how, they had to concoct a plan and try to convince the public that they did it anyway. The TV report contends that even with our present technology, getting humans to the moon is still not possible. First of all, there is the deadly radiation belt in space to deal with. If they had gone to the moon and back, there would have been noticeable damage and injury to the spacecraft and to the astronauts.

Now let’s consider the visual evidence. But in this case, even seeing is not always believing, because every conceivable effect can be achieved with our modern photography techniques. The TV images that we were shown and the famous photographs of the alleged landing all could be phony. But where was it all filmed then, you might ask? Why, on the built movie set at Area 51, of course! That would be my guess. Since it is off-limits to the general public, the Government can do whatever they want there, and we won’t know anything about it. Consider the fact that every motion picture that is set on another planet or heavenly body is actually filmed somewhere here on earth. That’s an important reality right there.

Take the 1964 British production, First Men in the Moon for one example. Do you really think that it was filmed on the moon? Yeah, and that was Sandra Bullock and George Clooney really floating around in space in Gravity (2013), wasn’t it? In Star Wars (1977) the scenes depicting Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine, was filmed in Tunisia. I didn’t recognize it, having never been to Tunisia. So how is this moon recreation any different? None of us has seen the actual lunar terrain. How do we know for sure that it’s not merely Nevada desert land that we are looking at? I wouldn’t know the difference. Do you?

Remember the famous photos of the Apollo astronauts planting the American flag on the “moon” surface? We have been taught that there is no air on the moon. So why is that flag waving in the breeze?! Maybe they thought that nobody would notice, as they made no allusion to it. But NASA claims that the flag was not waving at all but only appeared to be. There was a pole through the top of the flag to make it stand out rather than hang limp. This gave it the appearance of waving, you see. Well, they might get away with that explanation with a still photo, but I have seen motion footage that showed the flag definitely waving. Where were the cameras situated that took the pictures of the astronauts exiting the spacecraft and stepping onto the moon surface, by the way? They had to have been already in place somewhere nearby. Then who placed them? The Moon People Welcoming Committee?

There is also the question of light and shadows in the photographs. There are pictures of the astronauts (or somebody in spacesuit costumes, since we can’t see their faces) standing apart from each other, but the ground shadow of one goes in a different direction than the shadow of the other, implicating that there is more than one light source present. How can that be, unless it was a manmade setup for the sake of the photos? Several pictures that were supposed to have been taken at different locations on the “moon,” some miles apart from each other, were compared, and it was discovered that the background landscape on the pictures are absolutely identical! Don’t these little inconsistencies at least present some reasonable doubt? Of course, NASA officials and others have a ready explanation for every contradiction made.

Plus, there is the matter of the cover-up. Just like in the Capricorn One movie, the astronauts and underlings directly involved with the hoax had to be dealt with to protect their secret. There was a space scientist who worked for NASA, who had written an extensive report about how it was impossible to get to the moon. But before he could release his findings to the public, he suddenly and mysteriously died and the exposé was never published. What about posthumous publication? They still could have shown us the report if they wanted to, which they didn’t. This was the latter part of 1968, when plans were well underway, I’m sure. Do you honestly think that man’s demise at that particular time was purely coincidental? I don’t think so. I hope that none of you are so naïve to believe that no one has ever been disposed of to protect a conspiracy.

Some have dismissed the Fox program because they deem it to be more of a tabloid report going for ratings. But the National Geographic Channel, which is deemed to be a more reputable, responsible network, also did a similar report one year. They took a more scientific and analytical approach and still had their doubts that the moon landing really took place. So what it comes down to, as with this and every other conspiracy theory that comes along, we can choose to believe it or not.

But I wonder, now that we supposedly know how to do it, why hasn’t moon exploration become an ongoing, common occurrence? Why haven’t other nations with the technological know-how taken up the task as well? Maybe they have better things to do with people’s money than to spend it on such frivolous non-necessities. Or they all realize that it’s still not possible. They supposedly went back again in October ‘69, so we did it those two times and that’s it? I mean, it’s been 50 years now. Why haven’t they gone back again in all that time? Maybe they have come to the realization that it’s not worth the great expense. Or maybe it’s the same reason why magicians don’t like to perform the same trick more than once for the same audience. They are afraid that people will eventually figure out how they did it. And, too, the more there are privy to a conspiracy, the more difficult it is to keep it secret. I’m not as gullible and as trusting as most of the American public seems to be. When it comes to Governmental dealings, I always have some measure of doubt, whereas many of you probably tend to believe everything they tell us.

Now, despite of all what I just said, I recently got wind of another legend of lunar lore.  And that is the likelihood that the moon is already inhabited and has been for an indefinite number of years!  So “The Man in the Moon” may not be a fantasy after all.  You see, as it was explained to me, whoever it is up there all reside on the “dark side,” the side of the moon that is not visible to photo shoots and probes.  The inhabitants are not Earthlings but originate from somewhere else in our solar system.  So we are not the only ones who harbor secrets.  This lunar society apparently wants to remain anonymous and exclusive and has ordered all extraterrestrial interlopers not to invade their private domain.  They desire to be left alone.  I am not sure by what means this information was ascertained, by interstellar communication perhaps, but if it is true,  we must be honoring their wishes, and that would explain why there has been no more lunar visitations from us or anybody else, if there ever were at all.  You can believe it or not.  I am just the reporter.

[Related article: We Are Not Alone]

Public Scrutiny and Self-Awareness

I have never understood people’s objection to staring and being stared at. We are taught that it is not polite to stare at people, and people feel very uncomfortable and self-conscious when someone stares at them. Why is that? When we venture out in public, we should expect to be noticed by the other people in our immediate presence. Why do people get all dolled up in fancy attire and makeup if not to be looked at and admired? I look at it this way. If someone is staring at somebody, they must like what they see or find them to be interesting to look at, or else they wouldn’t be looking, would they? They should feel flattered rather than annoyed. ‘Take a good look, y’all. I know I’m fine!’

Given the choice, wouldn’t you rather be stared at than completely ignored or find that people are repulsed by your appearance? Your objection must be because of shame. If you cannot do anything about the way you look, don’t be ashamed. Own it. I think that people with physical deformities and disfigurements, especially, would agree. Sideshow freaks, after all, make their living by people gawking at them, as do models, strippers, athletes and entertainers. Maybe it’s because I am a performer myself and an exhibitionist and am used to being watched closely, so it doesn’t bother me in the least. (“You see anything you like, fella?”) From a gay person’s viewpoint, staring is a form of cruising. Persistent eye contact is how we know when somebody is on our case.

Being blessed with an innate sense of humor, I have never been one who has a problem with being laughed at either. In fact, I have made it my life’s mission making people laugh. I can find humor in any situation, whether it be frivolous or grave. Laughter is the shock-absorber of life. Have you read my blogs where I make fun of people’s religious beliefs? For me, there is no subject that cannot be joked about. Those performers who make comedy their life’s occupation most likely realized their calling when something that they said or did early on elicited laughter from those in their presence, whether it was intentional or not. Schoolchildren are often teased and taunted by their unusual appearance, perhaps, or because of the way they speak. But if there is something about you that provokes laughter, just use it to your advantage, whether it be Jimmy Durante’s bulbous nose or Marty Feldman’s pop eyes or Dumbo’s humongous ears, for that matter.

Some insecure individuals are reluctant or afraid to try certain things because they don’t want to “make a fool of themselves” or are worried that someone will laugh at them. “I will be the laughing stock of the whole town!“ But so what if you are? If people are laughing, that means they are enjoying themselves, for whatever reason. No one laughs at something they hate. I would consider it quite an accomplishment to get a whole town to notice me in such a way. “Hey, guys, did you hear what happened to Cliff Townsend? That was so funny! Let me tell you about it.“

To bring mirth and merriment to large groups of people is a good thing, nothing to be ashamed of. If a person chooses to make fun of someone making an effort to accomplish something, whether they succeed or not, that says more about that person. If they think what the performer or artist is doing is so easy, why don’t they get up there and do it? I believe in the adage, “They who can, do; those who can’t, criticize.“ Then, too, their attention to any incident is only temporary anyway. It’s like topical news items. They will talk about it only until something else more noteworthy replaces it.

I don’t think that people should laugh at someone else’s inflicted pain or injury, unless they themselves caused it for our amusement, as in the case of slapstick comedy with actors falling down and getting struck with various items. Is it funny to see someone get bopped on the head with a bat? But we laugh when the Three Stooges do it, or when Chevy Chase used to take his signature pratfalls on “Saturday Night Live.” What I am saying is that people love to laugh and will laugh at virtually anything. So if I happen to be the object of someone’s amusement, I feel flattered rather than embarrassed, because if they aren’t laughing at me, they will find someone else to laugh at. So why not me, then?

I feel the same way about personal publicity. We can’t really stop people from talking about us, and to me, what’s worse than being talked about is not being talked about. As long as it’s true and you haven’t hurt anybody, I don’t think that any publicity is bad. No matter what it is they are saying about you, even if it’s unfavorable, at least you know that you are on somebody’s mind. Don’t you think that the public attention that some celebrities elicit is intentional? They know that their lives are no longer private, and unless they are entirely alone, anything they do or say is going to be witnessed by somebody. As long as their name is in the news, it doesn’t matter what they do. That’s why these stars have publicity agents. It’s their job to keep their clients’ names in the media.

When up-and-coming starlet Marilyn Monroe posed nude for a calendar in 1949, it created such a scandal for her movie studio, at least on the surface. But Marilyn did not shy away from it but rather embraced the situation. It is rumored that it was Marilyn herself who orchestrated the release of the pictures. She explained that she needed the money when she posed for them, and she was not ashamed of her body. In fact, she was quite pleased that the pictures were a megahit and gave her worldwide exposure, literally, and they helped make her the star that she was aspiring to be. Similarly, Rob Lowe’s scandalous porno film certainly did not hurt his career, did it? And Vanessa Williams has not suffered as a result of her photographic indiscretions that came to light during her reign as Miss America. The time when Michael Jackson was filmed dangling his baby boy off a hotel balcony, he never imagined that people would be talking about it for weeks and months afterwards? Come on!

The recent news story about Kim Kardashian getting robbed in Paris, I smell the proverbial rat in that. If that was not a setup, I don’t know what was. First the bitch took a picture of that expensive ring of hers and released it via Twitter to the whole world to see. Then she told everybody where she was staying. She has around-the-clock security and personal bodyguards, but on this particular night, she sent them all on a mission somewhere else, so she was alone at the time. Come on, doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? Why didn’t the robbers kill her? She just surrendered the ring without a fight. They would have had to kill me to get it. So you know the whole thing was all pre-arranged. I am pretty sure that her ring is insured. I suspect this is an insurance claim scam. Just because someone is rich, it doesn’t mean that they are not greedy and always want more. And how do we know for sure that the couple does not have financial problems? Even the very wealthy tend to get themselves in debt, whether it be gambling debts, perhaps, or bad investments, whatever. And look, she’s in the news again. That was probably the main point in all of this anyway.

As I condone truth and honesty, I don’t like it when the tabloids make up stories about famous people, some having no basis of fact whatsoever. But if the persons in question did it, they should be willing to own up to it and just accept the fact that people are going to talk about them. The group I used to sing with, The Flirtations, once got a mention in that trashy tabloid, The National Enquirer. Didn’t we love that?!

I feel that you have arrived when they start making up public jokes about you. Richard Pryor used to put his own tragic misfortunes into his standup routines. He joked about his near-fatal heart attack and even about the time he set himself on fire while freebasing. He told his audience, “I’ve heard the jokes you’ve been telling about me.” He got out a match, struck it, then moved the lit match along his arm and said, “What is this? Richard Pryor running down the street.  Y’all tacky!”  Of course, people laughed, but he didn’t care. When you can laugh at yourself and not take yourself so seriously, then it shouldn’t bother you if other people find you amusing as well.

I’m always hearing from people how as adolescents, like when they began discovering their sexuality, for instance, and specifically when they acknowledged that they were or might be gay, many of them harbored feelings of alienation, thinking that they were “the only one in the world” with those feelings, and making them feel like some kind of freak or something. I have never understood that. With as many people in the world as there are, how can anyone think that they are the only one anything? Yes, we all have our differences, but we are not unique as far as general feelings, thoughts and emotions go. I couldn’t be the only queer if my boyfriends were doing the same things that I was. And if there were we, then it follows that there must be others somewhere else as well. How could I possibly believe that the only faggots in the entire world resided in a five-block radius in South Bend, Indiana?!

I think that humans, in general, have a problem with non-conformity. I’m always hearing about someone being picked on or ostracized by their peer group because they’re “different.” Different than what, I ask? By whose ken do we measure human difference? Every living creature is different in some way. There are no two people exactly alike, not even so-called identical twins. So in reality, everyone is “different.” And since everybody is not the same, then, who are you trying to be anyway? If everyone were exactly the same, how boring would that be? We wouldn’t have our own distinct identities. How could we tell one person from another? That’s one of the arguments against genetic engineering and human cloning. And who should be the prototype on which everyone is modeled after? Whatever one they pick, it would destroy all human diversity and our freedom of choice for different types. But I’ll bet that people would behave the same if members of a group each were told to wear different kinds of shoes, let’s say, and one guy comes in wearing a pair exactly like another person’s. They would probably then get on him for not being different. You know, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You can’t win sometimes.

Dr. Seuss cleverly addresses the issues of human difference and even imagined superiority with his allegorical story, The Sneetches. It’s about a race of generic, beach-dwelling creatures—his drawings depict them as some biped, birdlike rendering—that all look exactly alike. The only difference is that some of these Sneetches have a green star on their belly and some do not. The Star-Belly Sneetches somehow have gotten the notion that their star makes them superior to their fellow Sneetches that don’t have one. They walk around with their noses up in the air and won’t even socialize with the Plain-Belly lot.

So one day a traveling mountebank, named Sylvester McMonkey McBean, happens by and tells the Plain-Belly Sneetches that for $3 apiece his special machine will put stars on their bellies and make them like the others. Of course, they all do it. But now this upsets the original Star-Bellies, who then ask McBean to use the machine to remove their stars, which he does. So although the situation is now reversed, the group that now don’t have stars on their bellies still think they are “the best Sneetches on the beaches.” Thus nothing has really changed.

Then the confused frenzy begins. Everybody is either putting on stars or taking them off, trying to distinguish themselves from the other group. McBean doesn’t give a shit about any of them, because he’s raking in the dough left and right. Not until the Sneetches have spent all of their money on this stupid nonsense do they finally give up. They are all so confused now. Nobody can tell anybody apart. They don’t know who had what where or which when. They have finally come to the realization that they are all the same after all and that no one, by their mere being or appearance, is better than anyone else. The con man rides off with his newfound riches chuckling to himself, “When will they ever learn?” Indeed.

I think that just to be yourself is the way to go. Frequently on film and TV, and I’m sure it occurs in real life as well, people are always misrepresenting themselves or trying to be somebody else in order to impress someone–a potential date, a client, an employer, their friend’s parents or family members, whomever. They will make up histories and backgrounds about themselves, disguise themselves, change their name, age, even gender to impress somebody. Do they hate themselves so much to go to all that trouble and give up their true identity? I have never done that or considered ever doing it, because other than being dishonest and deceitful, it always proves counterproductive. If you make yourself somebody else, you have to keep up the charade. One lie leads to another and more and more until it will eventually catch up with you. And then often they discover that the other person was doing the same thing to you. So neither one of you knows the real you.

How and why would you maintain a relationship with anybody under false pretenses? How do you know if they are attracted to you or to whom they think you are? And what makes you think that what you are trying to be is what that person is looking for? I want people to regard and assess me as I really am. And I, in turn, would like to know with whom I am dealing. When someone meets me for the first time, they know exactly who I am, as I am always myself. It may take them a while to get to know me, but no one has ever told me later, “Gee, Cliff, you are a totally different person than I thought you were. You sure have changed.” Nope, this is me. What you see is what you get. It must be my unbridled honesty. I always provide truthful responses to anything asked me. I don’t lie about my age or my past or my feelings about something. If you ask for my honest opinion of something, I will tell you. If you don’t like what I have to say, I will remind you, ‘Well, you asked. I did not volunteer that information.’

Let me tell you something else about myself. I could never be a victim of blackmail or ever resort to it myself, even as poor as I am. A person can do to you only what you allow them to do. Some people just don’t seem to get that. They complain about people doing things to them that they don’t like but don’t do anything to stop it. If you don’t like the way you are being treated by someone, then do something about it. Besides not having anything of great value, including a lot of money, to give to anybody, there is nothing that I have ever done that I would pay someone to keep secret. My life is an open book. How can people do such shameful or despicable things that they later regret? If they feel that way about it, why did they do it in the first place? I don’t do anything that I will have that much remorse about. It must be that I have no shame. I often make mistakes in some of my life’s choices, but I am always willing to accept the consequences of my actions. So if you know something about me that you think is newsworthy, go on and tell it. I don’t really care.

We are hearing of late that the internet is far from private or safe. Anything on our computers can be accessed by others. I do have personal items on my home computer, like pictures and documents, but nothing that is absolutely for my eyes only. If I want to read something or look at it, I should expect someone else to be interested in them as well. Yes, I even have nudie photos of myself and others for my own perusal and enjoyment, but if you want to look at them, too, feel free. You are welcome to share them, no need to blackmail me about them.

I suggest that if someone threatens to blackmail you, just call their bluff. All they really want is your money. Telling what they know is not going to benefit them monetarily. If you don’t pay them, they will find other means to get some cash. If they do decide to expose you anyway, out of spite perhaps, then so be it. Just own up to what you’ve done. It might not be as bad as you think it is, short of murder, that is. I don’t get the wisdom of trying to blackmail a murderer. You have knowledge that somebody you know has killed somebody and you proceed to blackmail them? What makes you think that they won’t kill you, too?  Even if the person you are blackmailing has not killed anyone yet, they may start just to keep you quiet and not have to pay you. There is a first time for everything, you know. I’m just saying.

Walt Disney, a Racist? Who’d’ve Thunk It!?

Believe it or not, there are certain individuals who are actually under the naïve impression that racism in America and elsewhere has been eradicated and no longer exists.  Although I can admit that the social situation has decidedly improved from what it was in the past, and things are constantly progressing for the better, it is by no means gone from our lives.  As long as we have books, movies and other artistic media at our disposal to remind us how things used to be, it shall always remain in our consciousness. 

Due to our cherished right of freedom of speech, people always have been able to perpetuate their racist views and opinions through their art.  And not only is it allowed, it tends to be accepted by most.  I am a longtime movie buff and have a lot to say about cinematic racism, which I do in subsequent posts. But for right now, I will confine my discussion to a specific series of films.  This subject came up one day in conversation, so this is my take on it.

In case it has not occurred to you, get hip to the fact that film producer Walt Disney [1901-1966] was quite a bona fide racist.  And he wasn’t subtle or secretive about it either.  Of course, he produced high-quality family entertainment, but in all of the 86 feature films that he produced during his career, none of them deal with the real, black experience.  I am not saying that the sin of omission makes him a racist, necessarily, but as I will point out, the way he went about it in his work certainly makes him qualify.

His only black-themed production (sorta), Song of the South (1946), is an antiquated, “Old South” movie that depicts blacks as happy-go-lucky, singing and dancing darkies.  I finally got to see the film when it was released on DVD.  One of the primary characters in the film is called Uncle Remus.  There is no mention of Remus’ having any nephews or nieces.  Then who’s uncle is he? Hattie McDaniel is on hand, too, portraying Aunt Tempy, who is also lacking of same.  Are you aware that to refer to a black man as “uncle” is euphemistically derogatory? You can call a black man “boy” (also disrespectful) up until he’s about 50-years-old, then black senior citizens become “uncles,” you see.  Moreover, the tale-spinning Remus refers to his story characters as, “Br’er Bear, Br’er Fox and Br’er Rabbit,” indicating that, as a poor, uneducated Negro, he is incapable of correctly pronouncing simple English words. I realize that the film is based on characters created by white Southerner Joel Chandler Harris, but Mr. Disney seemed all too eager to perpetuate Harris’ outdated, Southern attitudes in his film. I mean, did he have to include the story of the Tar Baby?   Come on!

I am also familiar with Walt’s earlier Dumbo (1941), and although the sequence with the crows is humorous, it is blatantly racist as well.  These characters, just like those from the other movie, are based on outmoded (even then) Negro stereotypes. Or more specifically, white man’s outmoded idea of Negro stereotypes of speech and manner, because the only time I have ever seen any black people behave that way is when white men have instructed them to do so, or more rightly, when they themselves are pretending to be black.  These “black” crows shuffle around dancing and singing (as usual), # Well, ah be done seen ’bout ever’thang when ah see a elephant fly! #  Well, ah be done seen ’bout ever’thang when white folks stop treating us merely as ridiculous comic relief!  The inside joke is that as early as 1730 black people were described and referred to as crows.  Walt apparently was aware of that.  He even named the head crow “Jim”!  Get it? 

In his The Jungle Book (1967), too, Mr. Disney gives his dark animals, like Baloo the bear and the apes, “black” mannerisms in behavior and speech, although they, as well as the aforementioned crows, are voiced by white actors.  Walt wouldn’t think of hiring black actors for those roles.  That would be disrespectful. Besides, everybody knows that white men can impersonate and parody black people much better than we can ourselves.

I watched Disney’s So Dear to My Heart (1949) a while back, which I hadn’t seen in about 45 years, so I didn’t remember much about it. It’s a live-action film about a little boy (Bobby Driscoll) who raises a black sheep and subsequently enters him into the County Fair competition.  When the lamb is first born, one of two, his mother rejects him, and Granny, Bobby’s guardian, played by Beulah Bondi, explains to her grandson, “That’s how they are sometimes, with twins, especially when one of ‘em’s black.” So she’s justifying the mother sheep’s behavior?  I wasn’t aware that animals, too, exercise color prejudice, and with their own offspring, no less!  It looks like a little directorial manipulation, don‘t you think?  Then later Granny tells the boy, “I don’t fancy black wool. Never did.”   She sounds like she’s trying to instill her own color bias to her child, just as the producers are impressing it upon their movie-going audience. The judges at the Fair are almost as bad.  They certainly don’t award the top Blue Ribbon to the black sheep—something about black wool’s being worthless, undesired. It’s a wonder that they even allow him to compete at all.  But as the animal star of the movie and to effect a happy ending, I suppose, the sheep is given a Special Award for being different.  Wasn’t that white of them?

While watching Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951) again a while ago, I was made aware of a scene of metaphorical racism this time. Remember the scene of Alice in the garden of talking and singing flowers?  They are getting along fine with her until they realize that Alice is a “Nook” (Not Of Our Kind), not a flower like themselves. Then they start to jeer at her and ostracize her because they do not associate with “weeds” and promptly kick her out the garden.  So it’s not enough for people to be prejudiced, Disney is now attributing the human practice of discrimination to the innocent plants as well!  This little episode is certainly not in Lewis Carroll’s original story. It’s strictly Disney.

As in the previous movie, are these proper messages to present to impressionable youngsters?  It’s pretty much telling them that it is okay to discriminate and be bigots by encouraging them to disassociate themselves from anybody not like themselves and that the color black is somehow inferior to white. The fact that an obviously-white chorus of voices was used for the flowers adds to the purposeful intent of the scene, even though Alice herself is a little white girl! But I have learned that discrimination by whites often transcends skin color. What’s amazing is that they have cleverly conveyed their racist views without using any black people, but plants and animals instead to make their point—a brilliant ploy, in my opinion.

Unreasonable discrimination and ostracism is also displayed with the circus elephants who ridicule and shun little Dumbo, one of their own, just because his ears are larger than normal.  Nowadays this would be considered bullying.  Walt even makes light of excessive alcohol consumption.  The circus clowns, as well as Dumbo and his friend Timothy Mouse, all get plastered one night and it’s all an amusing joke. I wonder how many impressionable youngsters watching the film want to get very drunk themselves so that they, too, can experience “Pink Elephants on Parade“? I have heard of many children being greatly distressed and even traumatized by the scene in Bambi (1942) when the fawn’s mother is murdered by an dispassionate, merciless hunter. So although killing innocent animals is a common real life occurrence, Disney didn’t have to depict it in a family-based cartoon, as if he condoned it or considered it no big deal.

And whereas Disney seemed not to mind teaching his young viewers to discriminate, he chose to honor parents’ purported desire to keep sex education out of his movies.  Baby Dumbo is actually delivered to his mother by a stork!  And then except for Dumbo, all the other elephants in the film are female.  So who is Dumbo’s daddy?  Did he just happen?  His mother named him Jumbo Jr., but we never get to meet “Jumbo Sr.”  The crows, on the other hand, are all male.  So of course, there can’t be any reproductive hanky-panky going on if like animals are all the same sex. 

Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) features a horde of male leprechauns, but nary a female in the bunch. So how did any of them come to be, and how do they reproduce? That’s right, Walt, teach us all how to bully and hate each other, but don’t you dare depict something that suggests anything sexual!  Even in the Princess fables (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the rest), in which “they lived happily ever after,” the movies all end before the lovers consummate their marriages. But we don’t get to see that, do we? We don’t know if they ever do.

Similarly, in his Peter Pan (1953) there is sexual segregation in Neverland with the Pirates and the Lost Boys.  Walt made all the male pirates physically unattractive so that nobody would desire them sexually or each other, and the Lost Boys are all too young to do anything.  Since the Chief of the Indian tribe has a daughter, Tiger Lily, he did give us another woman, presumedly her mother.  There is rampant jealousy among the other females in the story, which suggests a certain sexist attitude about women.  All the girls apparently are in love with Peter and resent each other.  Tinker Bell hates Wendy, the mermaids don’t like her either, and Wendy is jealous of Tiger Lily.  It shouldn’t even matter, when Peter isn’t giving any of them any action! 

Walt’s writers also have the Indians behaving as they do in all the other Hollywood films made about them.  There is that typical drum beat that accompanies every scene that involves them, along with the whooping war dance that they always do.  And just like the other ethnic groups in films, they don’t speak in whole sentences, only utterances of “How!” and “Ugg!” What the hell is ugg and who actually says that?  Well, I did a little checking and found out that hau is a greeting in several tribal languages, and uggs are a kind of moccasin boots worn by some American natives.  The word is short for ugly, and I suppose the ones who call them that consider the footwear to be unattractive.   But even so, how does ugg by itself come up in regular conversation?  The actors doing these voices, too, are, of course, white.   I wish that Disney had been more responsible by teaching his viewing audience of children how people other than white really are, instead of perpetuating false and unrealistic stereotypes all the time.

This next is an overlooked nugget.  Walt even managed to slip in an ethnic epithet with a line from Mary Poppins (1964), one of my favorite films, by the way.  When Mary and Bert and the kids and the chimney sweeps are all up on the rooftops doing their “Step in Time” number, Admiral Boom looks over and sees these people with black soot on their faces and utters the illogical line, “We’re being attacked by Hottentots!”   Really, now, Hottentots?!  How and why would a Negroid African tribe be romping on the rooftops of London? The admiral should know damned well that they are British sweeps, having seen them many times before, I’m sure.  Of course, they probably justified it by saying that Admiral Boom is delusional and only imagines that he is seeing Hottentots.  So he can be addlepated, and therefore racist, at our expense then.

You’ll notice, too, that although they aren’t, the “Hottentots” are “attacking,” because isn’t that what black gangs are known to do, take undue aggression upon unsuspecting, undeserving white folks?  What is a seemingly-innocent comment, under the surface is loaded with racist vitriol. Now add to the pot that these are all white actors done up in literal blackface!  And what are these chimney sweep characters doing? Singing and dancing! So Disney has managed to sneak in an elaborate, jimcrovian minstrel show sequence in its original form. It has already been established that they are supposed to be black by that Hottentot line, right? Wait! Aha! I first thought that the line was pointless and was put in there only for Disney and his scriptwriters to get in their usual racial dig. But now I realize that it’s in there for a reason. It helps set up the scene and justify the minstrel act. And I expect that you viewers, especially the innocent children and the clueless adults, too, are none the wiser. “My, what a cute, fun number that is!“ See how fiendishly-clever he was?

I just saw one with which I was totally unfamiliar and watched it out of curiosity. I wanted to see if Walt was up to his old tricks. I guess the poor man just could not help himself. Dick Van Dyke starred in another Disney vehicle two years later, entitled Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966), which is, of course, a reworking of Robinson Crusoe. Dick is a Navy pilot who gets stranded on a tropical island for several months. He eventually discovers that he is not alone. There is a chimpanzee there with him and later an exotic “native” girl shows up in the guise of Nancy Kwan. They provide a nonsensical reason why she is there, and I suppose they made “Friday” (or “Wednesday,” as this Crusoe named her) to be a woman instead of a man, in order to add some surface heterosexism to the scenario.

It shouldn’t have mattered in either case, because as usual with Walt, there is no sexual activity of any kind going on anyway. In fact, the first night that Robin and Wednesday are together, he graciously allows her to sleep inside the shelter that he built, while he chooses to sleep outside in a hammock, in the pouring rain! I mean, come on! It would make sense that they both are very horny, therefore the temptation would be too great if they shared a bed together. But even if they did have sex, who is going to know or care, since they are there alone? But we, the viewing audience, would know, wouldn’t we? They know how judgmental we can be. I’ll bet that Floyd, the chimp, would be getting his if he had the opportunity.

Later when Wednesday’s chieftain headhunter father (don’t try to make any sense of it), played by Akim Tamiroff, shows up to reclaim his daughter and get her married off to somebody, of course, Robin is the most-likely (the only, actually) candidate. But Crusoe adamantly declines, offering some lame excuse about his not being good enough for her or that it wouldn’t work out or some disclaimer. I’ll just bet if she was some lily-white, blonde bimbo, he wouldn’t be so dismissive of her. They probably cast a non-white person on purpose, just to justify Robin’s refusal. When he is finally rescued by helicopter, he opts to take Floyd with him instead of the girl! The story is credited to “Retlaw Yensid,” by the way. I wonder who that could be?

The original “Mickey Mouse Club” on TV was completely devoid of People-of-Color.  I learned that as many as a million youngsters were seen and auditioned for the job–but not a single black, Latino or Asian in the bunch! How could that be? Unless they put on the casting notices, “Nonwhites need not even apply.” Maybe there were no ethnic youngsters talented enough to make it as a Mouseketeer? Yeah, right.  And I’m sure that Disney searched high and low (not) to find some, too.  One of his later shows was called “Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” but there were never any colored people on that show either. 

Should I be too naïve to suppose that all these things I have cited just happened incidentally without any deliberate intent on Disney’s part?  But if I noticed it, I am not so arrogant to assume that nobody else in the world has picked up on it, too. I refuse to believe that Disney and his creators and advisors had no clue to what was going on. They all had to have known what they were doing, but chose to go along with it anyway. Why I put my complaints and observations primarily on Walt’s shoulders is because of the fact that Walt was the final say-so in everything that he produced. Nothing got published without Walt’s approval. So then, I will have to assume that everything in his pictures is intentional and acceptable, besides.

Movie buff and critic Leonard Maltin is a major Disney fan and commentator. He’s even written books on the subject. I own his The Disney Films, where he critiques and analyses every Disney film. But nowhere does he comment on the racial aspects that I have just laid out in this article. I take him to be a smart guy. Could he be that oblivious to what is going on? I would love to meet him, so that I could ask him.

I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike Disney or his films.  On the contrary, I have been a big Disney fan all my life.  But that does not negate my observations and assessments of his racism.   I just calls ‘em as I sees ‘em, that‘s all!  But I do support everyone’s right to their own artistic expression, even if I don‘t personally agree with the content.  It’s a good thing, at least, that Walt’s white supremacist and homophobic attitudes died with him, and since then the Disney Corporation has become a product of progressive modern times and positive diversity. 

In fact, just six years after Walt’s death, we started seeing black people turn up in his movies, in normal, non-servile roles.
The Biscuit Eater (1972) starred Godfrey Cambridge and Beah Richards. Then the next year John Amos and Roscoe Lee Browne starred in The World’s Greatest Athlete. They produced a live-action Cinderella for TV in 1997, which featured an ethnically-mixed cast.  Brandy Norwood played Cinderella, Bernadette Peters played her stepmother, whose daughters, one was white and the other, black.  Whitney Houston was the Fairy Godmother, Victor Garber and Whoopi Goldberg played the King and Queen, and their son, Prince Charming, was played by an Asian actor.  Also in 1997 the Disney Studios produced an animated feature of Hercules for theatrical release.  The Muses characters, who serve as a Greek chorus, were drawn as and voiced by black women singers, I suppose to give it a more soulful interpretation of the hip, modern music by Alan Menken.

If that weren’t enough, a more recent animated feature from the Disney Studios is The Princess and the Frog (2009), and whereas every fairy tale princess has always been a white child, this time she is depicted as a Negress!  Old Walt must be rolling around in his grave!  But don’t worry, Waltie!  You can rest easy.  I have seen the film, and although it’s well-made, entertaining and funny, it also has definite shades of your racist agenda, you’d be pleased to know.  I would have hoped that at long last their first predominately-black feature would reflect modern times with a typical present-day Afro-American family.  Instead, the story is set in Jazz Era New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Our heroine, Tiana, is a lower-middle-class waitress who dreams of owning and operating her own restaurant some day.  Her mother is a freelance seamstress who works for a rich, white local bigwig, and whose daughter is a pampered “princess.” Its being set in New Orleans in the 1930s puts the characters in a certain social class distinction with the speech pattern of the time, and gives the writers a reason to use voodoo as the device for the story’s magic applications.  In fact, the villain of the piece is a powerful voodoo practitioner, who looks very much like a charming pimp.  Think Sportin’ Life with an evil streak.  Maybe I am being too critical in saying that the film has racist undertones, but if this were only one black feature out of many others that have come out of the Disney Studios, I wouldn’t need to cite it as epitomizing their usual production values.  But until we get a wider variety of the black experience, this movie will still be considered by some as exploitative and stereotypical.

Actually, I am pleased to report that now that Disney has been bought by Dreamworks/Amblin, the mega-studio owned by David Geffin, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Stephen Spielberg, the diversity factor has improved even more. I am pretty sure that Walt would have had nothing to do with some of the productions that the company is putting out these days. Just opened recently is Queen of Katwe (2016), which is set in Uganda and features mostly black and African actors. It’s about a young girl training to become a world chess champion. I cannot assess it right now, however, until I see it.

By no means was Walt Disney the only animation company that produced racist cartoons. Warner Brothers, Walter Lantz and others, I’m sure, made their contributions as well.  I remember seeing them on TV when I was a kid. Without any moral social conscience, they often depicted grotesque, derogatory, black caricatures.  There exists a Snow White parody cartoon by Warner Brothers entitled, Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943), which is the epitome of racist stereotype imagery. (You can find it on YouTube.)

I have visited Disneyland in California twice and Walt Disney World in Florida three times, so I have had ample opportunity to be made aware of the strong Caucasian influences that pervade the theme parks as well.  It’s a feeling, a certain ambience, if you will, maybe it’s just because I am more attuned to it.  For example, there is an attraction there called Imagination. Tourists ride through a tunnel in cars, just like many of the other rides, and they give you a silly, repetitious song about “use your imagination…” and imagination this and imagination that.  But here’s the thing. The entire decor from beginning to end is done all in solid white!  There are all different kinds of patterns, designs and shapes, but everything is white, just the same. They sure didn’t use much imagination when they were picking out the paint and the color scheme for the thing!  I mean, why all white?  You know, using many different colors on that ride would have worked just as well.  Paint costs the same no matter what color you choose.  Now, am I being overly-paranoid, or are the Disney people trying, however subtly, to tell us something?  It couldn’t be just coincidental.

The underlying message that I get from that is that as long as you are white, you can do anything you want to do.  And that is how many of them still think anyway. It’s subliminal racism, in my opinion. In contrast, the Imagination ad for Kodak during one of the attractions at the Disneyland Park in France takes another approach.  It is a series of Kodak moment scenes. Along with the obligatory white representation, one depicts a little black boy playing with his dog, and another shows a little Asian girl in a home setting.  So at least Kodak and the European executives have used their imagination by utilizing some racial diversity in their commercial ads, unlike here in America.  In all fairness, though, since it’s been 28 years since I was last at Walt Disney World, I suppose it is possible that they might have gotten with the times by now and updated their prior approach.

In defense of my use of racial situations taken from literature, movies and TV, I consider them valid examples, due to the fact that even fiction is based on truth and reality, and cinematic art is, after all, a reflection of real life.  No one can be expected to experience every place and culture outside one’s own during the course of a lifetime, so we have movies and books to illustrate these things.  If not totally realistic at all times, there is always some validity in their depiction of life.  Remember that even when something is unrealistic, there is an underlying reason for it. At least it is representative of a certain mindset by the scriptwriters and directors.  As I illustrated with the Disney films, they must find some credibility in those situations for them to write about them.  So when someone tells me, “It’s only a movie,” I counter with, ‘Yeah, but somebody thought it up, didn’t they?’  The dialogue uttered and the actions depicted are always from someone’s deliberate consciousness. In other related blogs I have set out to educate and create awareness about racism and other social issues that you may be oblivious to or otherwise take for granted.

You know, with the recent controversy about The Interview, I find it interesting that, to my knowledge, nobody has ever threatened the Disney Studios with terrorist aggression for making all those racist movies that I just cited.  But even if someone actually did at any time, their protests were apparently ignored, because we still have all of these films at our disposal.  It appears that nowadays the general public is not so tolerant about things that were accepted in the past, and that’s a good thing in many respects. But they have taken it too far the other way now. Today one can hardly do or say anything without it being scrutinized and criticized. Those people need to lighten up a bit, get a sense of humor, not take everything so seriously.

[Related articles: Black History, Parts 1-5; Cinematic Pros and Cons; Color Issues; Some Racial Observations and Assessments; Stereotyping and Profiling, Racial and Otherwise]

By Way of Introduction

I started writing my memoirs some years ago, and since my life is still in progress, I never got around to publishing it officially, and besides that, I am always adding to it, revising and editing.   It’s an ongoing project.  In addition, the whole thing is now over 900 pages! It seems that I have a lot to say on just about everything.  So in lieu of former publication, I have decided to start a blog site on which to share some of my thoughts and opinions.  Candid Talk: The World According to Cliff Townsend is more than a mere autobiography.  It serves as a philosophical treatise as well, in which I do comment on the world as I see it.  And believe me, at the age of 67 and with extensive travel experience behind me, I have seen quite a lot!  I have visited all 50 states, most of the provinces of Canada and, to date, 37 foreign nations of the world.  I have had a fascinating and exciting life and career so far.  And like the Stephen Sondheim song from Follies, I am still here.

By way of introduction, let me tell you a little about myself.  I live alone in Manhattan (New York City) and although semi-retired, I still work as an occasional freelance professional musician and performer.  Formerly of The Flirtations, a touring acappella group, I can be seen with them in the 1993 film Philadelphia.  I am currently a member of the New York Vagabonds, another male, touring vocal quartet.  I am also a much-credited recording artist, including several with the aforementioned groups as well as a self-produced solo album entitled Out Here On My Own, all available for purchase for the asking.   By choice, I am still single, never married.  I do have definite thoughts on marriage as well.  You will learn more about me when you read my essays.  My biggest pet peeves in life are hypocrisy and injustice, and I have no qualms about exposing them when they occur. If you enjoy stimulating, provocative, intelligent discussions on diverse subjects, as I do, this blog site is for you.


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