Happiness Is_____–(You fill in the blank.)

“I just want you to be happy … I am going to make you happy.” You are? People often meddle in each other’s lives with the excuse that they are concerned about their state of positive being. 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 affair.

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. I am happy when I am indulging in my various hobbies and personal activities, like reading, writing, stimulating my mind with puzzles, games and endless music projects. 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 first solo album, which I entirely paid for myself, and I also wrote a symphony, which was one of the greatest joys of my life. Alas, I lost a lot of friends during that period, but people close to us are always dying. That’s unavoidable.

(# Don’t worry; be happy. #)
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.

(# 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 actually admire and adamantly advocate acceptable and appropriate 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” and Other Suspicious Governmental Hanky-Panky

#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. Even after twenty years 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 mean, why maintain permanent military forces if you don’t use them? That’s like, what good is a bomb if it doesn’t go off?

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.” The Japanese bombers 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.

I learned from watching The Post (2017) that they were planning the Vietnam Conflict as early as Truman’s Administration! Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, they all were in on it. Even when it became clear that the war was unwinnable, Johnson, for one, did not want to admit that we were losing and kept sending troops over there anyway to be killed, but at the same time lying to the American public that we were the victors and had everything under control.

When the so-called “Pentagon Papers” got leaked and the truth behind the conspiracy was revealed, they threatened to shut down The New York Times and The Washington Post if they dared to print their findings. It was all considered “Top Secret,” you see, that the public had no right to be privy to the inner workings of our Defense Department. Just sacrifice our boys indiscriminately and don’t let them or anybody else know why and for what purpose. Anybody who protested the War, and there were many, were deemed to be unpatriotic and anti-American. The Supreme Court had to intervene and fortunately ruled in favor of the Press, that they should not be silenced, under any circumstances. So knowing our Government’s past history of underhanded dealings, how can certain people still be so trusting of them?

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? 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 operates.

Those who are of age, 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 diverting 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, too, 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. I don’t even know what the man looks like. He could be walking around among us. I wouldn’t know him if I saw him, would you? 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 for it. Where and from whom did he get his information? I don’t believe for a moment that Bin Laden told only Bush that he was responsible and asked him to relay the message to the rest of us.

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. That auromaniac archvillain Goldfinger (1964) laid out a plan to break into Fort Knox and was reminded that the place was so well-guarded it wasn’t possible. Well, so what? The guards all can be incapacitated. Nobody is invincible. 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. I contend that 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 lied outright by announcing 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 last two elections.

Is anybody really naive enough to believe that voter manipulation is something new? It’s been going on forever. There were times when certain American citizens (women and blacks) were not allowed to vote. And even when they did, how do we know which ballots were actually counted? Again, we know only what they tell us. There was a black man, George Taylor, who ran for President against Teddy Roosevelt in 1904. Some states did not even put his name on the ballot, and the 65,000 votes that he did receive were not reported. The concerted effort to get us all to vote every few years is merely a formality. We have witnessed past elections where the popular vote did not matter at all. If they want the other guy in office, that’s the one that they will elect. When Trump did not win a second time, he, too, was suspicious that the election was rigged. Why would he think that if he didn’t believe that it could be possible?

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 (Catholics, especially) 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.

Hmm, now that has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Aren’t we ourselves now in the midst of a viral epidemic that is killing millions of people? And who did they try to blame this time? The Chinese! Did Mr. Trump have a hand in it, perhaps? He certainly took a rather lackadaisical attitude about it, as if he didn’t care, encouraging people to ignore safety measures and trying to assure us that it soon would go away on its own. I’m just saying.

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 Moslims 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” in its 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 didn’t you suggest that we get rid of those 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! Maybe he did. I don’t know. 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 simply all comes down to what you choose to believe.

Conspiracy Theory, Part I–We Are Not Alone and the 1969 Moon Landing

This is the first of a series of four conspiracy theory essays. In chronological order, first we have extraterrestrial speculation and the alleged moon landing of 1969, next we deal with suspicious Governmental testing and the AIDS epidemic from 1980 until the present time, then a discussion about the events of “9/11″ (2001) and finally, some current ongoing suspicions.

There are those who still doubt the existence of UFOs and extraterrestrial visitation. They think that because we don’t yet have the technology to visit other planets, nobody else possibly can either. If “Man” can’t do it, it can’t be done. But suppose they are here (I wouldn’t swear that they aren‘t), apparently then, our civilization is not the most advanced or the most intelligent, is it? There have been simply too many reported accounts of UFO sightings and abductions (and many of them have not been disproved) for us just to disregard all of them. Sure, there have been definite hoaxes and some sightings have been explained or proven to be fake, but that does not mean that there have not been genuine ones as well.

The same person who believes in God, which they have not seen, will flatly refuse to accept something that they have actually seen. I have heard this exchange. “Look, Dear, a UFO!” “No, it’s not. I don’t believe in UFOs.” “Then, what is it?” “Well, I don’t rightly know.” So, “Dear,” if you don’t know what the thing is, then by definition it is an unidentified flying object, hence the name! Hello?!

It appears that we Americans are a rather fickle bunch. I mention Americans only because I don’t know how other nations of the world regard everything. But whereas many of us vehemently deny the existence of extraterrestrials and their visitations, they were so quick to accept Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” in 1938 as frighteningly real. It was done merely as a Halloween prank, but it put the country into a panic, their thinking that actual Martians had landed on native soil. Of course, I was not born yet, but I’m sure I would have been skeptical about the whole thing. For one thing, how did they know that the visitors were from Mars? There was no verbal communication between them, so they didn’t tell anybody whence they came. Plus, even if they had, they wouldn’t have identified themselves as “Martians,” as that is the name we have for them. Were all those listeners that stupid and gullible not to take that into consideration?

There are historians who are convinced that there really was a lost continent of Atlantis, which purportedly sank into the sea, although there is some conjecture about whether it was the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean. At any rate, it is agreed that before it disappeared the land was inhabited by extraterrestrial beings from who-knows-where. It is believed that these are the people who built the Egyptian pyramids and maybe the ones in Mexico as well. They apparently had the technology that we don’t (they actually got here from somewhere, after all), their being able to move and stack all those stones of such massive weight.

It is also believed that these beings from another world have mated with the native Earthlings to create a new evolutionary race. That would mean that there are aliens, half-aliens, their offspring and descendants living among us to this very day. I can appreciate the possibility that other-worldly visitation is not a new thing. Who knows what went on on this planet millions of years ago? No one is still alive who would have witnessed it. We have only fossils, archaeological finds and deductive speculation to guide our beliefs. I, myself, am not arrogant enough to discount the whole thing as preposterous or impossible.

It is rather anthropocentric of us, as well as unrealistic, to think that this tiny planet (relatively speaking) on which we live is the only place in this vast Universe to sustain some kind of life. Those who do contend this notion seem to base all the possibilities of life on our own limited capabilities. When speculating on the likelihood of lifeforms on any of the other planets, in our solar system alone, we always use our own peculiar situation as a criterion. That planet is too hot or that planet is much too cold to sustain life. But just because they are too hot or cold for us mere mortals, does not mean that no other creatures in the Universe may be able to withstand such extreme temperatures. The composition of our bodies is adapted to conform to this planet’s particular environment. I would think that the other planets operate pretty much in the same way, whereas their inhabitants’ physical makeup is such that it is impervious to extreme heat or cold.

Since the planet Mercury does not rotate, it always keeps the same side to the sun. So one half of the planet is extremely hot and bright, while the other side is extremely cold and dark. But how about along the area where the two hemispheres divide? Might there be some moderate degree of temperature and light somewhere along the cusp that might sustain life as we know it? Venus is covered with a thick layer of clouds. We can’t even see the actual surface. Who knows who or what’s under there? Just like our own ozone layer, and because of its proximity, maybe those encompassing clouds serve as a safety cushion against the direct rays of the sun.

Mars is the other planet most likely to harbor some sort of life similar to ours. It lies right next to us and is not all that far away, relatively speaking. The other outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and maybe others, too, that we don’t know about yet), are all too cold for us to live on, but there could be certain lifeforms who are adapted to subzero temperatures. Just like I wouldn’t want to live in the Arctic regions, but the people and animals who live there don’t seem to mind the cold. Those outer extraterrestrials might dwell underground where they have a special heating system, created by possible volcanic activity. Everything does not have to be on the surface, you know. Or they may not require any form of heat or light. That’s why they live where they do!

With all the planets orbiting and revolving around in space, I’d like to believe that they are serving a more important purpose than only that, in the scheme of things, just like our Earth is. And as small as our Earth is, relatively speaking, that harbors so many lifeforms, it’s hard to believe that Jupiter and the other humongous planets are completely devoid of anything. That would be such a waste of space, as it were.

If there are extraterrestrials somewhere out there, why is it often assumed that they are hostile and would come here for the sole purpose of annihilation? It’s probably because, knowing us, that would be our mission with regard to them. We expect everybody to be like us, I guess. Maybe their visits and abductions are more about study and curiosity about us Earthlings rather than about global conquest and aggression. If they are already here among us, they apparently are operating on the down-low. I don’t personally know any, or at least none that I am aware of. Do you?

I have something to say about Pluto. A few years ago somebody–I don’t who it was exactly–made the decision to take away Pluto’s status as a true planet and has now deemed it as a “dwarf planet.” But it’s still a planet, in my opinion, its size notwithstanding. All of our planets are different sizes. Pluto does the same thing as the other planets do, that is, rotate and revolve around the sun, so its diminutive size is inconsequential. Why set a minimum limit for validation? I expect that the “people” living on Pluto don’t think that their world is so tiny. Our Earth is not so big either, as compared to the much larger ones, but it looks humongous to us. In the scheme of things, size is relative. So I eschew that unfair demotion and will continue to acknowledge Pluto as a bona fide planet. So there!

Cosmologist Neil DeGrasse Tyson said something on “The View” one day, which gave me pause for thought. Looking at it another way, while discussing the possible incidence of extraterrestrial visitation, “Why are all these alleged sightings usually only witnessed by U.S. military facilities, when they could land in any part of the world? There are billions of people today who own mobile phones that are equipped with cameras, recording capabilities and internet access. Come on! If any aliens land anywhere or even get close, somebody would record it and it would go viral in a matter of minutes.” Tyson has a good point. Who can do anything now, at least in public, without someone catching them in the act? We are forever vigilant. There is no real privacy anymore.

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, whose house caught on fire in New Jersey or people I don’t know, but I certainly would like to know that a spaceship from another planet just landed in Sheep Meadow in Central Park!

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.

There was a recent TV series 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 took into consideration, what if Russia, China or whoever were doing exactly the same thing that we were doing? We are not the only nation watching the skies. Might they, too, have known about the careening asteroid and were 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. Someone must have realized the ridiculous rationale of the whole thing, and the show did not last its first season.

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.

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!

# 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 over 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, as I do keep an open mind and tend to consider other scenarios, 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 or conveyed, by interstellar communication perhaps, but if it is true, we must be honoring their wishes, and that would explain why there have been no more lunar visitations from us or anybody else, if there ever were at all. It could be then that since we are not allowed to visit the moon, we wanted to save face and were compelled to fake it and just tell people that we went there anyway. Again, you can believe it or not. I am just the reporter.

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 “E-A-R-S,” 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? No? 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, as I would have done. 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? How self-centered can you get? 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, literally, 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 of 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 other 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. Others have accused Walt of being anti-Semitic as well, and I won’t swear that he wasn’t, but that’s another issue entirely. I am more concerned here with his attitude towards people of color.

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?

I learned that on this occasion, however, that members of the Hall Johnson Choir were hired to provide the voices for the crows, and that is James Baskett (“Uncle Remus“) who is voicing Jim. I doubt, however, that the actor and character’s names are coincidental. 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 are voiced by white actors.

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. Am I the first and only critic to call Disney on his shit? Maltin actually defends the crows sequence in Dumbo, saying, “If any offense is to be taken, then the viewer is merely being sensitive to accuracy.” What?! I take Maltin to be a smart and savvy guy. Could he be that oblivious to what is going on? He seems not to get it. I would love to meet him, so that I could enlighten him.

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“? “Oh, that looks like fun!”

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 a 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.

More unnecessary violence is displayed in his Fun and Fancy Free (1947). Bongo is a performing circus bear who flees his captive confines to seek adventure in the woods. When he meets a female bear, he doesn’t know how to pursue her. He soon learns via the song, “A Bear Likes to Say It With a Slap,” which tells that this is how bears express their love. Then all the other bears in the forest proceed to slap each other around, ending in a real battle for the affections of the girl bear. The lesson learned, little boys? If you see a girl that you like, be willing to fight for her…or at least slap the shit out of her. That’ll bring her around.

And whereas Disney seemed not to mind teaching his young viewers to discriminate, bully and resort to corporal aggression, 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, 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 fight 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 for sure if they ever do “consummate.”

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.

East Asians are not ignored either by our Walt. In Lady and the Tramp (1955) the two Siamese cats, “Si” and “Am“, are depicted as mischievous troublemakers. In addition, they have bucked teeth, slanty eyes and speak with a thick accent. 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 recently 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 after Mary Poppins, 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 roofed 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.

Now, having thrown all this shade at Mr. Disney, let me tell you how surprised I was to learn that Walt employed a very talented, accomplished animator named Floyd Norman, who worked for Disney for many years, until Walt died and he remained on afterwards. The surprise is that Floyd Norman is a black man! The TV documentary that I saw about Norman did not get into his feelings and thoughts about Disney’s frequent racial gestures in his films. Did he just accept the disrespect and decided just to take the money and keep quiet about it? Walt apparently liked Floyd. They even claimed to be friends. I wouldn’t think that Floyd feared he would lose his job and Walt’s friendship if he stood up to Walt and made him aware concerning the error of his ways. I always contend that people will get away with what you let them get away with. Wait! I just thought of something. Do you think that it is another coincidence that Walt named Robin Crusoe’s pet chimpanzee (a monkey!) Floyd after Floyd Norman? Did Norman consider that an honor or a slap in the face?

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 a young, 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 1920s 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, Dr. Facilier, known as “Shadow Man,” 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 Steven 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. Then why are they still using his name? They must think that when moviegoers see that it is a “Disney” film, it will lend a certain quality prestige to it or something. As for me, I am not impressed. It’s like with brand names. I always rate the product itself. I don’t care who made it or what they call it. Walt Disney is dead and gone. He has nothing whatsoever to do with these films.

In 2016 Dreamworks (“Disney”) finally came out with Queen of Katwe, which has an all-African cast, including much of the production staff and an Indian director, Mira Nair, who lives in Uganda, where the film is set, and it’s based on a modern true story from the last decade, about a young girl who becomes a world chess champion. That production must have inspired Black Panther (2018 and its 2022 sequel), which feature an all-black cast. Racially-diverse casting is also displayed in the new live-action remake of The Little Mermaid (2023), in which the title Princess Ariel is portrayed by black Halle Bailey, her father, the King, by Latino Javier Bardem, her love interest is a white man and his mother, in turn, is a black woman.

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. That is how many of them still think anyway. And it’s a true assessment in most cases, too. 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 over 30 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. But that does not excuse my initial assessment. They should have already been with the times in 1990.

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 controversy, at the time, about The Interview (2014), 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

[Original post has been revised and updated.]

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 76 and with extensive travel experience behind me, I have seen quite a lot! My On the Road With Cliff is a travelogue of every place I have been in 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 basically-retired, I still work as an occasional freelance professional musician and performer when something turns up. Formerly of The Flirtations, a touring acappella group, I can be seen with them in the 1993 film Philadelphia. I was a member of Steamboat Gothic and The New York Vagabonds, other male, touring vocal quartets. I am also a much-credited recording artist, including several with the aforementioned groups as well as two self-produced solo albums entitled Out Here On My Own and Cliff Townsend Still Going Strong, all available 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, humorous, intelligent discussions on diverse subjects, as I do, this blog site is for you.