Where should I begin? What we are witnesses is something that have lurked in and out of human consciousness for centuries; but humans being humans, in the back of our mind, it would never come close to anyone we knew.
But here we are.
In fact, one of my former writers, Phillip “The Specialist” Sheppard beat COVID-19 and talks about experience in this issue.
Jan Alexander added Camus, The Plague, among other important ideas. I was also intrigued of Robert Fleming’s article about the Historian Nicholas Buccola, author of The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass, dissects the significance of the televised debate between leading conservative William F. Buckley and civil rights spokesman James Baldwin before a packed audience on February 18, 1965 at the Cambridge Union in Cambridge, England.
I watched that debate. It was amazing. Baldwin kicked Buckley’s butt. But both men held me in awe. Can you imagine such a debate in primetime, or any time, these days? We have many great inventions since 1965. However, we now turn on the television and there is little of substance.
Now, I have to stay inside. watching a television that have little of worth.
Enjoy issue No. 89 of the Neworld Review.
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Remember the old cliché, "I walked to school five miles in the snow. You kids have it great!”And we did.
That was back when I was a child, however, I am sure throughout history every parent has spoken of a lesson learned from their past.
Trying to give insight as to the difficulties they had endured and how much easier it is today.
The Baby Boomers have experienced many decades of change.
I remember when there were no color TV's. No fax machines. Rotary dial phones. Pay phones for a dime. Collect calls. Carrying books in your
hands, or just riding your bike home before it got dark.
After all, there were no cell phone, GPS, just kids playing in their yards or at a friend’s house.
Imagination did all the work. Only a few Network Stations to.....Read More
At the altar of Netflix, binge-watching The Tiger King as the quarantine took hold, it wasn’t just the redneck parallels to the Trump-Hillary Presidential contest that held me captive to this stranger-than-fiction reality series. It was also the freak-show parody of white America’s sense of entitlement. That includes my own. Turns out that you’ve led a privileged life if you’ve ever lived by the words “conquer your fears.”
In The Tiger King, America is a bleak land of highways, strip malls and meth-fueled self-importance. At his private zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, Joe Exotic (born Joe Schreibvogel, married name Joe Maldonado-Passage) used to make his money pimpishly, from charging visitors to pet his fuzzy baby tigers, bred in captivity. (I wanted to pet one too, but I felt guilty about it.)
In 2016, when things weren’t going so well with his always-scrappy business, Joe made a bid to run for President of the United States as an independent, and when that fizzled out he ran for Governor of Oklahoma. He lost. Imagine, we could have had a guy in U.S. politics who ran just to invigorate his brand, sporting a chromatic-palette-defying eruption of hair and an unhinged habit of screaming expletives at his adversaries on camera—and, as he grew more accustomed to the political spotlight, began to imagine himself as some kind of royalty.
In one scene Joe appears to be completely at ease driving down the highway while nuzzling a full-grown tiger in the passenger seat. But in the eighth episode of the series, a coda in which comedian Joel McHale interviews some of the stars, Rick Kirkham, a former daredevil Inside Edition reporter who was going to produce a reality TV series about Joe Exotic until all of the footage was destroyed in a highly suspicious fire, reveals that Joe was actually terrified of the big cats. It was all the gay redneck (that’s how Joe described himself) macho swagger of a guy so swaggering he shot animals for fun.
To watch Tiger King now is to be transported into a toxic biosphere that’s almost as bizarre as where we’re all living now. Fear of Covid-19, like fear of a hungry 600-pound cat, has become a partisan exercise. But we’re all locked down. Joe Exotic is just a little more so, serving 22 years in a federal penitentiary for his (thwarted) attempt to hire a hitman to kill his nemesis, animal-rights activist Carole Baskin, along with multiple counts of killing endangered species and falsifying records of interstate transactions involving wildlife.
While we humans have been sheltering, lions from Kruger National Park have been seen napping on the roads in South Africa. In New York, those of us who’ve ventured into the subway have spotted rats sauntering along the platform as if they own the place. A microscopic foe holds us at gunpoint, and suddenly we’re not the privileged species with priority in the public sphere.
I say “suddenly” in a self-conscious way. In the hours I’ve spent socializing on Facebook lately, I’ve joined a debate among writers that a Facebook friend sparked by posting: “Never use the word suddenly in your writing.” I posted on the affirmative side: “Suddenly with one word any story turns to melodrama.”
Covid-19 is nothing if not melodramatic; as vaingloriously heinous as a silent screen villain in a black cloak—and it can attack in an instant, as someone I know who caught it and recovered told me. She was feeling fine one minute, then suddenly flush with fever and chills and a potentially deadly cough.
The other melodramatic thing about a plague is that, like Count Dracula, it lies down long enough that we can tell ourselves it’s gone but it doesn’t really die. Drive a stake through the heart but another vampire will rise up somewhere. Lately I’ve been alternating escape fare with tales of plagues from the past, wondering why we ever imagined we could escape an age-old desperado that nearly destroyed Thebes in 429 B.C., the whole of Europe in the 14th Century, London in 1665-66 (“I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and ‘Lord have mercy upon us’ writ there,” as Samuel Pepys described it), and the U.S. and Europe a mere century ago.
But the human instinct is to ignore a plague as long as it can, Camus tells us. In his allegorical plague in the town of Oran, on the Algerian coast, the business-minded residents “…went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views. They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.”
Camus intended.....Read More
Historian Nicholas Buccola, author of The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass, dissects the significance of the televised debate between leading conservative William F. Buckley and civil rights spokesman James Baldwin before a packed audience on February 18, 1965 at the Cambridge Union in Cambridge, England. In his book, The Fire Is Upon Us, he portrays the two prominent figures from different economic and cultural backgrounds speaking for two contrasting political views dividing the country.
Widely publicized, the BBC televised the event. The topic was very timely and provocative: “The American dream is at the expense of the American Negro.” Other key markets in radio and television featured large segments from the program. The stage was set for an unprecedented media occasion that would focus international attention on the major societal dilemmas of race and prejudice.
Buccola, the Elizabeth and Morris Glicksman Chair in Political Science at Linfield College in Oregon, adds sufficient context to define the men and their respective backgrounds. Much was made of Baldwin and Buckley being born 15 months apart in New York City, in situations of want and plenty. Baldwin spent his Harlem childhood, dreaming of better days, while his stepfather toiled as a day laborer and his mother kept house for some white folks. The boy wrapped himself in religion, but quickly fell under the spell of the creative arts.
Whereas Baldwin grappled with poverty, Buckley grew up in wealth at “Great Elm,” a 47-acre estate in Sharon, Connecticut, under the supervision of his father. His father was a self-made wildcat oilman, guaranteeing his brood a life of privilege. Buckley, of Southern roots, was a Catholic, yet he distrusted FDR’s New Deal and protested America joining World War II. Also, he was a pal to segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond. His wife shared his.....Read More
Thirty years ago before Eleanora returned to California, she would sit on her paisley mediation pillow in the basement of my house where she was staying and chant for her husband. Apparently, it worked because six months later, while she was living in a studio apartment on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, I dreamt that a man was in her apartment. The wallpaper was of large, floppy, pink roses. When I called and told her that I had dreamt that she had met her husband, she denied that this was so, but soon enough I learned that she had in fact met Ludwig.
He lived in the same building as she, a large, old comfortable building on a street with many coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores and boutiques. Ludwig worked as a carpenter, but he was in fact a painter. His father had been an architect and his mother an artist so he had inherited his talent from both parents. In his apartment he painted finely constructed, geometric semi-abstracts of America’s vanishing old motels.
Eleanora was also an artist, a composer. The daughter of a Lutheran minister, she called upon her religious heritage to refashion hymns in a way that made me cry when I heard them. On the tape she gave me, she says that she used “the devil’s triad” when composing them.
Eleanora and Ludwig never married, nor did they ever live together. Because Ludwig was a man who eschews sexual contact, their relationship remained entirely chaste, but they quickly formed the kind of bond that can only be formed by fellow artists who talk to each other almost daily about their work.
My knowledge of them during the ensuing thirty years is scant. Adventurer that I am, I moved around the country before spending the last twenty-five years in New York City. But Eleanora and I always kept in touch—my late husband referred to her as my “soul sister.”
Periodically Eleanora would tell me that she was breaking off with Ludwig because he drank too much or because he was too immature or because he was too gloomy, but she could never make it stick and soon would resume seeing him several times a week.
Once when given the opportunity to rent a loft in a converted barn in the Dorchester section of Boston she left the Bay Area for a year. I thought surely this would spell the end of her relationship with Ludwig, but when she returned, having weathered through a cold winter and insular unfriendliness of New Englanders, they simply picked up where they had left off.
For a while Ludwig had an agent aptly named Theo. Theo sold some of his wonderful paintings before they parted company over some disagreement or another.
Eleanora moved to a tiny house in the flats of Berkeley, but after a man broke in and raped her, she moved back to the apartment house on Telegraph. Then she was evicted from her studio, the reason for which I cannot recall. She lived with a man for a while, left, took a room, and finally moved up the hill in San Leandro to the tiny house where she lives now. All these years she has supported herself by giving piano and violin lessons, playing the piano for a Pentecostal church, and living frugally.
Then Ludwig fell on hard times— when he lost his work and could not pay his rent, he lost his apartment in the house on Telegraph. After living with his sister, then Theo briefly, he was homeless until he got public housing in Oakland.
Ludwig had stopped drinking but would periodically become so depressed that he would threaten suicide. He got work again as a carpenter, but the job was off the books and he was paid little. When he came home, he was usually too tired to paint.
Meanwhile, Eleanora’s fortunes improved somewhat when she became of age to get Social Security and Medicare. Despite all the hardship she had endured, she affirmed her desire to live and complained that Ludwig was too depressing to be around.
One day about a month ago (Now I was living in a dilapidated mobile home in Amargosa Valley, Nevada) early one Saturday morning Eleanora called convinced that this time Ludwig really intended to kill himself.
Being fired from his job was enough to tip him over the edge. He had gone to the liquor store, bought a large bottle of vodka, and was plotting his demise. He shared his plan with Eleanora—he would go to Sears and buy several rolls of duct tape which he would use to tape his windows shut. Then he would turn on the gas stove and take several bottles of aspirin. “By Sunday, I’ll be gone,” he warned her darkly.
Eleanora was sad but philosophical. She would do nothing to stop him. She had carefully planned her day so that she would be sufficiently busy giving a student his piano lesson and walking with a friend who was a therapist. Her friend had already suggested 50/50ing Ludwig. If you don’t know what “50/50” means, it means calling 911 to report a pending suicide.
Eleanora rejected this because on another occasion when he had threatened and she had called, he was strapped onto a gurney by EMS workers and taken to a local hospital, where he lay untreated for hours but supervised by an armed guard. She could not bear to do this to him again. Neither would she call him—she was just sorry that she had not asked how he would like his remains disposed of.
Even if she would not interfere with Ludwig’s plan, she had called the Labor Department, from whom she got information on how to report employers who hire workers off the books, information which she had passed on to Ludwig. She had also called Theo and told his answering machine that when he got her message, Ludwig might already be dead.
She hoped that Theo knew where Ludwig had stored his paintings. Even though they were not selling, she was sure they were worth a great deal of money. At an earlier time, Theo had badgered Ludwig into making a will. When he did so, he left two-thirds of his work to Eleanora and one third to Theo. She didn’t know whether Theo had gotten.....Read More
Eduardo Porter’s American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise was published on March 17 of this year, just four days after the Covid-19 virus outbreak was declared a national emergency. He no doubt would have had a lot to say about the government’s monumental mishandling of the crisis.
Consequent to the spread of the virus has been close scrutiny of our healthcare delivery system and our threadbare social safety net. As the virus numbers rise and cities are virtually shut we are reading of comparisons of our healthcare and welfare systems with those of Sweden, Germany, South Korea, and Denmark and we find that we come out lacking—notably in delivery of healthcare.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, of which the U.S. is one of 36 member states, says the U.S. spends under one-fifth of its gross domestic product on social programs like unemployment insurance, pre-school and eldercare, antipoverty programs, and healthcare, placing it in the bottom half of member countries.
In contrast, Germany spends one-quarter of its GDP on such programs and the French one-third. The member countries are democratic, free-market economies. But without exception, save the United States, welfare is treated as a social good and not something to be demonized. You can name the country—Ireland, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany—and there is a social contract built into the system. The old, the young, the infirm, the indigent, are widely protected.
But in the U.S., most prominently since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the needy, the young, the old, the infirm have been portrayed as free-loaders, moochers, swindlers. Before he was president, in the 1976 presidential campaign, Reagan made much of the “welfare queen,” Linda Taylor, a black woman on the southside of Chicago who was arrested for welfare fraud for receiving benefits under multiple aliases.
She had, incidentally, committed a number of other crimes, apart from bilking the welfare system. She became a symbol not only for underserving use of social spending, but also of freeloading blacks robbing from the pocketbooks of “hardworking” whites. Finding this a useful vote generator, Reagan as president would up the ante with his pronouncement that the “government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” This became the mantra for generations of Republican leaders, but it was nothing new in our political discourse.
The irony is that, as Porter masterfully documents in his book, whites are “the biggest beneficiaries of public spending on social programs.” But it is the perception of those programs as being handouts to minorities that has stigmatized government programs as a whole, with the paradoxical result that “skimping on a system of social welfare that they [lawmakers] viewed as an illegitimate handout to the black and brown, they were undermining everybody in America.”
But this is not simply a matter of party politics. And it is not entirely explained by the Republican-Democrat divide. In fact, one of the icons of the liberal wing of the Democratic party played a key role in this stigmatism of the black and poor. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an academic turned politician, served as senator from New York for nearly 30 years. It was Moynihan, Porter writes, who as an aide to Lyndon Johnson and later Richard Nixon, before he was a senator, “provided the intellectual foundations for the conservative attack on the welfare state.” In his study that was to become the report The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, Moynihan made the case against the social safety net promoted in LBJ’s War on Poverty and depicted welfare as “the face of a dysfunctional, irresponsible black family.”
Moynihan contended that Aid to Families with Dependent Children, set up under Roosevelt’s Social Security Act of 1935 (and ultimately dismantled by Bill Clinton) set black families up in a cycle of dependency, ultimately hurting them rather than helping them. The main problem with black poverty was irresponsible black men, who routinely abandoned women and the children they left them with. To break the poverty trap, the Moynihan report suggested that “black families simply had to get their act together.”
Incidentally, more whites than blacks were beneficiaries of the program, but this didn’t prevent this philosophy from “cementing welfare in the American consciousness as an effort to reward.....Read More
I discovered Janis Paige in 1960 in Please Don't Eat the Daisies. She played my favorite "other woman" as she brought sly delight to her attempts to break up Doris Day and David Niven.
As a rule, Paige played energetic upbeat characters, so I expected her memoir to reflect that quality. More than that and in collaboration with writer/editor Ray Richmond, Lines is a uniquely layered look at the "mixed messages" child abuse she suffered and a professional career in which her naivete helped her avoid, for the most part, the "me too" machine of Hollywood in the 1940s. Included are her worldwide travels, the people she met, her tours to Vietnam with Bob Hope and their influence on the way she dealt humorously with the barbs of life. Under the humor are darker levels.
Reading Between the Lines grabs you with its anecdotal wild ride through her showbiz life. Conversationally, she pulls you into the intimacies of her glamorous, turbulent, yet essentially lonely life. Her cerebral disarray was hidden by the "Hollywood" smile, until she discovered therapy late in life and a glowing new feeling of having finally claimed "personal" ownership of the totality of Donna Mae/Janis.
Born in Tacoma, Washington in 1922, Donna Mae Tjaden was a Depression child. Poverty was her sidekick. Her cold, "me first" mother judged Donna Mae into invisibility. Though encouraged by her grandparents, she could not shake her feeling of being a shadow child ̶ invisible and completely undeserving of recognition. At the age of five she discovered her lifelong love of singing. That gift she thought was hers was not hers to claim, her mother informed her in an ego kicking proclamation: it was her mother's gift. Donna Mae was just a reflection of her mother's talent.
Oddly, with this self-centered approach, her mother would actually construct the beginning of Donna's professional life, which led her to the USO Hollywood Canteen and onward to a multi-decade career starting with MGM, Warner Brothers and other film studios. On Broadway, she sang and danced lead and secondary roles in plays and musicals, most notably The Pajama Game and Mame. Vaudeville and television sharpened her comedic timing. Paige had her.....Read More
The world zigzags from the familiar to the unfamiliar. A virus arrives, a pandemic, indiscriminately infecting and killing. To date there is no cure or preventative. It is this new unknown, its unpredictability, scaring me most. While I shelter in place I move from horror to curiosity. Taking photographs in concert with the emotions we share softens my concerns. I want to remember things as they were while I adapt.....Read More
The invisible boyfriend is here to stay.
Here being in her ear telling her how to do things, telling her to wear cat eye makeup, messy hair and what clothes he can see her body better in.
She keeps the invisible boyfriend where he belongs. In her wallet. That's where she found him as a picture insert. She tried taking it out, but the cardboard stuck to the plastic.
When she ripped a corner, he said, "Don't do that!"
“Why not?” she asked.
“It hurts,” he said.
The invisible boyfriend made the cutest face when she hurt him. He scrunched up his nose, a slope and stuck out his tongue.
She did not have a boyfriend. She bought the wallet and brought it to school. No one could see the invisible boyfriend, but when she walked home from school, she talked to him. It probably looked like she was talking to herself.
In the homeroom, she showed off her new hairdo. Nick the moody, rich boy wearing a leather jacket like he wanted to be loved, did not say anything. She had a crush on him since she moved there in November. He was shorter than most girls in their grade but because his father was the builder of cesspools they had a house with a built-in swimming pool. He was shy but had a minion speak for him. Did he really need someone to speak.....Read More
After three months, two-time player Phillip “The Specialist” Sheppard bests COVID-19 and talks about his experience:
Photo credit: Phillip Sheppard on Survivor: Caramoan. Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS.
During two memorable turns on Survivor—2011’s Redemption Island, where he finished second to “Boston Rob” Mariano, and 2013’s Caramoan—former federal agent Phillip Sheppard formed his “Stealth R Us” alliance to maneuver through the game.
Taking a page out of his own book, Sheppard is now calling upon his inner drive and “Health R Us,” a team of doctors, family and friends, to help him battle back from the debilitating effects of the coronavirus.
“I think many people think it’s like the flu, or they won’t get it,” Sheppard says from his home in Santa Monica, California. “The truth is it’s nothing like the flu. At 62 years old, it was very scary for me, as African Americans are most likely to die or be hospitalized from COVID-19.”
Sheppard traces his ordeal back to the week of February 20th, when he met with a friend who had returned from a 10-day trip to France and Italy. Two days later, having fallen ill, he walked to the ER, which was less than four blocks from his house.
After three hours to get all the necessary bloodwork done and samples taken, he was sent home thinking he had a urinary infection but not COVID-19, despite having many symptoms.
Taking no chances, Sheppard self-quarantined, but he became sicker and sicker. For a guy who was used to sleeping like an angel, he felt fits of pain in his heart if he rolled to the left or.....Read More