Friday, September 21, 2007

Great Western Art

Technorati Profile

Yesterday was amazing. I got free tickets to go see the final rehearsal of Lucia di Lammermoor at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Then, after my daily stay in the library’s basement, I went to a discussion group on Aeschylus Oresteia. When there I got a call and free tickets to go see A Chorus Line on Broadway. Wow!!

I tried hard to think of what the common culturist lesson was in these pieces. They are very different. Lucia di Lammermoor depicts an over-the-top struggle of love against an arranged marriage and includes a famous “mad scene” before bodies populate the stage. A Chorus Line focuses on the lives of much more believable individuals who are struggling to get work in a – you guessed it – chorus line. And the Oresteia concerns the birth of justice in a dilemma in which one must avenge their father’s murder, but the mother killed the father. Finding a commonality between all of these was hard.

One can see the concerns as increasingly petty. The Greek Oresteia concerns huge issues, fate, the death of the age of the Gods, the Birth of justice, male versus female. The Opera had huge love, and the Chorus line was just about average individuals. But, saying this is a progression or a declension is hard. The Opera had unsurpassed music and virtuosity, but its theme was trite. No one falls in love and kills themselves like that. I learned more from the low brow musical. Its all down hill from Greek plays in terms of death and depth. But the musical about the common man speaks to me. One could not say progress or declension is a theme across the ages of Western theater.

Morality was another angle I considered. In the Orestia, Orestes, must revenge his fathers death. But his father killed his sister so that the Trojan War would go well. He was also trapped in a lose – lose situation. A strong sense of duty motivates the characters. The Opera characters rebel out of selfish love and the Chorus Line folk only think of their own passion when it comes to job choice. But, then again, our being able to do what makes sense to us is a virtue. If there is a commonality, it is people raging against their situations and trying to live according to truths – be they individual or duty centered. From a long Western perspective, the individualistic passionate dancers are not less than the murdering Greek’s or the Opera’s characters who are also dedication to love.

Pride. The culturist meaning I came up with is pride in our artistic accomplishments. We have a long and variegated history of theater in the West. These are enigmatic, entertaining, and inspiring pieces. Others have their ritual prayers and stereotypical crafts – gotta love those – but our artistic striving from the Greeks to Broadway has produced some gems to be proud of. These are consciously contrived expressions of the individual vision with high levels of artistic mastery. Those who say the Western tradition is just about materialism and acquisition, should know about the Western creation of the individual and enshrinement of his conscience. They should know that we are proud of the material wealth our capitalists and scientists have brought to the world. But those of you who still have doubts about our greatness, should really go see some fabulous theater today!!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Muslim Parade and Immigration History

Technorati Profile

Recently I joined other concerned Americans at the Muslim Parade here in NYC. I found out about it throuh Atlas of It was put together by and the stop the maddrassas coalition had considerable numbers of people there. But as I was interviewed I came to realize that I was not clear as to why I was there. I came with no group and represented no one other than an average American - myself.

As interviews rolled on, I became more focused. One interview which was aired shows this. It can be found at (though they misidentify me as Lee, not Johnny P.). As the interview shows the main positive message I could get out was that we should stop muslim immigration now. As in Culturism, I use the pragmatic reasoning that we stand to lose very much, by way of terrorism, and to gain very little by continued Muslim immigration. More philosophically, I mentioned that we are not under any moral obligation to let them into our country. As evidence I noted that they do not let us into theirs. We have a right and a duty to make cost - benefit calculations when deciding policy. We are not bound by international rights which do not exist.

This, in fact, is our tradition. Interviewers asked if we are not defined as the land that never discriminates and always allows immigrants. People do not know basic history. In 1924 the Johnson - Reed Immigration Act basically stopped immigration to this country until 1965. And it did so on the basis of Culturist discrimination. From the late 19th century until the 1924 Act there were terrorist bombings across America. The Palmer raids to deport dangerous aliens happened because two bombs were ignited infront of Attorney General Palmer's home, for example. Everyone knew that the Anarchist and terrorist bombing was done by Eastern and Southern Europeans (Jews and Italians). The cultures that they carried over had revolution in their rhetoric. And so the 1924 Act targeted those populations. It said immigration numbers would reflect the percentage of the population in 1890 (going back to a more Western European centered demography).

So this is not the first time we have encountered a culture immigrating that condoned terrorism. Again, not all did - my great grandparents for example - but the calculation was made as to what we gained by allowing more in versus what we risked by keeping them out. We decided our nation was full enough and pulled up the drawbridge. After that - lo and behold - people assimilated and terrorism (even during the Great Depression) disappeared. Those who do not remember the past do not learn lessons from their past. Those who control the past, Orwell said, control the future. We must remember our basic history to know what our traditions and options are. For the time being our tradition says stop Islamic immigration until we can document that the number of attempted terrorist attacks a year on our soil have stabilized at zero.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Atlas, Tattoos, and Football

Technorati Profile

Today, the fabulous Pamela "Atlas" Geller had Diana West as a radio guest. West's book, The Death of the Grown-Up,says our civilization is endangered by a lack of a mature outlook. In the interview she pointed to the higher education opportunities for the 1960s kids and their allowances causing marketing to be aimed at them creating a rise in the power of youth. She also, intriguingly, indicated that Hitler's shadow discredited authority. They also talked for a long time about our lack of ability to stomach bad news in Iraq and our inability to stand up to Islam. West's interpretations and their conversations were fascinating.

On hold, I wanted to pop off two of my wilder culturist ideas. People may agree with the philosophy of culturism without endorsing a particular policy. And some fun points can serve as learning prompts. The first fun observation I wanted to anonymously note was that the military is not the only anomaly of machoness in our country. Professional sports are too. When Michael Vick and others get caught doing immoral acts, when basketball players cuss or fight, they are suspended. The leagues take having role models and a reputation seriously. I would love it if public media [not private] would suspend any publicity or mention of celebrities that get caught with drugs. This would create an island of sane media for kids to watch. It would also show that we take morals seriously. Professional sports do not want to be seen as a collection of uncivilized thugs, neither should the United States.

My second possibly extreme comment concerned my pet peeve. I live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Nearly everyone here has tattoos on their hands, arms, and faces. If anything shows immaturity it is the view that you want to exclude yourself from any high level, non-artistic, gainful pursuit. It not only limits your potential, but says that you are convinced that you will not change or develop as you age; at sixty you will still want the same images on your body. Were these tough posers to face war they would likely melt. These hipsters are not tough, or impressive, they are immature, overgrown children pretending to live an adolescent dream. But I do not mean to judge!

My proposal to remedy this is to severely punish those who give tattoos to people under 35. When you are 18 you often haven't even paid rent. You are not mature enough to make such a long-term decision. Though individuals have rights, we have a cultural right to have a culture that nurtures positive behaviors, that does not corrupt our impressionable young. You have a right to positive acts, not to irresponsibility, to liberty, not to license. Children of 18 are not mature enough to have no cultural guidance from any but other 18 year olds. West would tell you that we need to be mature and macho enough to tell children what to do.

Culturism the book - not to get to deep here - tells us that rights require a functioning society with a sense of responsibility. If our society falls due to irresponsibility rights will not continue to result from some metaphysical guarentee. Sustaining real freedom requires the mature effort that creates a functioning society; pretending you are tough is not enough. A nation of children would fall quickly. When we abdicate our resopnsibility to teach such truths we are complicit in our collective erosion.

My two solutions, kicking bad people off public airwaves and raising the age of tattoo rights, might offend some people. They would be right to note that we must be concerned with the protection of free speech. But we cannot always let the evoking of absolute rights undermine democracy and our sense of responsibility. Free speech does not mean unqualified rights to public airwaves and space. Those affected are free to vote against such laws (even at 18 since we capitulated to the Sixtees generation rather than standing up to it on that count). These suggestions might not do well in our current cultural climate. But, West and Atlas are right. Not having the spine needed to put forth unpopular suggestions does bode well for us.