Thursday, February 21, 2013

This Time Might Be the End, For Real. I am Out of Bullets

I think the blog is going to have to go on an extended sabbatical, other than an occasional recording of movies or books or other data. The time constraints and distractions and necessary chores have for some reason during the past year or so become overwhelming, to the point that I cannot sit still and write in a deliberate manner at all. This disappoints me greatly, and I am feeling very defeated at losing my writing altogether--my 'creative' writing of course I have lost long ago--the idea of doing which means a lot to me, but it is impossible for me anymore to write a note or have a thought on what I ate for dinner that bears even a superficial resemblance to the literary tradition of our language. I almost am starting to wonder if I have some kind of degenerative brain disease. Maybe someday I will be able to have a couple of hours of peace at a time of day when I am reasonably alert and I can take up the kinds of things I am interested in with the necessary concentration and energy again, though to be honest I am not hopeful of that day's arriving anytime soon.

I am only aware of the identities of a couple of regular visitors to the site, though I think there are a few others, making in all perhaps seven or eight. Thank you, and I apologize that I was never able to bring the quality of the site to the level that I was aiming for. As I say, I may still occasionally post something about movies, or a book, or a trip, or a song I like, but I don't think they will be regular, and on other topics I guess I have exhausted any such thoughts I have about the entirety of existence and experience, which were not very many as it were. But nothing much comes into my head anymore, other than to wish at the end of the meal that more food were coming.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Deep Adulthood (Warning: Major Midlife Crisis Post)

It took a while, but most people my age seem within the last couple of years--around attaining the age of 40--to have finally entered the realm of consciousness that impresses itself on me as Deep Adulthood. In certain of these instances such frivolities and other immature tendencies as may have lingered into the middle and even later thirties have all of a sudden, if not disappeared, become far less pronounced or significant as characteristics than they were formerly. This effect is most pronounced in women who both work and have children and men who have very serious jobs, though it is discernible in most people who occupy a position in which a plausible degree of responsibility for the maintenance and functioning of society is implied.

Needless to say I have not attained, as an overall character, to this state of being. I might not even have noticed this if my circumstances frequently put me in social settings with other middle-aged child-men or women, but they do not, and my complete inability to sit with the grown-ups and talk about the business/ career landscape, real estate and home maintenance, the various abilities and excellences and successes I am inculcating and spurring in my children, and the like, is becoming even more conspicuous than it already was. In my formative years I doggedly dedicated myself to avoiding most of the experiences and challenges that lead people to this character in middle age, both because I lacked the wherewithal at the time to begin combating with them effectively, and also because I was certain I was 'above' needing to cultivate such qualities. This is how such people as I am, who intuitively seem inexplicable, can come to exist.

(My 'b' and 'm' keys are sticking, so that hitting 'b' usually either results in nothing or 'bbbb' and I have to go back and make a correction in either case. This is also causing me to be extra irritable).

For educational purposes, the following are some the major avoidances I made in the past to arrive at my present state:

1. Failure to assert any positive or strong character in my natural/childhood family (i.e., parents, siblings and other near blood relatives). I have opted instead since the age of 16 on to keep distant from them as much as possible. The problem is not that I did this, but that it originated out of a consciousness of weakness and inability to thrive in my native surroundings rather than strength or superiority. I thought that over time events would mitigate this impression of weakness and reveal the truth to have been, if not other than this, than at least more complicated than what it seemed. But this has not occurred. Probably it never does.

2. Resisting all training and other practical education. I don't know why I could never commit to this or focus in on anything I might be able to do. I don't want to give the lie that I was any kind of swaggering rebel, but it is true that I never ingratiated myself with my teachers and bosses or anybody else likely to be a mentor because I was lazy, sullen, lacked personable qualities, and had nothing interesting to say to anybody. Consequently I had no leads to getting on any kind of interesting career track. Obviously I was warned about  this, but it made little impression on me, or I interpreted it as somehow hostile to my amour-propre. It is true that the options usually presented to me as realistic were never very appealing, so it was easier to brush them aside.

3.  Avoidance/inability of dealing with competent/demanding men. This is probably the biggest and most damning one. In my 20s I was so ill-equipped, and even ashamed, to contend with serious men, especially where the work world was concerned that I evidently decided that I just couldn't do it at the time--because I was an artist, or something--took a job where essentially everyone else was female, and figured I could work through my issues by reading more, or something. This problem never quite resolved itself, though various developments seem to have worked somewhat in my favor to enable me in the ensuing years to pass as not quite so obviously execrable. First, and this is no small matter, the dramatic, and frankly shocking, increase in sad-sack males in the population since 1997 has made everyone who is not utterly wretched look less bad than they in fact are. Similarly, the ongoing recession and employment crisis since 2008 have I think made most people, men in particular, somewhat more forgiving of people in low and unexciting professions, especially if these have been able to stay off public assistance, primarily due to terror that they (the judgers) could find themselves in a similar position. Also my wife and children give me a certain amount of credibility as a real person that I lacked as a 25 year old. I could probably handle the screaming and cursing and personal criticism of a more manly work environment better now than I could have then; but I still don't have any of the kind of hard skills that would make other men like me, or that would allow me to ever rise much above the bottom of the organization. The main appeal I can make at this point is something like, 'I've proven over time that I'm not a complete fuckup,' which is at least more than I could have persuasively said 20 years ago.

I was going to tell a couple of stories to illustrate where mistakes were made in developing my character but they are rather involved and I am on the eighth day of this post and need to wrap it up tonight so I am going to skip them.

4. There is a scene in The Best Years of Our Lives which as I grow older becomes much more damning and devastating to me. Peggy (Teresa Wright, the dead actress that I have a crush on almost as if she were a real person), is defending the guy she's in love with, Fred (played by Dana Andrews), who at the time is working as a soda jerk at the drug store, saying something like (I can't find either a video or transcript of the scene right offhand) "He won't be satisfied with working at the soda fountain all his life' delivered with the unstated but utter assurance that of course she would never tolerate such low ambition, and that Fred surely knows and expects this. It actually is hard for me to watch this scene now. Of course we don't know how the future plays out in the movie, nor, it should be added, did the filmmakers know that in 1946. However, now that we have nearly 70 years of intervening American social and economic history to guide us, I think we can safely project that: I. Peggy will be a good wife. II. Assuming Fred does not become an abusive alcoholic who becomes incapable of holding a job, enough opportunities should be opening up within a few years that he should easily be able to support a family and raise his social status, make his wife proud and maybe even earn the respect of his in-laws. He has a chance anyway.

Seeing as it's Valentine's Day, I think I ought to send out a few Valentines:

Oh, Dianne. You are slaying me, girl. The Lennon Sisters might not be Tiger Mother types when it comes to academic prowess, but I bet they don't have much tolerance for blatant underachievement either. Especially Dianne.


Yes, you too.

Sybil Seely!

And Sybil Seely taking a bath! Oh my God.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Why the Birthrate Will Continue to Decline

Dear Octavia (the new site muse--I think she is some kind of urban literary scenester):

I don't have many topics anymore. Or at least I don't have many topics I contemplate in an in-depth fashion anymore. I am essentially the person in the video below, which one of my Facebook amigos, who has evidently come to terms with modern masculinity in a way I have not yet been able to manage, recently  shared with us:

Now I don't know anything about this guy. Perhaps he is happy. Perhaps his wife loves and respects and admires him the way we all want, and superior men expect, to be loved and respected and admired. This wallowing in the tropes of contemporary middle class fatherhood might be just a show. He may have a fully developed adult life and a serious and essential profession or field of endeavor. His soul may not be crying within him that his existence has been reduced to doing endless amounts of laundry and playing with babies. Indeed, my impression is that in many instances this is not the case. I don't believe it though. Such men as have legitimately above average levels of testosterone or competitiveness or ambition or other intellectual or creative energy or maybe just perception of their own dignity, that is to say, those who have more attractive options for passing the hours of adulthood, easily have the strength and position to say no to all this. They have more important and worthy things to do, and what's more they are able to convince everyone around them that this is indeed the case. Men who live like the prototypical modern father, I am quite certain, exist in a constant state of deep confusion. Life can make little sense to them. They are playing a role that deep down no one really prefers them to play, themselves especially, yet they see no way to reclaim or assert a single vestige of their natural sense of who they are, or should be. Yes, you will say this is the lot of nearly all people, that no one thinks him or herself put on the earth to be primarily the companion and caretaker of non-prodigious children, but that the course of our lives, especially one so far advanced as my own, has revealed to each of us exactly who we are and what roles we are suited for in the drama of existence, and that it is in our best interest to be happy in these. I am quite certain that any such severe sense of disconnect from one's proper self must have its basis in something real that the person has lost the means of conveying meaningfully into his day to day existence.

A few months ago I wrote about a Soviet ballet (Don Quixote) that I had seen a movie of. One always had the impression that in the days of the Soviet Union, in spite of that regime's many abominations and propensity to throw any number of its most deeply serious and brilliant artists and intellectuals into the gulag, to maintain a level of high culture, by which is meant a critical mass of individuals both learned and proficient in various classical high arts and academic disciplines at an extremely high level, the fruits of which in the ordinary discourse of daily life among such people was found enviable and astonishing by numerous Western students and journalists who spent time among these circles in Moscow and Leningrad during the 1960s and 70s (or among the exiles who settled in New York during the same period). A common despairing lament in these reports was that Americans of the time thought Bob Dylan and other rock stars were poets, but the Russians had real Poets (and real every other kind of artist too), all of whom made their U.S. counterparts look like children in every aspect of their existences. This seems to have dissipated with the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the opening up of the society to the West, with all of its vulgar and civilization-killing influences, doesn't it? Sophisticated cultures are obviously like flowers that cannot survive in the state of unbridled nature if weeds are to be permitted to swarm unabated all over it. I know it will always ultimately be argued that these cultivated people were failed beings as long as the regime, which ironically seems to have been the safeguard protecting their level and kind of intellectual development, survived. I am obviously of two minds about this. Serious people from the old Soviet Union as well as similar people from present-day societies with comparable governmental repression but apparently, for certain fortunate classes, sophisticated educational systems, such as Iran, clearly do not envy us our mental development--they may sometimes claim to envy our innocence, i.e. lack of mental development, but I don't think they can really mean it (and by 'our' here, I mostly  mean 'my' of course, as other of my countrymen seem to be better off than I am in this regard, though I do perceive that foreigners' perception of us is as kind of universally lacking, apart from a tiny sliver of genuine geniuses at the very top of the pyramid). Maybe in the 1940s and 1950s Americans were capable in their naivete of deriving a joy out of life that was inaccessible to peoples more hardened than life but I don't think that joy, or kind of joy, is accessible to us anymore either.