Google+ Badge

Monday, June 30, 2014

America, Scaremerica ... Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, Baseball and Zombies



The good old U.S.A. -- hot dogs, apple pies, Chevrolets.  And, of course, baseball and ... zombies? Some strange obsession with the undead is sweeping the nation. Many Americans must especially love all the fuss over something known as the "Zombie Apocalypse."

An increasing number of fantasy books, movies, television shows and graphic novels have portrayed creatures from the grave attacking the populace and taking over the country. It seems Americans find the concept of a complete breakdown of society not only terrifying, but also fascinating and exciting.

All of this stupefies me, but, of course, leave it to someone to come up with an explanation. 

Stanford literary scholar Angela Becerra Vidergar believes the reason for this popularity may trace back to an unexpected source. In fact, zombies may be helping some of us cope with the aftermath of World War II and the nuclear age when a cultural obsession with paradise and utopia ended, and when fear of the End -- and obsession with it -- invaded popular culture.

"We use fictional narratives not only to emotionally cope with the possibility of impending doom, but even more importantly perhaps to work through the ethical and philosophical frameworks that were in many ways left shattered in the wake of WWII," Vidergar said in a statement.
(Stephanie Pappas. "Why We're Obsessed with the Zombie Apocalypse." 
LiveScience. February 20, 2013)


Vidergar, a doctoral student in comparative literature, analyzed mass disaster stories in pop culture for her dissertation. She found that mass disasters such as the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki opened up new realizations about the human capacity for violence, casting doubt about the upsides of modernized society.

"Instead," Vidergar says, "we are left with this cultural fixation on fictionalizing our own death, very specifically mass-scale destruction."

I guess many people are fascinated with the image of a post-apocalyptic world: doomsday preppers are a reality. And, of course, one can always find multitudes of believer in a new prediction for the end of the world as we know it. Even though I find all of this nonsense gory and distasteful, Professor Vidergar thinks it can actually be beneficial to uplift zombies in a fictional apocalypse.

"Zombies are important as a reflection of ourselves," Vidergar claims. "The ethical decisions that the survivors have to make under duress and the actions that follow those choices are very unlike anything they would have done in their normal state of life."

What's more, Vidergar said, zombie apocalypse tales actually invoke hope amidst destruction and death, as survivors battle for their lives. It helps people have faith that they could survive anything. Those who love zombie entertainment evidently fantasize themselves as these heroes.



Back to Baseball

On Friday, June 27, the AAA Buffalo Bisons Minor League Baseball Team marked their 2rd annual Zombie Night at Coca-Cola Field. Fans sported their spookiest zombie gear and were welcomed by thousands of other walking dead.

(Jillian Hammell. "3rd Annual Zombie Night Is This Friday." bisons.com. June 23, 2014)

The Bisons said the game was a blast for their fans they will never forget. To get the fun started, the team hosted Bisons Happy Hour, presented by Brooklyn Brewery, complete with live music by a zombie band in the concourse that echoed tunes throughout the stadium along with ghoulish noises. They even had fireworks to top off the fun-filled night and to bring everyone back to life.

Zombie Night was held in association  with the Food Bank of Western New York. Somehow, this seems strangely appropriate. Food ... flesh-eating zombies?

And, fans did not even have to supply their own zombie gear. Here is pregame post on the Bisons' website:

"Forget to put on your best zombie makeup? We got you covered! Local group, Terror Technologies, will be stationed in the plaza to make sure you walk into the stadium looking like the best ghoul in town. The zombies will be applying professional Hollywood makeup donated by Bloody Mary to get you ready for the night.

"The zombies will be taking over the ballpark as well as the big board! Monster-inspired clips will be incorporated onto the screen for all to see. Also, look out for some zombies participating in our promotions!"

The world record for most zombies in one place was marked at 9,592 participants. I'm not sure if the game this year set a new record, but lots of zombies attended the event

As a promotion, I'm sure Zombie Night increased revenue at Coca Cola Field, yet, for me, the inoperative word is fun. Isn't baseball a family sport, and didn't the event scare the living daylights out of more than a few youngsters in attendance? Hell, it would frighten me as an uneasy adult.

Ugly faces and monstrous sounds and blood-soaked costumes -- please, leave me out. Drunk and boisterous ghoulies at the baseball park represent a new America that craves fantasy as part of the reality of simply watching talented baseball players compete in a sport once very sensitive to tradition and generational values.

I mean, let's don't stoop to making these psycho, titillating, increasingly popular, haunted houses in our baseball parks. Thrills should be left to the players in the game, not be dependent upon particularly gruesome promotions. I know; I know... you say, "It's all in good fun." But, I don't believe Zombie Night is "all" in good taste. How can such lack of sensitivity not provoke many wishing to attend a baseball game free of tasteless drama?

Hey, if the Zombie Apocalypse is so fan friendly, why not field a minor league team with complete zombie makeup and effects similar to the way the rock group Kiss employed their getup in concerts. That way, undead fans could enjoy zombie tactics on the field all season long. If some entrepreneur decides to take this suggestion to heart, don't forget where you heard it first.

That's all for today from an old timer who seems to have lost all touch with good times. I still go to baseball games for the enjoyment of watching good play from the players. I guess I should pay much more attention to special effects in the stands. And, Jesus, does that scare me.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Big Deal With SALIGIA Walks Among Us



A real and present danger exists when you consider yourself to be significant. You may begin feeling superior to others, and that feeling of superiority can be driven by a personal grandiosity that greatly exaggerates your ego without honest, commensurate achievement.

Then, you view others inferior as you consider yourself a "special person." Being "special," you  become an egotist who views almost all non equals with condescending contempt. You begin to perceive their endeavors as meager and insignificant. And, worst of all, you feel free to manipulate those "below you" and to keep them at your disposal to use and to discard.

As a narcissistic, you ultimately convince yourself you were born "to do something great" and others who get in your way do not matter.

Of course, if you do consider yourself significant, you probably adore money, influential friends, status symbols, and constant admiration. You think you deserve more because, basically, "you are who you are" -- a Big Deal, born for greatness. As you continually strive to attain those things that inflate your ego even greater, you do everything possible to distance yourself from threats to your self-image.

So, if you are a Big Deal, you lose empathy. And, as you lose feeling and compassion for others, you become inflexible, a rigid self-perceived stalwart of humanity. That is a formula for a permanent delusion of grandeur that hardens your heart until your death and your final act of sublime eminence -- an expensive, opulent funeral -- not to mention a lonely, stately marker of stone with a tidy, neat inscription in a seldom-frequented field of nicely trimmed grass.

A Big Deal, due to his bloated egotism, is constantly tempted by the capital vices known as the seven deadly sins. These are the transgressions that destroy a life of grace and charity. You may know these sins by the mnemonic acronym "SALIGIA" based on the first letters in Latin of the seven deadly sins:

Superbia, pride
Avaritia, or greed
Luxuria or lust
Invidia or envy
Gula or guttony
Ira or wrath
Acedia or sloth

Beset by his own demons, a Big Deal most often commits these sins and, thus, continues an Idolatry-of-Self wherein the subjective reigns over the objective. Trying to get his own way all of the time, a Big Deal becomes loveless, a paranoid person who seeks to cut the throat of competition. The BD begins to form a lack of perspective for reality because his subjectivity is encased in a thick ego. A tremendous need of self-importance drives him to become nothing but a hollow shell with no real substance.

The BD believes happiness lies in the expensive trinkets he accumulates. To keep advancing on the rungs of fame, he becomes the ultimate consumer of goods, people, and power. Never satisfied, he continues his lopsided pursuits of importance until the BD is an addict of his overwhelming self. The  self-centered egomaniac is then obsessed with popularity and celebrity and more than willing to find his fix with greed, lust, pride, and the rest of the seven deadly sins.


You know some Big Deals: they slash and burn through your town with impunity. Why? Some might say "money and position are powers that insulate sinners from being held accountable." And, I am sure they are correct.

Still, I believe there is another reason for so much egotistical control -- many actually believe in "the more, the better" philosophy because they buy into a warped sense of reality. They see the Big Deals and desire what they don't have. So many of these folks do not value integrity and substance over power and position. These "bigger-driven" individuals are so intent on dying with the most toys that they are willing to bow to Idolatry-of-Self. Also, they are intent on blaming whomever they must for anything they perceive as a roadblock to their greedy ambitions.

How can a person deal with Big Deals? I think one has to laugh about much of another person's inflated perception of himself. The mansion, the vacations, the luxury cars, the other shiny status symbols -- some Big Deals have so much they can't even use or enjoy their "toys."

When someone lusts after opulence, where is simple happiness? Can a person buy joy? We might get into another discussion here. A discussion of health, family, love, peace-of-mind maybe? I think satisfaction is largely dependent upon simple, natural gifts. All of these depend upon the sincerity of heart and the honest attempts to keep purity in the soul. We all sin, and we all are egotists to some extent; however, what we perceive may bring us closer to the truth may push us deeper into SALIGIA. Bigger, better? I guess the Big Deal is convinced. Not, me.

Ozymandias

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away." 



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hanging Out In the Graveyard: Terrornormal Camp Out



“From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us."

 -- Cornish Prayer

I have heard that human beings are the only creatures on the planet that have the ability to scare themselves. And, at some point, don't we all love to be scared? I know as a little kid I used to love watching horror movies, playing scary games, telling ghost tales, and going to local "spooky" places. 

As an adult, I am not that fond of these pursuits, but maybe I'm in the minority. Although Halloween may not have achieved the holiday status of Thanksgiving or Christmas, it is second only to Christmas in revenues ($6 billion in 2009) generated by sales of scary costumes, decorations, candy, and haunted activities. So many adults now like the "escape factor" of dressing up in costumes, and they love anything particularly scary.

 Scene from Terror In the Trees

Why?

* According to David Rudd, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Utah, we enjoy feeling scared and seek the feeling out because, deep down, we know we are in no real danger. 

We understand the real risk of these activities is marginal, and because of this underlying awareness, we experience excitement rather than actual fear, Rudd explains. 

Most adults and teenagers are able to realistically gauge the actual level of threat that scary stimuli pose to them, and, correspondingly, their safety level. For example, watching a horror movie poses no physical threat, with the minor psychological threat being that they might have nightmares as a result of seeing it. Therefore, most viewers feel safe watching such a film, and are excited by it, not truly afraid.

However, some adults and most young children are unable to correctly gauge a threat, perceiving it to be higher than it is.

"The experience of 'real' fear is when the appraisal of threat is greater than safety," says Rudd "People that are afraid of flying appraise the threat of a crash in an unrealistic and disproportionate fashion, since it's actually safer than driving. As a result of the faulty appraisal, they experience fear."
This is why children become scared so much more easily than adults. A young child may perceive harmless Halloween fun as a serious threat to his or her safety, and become truly afraid.

(Remy Melina. "Why Do People Love to be Scared?" livescience.com. October 31, 2010) 

Those who adhere to existentialist philosophy have their own ideas. Central to Existentialist philosophy and psychology are the contrasts of “being” and “non-being.” Rollo May (1958) points out that humans are unique animals in that we have Dasein. Dasein, or "being there," is peculiar to human beings. In existential terms, that means we humans are aware of ourselves, our responsibility for ourselves, and that we are in a continual state of becoming.

Our Dasein also makes us aware that at some point, through death, we will be no longer. May states the decision between “being” and “non-being” does not pertain to a one-time decision between life and suicide. Rather, it is a series of choices we make almost every instant. The ideas of being, non-being, freedom, choice, decision, responsibility, authenticity, anxiety, angst, dread and guilt are key to Existentialist philosophy.

(Christina Robertson. "Why Do We Like To Be “Scared To Death?”  
saybrook.edu. October 20, 2013)

We know the goblins are one step away to haunt us with non-being when we make poor choices, misuse our freedom, and are not responsible. This is when anxiety, angst, dread, and guilt can enter in -- they are the “ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night” for Existentialists.

* So, here is the existentialist theory: being “scared to death” reminds us that we are vulnerable, our lives can change at any moment for the worse, and that death or non-being is possible at any time. 

Most of us would prefer not to experience traumatic life events to remind us of these facts. However, being “scared to death” in a safe environment such as a haunted house, with a guaranteed outcome, can be fun. Being “scared to death” can “get the adrenaline going” an give us a thrill just to know we are alive. 



Terror Right Here, Right Now

And now, a local haunted attraction “Terror in the Trees” is preparing for a summer session with an event called Full Moon Terrornormal Camp Out. Co-director Steve Johnson has created this unique experience in the woods, behind Jacobs Cemetery in Jefferson Township. It is a haunted trail with dozens of scenes, themes and interactive spooks.

Johnson said that the guests will be kept out of Jacobs Cemetery. The property is an L-shape around the cemetery, so it can still be used to add atmosphere to activities at the camp out -- night investigations, stories around campfires, paranormal movies on the large projection screen

Johnson is known as a seasoned haunt expert who has worked in many various haunts and has attended many conventions on the trade.

“We thought it would be fun to have a camp out on the site during a full moon, especially with being next to the cemetery and the things that we’ve found around the property,” Johnson said. “We’ve found what appears to be at least one grave site on the property, but we just put the stones back where they were.”

Limited to the first 50 people, Terrornormal Camp Out will only be eligible for adults 18 and older. Expansions include a bigger corn maze, special lighting, and 3D effects. The camping experience will be held July 12. The cost of admission is $30 for anyone in a tent or self-sufficient camper.

(Joseph Pratt. "‘Terror in the Trees’ Hosting Summer Camp Out." 
Portsmouth Daily Times. June 25, 2014)

Terror In the Trees site: http://www.terrorinthetrees.com/


I'm a little overwhelmed by the adult interest in ghoulies and ghosties. Zombies and vampires and other creatures of the night fascinate the masses these days. Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy a little "scare" like most, but the huge obsession with the supernatural is beyond me.

Humans first started believing in the supernatural because they were trying to understand things they couldn't explain. And, I guess, today's 24/7 often one-sided, promotional coverage of the paranormal on the Internet and TV perpetuates myths -- old fiction and new fiction readily available and pitched as "reality." The computer and the television are the new shaman storytellers.

What drives people to be so interested in the supernatural? People actually want to believe says Brian Cronk, a professor of psychology at Missouri Western State University. "The human brain is always trying to determine why things happen, and when the reason is not clear, we tend to make up some pretty bizarre explanations."

In a 2006 study, researchers found a surprising number of college students believe in psychics, witches, telepathy, channeling and a host of other questionable ideas. A full 40 percent said they believe houses can be haunted. That's right... college students.

"While it is difficult to know for certain, the tendency to believe in the paranormal appears to be there from the beginning," explained Christopher Bader, a Baylor sociologist and colleague of Mencken. "What changes is the content of the paranormal. For example, very few people believe in faeries and elves these days. But as belief in faeries faded, other beliefs, such as belief in UFOs, emerged to take their place."

 
 

Anyway, right now the supernatural is so vogue because it is out of the ordinary, and adults love the titillation of what appears to be potentially dangerous. Of course, checking out the supernatural also allows us to explore things beyond our imagination... you know, the undead and alternate realities and fantasy worlds.

Adults these days seem to crave some kind of romance with all this science fiction. Is there an innate need in human beings that makes us feel the need to explore the supernatural? To love it, even? After all, we were created to live in two worlds, objective and subjective, the material and the spiritual.

Good luck to the daring campers of Terrornormal. I hope the scare tactics reward you with enough fear to make you wet your pants and scream "Bloody murder!" but not enough to give you cardiac arrests.

As for me, I'm skipping the camping experience and saving the substantial money of admission. As an adult, I'm much more frightened when I attempt a creepy trip to Wally World than when camping on a wooded plot near Lucasville. Besides, walking through Walmart is free, and it's always open for the courageous shopper. It's full of unnerving scenes and interactive spooks. I actually feel lucky to make it out of the parking lot and head back home every time I'm forced to venture into that great unknown.

Scenes From the Frightening World of Wally



Now That IS Scary!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Little Richard and Esquerita Camp: A Seismic Explosion


 Little Richard

"OOH, MY SOUL!"
NO ONE PLAYS ROCK LIKE LITTLE RICHARD... NO ONE!

"Rock 'n' roll fully exploded into the American consciousness in 1955. With his immortal proclamation "A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop, a-lop-bam-boom," Little Richard placed himself at its epicenter, his seismic impact akin to that of an atomic bomb.

"None of the groundbreakers -- Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley -- seminal as they were, packed the same molten heat that Richard Penniman unleashed anytime he ventured near a microphone. His banshee screams were primal, his save piano attack lethal, his energy levels stratospheric. Little Richard was the ultimate 
embodiment of rock 'n' roll, dangerous and a tad exotic and utterly without constraint. No wonder conservative Caucasian parents,
 secure until then in the bland, "Your Hit Parade"-dominated sounds 
of the Eisenhower era, were scared out of their wits. Here was a figurehead whose crazed wails could shake teenagers' 
souls down to the very core."

(Bill Dahl. "Little Richard Rocks." Liner Notes. Bear Family Records. 2011)

One of twelve children who grew up in poverty in the Deep South of Macon, Georgia, Little Richard claims to be the architect of rock and roll. And, who can doubt that solid postulation? Born Richard Penniman during the Depression, he soaked up music as a youngster -- blues, country, gospel, vaudeville -- all parts of the fabric of life in the black community. He was nicknamed "Lil' Richard" by family due to his small and skinny frame as a child. A mischievous child who played pranks on neighbors, Penniman began singing in church at a young age.

Little Richard first recorded in a bluesy vein in 1951, but it was his tenure at Specialty Records beginning in 1955 that made his mark as a rock and roll architect. Working at Cosimo Matassa’s now-legendary J&M Studio in New Orleans with producer Robert “Bumps” Blackwell and some of the Crescent City’s finest musicians, Little Richard laid down a stunning succession of rock and roll sides over the next several years, including “Rip It Up,” “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” “Lucille,” “Jenny Jenny” and “Keep a Knockin’,” in addition to the songs previously mentioned. He also appeared in rock and roll-themed movies such as Don’t Knock the Rock and The Girl Can’t Help It (both from 1956). - See more at: http://rockhall.com/inductees/little-richard/bio/#sthash.8RiPtd05.dpuf
Little Richard first recorded in a bluesy vein in 1951, but beginning in 1955 at Specialty Records, he made his mark as a rock and roll architect. Working at Cosimo Matassa’s now-legendary J&M Studio in New Orleans with producer Robert “Bumps” Blackwell and some of the Crescent City’s finest musicians, Little Richard laid down a stunning succession of rock and roll sides over the next several years, including "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "Rip It Up," "Slippin’ and Slidin’," "Lucille," "Keep a Knockin'," and "Jenny Jenny."

'Nuff said? But how about Richard's influences? Today, on the blog, let's dig deeper.


 Esquerita

How Did Pennimen Become Rockin' Little Richard?

One word -- Esquerita -- became most central to the transformation.

Richard Pennimen learned to play piano from a little-known, equally flamboyant character named Esquerita (who also recorded rock and roll early on for Capitol Records). Esquerita was also a piano-pounding R&B “shouter” from the South who sported a six-inch pompadour, rhinestone shades, brocaded shirts, heavy lipstick, and heavier jewelry. He, like Richard, was noted for his unique vocals -- falsetto trills, yelps, and screams.

Richard was already singing professionally, often in drag, sometimes balancing a chair on his chin as part of his act. Yet, Reeder taught him his thundering piano style, this would be the key element in his development that would take him to the top of the charts.  

The question of Reeder's influence on Little Richard is complicated by the fact that Reeder did not record until after Little Richard's initial mid-1950s recordings for RCA and Back Beat labels, which makes it unclear that Esquerita influenced Richard stylistically.

However, early Little Richard recordings made at WGST Radio Station in Atlanta do not show the style that was to make Little Richard famous. In addition, Little Richard also had not intended to use what came to be his (and Esquerita's) characteristic style during his first New Orleans session for his famous Specialty Records. Session producer, Robert "Bumps" Blackwell prodded him to use the Esquerita-esque presentation.

The influence of Esquerita seems apparent. So, here's my story, and it seems very plausible.


Esquerita

Esquerita’s life story is shrouded in mystery. He may be considered an outsider, even a lost rocker.

In 1935, Eskew Reeder Jr., originally known as Steven Quincy Reeder Jr., was born in the “Greasy Corner” section of Greenville, South Carolina. He grew up in a religious environment and taught himself piano as a young child. He was playing gospel in churches by the time he was ten years old.

As part of the Heavenly Echoes gospel group, Reeder got his first tastes of the road and the recording process. When the band disbanded in the early ‘50s, the by-then-named Esquerita drifted through the rock ‘n’ roll scene. On the “chitlin’ circuit” in the Deep South during the early 1950s, Little Richard first caught his act.

Then, in 1958, Esquerita signed with Capitol recording in a raucous, piano-based New Orleans style that had been popularized by Fats Domino, Lloyd Price. As with Little Richard’s material, the lyrical content of the songs was largely harmless and betrayed little of the sexual innuendo so pronounced elsewhere. But, his songs just didn't seem to catch on. Esquerita's best known songs from this time include: "Hey Miss Lucy", "Get Back Baby", "Getting’ Plenty of Lovin’", "Rockin’ the Joint", and "Oh Baby." Hardly rock anthems, would you agree?

Capitol cut him. He attempted comebacks in the early ‘60s, hooking up with Big Joe Turner and even Little Richard, but nothing much came from the efforts.

According to rock historian Iain Ellis, "The mystery that surrounds these post-Capitol years is exacerbated by the fact that he was not only constantly jumping from one independent label to another (Minit, Everest, Motown, Instant, Brunswick), but he was also constantly changing his stage name (Professor Eskew Reeder, Esquetita, Milochi, Voola, the Magnificent Malochi)."

(Iain Ellis."Esquerita: The Other Originator of Rock 'n' Roll Camp." 
popmatters.com. July 31, 2008)

By the '70s, Esquerita was playing back-alley, New York City gay clubs as Fabulash and even did some time in Riker's Island. He spent his final years wandering the streets of New York, begging for change as an itinerant car window-washer. He died of AIDS, impoverished and largely forgotten, in Harlem in 1986. He was 48 years old.

Little Richard has made concessions to Esquerita’s influence and skills, recognizing the original source of many of his own chops and even calling him “one of the greatest pianists."


Living Legacy Of Camp

But, Eskew Reeder taught Richard Penniman more than piano and vocals. He showed him the image, the style, and the performance that rocked. Esquerita established the dynamic strain that ignited the persona of Little Richard and continued to course through rock history. 

The visual and gesturing humor that Esquerita and Little Richard inducted into rock ‘n’ roll is often referred to as “camp." A term first used in print during the early years of the 20th century, camp referred to variant types of ostentatious expression, usually featuring extreme affectations and theatrical effeminacy. (Indeed, the word camp derives from the French se camper, which means “to pose in exaggerated fashion.")

Such behavior shocked mainstream 1950s society even more than the "juvenile delinquent" image of early rockers like Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. Camp was so shockingly outlandish in the '50s because it blurred the much-guarded demarcations of gender, race, and sexual roles.

Camp humor served Esquerita and Little Richard well in the midst of surrounding prejudicial forces. It became as much a means of survival and a marker of self as simply stagecraft for showing off. It certainly helped break the portrayal of black performers as old-line, “subservient Negroes.”

To get a little more technical, Iain Ellis describes the campish style and its "queening":

"A style crafted from within subaltern (implied) confines, camp operates via the implied rather than the explicit; its craftily coded slang serves to include the sexually marginalized and silenced within its 'camp' as it simultaneously mocks the hypocrites of sexual repression (both straight and gay) who have themselves been (unwitting) participants in forming this humor of hint and allusion.

"The camp 'queening' that constituted the stage shows of Little Richard and Esquerita operated through what humor critic Andy Medhurst describes as a 'reciprocated conspiracy' between artist and intended audience, where the latter 'laugh at the gap between what is known and what can be said.' Of course, unintended audiences are ironically excluded from this in-'camp,' themselves marginalized into the role of outside observers. The humor of camp from their perspective—should it exist—is not one of inclusiveness and belonging, but one of scornful 'superiority,' a laughing at rather than with, a reassignment of subject as object." 


(Iain Ellis."Esquerita: The Other Originator of Rock 'n' Roll Camp." 
popmatters.com. July 31, 2008)

Of course, even Esquerita and Little Richard had successful predecessors in the black R&B musical subculture of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Swing-setters Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan and blues-jumpers Big Joe Turner and Wynonie Harris had long been recognized for their peacock-strutting looks and gestures. The trickster trade took on new meaning with Esquerita and Richard.

A little later, the camp of rockers such as David Bowie, Elton John, Prince, and Boy George became a staple in rock. The expression provided an over-the-top display of “queer parody” often credited with providing tongue-in-cheek critiques of mainstream sexual identity norms and bringing gender-bending, free-form fashions, and socio-political dissent into broader social acceptance.

Would Little Richard be Little Richard without Esquerita? I'll just put it this way: any watered-down, diluted form of Richard Penniman would diminish rock music. Whether Esquerita was deserving of any kind of equal footing with Richard or not, it matters most only to historians of the music. And, with that, I'll just say, "I've been told, baby, you've been bold. Your a solid sender, and I won't be your fool no more."


*  Note: A 1959 eponymous LP, introducing Esquerita is of primary interest today for its striking cover shot of him in camp full bloom, the bright colors and glistening sparkles of his attire and adornments bursting out from the sleeve. Nowadays, that original picture-sleeve disc, along with the one for the 1958 single “Hey Miss Lucy” / “I’m Battie Over Hattie”, are much sought-after on the collectors’ market, valued at around $2000 apiece.

 "If a producer or arranger was deputed to the sessions he must have been bound and gagged and put in a corner, for there was little sign that anyone responsible for the records had been concerned for their commercial potential...The violence that was normally only a promise (or threat) in rock'n'roll was realized in Esquerita's sound."

From Charles Gillett's  The Sound of the City
 
Listen to Esquerita: Click it -- 
"Believe Me When I Say Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay
"Good Golly, Annie May"
 
In a 1990 interview, Little Richard offered this explanation for the birth of rock: “I would say that boogie-woogie and rhythm & blues mixed is rock and roll.” His frenzied approach to music was fueled by a genuinely outrageous personality. He was born Richard Penniman during the Depression in Macon, Georgia, one of twelve children who grew up in poverty in the Deep South. As a youngster, he soaked up music - blues, country, gospel, vaudeville - which was part of the fabric of life in the black community. He learned to play piano from an equally flamboyant character named Esquerita (who also recorded rock and roll early on for Capitol Records). - See more at: http://rockhall.com/inductees/little-richard/bio/#sthash.8RiPtd05.dpuf

Monday, June 23, 2014

A High School Dating Primer?


 Me, the High School Junior Baseball Version

When I was a young teenager, I loved girls but had absolutely no skills for showing affection and no idea of how to attract girls. Sports, music, and hanging out with friends occupied 99.9% of my social life. Little did I know that although I was popular, I was also a complete fool about love, romance, dating, and all of that kind of stuff. I began to catch onto some things the summer following my high school graduation, but, by then, many of my girl acquaintances had scattered.

In high school, I missed a lot of fun with girls. And, I'm not necessarily trying to suggest I should have had more sexual encounters, but I am saying I just didn't get close to enough beautiful girls who graced the halls of my school. I would often choose guy things over dating for some pretty stupid reasons. I now understand the error of my ways. With my perspective now, the pedestal of great girls appears much larger than it did from 1966 to 1969.

Why was I not girl "savvy" in high school? I think I know a couple of reasons:

(1) Girls whom I was desperately attracted to truly intimidated me. I didn't have the "talk" or the confidence to court them with proper style and grace. Beauties could easily cause me to stutter and to fumble for things to say. No doubt, once they met me, they soon saw me as a dork or as a clown and wondered when I was ever going to grow up. The girls in my school were much more mature than I. Let's face it, it takes experience to build maturity, and due to lack of experience, I found girls to be pretty much a mystery.

(2) The fashion of the day was to go steady. I really liked so many different girls, so I didn't want to go steady, and I assumed "going steady" was the first lockstep to marriage. So many beautiful girls in the entire school -- freshmen to seniors -- went steady all the time. In my mind, if a girl was going steady with someone, she was off limits to me. Of course, I saw the fights over girls and the breakups of couples, yet it seemed to me the most delectable sweeties ALWAYS went steady or were ALWAYS wanting a date to go steady.

I should have talked with girls I liked, even if they were going steady. I see now that honest talk is not betrayal. In fact, it may lead to better relationships. I was not aggressive enough.

So, after college and gaining some "girl" maturity, I began teaching at my old high school. It wasn't long until I noticed scores of boys acting with the same immaturity I had displayed when it came to dating. I began a crusade of talking to some of the guys I knew who weren't dating but interested in doing so -- nice, intelligent, kind young men who were looking for clues.

With this in mind, here is a primer that I think might help young, timid, nice guys find their way to first or second base.

 The Junior Class Play Cast - Tom Jones


High School Dating Primer From An Old Man

* Divas in school exist to steal hearts and to hold court. No doubt a few "special beauties" are high school queens. But if you want great girls, you must look at the middle and even at the fringes of the female population while you are in high school. I guarantee you have overlooked wonderful, exciting, alluring girls who sat right beside you in study hall.

We young men are stupid when it comes to judging who will be the best, most compatible, and most beautiful women long after high school graduation.

Mark these words: when you go to your tenth high school reunion, you will find so many girls you would not have given a second look in high school that then turn all men's heads. Not only that, these same women who have worked hard continually to improve themselves find unique ways to project their true beauty, grace, and unique talents. Damn, they blossom and improve!

In fact, by that tenth reunion, many high school homecoming queens are so used to being passive and still attracting attention that they resemble sports veterans in later stages of their careers -- fading has already begun due to egotistical concerns.

* Dating does not have to mean serious, close contact nor sexual relations. Having fun with a girl you admire can be as simple as taking her for a drive, going to a restaurant for a burger, or talking with her in private. I believe most "nervous-dating" guys expect too much, too soon. They want to impress with money and sweet talk and flash. They seem to deny that sincere affection runs a wide range of stimulus and response.

I've found simple things like walking with a girl or receiving permission to hold hands with her can be super pleasant. Trust and close friendship take time: not all romance sparks instantaneously. In fact, boys may have deep crushes on girls. Then, they work up the courage to ask them out, and the girls turn out to be very incompatible dates. Talking out expectations and feelings can be very beneficial in managing relationships with the opposite sex. Striking out with a girl you have long admired is just part of the dating game. Moving on is essential for happiness.

* Please, boys, dance! I'm not just talking about just dancing slow dances either. Most young girls love to dance -- fast and slow -- and they need a partner. I know, most boys believe they look like Herman Munster on the dance floor. Maybe they do. So what? Personally, I don't think any guy looks good dancing.

Let me clue you in, fellows. Girls in motion are beautiful creatures, and they know it. In truth, boys feel they look silly dancing because of their lack of confidence, their lack of experience, or their honest evaluation and true lack of great elegance. That's what I said: some guys aren't great dancers. But, no guy is a fool for accompanying a young lady to the floor and being genuinely sincere in his dance.

It doesn't matter that boys can look a little odd dancing. Girls understand this... they want to look attractive on the dance floor, and they are seeking males that can help them showcase their agility. A boy must never upstage his female dance partner. He must never act silly because he is nervous. He can refine moves with practice, fit in, and be genuinely interested in his dance partner as she moves. All it takes is getting on the floor and complementing the lissome lasses. By the way, fellows, that takes some guts, so don't dance with your paper-thin ego. Have fun and dance with girls not to draw attention to yourself like John Trivolta.

* Avoid seeking those young girls with too much flash -- it decays and rusts much sooner than you think, anyway. Some fine girls simply cannot afford the glitter, bling, and fashion and yet have stunning qualities in their demeanor that get better with age. Other attractive young ladies simply understand that refinement and innocence are complimentary to lasting attraction, and, God, don't they find out how to enhance their good qualities. Never forget that perfection in beauty lies in imperfection and the honest style in which it is presented.

It is understood that young men love "hot parts" -- beautiful breasts, pretty faces, long and flowing hair, small waists, and shapely long legs -- but a girl who willingly displays the most for all to see can be either uneducated or a willing, superficial product. Boys will always look for parts on display, but they soon understand the bait can be nothing but trouble.

* Always, always, ask the girl you want to date out. If you don't -- for whatever reason -- you will forever wonder if she might have accepted. If you like the high-and-mighty queen and feel deserving of her favor, at least ask her out. She can only say, "No." And, if she does, you have lost absolutely nothing. Again, I believe most guys find that divas are not the sole best choices.

I bet you will find the best girls in school aren't necessarily at the top of the "beauty list." Buddy, you are going to change, and so are the ladies. Be satisfied to make close, good, female friends and let some of the testosterone simmer on the back burner.

* Take this advice or leave it: I would date a lot of girls in high school. In doing so, I would not ignore girls I felt great attraction towards, yet I would talk, talk, and talk some more with them about my good intentions. I would intend to have many innocent dates. Haste in love denies a smorgasbord of other interesting girls. If people all are truly looking for love and companionship, why do they settle so quickly for the first feelings of affection? I believe young people should be loving one another, just not setting their futures so quickly without regard for the entire field.

Do likes attract? Do opposites make better pairs? I don't know. But, I do know many lovers regret not having time to date others in simple relationships. Forget the intercourse and the copulation -- Jesus, I know it's all about rites of passage, but what's the hurry? Too complicated too quickly usually equals misery,

How about some simple, "no-sexual commitment" dating between couples who feel mutual attraction? Or, for that matter, how about some simple dating encounters that strengthen ties of friendship while allowing young people to experience so many wonderful different personalities? If you like a rebel, go out with a geek, etc., etc, etc. It's a date, not necessarily a commitment, and it's certainly not a social clique indictment.  

* Lastly, feel free to ignore everything I have proposed here. After all, guys, you are all individuals capable of making up your own mind about girls and how you either do or don't wish to approach them. Everything I know about ladies I pretty much stumbled into. Why? Not because I didn't get some good advice from others, but instead because I chose to "do it my way." Love is silly that way. I am still mystified that the most important force of mankind can be so difficult to understand and so hard to maintain. A smile, pretty eyes, casual talk, a fun date -- high school love? I think so.


Cooties and Girls and World War One



When I was in grade school, girls had "cooties." All the boys knew it, so when a girl got a little too close to us boys, we ran away for safety yelling, "OOOoooh, she has cooties!" Now we didn't have the slightest idea what a cootie was although we believed it referred to some intangible vileness emanating from the revolting opposite sex. We were pretty sure cooties were some kind of bug hosted by female classmates that would instantly turn us into girls, or, even worse, into girl lovers.

Shame on us young boys for ever acting so immature, but most demure girls in those tender years also adhered to the belief that boys also had some awful contagious plague that would surely make them die. It's funny how nature works.

Of course, in just a few years after fearing girl "cooties," we guys were doing everything we could to get close to every pretty girl we saw despite the fact we previously had assumed contact would likely kill us. We totally dropped our cootie fears and realized that holding hands, hugging, and kissing girls were realities we couldn't experience enough. By the seventh grade we didn't care if girls did have cooties, we knew we wanted to get as close to them as possible, and, naturally, that presented an entirely new challenge.

As laughable as cooties and kids are, the "cooties," or lice, suffered by the troops in the First World War were public enemy number one. All armies in the European field had persistent problems with cleanliness in the trench warfare, and that meant lice ran rampant. The most that can be said is that some armies in the Great War were affected by the beasts worse than others.

I recently read about the origin of the word cooties and was directed to a site featuring an article from The Headlong Fury, a novel of World War One, by J. Fred MacDonald. What I read was amazing. I want to share a very condensed version with you today.

(Herbert Corey. “Cooties and Courage.” National Geographic Magazine. June, 1918)

 
First of all, let me expound upon the etymology of the term itself. According to linguist Eric Partridge, the word cooties was picked up by sailors from the Malayans, who had a similar word meaning "dog lice." A possibly related term is kutu, a Polynesian word meaning "lice of any kind."

But, the earliest recorded uses of the term in English are by British soldiers during World War I. And, of course, the word referred to lice. The American soldiers called the pest "cooties" while French fighters talked of "totos" and the British told of "coddlers."

The men in the trenches knew it was not their fault that they were infested, but the effect of years of civilian training persisted. The physical discomfort inflicted by cooties was matched by the psychological distress of the parasite's host. Lice made the men miserable in body and in mind.

According to MacDonald, "They (troops) still felt, against all reason, that there was something shameful in their state. They tried to assume a joviality they do not feel, and called the things 'pants rabbits' and 'seam squirrels' and spoke of 'reading their shirts.'"

Many men who experienced combat actually admitted to be under fire would be bearable if they could just be clean of cooties.

Braving mud, thirst, hunger, and cold could "be borne with equanimity," but the louse carried that horrible pronouncement of utter degradation. Yet, in the trenches, so many soldiers bravely sustained that terrible debasement, too. It was a testament to human will power.

MacDonald says a surgeon once confessed he had known only one man who cried because of the parasitic plague. The surgeon said, "That man went into No Man's Land on reconnaissance at night in as commonplace fashion as though he were taking the tram for the office of a morning."

"I don't mind the nights on guard in the front trench," many say, "because the nights are cold and 'they' are quiet. But I dread the coming of the day, when I must crawl back into my dugout and try to sleep and know that I shall have to lie awake and feel 'them' crawl. 'They' become a torture."


Practically all of the men in the advance areas were "lousy," according to a document that is accepted as authoritative. It is impossible to tell what proportion of the men in the rear, along the lines of communication, and in depot were infested.

Of course, the trenches posed other serious threats to soldiers' health from various pests. For example, the trench rat habitually grew to be so enormous that a cat was said to have been "an heroic soul to tackle one of them unassisted." The rodents were sometimes referred to as corpse rats. Some sources say they bred rapidly in their millions and swarmed through No-Mans Land gnawing the corpses of fallen soldiers.

Yet, MacDonald says troops disposed of rats fairly effectively and practiced strict rules about not leaving food about that attracted the vermin. Officers could police the trenches into cleanliness and enforce the rules against leaving bits of food about. MacDonald writes, "They (rats) may be dogged and catted and trapped. At the most, the trench rat is little more than an annoyance." Some degenerating soldiers even befriended rats: they captured them and kept them as personal pets.

Then, there were the rat's partner, fleas. And, of course, bubonic and other plagues have been traced to the rat-borne flea.

The soldiers in the trenches also dealt with an odd insect known as the "spring tail" and many sorts of flies. Flies were dangerous because they contaminated the troops' food. And, the men had to content with a biting fly, especially prevalent in regions where there had been long-continued fighting and where the contending forces have not had an opportunity to clean up the battlefields. A variety of blood-poisoning in the war was traced to the bite of this fly.

Yet, lice seemed to take the hardest bite out of the men. One may ask how the affliction of lice took hold so firmly. It was assumed that the louse obtained its foothold in the early days of mobilization, when Apaches from the slums and ruffians from the docks were herded into barracks along with men who had never known what it was to be anything but clean. So the cooties spread and propagated until their wide diffusion.

MacDonald claims, "If every man and every stitch of cloth in every army were to be thoroughly freed from the pest in a day, in a week each man might be infested again. Enough 'cooties' would be left over in unsuspected places to make a fresh start."

Troops found that lice were particularly fond of the seams at the crotch of their trousers and in the back seams of their shirts. Disposal of the louse, tenaciously clinging in the overlooked fold of blankets or under the collar of overcoats, proved impossible. A couple lice could get together and produce "a whole cityful of younglings." The lice accompanied their human hosts twenty-four/seven as they added to the soldiers misery -- their uneasiness in combat and their restlessness during sleepless rests.

During their time in the trenches most of the men are on duty all night long. By day they are required to stay in the dugout, a mere dirt-roofed hole in the ground that may or may not have a board floor on which musty straw was piled. Men slept there and kept out of sight of the enemy and out of danger from his bombs.


MacDonald describes the lice-infested dugout: "It is rarely large enough to accommodate the men, and if it were large enough the chill of a damp hole, into which the sun never shines, forces them to lie spoon fashion, each wrapped in his blanket, each seeking the warmth of the other man to add to his own comfort. It is ideally adapted for the furtherance of all insect plagues. No matter how scrupulously scrubbed a man may be when he enters a dugout, he usually comes out lousy."

The cooties seemed to lack intelligence, however, they were creatures of opportunity and environment. Eggs were hatched after a dormancy away from the human body of forty days, and single insects had lived and flourished on good feeding grounds for thirty days; but the longest period in which any survived separation from its human host was nine days.

"Replacements," men sent to a unit to take the place of a casualties, first went into quarantine where surgeons examined them for contagious diseases and for the dreaded "cooties." If they had lice, they were sent to the guardhouse and kept there, not as a punishment, but to be sure that they did not spread their pests among other men, until they, in turn, could be bathed and newly outfitted. Replacements were essentially “cootie danger sources” that could even make lice warfare worse.

The men in the trenches were almost never given a chance to clean up well enough to kill the lice. Clean water was almost never available. MacDonald says, "They did not even wash their faces. There is no water whatever in the trenches, except when there is too much water, none of which is fit for use. The little that comes to the men in line is carried in at night, in galvanized-iron containers, by the men who have been told off for that duty."

Besides, there were no moments left for bathing, and if there were, a bath in the cold water of the streams of northern France presented slight attractions to the man who had fought so hard. Cold water simply did not kill the lice. A heated bath outdoors (kindling firewood and hot water) was a luxury few could experience.

Often, the men picked lice out of their clothing and killed them by drops from a burning candle.

If the men were fortunate enough to leave their trenches, there were municipal laundries in many villages in which “the women knelt and soused the soiled linen in cold water which trickled into a tub, and then threshed the linen upon rough stones.” The process was repeated until the cloth took on the appearance of whiteness.

But this process did not kill the cooties. The adult cootie is a fairly hardy insect and the eggs are extraordinarily resistant to rough treatment. MacDonald says, “The scientists who inquired into the louse problem among the armies of the Western Front found that clean clothes may be infested from these community wash-houses. The eggs remained upon the rough surfaces of the stones on which the linen was scoured and were taken up by the next armful of wet clothes.”

Cooties can be killed by boiling water, if the water is hot enough and boiled long enough. Yet, the women of France rarely used hot water for the washing of clothes.


One controversial cure seemed effective to many of the men although many doctors doubted it. If a billet happened to have plenty of gasoline, a hospital man might manage to commandeer a quantity. Then, the men stripped and their clothes were literally soaked with gasoline. The hospital orderlies armed themselves with swabs tied to the ends of sticks. They dipped the swabs in open cans of gasoline. Then they swabbed the men as they took “an artistic satisfaction in the swabbing, so that not a single nesting place in which eggs might be hidden was overlooked.”

During the formative period of the American army in France the men were able to keep fairly clean—only fairly—but with the opening of the year's activity they were set upon the same footing as their allies – valiantly fighting hordes of cooties.

In the early months of the war, Americans used the French baths and English delousing machines. NCI powder, supplied to all the armies, freed men from the cooties if they have some little chance to keep clean while they are using it. One application was considered good for five days. It was made up of naphthalene, 96 per cent; creosote, 2 per cent; and iodoform, 2 per cent. An objection to NCI was that it caused severe smarting if used in large quantities; but the men seemed not to object.

During the war, clean underwear was furnished to the U.S. soldiers at every opportunity, and they are given every possible insecticidal device, from the "cootie bags" of the French to the "navvy's butter" of the British. It is not too much to say that no army is cleaner than the American.

MacDonald remembers how amazed he was at the men's general acceptance of cooties: “One man told me as he left the trenches after a two weeks' stay, that he had 'little cooties' feeding on the 'big cooties' then, and another said he didn't mind the hikes, because 'all I had to do was to sort of shoo my clothing along.' They never whined. They said they had 'cootied" or they have not and do not add a comment.”

The soldiers had to laugh at their utter discomfort in order to survive. There was even a record accounting. The winner? “One shirt was found to contain 10,428 lice, and more than 10,000 eggs were found under the microscope. This probably established the world's highest record of all time, although nurses who served through the typhus epidemic in Serbia in 1915 told MacDonald that they had seen gray patches the size of one's two hands upon the bodies of men brought into the hospital. The pests were so thick in these patches that from a little distance they presented the appearance of a felted cloth.



A "Cootie" Footnote

The United States Government asked sixty-six young American soldiers to be subjects of research to discover whether lice caused the dreaded disease of trench fever. The men subjected themselves to perhaps a year of illness, of voluntary imprisonment in a hospital ward, of removal from all the activities and the excitement of the soldier's life in a foreign land, and from the companionship of comrades in arms. They were, necessarily, men in perfect health, many of them wholly unaccustomed to, and therefore dreading, the strangeness of hospital wards, of surgeons of medicines, of blood injections, etc. These hospital heroes “convicted the cooties.”

Lice from trench-fever cases were allowed to bite 22 men. Twelve of these later developed the disease, while four men bitten by lice from healthy men remained free from the disease. Eight other volunteers, living under exactly the same conditions, in the same wards, but kept free from lice, did not develop trench fever. After blood inoculation the disease developed in from 5 to 20 days. After being bitten by infected lice the fever required from 15 to 35 days to develop.

With such data in their possession, the medical departments of the Allies took up the problem of the cootie in its bearing upon the supreme question of winning the war. Until then, the vermin had been considered only in the light of bodily annoyances to the troops, in some cases having a certain effect on their morale.

Then, however, the battle was on in earnest to rid the men of the disease-bearers, for MacDonald reports “when a man fell victim to trench fever he was, in the average case, unfit as a fighter for six months.” It was unfortunate that effective antibiotics were not developed until after the war.

A little cootie trivia? One famous British author, John Reginald Reuel Tolkien, of Lord of the Rings fame served as a signals officer with the Lancashire Fusiliers during World War 1. He succumbed to trench fever on 27 October 1916 and was evacuated to the UK on 8 November 1916. Tolkien was never fit for active service again (he also suffered with trench foot) and spent the rest of the war either convalescing or on garrison duties.

A chaplain to the Lancashire Fusiliers, Reverend Mervyn S Myers, recalled an incident when he, Tolkien and another officer tried to get some sleep but were beset by lice.
“We no sooner lay down than hordes of lice got up. So we went round to the Medical Officer, who was also in the dugout with his medical equipment, and he gave us some ointment which he assured us would keep the little brutes away. We anointed ourselves all over with the stuff ... instead of discouraging them it seemed to act as a sort of hors d'oeuvre and the little beggars went at their feast with renewed vigour.”
Tolkien's fellow writers, A A Milne and C S Lewis, also fell victim to trench fever during their time on the Western front.

So, the next time you hear a boy exclaim "Girls have cooties!" you will probably laugh, but the reality of actually "having" them was certainly no joke to those in the trenches of the Great War. The little buggers were a pest that caused constant discomfort and even serious disease.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Bathroom Odyssey: Women Just Have So Much "Stuff"



We have two bathrooms at home: one, I affectionately call "my bathroom" because it contains my favorite John and the sink that I normally use and another I call "my wife's bathroom" because it is her exclusive command post that she so skillfully occupies for her long routine of getting ready for the day.

Her bathroom contains the shower, and I use that shower nearly every day. Most of time I don't even notice anything in the room except the shower stall, but I walked into "my wife's bathroom" to shower yesterday and suddenly I felt overwhelmed by all of the various articles of hers there.

Let's face it, women have lots of "stuff."

On the sink alone, (not very large as some sinks go) I saw Hempz pure herbal extracts moisturizer, Olay active hydrating beauty hydrating lotion, Fructis flexible control anti-humidity hairspray, Granier fructis style hairspray, Aveno positively radiant daily moisturizer, Neutrogena pore refining exfoliating cleanser, Mary Kay gentle cleansing creme, Keri shea butter conditioning therapy, Nivia anti-wrinkle and firming creme, Hemp Nation tan extender, Softsoap coconut and warm ginger hand soap,  Goodsense rubbing alcohol, Leader witch hazel, Colorsilk definition color and shine, Edge active care advanced gel, Biotene dry mouth oral rinse, Oral B sonic toothbrush paraphernalia, Dentek triple clean floss picks, some gear for feminine parts I won't mention, plus a giant plethora of makeup products including concealers, eyeliners, and lip sticks.

My wife Cindy says, "It takes a lot to keep me looking good." I'll take that comment on face value. But, let me tell you, I've been in many doctor's offices, and I'm pretty sure the physicians weren't as well equipped with "stuff" to sustain a pleasant life as my wife is in her complicated operating room.

I didn't even mention the ten or eleven kinds of shampoo and hair conditioner she keeps in the shower stall, the contents of the medicine cabinet above the sink, or all her things in the drawers of the sink cabinet. I wouldn't know how or where to begin preparing myself for a new day surrounded by all the "stuff" in her bathroom. I would need to take a semester course on application even to try.

Now, I'm sure everything in Cindy's bathroom is essential to her daily preparation, but I question overkill. Don't all of those lotions and cleansers and moisturizers tend to counteract each other? Or, do they operate on the principle of partying -- "the more, the merrier"? Perhaps, what one doesn't improve, the other does. Still, it would take a person with degrees in dermatology, internal medicine, cosmetology, pharmacology, and business administration/marketing to plan a proper regimen.

I think men like me try to minimize all preparation. Each day I brush my teeth, shave, shower, brush my hair, roll something around my armpits, and spray one squeeze of aftershave on my face. And, I'm good for doing it all in under fifteen minutes. I guess my body is probably suffering from too little extra care, but I'm not a mousser, not a hair sprayer, not a gray concealer, not an anti-ager, and definitely not a man who prefers staring in the mirror at his own image for any longer than necessary.

I think men have one objective to prepare themselves to meet the day -- kill the stink. Anything else is just window dressing and not necessarily conducive to maintaining a manly appearance. Old guys like me tend to see gray hair, scars, and wrinkles like barnacles on a ship -- they accumulate with time and give a certain rustic tone to the natural setting. We aren't trying to be pretty, and "handsome" is just some aesthetic term only understood by females. To us, primping is basically a waste of manly time. Instead, we could be watching a ballgame, napping, or eating.

But, women? Jesus, they have to have tons of stuff to prepare for meeting the day. Not "some" stuff or not even "a lot" of stuff, but magnitudes and oodles of stuff. I plead ignorance on maintenance of women. It's all I can do to get a little conversation and a smile from the females I know. What keeps them happy and how it works are mysteries of life I have accepted long, long ago.

I know women have reasons and plans and secrets of their own they will never teach men.  I am sure of it. These female "things" used to fascinate me and inspire me to conjure solutions, but I found that trying to understand them is impossible.

I learned this very early in life. In grade school, all the girls would fold pieces of paper in elaborate ways to construct a neat, hand-held, fortune telling device. I've see this done many times with my own eyes. When finished with the detailed, ornamented contraption, they would put it one hand and manipulate it slicker than David Blaine... zip, zip, zip.. to tell a person's future.

Well, I and every other well-intentioned young lad in our third grade class tried to construct one of these origami-like devices. No boy, not one, could ever finish the fortune telling thing. We tried and tried, but only the girls succeeded in the art, one trick now I consider part of feminine deception. This was the first time I actually realized women had "stuff" I could never master.

If you think I'm kidding, click here for the instructions of the fortune teller: http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-fortune-teller.html

As I got older and more interested in love, I attempted to discover a girl's proclivities for romance. Again, I soon knew, as a male, I was over-matched. Women had just too much damned "stuff" that I didn't understand -- so many things to do and ways to do them. I tried, mind you, but what little I learned was often unreliable.

The efforts to study all of those complicated  feminine parts alone left me more confused than ever before. There is just too much "stuff" there. So, guys, as the cliches goes "this ain't my first rodeo," and I advise you all to thank God for what little we men know about women and just forget the rest... that is if you can forget it. That's why we have beer, men. It helps cushion the inadequacy of our existence alongside the mysterious sex.

I will leave this post with one suggestion for all the men. Guys, when you walk into the bathroom and see the sea of products your significant other employs, don't ask questions. You likely will meet with resistance if you question her, and besides, you would not understand an answer if you got one. Just close your eyes, head to the shower, and quickly get the stink off your body.

Then, walk away, friend. Don't look back and don't even wonder what may be going on right under your inept masculine nose. It's far too complicated to consider.


Rich Folks and Mexican Drug Cartels in Ohio




Dominic Bangera and his wife, Jacqueline Sanchez, had rented an upscale home for several years in Newbury, a small town in rural northeast Ohio. The flashy couple has an upscale home and two luxury sports cars. They appeared to be wealthy, law-abiding citizens living the good life in one of Ohio's richest neighborhoods. Newbury Township is about 30 miles east of Cleveland and is Ohio's second-richest per capita.

So, locals were shocked earlier this week when Geauga County sheriff's deputies came to their house with a search warrant and ended up seizing 6 pounds of pure crystal methamphetamine, 2.2 pounds of black tar heroin, 100 pounds of marijuana, $128,000 in cash and 10 guns, which were loaded and kept in various parts of the house. The drugs had a value of about $1.5 million.

Bangera and Sanchez had been quietly operating one of the biggest drug operations in the county's history in this sleepy township – one that may have had ties to a Mexican cartel.

Chief Scott Hildenbrand of the Geauga County sheriff's department said, "No one had any idea this was going on, and most people drove past this house every day."

According to Hildenbrand, the case began on June 3 when a deputy sheriff on patrol saw a beat-up truck parked in the middle of a narrow road called Park View Drive. He stopped and asked the people around the truck if anything was wrong. They were being evasive when they told him the truck had broken down and help was on the way.

The deputy left, but stayed in the area. While hiding, he watched someone jump into the truck and drive it to the house, Hildenbrand said. Eight days later, sheriff's deputies came with a warrant and raided the five-bedroom, 2 ½-bath home.

("Mexican Drug Cartel May Have Penetrated Rural Ohio Town, Police Say."
Fox News Latino. June 17, 2014)

 

The people living in the house had been traveling back and forth to California, which became suspicious since methamphetamine and black-tar heroin are primarily produced in nearby Mexico by the cartels. They certainly weren't trying to keep a low profile. Now, it appears they will be paying for their flashy crimes.

"It's probably the most serious threat the United States has faced from organized crime," said Jack Riley, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago office.



Cartel Headlines From the News

2010

Sam Quinones, a Los Angeles Times reporter, wrote The Heroin Road -- the story of how Mexican black tar heroin made its way to the United States and more specifically, to Columbus, Ohio.

Ironically, Quinones says, "There wasn't much heroin in Columbus for many years. But then, in the late 90's, that changed. Starting in a little known area of Mexico, the state of Nayarit, the 'heroin highway' eventually made its way to central Ohio."

As Quinones explains, "Guys from the state of Nayarit found Columbus to be an very interesting market, primarily because they had been a lot of pills there already." Then, it quickly became a heroin hub as authorities put pressure on the pill trade.

According to Quinones, the deadly drug took hold here because it could be delivered quickly, "There's anywhere from 7 to 9 to 10 crews out, heroin traffickers circulating - business hours 7 am to 7 pm, 7 days a week."
The "story" of the Xalisco Boys: 

Sugar cane farm boys from Xalisco, in the Pacific state of Nayarit, Mexico, flocked to the U.S., lured by the opportunity to make money to send home to their families. They would become dealers, of sorts, working for Xalisco drug bosses, purveyors of Mexican black tar heroin. But that’s more toward the end of the story. How the network came to be didn’t just happen overnight.

The idea was cooked up in the early 1990s by two men serving time in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. The crimes for which they were incarcerated – drug offenses. One of the men, who called himself Max, knew about heroin trade in the U.S., and said his partner, a native of Xalisco, had access to both workers and black tar back in his hometown. Xalisco County (the town of Xalisco and a number of other villages) is made up of a lot of ranchos and small villages, each ferociously independent. Thus, there could be no single person controlling a cartel.

Once the system was in place, the two partners got down to serious work. They paid money to the Arellano-Felix cartel for permission to bring the black tar heroin across the border in Tijuana. They then set up a business model and a heroin ring in Reno, Nevada.

Max and his partner disdained the old way of selling heroin out of houses, which were easy targets for police and Drug Enforcement Agency raids. Instead, they devised a unique selling and delivery method. Customers would call a number, and the dealers would get a page, and then deliver the agreed-upon drugs via car – directly to the customer. The dealers would only carry the black tar heroin in tiny uninflated balloons they held in their mouths. If they got arrested, the charges would be less severe due to the small amount. And, they didn’t drive expensive drug trafficking organization (DTO) makes like Cadillac Escalades. They drove beaters or inexpensive sedans, clean but not too flashy. They dressed modestly and never carried guns, didn’t engage in violence of any kind. All this was designed not to draw attention.

Another part of the Xalisco boys unique business model involves selling to white middle-class, working clientele – and not to African Americans or Latinos. In cities, especially, where there are plenty of young white people, there is no shortage of black tar heroin customers. In addition, Mexican black tar heroin is marketed as a cheap and easy substitute for OxyContin, Percocet and other prescription painkillers. This strategy has been particularly successful in parts of the country where there are high addiction rates to these painkillers, in such areas as California, the nation’s Rust Belt, and Appalachia.

Max and his partner are not the only Xalisco boys starting up their own networks for Mexican black tar heroin in the U.S. Once the word spread, systems began cropping up all over the place. Immigrants told friends and family back in Xalisco and soon other farm boys got in on the bandwagon, all eager to make a little money and climb out of poverty. It wasn’t about flashy cars and big homes and all the material things – at least, not at first. It did, however, help lift families hard hit and maybe put in a new TV, fix the plumbing, pay for children’s schooling and a few modest pleasures. The Xalisco boys began as drivers, earning up to $1,000 a week, putting in their time to learn the business, to see how things were done. Then, back home in Xalisco, they’d assemble their own supplies of black tar before returning to the states as crew chiefs.

In the Mexican black tar heroin business, it’s all about who gets the customers. Price wars are not uncommon, either, as one outfit seeks to undercut another – and secure the most clientele. In the push to get new users, dealers offered addicts rewards for referrals – 8 to 10 free balloons for every $1,000 of business they brought in.

(Sam Quinones. "Xalisco Boys Push Mexican Black Tar Heroin. Drug Crimes. March 31, 2010)

2012 

An alleged hit man for the one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico spent the last ten years living in Sandusky, Ohio before he was arrested on January 5, 2012, according to a report by CNN.  U. S. Customs and Border Protection announced that Edgar Campos-Barraza, better known as “El Cholo,” is believed to be an assassin for the Sinaloa Cartel.

2013

The Associated Press reported Mexican drug cartels whose operatives once rarely ventured beyond the U.S. border are dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States — an emboldened presence that experts believe is meant to tighten their grip on the world's most lucrative narcotics market and maximize profits.

Border states from Texas to California have long grappled with a cartel presence. But cases involving cartel members have now emerged in the suburbs of Chicago and Atlanta, as well as Columbus, Ohio, Louisville, Ky., and rural North Carolina. Suspects have also surfaced in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

The cartel threat looms so large that one of Mexico's most notorious drug kingpins -- a man who has never set foot in Chicago -- was recently named the city's Public Enemy No. 1, the same notorious label once assigned to Al Capone

The Chicago Crime Commission, a non-government agency that tracks crime trends in the region, said it considered Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman even more menacing than Capone because Guzman led the deadly Sinaloa cartel, which supplied most of the narcotics sold in Chicago and in many cities across the U.S.

Guzman spent 13 years on the lam. He was finally captured on February, 2014, in his condo located in the Mexican Pacific resort town of Mazatlan. 


The Future

Heroin use has increased so much in Ohio that users say it is “falling out of the sky,” according to a new report by the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. Children as young as 13 are starting to use the drug, they said.

Heroin’s popularity is increasing because it is seen as less expensive and easier to obtain than prescription opioids, according to the Associate Press.

The report, released , said availability of heroin in Cleveland is considered to be at epidemic levels. The survey found an increase in heroin abuse across the state during the previous six months.
The Ohio Department of Health reports that heroin-involved deaths increased from 16 percent (233) of all drug overdoses in 2008, to 20 percent (283) in 2009, to a high of 22 percent (338) in 2010.

The Department of Justice 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment found increased heroin-related overdoses have been reported in cities in at least 30 states.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine calls heroin overdoses an “epidemic” contributing to as many as 11 fatal overdoses a week.

Heroin-related overdoses killed 426 people in Ohio in 2011, the most recent year for which data was available, up from 338 the previous year, according to state health officials. Just in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, 195 people died in 2013 of heroin-related overdoses, shattering the former record of 161, set in 2012, the county medical examiner says.

Forget crystal meth. The pseudo-religious Knights Templar drug cartel in western Mexico has diversified to the point that drug trafficking doesn’t even rank among its top sources of income. The cartel counts illegal mining, logging and extortion as its biggest moneymakers, said Alfredo Castillo, the Mexican government’s special envoy sent to restore the rule of law in Michoacan, the state controlled by the Knights Templar the last several years. - See more at: http://www.vindy.com/news/2014/mar/17/mexico-drug-cartel-makes-more-from-minin/?nw#sthash.0kl5fy7P.dpuf
It is evident Mexican cartels are delivering deadly drugs, crime, and violence into Ohio. Acknowledging this fact is not profiling; it is just simply reporting solid evidence. Since many here in the state want to downplay this activity due to the import of marijuana, considered by some to be recreational and relatively safe, other, more harmful substances originating in Mexico are not judged harshly enough -- particularly the killer heroin.

Ohio residents need to fight for measures that help decrease cartel activity. If that means more searching behind mansion walls in affluent neighborhoods, so be it. After all, Big Money and Big Drug Dealing have lofty connections. I think we all know that, even here in Portsmouth, Ohio. Criminals have made many millions in the Scioto County drug trade. We can no longer see this problem as an urban blight.